Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sleeplessness and Sanctification

For me, one of the greatest challenges of motherhood was waking up in the middle of the night for feedings. This became a huge thorn in my flesh since Katie persisted in waking up at night months beyond when she was “supposed” to be sleeping through the night. I became obsessed with sleep and fell into many sins as a result (bitterness, anxiety, anger, self-pity, etc.). Thankfully one morning, God intervened. I had been reading through the book of Hebrews, and I came upon this:

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-11)

Through this passage, God reminded me that He was doing serious work in me through the unique trials of early motherhood. Inspired, I decided to make a list of all the ways that God could be sanctifying me through Katie’s sleep issues. In His mercy, God changed my perspective and provided me a way to hope when I was tempted to despair. So, when you are facing yet more laundry to do because of a baby who spits up, or when you have to get out of bed to soothe your child for the fifth time since 2 a.m., be encouraged. God is treating you as His child and is working so that even the mundane, draining demands of motherhood will lead you to share in His holiness and will produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness. And how kind is He that the “rod” of choice is nothing less than your own precious child.

By having to get up in the middle of the night to feed my child, God is training me…
…to trust His sovereignty over my child
…to trust His good purposes in difficulties
…to love sacrificially, considering another’s needs above my own
…to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, constant in prayer
…to give thanks in all circumstances
…to not love sleep more than God and others
…to depend on Him for strength, energy, faith, and endurance
…to be humble (I can’t do everything right or control the world)
…to not complain against Him
…to sympathize with others
…to apply His Word to my life
…to not sleep and still function (which can be a very helpful skill!)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Motherhood by faith

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.” Hebrews 11:1
In this familiar “definition” of faith and in the examples that follow in Hebrews 11, God makes clear that living by faith involves believing (trusting) what you don’t see over and against what you do see. Christian motherhood is most definitely an area of life in which we must exercise great faith.

For example, look at what is readily seen in the task of mothering—endless routine, waking up day after day and doing the very same things you did the day before (feeding picky children, wiping bottoms, cleaning up messes, repeating yourself over and over again, disciplining for the same offenses, reading the same books multiple times in a row, and the list goes on). On the surface, it looks like nothing supernatural, important, influential, or eternal is happening in the midst of such mundane activities. This is certainly how the world often views the tasks of motherhood. As feminist Linda Hirshman so bluntly put it, stay-at-home moms are “letting down the team,” wasting the best of their physical, mental, and intellectual energies. This is even how we as Christian mothers can view our own lives at times—we can feel bored, worthless, depressed at the “smallness” of our lives. This is how life can feel if we are only looking at what we do see. But God has called us to live by faith—to live trusting not in what we see but in the exact opposite, what we do not see.

So what are these unseen truths we are to trust in our roles as mothers? What are the invisible realities that are so easily overshadowed by the visible?

I would encourage you to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the specific truths that you need to see with the eyes of your heart. But let me share a couple of the unseen realities that I too often miss in the day-to-day busyness of motherhood.

First, loving my husband and children and working at home are activities esteemed by God (Titus 2:4). I too often listen to the loud voices of our culture and of my own pride and ambition that tell me that loving and serving my family are not significant. But these are not the voices to which our Father wants us to tune our ears! Rather, let us listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd who tells us instead that He highly values the very activities that we view as mundane and ordinary. Trusting that God rejoices over a mother wiping a snotty nose in His name can completely transform such a “lowly” activity. After all, did Jesus Himself not say that he who offers a cup of water to a child in His name would not lose his reward? Such a transformation of daily life can only come by faith—by trusting in what we cannot see. We must seek to improve our spiritual eyesight and rely less on our physical eyes, ears, and emotions. How do we do this? By saturating our minds and hearts with the truth of God’s Word.

