Almost 7 months ago, we welcomed our 2nd daughter, Sophia, into the world! And with the joy of her arrival, God ushered in a new season of my life: one of servanthood.
I cannot tell you the joy and the honor it is for me to spend my day taking care of children. (Those of you who know my story can understand the depth of appreciation I have for the gift of motherhood.) But the arrival of a second baby resulted in a loss of my free time, my rest, and my energy. Amidst the joy of finally holding this sweet new baby I was often frustrated that I was not able to do the things I wanted to do.
At the time, I had been reading through Matthew and a couple of passages caught my attention:
“But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled ; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12
“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28
What a backwards thing to say! The first shall be your slave, the greatest shall be your servant. This goes against the grain of every natural inclination in me. It is my default to see how I can climb the ladder of greatness, whether in the realm of motherhood, the world of blogging, or within my own circles of friends. I often find myself trying to become “greater” without even realizing it. It is just the subtle current of my sin-inflicted heart to drift toward self-exaltation and self-promotion.
“Say goodbye to date nights!” “Better catch up on that sleep now because you won’t be getting any.” “You won’t have any free time, so use it now.” If you have ever been pregnant, these statements might sound familiar. These are the types of remarks I received when I was expecting the birth of our daughter last year. I was amazed at the amount of negativity that was associated with having children. Along with the (unsolicited) advice I received came warnings of nightmares to come. Even now that my daughter is 15 months old, I still receive those warnings from other random parents in the grocery store: “Enjoy it now! Just wait til she starts talking!” Over and over the message I hear is this: children are a burden and an inconvenience.
How sad that one of the most exciting adventures we are privileged to embark on is often clouded with pessimism. I think the main reason children are viewed so negatively is they keep us from being able to do what we want when we want to do it. Before our daughter was born, my husband and I could pick up and go wherever we wanted to go at a moment’s notice. It didn’t matter how late it was or if was naptime or not, we just went. If I wanted to go shopping for a few hours just for fun, I could do that. I didn’t have a heavy car seat to carry around, and didn’t have to fit all of my shopping into the few hours in between naptime. I could visit friends or work an extra few hours and it wasn’t a problem. Now that has all changed.
But as I look to the Bible, I am left with only one option as to how view children: they are a blessing. Psalm 127:3-5 says “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.”
Before I get into my topic for today, I wanted to give you a brief update on my blog. Because I think it is incredibly important to be purposeful in everything you do, I recently wrote about the purpose of my writing and this blog. You can check it out here: “No Apologies.” In that post I had asked for any topic suggestions or questions that you had for me. After reading through the responses I received, I’ve decided to write about some of those things in the coming weeks. Here are some posts to be on the look out for:
- Becoming a Jesus-Follower: My testimony
- A Day in the Life: My life being married to a recording artist
- The Sabbath: The forgotten command
- Sharing Your Faith: How to live a lifestyle of evangelism
- How to Encourage Others Effectively
- Dating & Marriage: The purpose of romance in the believer’s life
For today however, I wanted to write about the powerful influence of a woman. I am currently reading through 2 Chronicles and am greatly enjoying it! I have learned so much through studying the history of the Israelite people in Kings and Chronicles and strongly encourage you to read straight through these books if you never have. (This is actually my first time to read straight through them!)
Chapter 21 describes the reign of King Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, grandson of Asa. Jehoshaphat, though not perfect in his reign, was known for how he sought after the Lord. He was humble and trusted in God in moments of adversity. And Asa, his grandfather was also a man who sought after the Lord and trusted God in hard times. With such a rich spiritual heritage, I expected Jehoram to follow in their footsteps. But to my surprise, this chapter starts out with Jehoram killing all his brothers as soon as he became king. It doesn’t even give a reason why he did this. He also led the people of Judah astray by enticing them to worship other gods (v. 11). So what happened to Jehoram? How did a guy with such a great start to life turn out so bad?
