An Open Letter to My Pregnant Sister

I am the person least qualified to write a devotional for my sister, and she knows it because she heard me sound pretty exasperated with my girls the other day on the phone. However, because I love her the most, and am in these same trenches, I’ll just share what is valuable to me in this challenge and struggle called parenting.

There are people who say, “I was crazy to have children!” or “What was I thinking?” or “How did I get into this?” But, the truth is, you didn’t. You were led. Even the most diligent family planner was also chosen. God got you into this, and HE decided that you and your husband would now glorify Him best as parents, here at your current age. There was no, “how did I get into this?” about it. This was predestined from the beginning of time. You are going to be pregnant with your specific child through the hot summer months of the year 2014.

So before we go any further, this isn’t a congratulatory devotional on “Good job, sis,” it’s an “awed and on my knees” type of letter to you. God decided that YOU would best glorify Him as a parent and that it would be in your best interest too. This is humbling. This is grand. This is greater than us.

It’s important to mention this because quickly I forget. It’s back to “Good job, RJ” and “What did you plan for this child, RJ?” and “What are your thoughts for this child, RJ?” and RJ, RJ, RJ!

And really, parenting isn’t about me. It isn’t about you. It isn’t about our methods or styles or how soon they were potty-trained or what curriculum we use or how they behave in public. Even their sin isn’t about us. They’re responsible for it. It’s easy to look at that brand new baby and think their life revolves around you. We so often accuse babies of thinking everyone’s life revolves around them, but we mothers are guilty of the same thing with that child. In reality, they’re in your home for a short period of time, and then they’re off doing what God has planned for them. God has designed YOUR child specifically for this world, for the future years following 2014, for the life that they’ll live then and the relationship He’ll have with them.

And I get so caught up in the relationship they have with ME. I get so caught up in how they’re going to fulfill my life and satisfy me and bring me joy. And when they don’t do it – and oh! They don’t do it often! Then I’m bitter and upset and unsatisfied and angry.

Because it IS a battle. Parenting might just end up being the hardest thing you ever do. It will definitely be your hardest job. Do you know why? Because, unlike your husband, you didn’t pick a child ahead of time with a personality you enjoy and a maturity you can count on. Unlike your best friends, you didn’t choose a child that makes you laugh, loves to talk deeply about spiritual things with you, and is fun to be with. You may end up with someone you don’t understand whatsoever and is nothing like you. For sure, you will end up with a depraved sinner who, at first – and for who knows how long – wants nothing to do with your God. And that’s HARD. It’s hard to be around immature unbelievers 24/7. It’s not something I had ever done before or was ever truly prepared to do.

But that human being who you love so much but who can be so hard to live with and understand… Their life isn’t about you or your home – not really. God decided that THIS baby needed to be born because they were going to glorify Him. With their sins, with their successes, with their relationship with Him or without – although we sincerely pray that they are a powerful lover of God! Sure, you brought them into the world, but even the science of that would not have succeeded without God deciding, in His sovereign pleasure, that your baby, your specifically unique baby, was going to bring Him glory. Was going to bring good to you and your husband. Your hardships with this child, as well as your joy with this child, God decided is GOOD.

So yes, you have a responsibility. But even your responsibility is not really to this child in the end. It’s still about your relationship with God. And that frees you from the burden of failure or comparing yourself to others or worry, fear, and doubt. Even your parenting, breastfeeding schedules, homeschooling, and diaper changing are to further your relationship with God. When changing the 7th poopy diaper in a day becomes about you and your rights and the burden it is on you, it is instantly not about God any more. So no, it’s not “How dare you, my child, go against me and my plans for you” as I so often think and even say. Instead, it’s “Do you understand that you’ve hurt God who loves you and died for you? Do you understand the plan He has for you? Do you understand how to surrender your life to Him and turn away from sin? Can I tell you about how your repeated disobedience today has taught me more about my own inadequacy with God and how forgiven I am?”

I think a child brings you more joy than you thought possible, but also more hard work. Yet we hold the promise of knowing that we were specifically chosen for this task, as if God placed a sparkling crown that says “Mother” right on your head. So whyImage do we get bogged down with the results? Why do we fear what other mothers say? Why do we take personally how these little personalities that God created – we sure didn’t choose anything! – respond? I don’t know. If you figure it out, let me know. All I can tell is, it comes about when my own idols come to the surface – and you will discover you’re much more of a sinner than you thought! But how gracious of God to purify you even more – to make the ruby red of your heart shine with pure intensity and have no specks or planks in it! When I take my eyes off of that sparkly crown, off of God’s face above it that is reflected in its shiny surface: the crown that is my relationship with Him and the tasks He has given me, not the plans and ideas I have for myself and my kids, all mayhem in my soul begins.

