I wrote this in honor of a dear friend who just had her second baby. It's an encouragement and a call to endure and persevere. It was given as a "devo" at her shower. For all you mamas out there who labor and toil, whether you're a first time mom or have many, this is for you.
On the Occasion of Celebrating the Birth of Evangeline Rose
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5
Yet she will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. 1 Timothy 2:15
I'll never forget the feelings of sheer panic that welled up in my heart the day that Steve went back to work. Caleb was just days old, my hormones were crashing, I was totally sleep-deprived and I had this bubbling little toddler bounding around full of energy, cuteness and at times, mischief. My first thought was, "He's going to get hurt. I won't be able to watch him as well now, and something crazy is going to happen!!" Now of course I was being a bit dramatic but when you're not sleeping, your whole body is sore and you've got two little ones under two, drama is definitely a reality. A daily one in fact. Or should I say hourly? Anyhow, I tried to map out a plan in my mind as to how I was going to get through the day. I was quickly reminded that little people don't have plans and so I set my sights on just getting through until naptime. Then I regrouped again, after failure ensued, and just wanted to get to the next hour. Truly, this is how I spent our first couple of day together-just us three. As the days wore on, I simply learned to put one foot in front of the other and not look too far ahead. Life was simpler this way.
Learning to manage two little children was the most difficult task I've ever been given. It was harder than any degree I've pursued, harder than any race I've run and more mentally challenging than any situation I have come up against. It was just plain hard. And it wasn't just hard for a day or two, or even a few weeks--it was difficult for awhile. But it was a good hard. One that taxed me physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. In that period of time God taught me many things that helped to shape me into a better wife, mom and Christian.
God tells us to rejoice in our sufferings. I could hardly imagine calling a precious little baby of mine a trial, but as time wore on, I began to see that the journey God had set my feet on was definitely paved with suffering. Yet this suffering I was experiencing, as I learned to manage my children, was one that didn't bring me down but yet produced an amazing strain of long suffering in my heart that I could not deny that God was working to change me through it. This suffering was for my good, for my children's good, my marriage's good, and my family's good. It was teaching me to be less selfish, self-indulgent, and self-centered. In their place, I was learning more patience, joy and grace than I ever knew before. The grace definitely came in handy when both children were screaming at the top of their lungs-which happened often. The patience encouraged me when my little toddler continued to disobey regardless of how many times he had been disciplined. And the joy helped combat the discouragement that so easily seeped its way into my heart when I just couldn't figure the baby out and meet whatever his needs were at the time. Not surprisingly, the endurance being produced in my soul did indeed give me hope. Hope that I could make it to tomorrow and that God would be with me. This hope reminded me that God was pouring His love, not my own, into my heart continually and would be the source of all I needed to complete the tasks He had set before me. I was so thankful that God had promised to supply His love because often I felt like my own tanks emptied so quickly.
It is this hope that I long to pass on to you now as I share just a few little snippets of what God taught me in that first year of managing two littles. I hope it encourages you.
1. Celebrate the End: You are now a family of four. When Caleb came and things were hard, I remember thinking that life was much easier when I just had one baby and we were three. At times, I would pine for those days and envy my freedom. This pining robbed me of joy in the moment. I had to come to realize that our family had expanded, I would transition and I could celebrate the end of a sweet time in our lives--the ending of us three. It was now time for something new and the adventure of the four of us.
2. Choose Your Battles: You've got a little one under your roof that needs quite a bit of training. In fact, Evangeline's arrival has just so happened to coincide with the time when Beniam will probably be ramping up his will a bit more. You're just at the beginning of learning how to bend his will to yours without squashing his little spirit and it will years before you can see significant fruit from that. So, knowing this, choose what is most important to you and no matter what, even if you're nursing, or changing a diaper, know when to put the baby aside to be consistent in your training. And most importantly, don't feel bad about it. At times Evangeline can wait a moment. Nevertheless, also learn to let go more. Bend when you can (when it doesn't violate your principles) and learn to choose these situations wisely. Ask Chris for his direction and input, and then learn together. The more children you have the more crystal clear your parenting goals become and you'll be able to see what is important and what isn't.
3. Be Faithful in a Few Things--Husband, Children, Your Home then Others: When I just had Isaac, I was able to still maintain a lot of my independence. And in fact, sadly enough I was quite determined to keep things as much the same in my life as they were before. But when I added another, I came face to face with the fact that I really needed to downsize and keep things simple. I'm not superwoman and there are a few balls I cannot drop. Those were loving my husband, my children, keeping my home and then being hospitable to those around me (and in that order). I found myself really digging my heels in a lot more and focusing on just what was in front of me. When I simplified and remained faithful to my family first, I found that I was less stressed out and much more joyful. Don't feel guilty about it. Just be loyal to your family. The time will come around again when you can extend yourself out more to others. And when it does, you'll be able to do it with resolve and peace.
4. Remember Beniam is still little: This was probably the hardest lesson for me to learn. Once I had a baby, Isaac seemed so old. But really, he wasn't. He was just a baby himself. I found myself wanting him to be more responsible than he was actually capable of being at the time. It was hard for me to remember that he still needed so much from me including lots of cuddling, attention and patience. So remember your oldest isn't old but is small. He still needs his mommy just as much as he did before. So based on that knowledge, keep that in your mind and love him like never before.
5. Keep Chris Your First Priority: This is most important and you already know that. It's always so much easier to deal with the immediate needs in front of you and they often revolve around the children. Husbands can often carry so much on their shoulders in silence because they're able to. But they need rest. They need respite, respect and most importantly, they need love. So keep Chris as the apple of your eye. Fight yourself to get time with him when all you want to do is sleep. Resolve to put him first before yourself. God will fill in the gaps for you. Trust Him in this. When you're obedient to love your husband regardless of your circumstances, God will honor your obedience to Him. I've seen it over and over and I'm always amazed. So trust Him and keep Chris first.
God has given you such a gift in Evangeline. He will do so much in your life with the addition of her to your family. With her arrival, God is saving you and shaping you. Lean into the suffering and let God help you through it. We pray for your family. We love your family. And we ask that God will bless you immensely as you learn this new way of life...Teamreno is now four and it is beautiful in our eyes.