Lively in Sweden!
1:30am here in Norway, and Jimmy is about to take the stage for the 3rd time today! You’d think that’d be way to late to start a concert, but since it doesn’t get dark till around 11pm, it’s easier to stay up that long. I actually don’t know if these people actually sleep at night! I’m definitely loving the long days, but 9pm comes so quickly when the sun is up! It’s amazing how much I count on the sunset to let me know what time it is.
I mentioned in my last blog that I have been hoping God would speak to me while we’re here, and so far He’s come through! Though the lessons I’m learning since arriving in Scandinavia have been good, they’ve also been hard. It all started with “an honest moment” I had with God in Sweden a couple days ago. Though I’m generally pretty frank with Him, I tend to keep silent when my frustration is aimed at how He is running things because I know how limited my view is. But every now and then, I just have to let Him know my grievances. Let me share this moment of honesty with you.
Teething + stuffy nose + out of town = one very unhappy baby
This is the equation that plagued me last week. Our poor little girl had her first cold and boy was it rough! For about 5 nights in a row, I was up almost every hour trying to get her back to sleep because she couldn’t breathe. The frustration followed into the next day because our sick baby was now a tired, sick baby. Then top that off with constant pain from teething and the fact that we are not at home with all her regular toys and Baby Einstein DVDs…. And wow. I felt like I was just trying to make it through one hour at a time.
It’s amazing what a lack of sleep over multiple days does to you. I had checked-out emotionally and spiritually. Discouragement began to set in as I wondered if this was ever going to end. As I drove around Nashville waiting to pick Jimmy up from a writing appointment, I noticed this license plate in front of me. It read: 2COR610. An acute awareness of God’s sovereignty causes me to take these “coincidences” very personally as if God were sending me a message to read 2 Corinthians 6:10. Though it didn’t mean much to me as I quickly glanced at it in my car, I decided it was worth a more in depth look later.
Thankfully, Lively soon fell asleep in the car seat as I drove giving me a precious hour and a half of time to myself. I found a coffee shop and claimed the small nook in the back as my own to sit with this chapter of the Bible and a much needed cup of caffeine… I mean coffee. I began reading from earlier in the chapter: “But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger…” Wait a second!! “in sleeplessness” Those words were balm to my soul. The moment I read them my eyes filled with tears as God’s Word ministered to my soul. In just a split second God spoke so many things to my heart.
Twelve-twenty a.m. is probably way too late to be starting a blog, but I can’t seem to get this topic off my mind and have been aching to write about it for a couple months now. (Thank you faithful blog readers for your patience by the way.) So give me grace as I work through this topic in an exhausted yet caffeinated state of mind.
Jimmy & Lively
I love being a wife and a mother. Investing in a family is what I have always wanted to do with my life. I consider it my primary ministry to serve these two wonderful blessings pictured to the left. I am constantly researching ways I can improve in these roles, whether it be learning how to help my teething daughter or how to create a more welcoming atmosphere for my husband to come home to. This is my job and I love it! But to what end am I seeking excellence in these roles? Is it because that’s what I’m supposed to do? Or because Scripture calls me to consider others as better than myself? I know that God values my roles as wife and mother, so maybe that is why I am supposed to strive to be good at them. Maybe it’s simply because I love my husband and daughter and serving them is a natural response.
Though all those things are good reasons, there is still a greater end than this. It is simply and decidedly the GLORY OF GOD. The end goal of excellence as a wife and a mom should be THE GLORY OF GOD. I know this sounds like your classic Sunday school answer, but don’t check out. What does it really mean to do something for the glory of God? The Word glory literally means “heavy” or “weighty” in the Hebrew. To bring God glory means to give weight to Him, in a positive sense. If something is weighty, you don’t take it lightly. Rather, you have to seriously consider it and deal with it. In the same way, by bringing God glory, I give weight to Him and cause others to take Him more seriously and to have a more positive view of Him than they did before. This is bringing glory to God. And this is the reason I should seek to be excellent in my roles as a wife and a mother.