I will never stop loving you, and I’ll never stop loving this child. Even before the baby has been born, I chose to love them wholeheartedly, because they is of my blood! And because this child is yours.

It’s the same with our Lord. Whether you feel like you’re a bad mother or a good one, the fact is, you’re a sinful one. And He will never stop loving you. Before you were born, He chose to love you and die for you because you have been washed in His blood. And because you are His.

I know, someday, you will finally, physically receive an imperishable crown and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Because that’s what you are: a servant. And you will understand how much of a servant you can be made to be in the next coming years! Fight the GOOD fight that glorifies God. We’re all here for you. We can’t wait to have you running alongside of us! I love you, sister.

The Second Birth of My 3-Year-Old Daughter

On this particular Saturday, my daughter woke up from nap in a grumpy mood.  Instantly crying, meaning she had not had enough sleep, we knew we were in for it, as her attitude continued to plummet south.  She refused to do what we said, she rebelled quite a bit, and spent a good while in time out or apologizing to various family members she had sinned against.

 

I was angry with her, not always responding in patience, and finally I explained to her, very sternly, for the umpteenth time in her life, that she had a rebellious heart that was dark with sin.  This talk came after she outright rebelled against me and took something of her sister’s that both my youngest daughter and I had, over and over again, politely asked her not to take.

 

After getting out of the bathtub, and being dressed for bed, this particular daughter asked if she could cuddle with me on the bed, knowing that it had been a hard evening, and she had not frequently been in my favor.  I readily agreed, of course, and climbed with both girls onto my bed.  Feeling lazy and not wanting to go down to the playroom to get any books, I pulled out my booklet of punch-out gospel tracts for children.  I had been going through them with the girls, and then punching out the tract and handing it to them to play with and look at.  All of them had little pictures and clear, concise gospel messages.  I also told the girls about salvation and the Lord Jesus Christ every single time they were punished for disobedience.  I tell the girls the gospel about Jesus’ death and resurrection at least twice a day.  Over and over and over again.  Never getting tired of it.  Praying one day the Holy Spirit would open up their heart and make them receptive to Him.

 

She thinks about Jesus a lot, especially when told to be obedient, but it’s been a bit of a “works” thing up to this point.  She assumed Jesus was there to tell her to be obedient and to help her obey, nothing more.  There was no relationship with Him.  She also had, 99% of the time, refused to pray for the last six months or so, which was different than when she was a baby and prayed all the time.  However, I was not discouraged by this, knowing she was not a believer and had no desire to pray because the Lord did not live inside of her.  I thought I would simply offer it to her and then choose to lead by example if she declined.

 

She talked about Jesus, but her understanding of God and the gospel always got to a certain point and would then veer off.  I’d get to Jesus rising from the dead, she would have been following me up to that point, and then she’d suddenly say, “I get up from sleeping too!  I rose!” etc.

 

Today, however, she was in a very sober but thoughtful frame of mind as she listened to me.  I read one tract, which had a large heart with the word Jesus on it as an illustration, and then punched it out and handed it to her.  She frequently asked questions, like, “My heart is black inside from doing so many bad things.  I need to try to be good?”

“No.”  I explained, “There’s no way you can be good.  None whatsoever.  You’re a sinner bent on doing evil.  Instead of trying to do good, tell God you’re so sorry for what you’ve done and ask for His forgiveness.  Then He can live in your heart.  And only He can change your heart and help you be obedient.  You need Him.”

 

After reading the second tract, at around 9:30 PM, and punching the sheet out for my baby daughter, who was quietly sucking on her pacifier this whole time, I finished with how we need to cry out to God and pray and ask Him for His forgiveness.  My older daughter said softly, “Mama, can you pray for me?”

Of course, I normally would have prayed.  But tonight I said, “This is between you and God.  If you have something to say to Him, you need to pray yourself.”

Normally, she would have refused, as she had for the last great while.  But, tonight, she bowed her head instantly.  “God,” she murmured, “Please make my heart white as snow.  And make Baby’s heart white as snow, and Daddy’s heart, and Mama’s heart.”

 

I sat in silence for a while after she prayed.  What did this mean?

She looked at me.

“That’s a good start,” I told her.  “But what are you trying to say?  You understand full well that you’re a sinner.”  She had for a long time.  She frequently talked about how “black” her heart was, how dark it was with sin.  She readily apologized and admitted she was wrong whenever she was disciplined.  She came to us on her own to confess frequently.  She says, “I’m not good.  I can’t be good without Jesus.”  But she had never turned to Him and asked Him to forgive her and make her His own.  She had never really acknowledged that she believed in His death and resurrection for her.

 

But, after asking her what she was trying to say, she instantly bowed her head back to prayer.  “Please, Jesus!” she implored, sincerely and with her voice almost breaking a little.  “Please forgive me!  Please forgive my black heart!  Please make me white as snow!”  I did not lead her to pray this, nor had she ever heard anyone pray a “salvation prayer.”  This was entirely from her own heart, with words all her own.

 

I was trying to hold it together at this point.  I sat up and looked her straight in the eyes.  “That’s it!” I cried.  “What are you saying?  Are you saying you know you need Jesus to save you from your sins?”

“Yes,” she replied readily.

“Do you believe He died for your sins?”

“Yes!”

“Are you asking Him into your heart?”

Her little hands clasped again.  “Please come into my heart, Jesus!” she asked.  “Please forgive me!  I love you, Jesus!”

 

I was crying.  She wanted to know what was wrong, but I was so happy.  I tried to tell her how happy I was, but I think she was terribly confused.  Her mom never cries when she’s happy.  But my greatest, deepest wish on this earth had come true, as far as I could tell.  I prayed right then and there and begged God to hear her prayer and save her soul, to seal her to Himself, and to begin a lifelong relationship with her that would continue on into heaven.

 

She was ecstatic and full of joy.  She hugged me and kissed me over and over, saying, “I love you, Mama!”  She wanted to know if she had made me happy, and that gave me some a moment’s pause.

“It’s not about making me happy, it’s about making Jesus happy!  It’s about loving Him and being thankful He has saved you from your sins!”  I then explained that He was now inside of her and with her and she could talk to Him at all times.

She just held me and smiled.

 

After a few minutes, I sighed and explained that it was time for bed.  She was still hungry, and being sent to bed hungry usually would have caused a great bit of weeping and gnashing of teeth from her.  She would have thrown a real fit.  However, tonight she said, sweetly and calmly, “Mama, if it’s all right, can I have a little bit more to eat first?”

I was shocked.  “Thank you for talking so kindly and not whining!”  It was unheard of for her to do so.

She looked at me with a big smile on her face.  “It’s because I love Jesus!”  Of course, Mama! her expression seemed to add.

 

It was such an amazing change of attitude, that I just sat stunned.  Praising God in my heart.

 

It remains to be seen whether this was a real conversion or not, but I’m a firm believer that the Holy Spirit does the work, and it is not of man.  That God’s timing is His own, and He can lead the youngest, in the simplest of ways, to Himself if He so chooses.  I, myself, was saved at the age of 2 1/2.  And it was a true conversion where my mom saw my life completely change.  I have never had a doubt that I was saved back on that day.

 

Please pray for my daughter!  Pray that this, indeed, was God’s change in her heart.  Pray that her life is a testimony to Him, and that she is an example for her little sister.  Pray that my second daughter comes to know Him as well.

 

My heart is so full tonight.  When my husband walked in the door a few minutes later with dinner, I held onto him and sobbed.  Wish he had been there to hear her little prayers himself.  God is SO good, and I am thankful He answered this tremendous prayer of mine.  I feel like I should never complain again.  If only my baby and all of my future children can come to know Him, then my husband and I can spend eternity with our children, and what on this earth matters more than that?!

 

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A Thanks to Moms – From My Recent Baby Shower

I gave this devotional at the baby shower thrown me for my second daughter Rosalie, who is due July 9th.

I know this isn’t usually done by the mother whom the shower is being thrown for, but I just felt like God wanted me to share. I have such gratitude for all of the ladies from church – and my mom – for holding yet another shower for me. Only our church gives showers for number two or three or twelve! They are a generous group of women and they really speak to my heart with your generosity and celebration of my second daughter. So, first and foremost, I wanted to express my gratefulness and thanks to all of them.

Matthew 10:42 says, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

And they have done much more than give me a cup of cold water – although, in the heat lately, being this large, that’s a wonderful gift indeed!

They are being like Christ to me. “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son.” This is a way to show godly love. I pray that they reap a reward, as it is promised in 2 Corinthians 9:6 “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

And I am not just thankful for baby gifts, but for the prayers and words of advice from all of them as well. Many of them wrote cards with advice on them at my last shower, many of them tell me helpful things on Sundays, and more of them write encouraging wisdom to me on Facebook. This means the most to me.

I am no expert WHATSOEVER – I’ve only been a mom for almost sixteen months – but these are things I’ve gleaned from what God and they have taught me. I felt like I wanted to lead this devotional to show them what I have learned from the Lord and from them.