Introducing Lively Elizabeth Needham! After 15 hours of labor, this sweet little angel entered our world on January 8th at 11:57am, weighing 7 lbs, 11 oz and measuring 21 inches long. What an incredible joy and blessing this little girl is to us! It has been just over 2 weeks since she was born and I thought I would take some time to share some of the things I’ve learned in these first weeks of parenthood.
My worth isn’t determined by what I do.
I have spent most of these 2 weeks sitting on the couch nursing Lively and sleeping in between. In these first couple weeks, just fitting a shower into my day has seemed like a big accomplishment! Being the very task-oriented, to-do list maker that I am, this drastic change in my daily activity has really challenged my thoughts about how I determine my worth and define a successful day. Sitting around all day for a day or two is fine, but after a week I began to feel anxious to “accomplish” something more than just a shower. In talking with Jimmy about how I was feeling, he first reminded me that I wasn’t sitting around doing nothing, but that I was taking care of our daughter. It was good to hear that and to be reminded that I wasn’t doing nothing, but actually doing a lot. I guess because I was sitting on the couch all day, it didn’t feel like I was doing very much. Either way, it has caused me to realize how much I define my worth by what I can accomplish in a day. When will I finally get it in my head that my worth isn’t defined by my daily activities or accomplishments but by my relationship with Jesus? “Everything is a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Him!” (Phil 3:7-9)
It’s good to ask for help.
I usually have a hard time asking for help, either out of pride or simply because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone. Well, having a baby has forced me to learn how to ask for and receive help. Jimmy has been a the biggest help to me in this time. As I have often had both hands full figuring out how to breastfeed, he has literally spoon-fed me, scratched my nose, and propped my feet up. He’s made breakfast for me nearly every morning, watched Lively in between feedings so I could sleep, and run tons of errands to get things I needed. I’m not sure how I would have gotten through these few weeks without his help.
Another form of help that has been invaluable are the meals we get delivered to us. Our church scheduled for us to receive dinner every other day for month after Lively was born. Neither one of us have had time to even think about cooking or grocery shopping, so having a home-cooked meal delivered to us has been a huge blessing! There have been other forms of help as well. My mother-in-law bought us groceries just before we came home from the hospital and my mom and sister stayed with me for a day and helped me get some laundry done.
Our American culture seems to so highly value independence and self-sufficiency that it can be challenging to let ourselves depend on others in times of need. But these past couple of weeks have reminded me that this is how we are called to live as Christians: giving and receiving help as it’s needed. To give help, in whatever form, reminds us to live selflessly and consider others as more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3-4). And to receive help humbles us and reminds us that we are not self-sufficient and that it is good to be dependent on God and others.
There’s never a good reason to skip time with God.
I think these past couple of weeks would be the easiest weeks for me to forsake my time in the Word of God. I have every good reason, right? I’m not getting much sleep, I’m barely able to fit a shower into my day, so it’s ok if I don’t spend time with God, right? I don’t think there could ever be a more important time. My whole life has drastically changed since January 8th and to keep my eyes on God keeps me grounded. He is always my constant… the same yesterday, today, and forever, His character steadies my heart and brings peace to my soul. I have had to be creative in the ways that I get into Word, but it is possible! Some days, I have listened to teachings from the Bible off my iphone during 3am feedings. Other days I have made the difficult choice to spend time reading the Bible and praying instead of sleeping while Lively sleeps. Either way, I am learning that I never have a good reason not to spend time interacting with God in prayer and in reading His Word. And that when I do make the sacrificial choice to do so, it is always worth it! “Seek FIRST His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33) Let me always keep God first in my life, and everything else always falls into place naturally after that.
I am excited to continue walking with Jesus in this new season of parenthood and pray I will never forsake the One who saved my soul!