• Sacrifice: Obviously you know you go into motherhood expecting to sacrifice. We can all figure that our bodies will become something strange for nine months, and labor will be painful. We know we give of ourselves to nurse our children for around a year, and, in the meantime we get no sleep. If we choose to homeschool, we know that’s a huge sacrifice. But I just had no clue how much more God would ask me to sacrifice. I didn’t know I’d have to give up dairy, I didn’t know we’d spend so much money on specialty foods for her and me, and I had no idea I would get sick SO OFTEN! And, like I said, she’s only 15 ½ months old – I have a ton more sacrificing to come. Especially with two children. However, I am aware that many of the ladies at church have even more children than that. I see them sacrificing their time and energy over and over again for them, teaching them (all of the homeschool moms), providing for them, cooking, throwing them parties (My mom!), getting little sleep, spending money on their children and not themselves, and fighting family-wide illness. It doesn’t escape my notice when they do all of this with cheerful, selfless hearts. And so many of them do. I’ve learned that no sacrificing I can ever do will compare with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I don’t have to suffer torture and an excruciating death, as well as my Father turning his back on me because I carry the sins of the world on myself. God has taught me, this year and a half, that nothing I do for my children is as great as what He has done for me. “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

• And nothing I do is perfect! I’ve learned that I sin frequently with little “Squeaker” (Rachael), my oldest daughter. And I will with Rosalie, who is due soon. But I’ve learned to confess now. Just because she doesn’t understand a lot of what I say, doesn’t mean I don’t give her a proper apology and tell her I was wrong to get frustrated with her, will she forgive me? By doing this so early, I can get into a good habit of forcing my pride to die! This I’ve learned from my mom, who always kept a pure and clear conscience before us. She was an amazing example of this. No one is too young to be apologized to for sin. Even if Rachael was the one whining and throwing a fit and misbehaving and being selfish, any sin of mine is still sin. By confessing to her starting now, she will grow up seeing a good example like I saw with my parents, that they were serious about sin, as well as a contrite heart. James 5:16a says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

• You can never again sleep in! But what special times those mornings are with Squeaker. And with the Lord together. SO many of the church ladies have been superb examples of mothers who lead their children in devotions, teaching them young how to read the Bible, spend time with the Lord, and pray. So many of their kids already love Jesus, pray with such childlike faith, and know Bible stories by heart. I was inspired to begin singing hymns with Rachael and teaching her the Name of Jesus, and praying with her every night. Their testimony on this has been wonderful. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16b Nothing is more important than her heart – not even her fun little outfits that I can’t resist buying some times, or making sure her hair and accessories look perfect. 😛

• Because it’s not about me. I suffered some post-partum depression after Squeaker (Ginny G. knows!), after finding out I had a hyper-allergic baby who had such bad colic that she would cry for four hours at a time, and with what changes a baby brings to marriage, even though I was trying to put that marriage first. My baby wasn’t exactly enjoyable at that time, and I felt horrible for not “enjoying” her. However, Ginny G. from church taught me, through God’s Word, that I should be enjoying Christ. If my focus was on praising all He had done in my life, then I would not be discouraged and focused on me and my happiness and what I wanted.

Verses that meant the most to me during that time:

“Now I praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all Hs ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.” Daniel 4:37

“A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.” John 3:27

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet He did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15

“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:10-13

“LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:5-6

Why has he done this?

“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.” Isaiah 43:4a

• Give them grace. Instead of focusing on works they have done and telling them they are good, Tammy S. and some other women encouraged me to read Elyse Fitzpatrick’s “Give Them Grace,” which I am in the middle of and strongly urge all of you to read if you haven’t. Sharing the gospel, showing your children when they are young that they are sinners, and constantly preaching Jesus’ death and resurrection to them, is something I’ve been able to start in our home already, and want to continue to do so. John 8:31-32, “So Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” What a way to not raise a child who thinks she is saved based on her works and church attendance, but does not see herself a sinner in need of repentance! I am so thankful for the teaching and sharing I get at church and amongst the women that help me in planning how to instruct my daughters! I have seen some of their children graduate this year and their mother’s excitement for them (Maybe some worry!) because they know they have a foundation for their faith. That is testament to how God has worked through these women in their kids’

• And lastly, those of you who are not yet mothers, you serve a powerful and mighty God who loves you and lives inside of you and has given you the Holy Spirit to be able to handle something like motherhood some day. And He has given you an amazing group of women at this church! I pray you are able to follow His advice He gives through His Word and all of them some day when it’s your turn. I pray *I* am faithful to do so! I pray that none of us stumble as mothers, but continue to daily, in alertness and holy fear, continue with our armor on in the Word and fellowship with believers so that we don’t start believing lies about ourselves or our children, or become selfish or disobedient parents. 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

PLEASE tell me if you see me erring in this way. Keep me accountable. After Rosalie’s birth, I would ask that you follow up and make sure I’m not getting depressed through sleep deprivation and a very active toddler! Keep pointing me to God’s Word. I hope to be worthy of the generosity bestowed on me today. I am so thankful for all I’ve been taught already!