Galatians 6:9-10 conveys another unseen reality that must be ours by faith. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” What is motherhood but an endless supply of opportunity to “do good” to others? And how good is God to give us the promise of Galatians 6:9 to cling to as we seek to obey 6:10, “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Doing good, especially to our children who can be so needy, can be wearisome! But God gives us this unseen truth to trust on the days when we are tempted to give up. We will reap a harvest in due time. And let’s not forget what kind of harvest this is—

“Here is a soul to train for God; and the body in which it dwells is worthy all it will cost, since it is the abode of a kingly tenant. I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in God's name, I will make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me. Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother's heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, her life-long prayers! Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!” Elizabeth Prentiss

“I seldom feel like much of an adventurer—standing in this kitchen, pouring cereal into bowls, refilling them, handing out paper towels when the inevitable cry comes: ‘Uh oh. I spilled.’ But sometimes at night the thought will strike me: There are three small people here, breathing sweetly in their beds, whose lives are for the moment in our hands. I might as well be at the controls of a moon shot, the mission is so grave and vast.” Joyce Maynard

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” C.S. Lewis

Somewhere in the midst of the picking up, putting down, cleaning up, and repeating ourselves, God is actually at work. The very One who will one day transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body is the One who is working through our rough, imperfect attempts at caring for and instructing our children in order that they might be brought from death to life and have the very life of Christ formed in them! What more significant, influential, and important task can you imagine? But as in most things in the Christian life, its significance can only be perceived by faith (think Matthew 13:31-33 and the parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven). Let us fix our eyes, therefore, not on what is seen but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Motherhood as metaphor

Because the Lord knows our frame and remembers that we are dust, He has so kindly filled His Word with images and pictures to help our small minds grasp vast realities. Jesus’ parables, many proverbs, and much of the Prophets’ writings exemplify this merciful condescension. I remember appreciating God’s use of metaphor as I approached marriage. As I reflected on the feelings, desires, longings, and activities that filled my time of engagement, I understood in a new way how we are called to long for Christ our Bridegroom and the joy that will be ours at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

The experience of motherhood offers a similar opportunity to experience in fresh ways many truths that God longs for us to understand and believe. What follows is a collection of moments that will become a familiar part of your life as a mother. I pray that by singling out these experiences in this way, God will prepare and enable your heart to recognize the spiritual treasures He wants to give you as you walk through them yourself. May He bring these Scriptures to mind as you go about your tasks as mother and may the remembrance of what God wants to teach you deepen and transform your experience of each activity.

The groaning of labor pains

John 16:21-22
“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

Galatians 4:19
“My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”


Isaiah 49:15
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

1 Thessalonians 2:7
“But we were gentle among you,
like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.”

1 Peter 2:2
“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk,
that by it you may grow up into salvation.”

Caring for small children

Isaiah 66:13
“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Psalm 131:2
“But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

Hosea 11:1-4
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son…
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love;
I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.


Hebrews 12:9-10
“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best;
but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Preparing for Child #2

It's been interesting to compare the things that are filling my mind these days with the things that filled my mind in the days prior to Katie's birth. With Katie, my thoughts were consumed with all the unknowns and anxieties about labor and delivery and with making sure I had all the right "stuff." This time around, I already have all the "stuff" and I’m not at all anxious about labor and delivery. Rather, I’m very aware of the challenges that are waiting for me in the early months of infancy and I’m trying to prepare myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I know how spiritually weak I am (especially when sleep-deprived) and how tempted to selfishness, grumbling, and rudeness I will be. I’m trying to train my mind now to think godly thoughts about the inevitable rough moments.

Interestingly, this season of mental preparation was aided by a friend of mine from college who mentioned that her transition to motherhood had been rather difficult and she sometimes found herself wondering if staying at home really was worth it. Boy, did her question stir something up in me! From the time that I first received her email and began thinking about how to respond, the Lord began to give me fresh insights about motherhood, things I clearly need to be reminded of as I enter this new stage of motherhood. I have attempted to put down these thoughts in written form and will be posting them over the next few days.

I also want to elicit any advice from moms of 2 (or more) about how I can best prepare for what's to come. What are things you wish you had done differently as you transitioned to being a mom of 2? What would be helpful structures/disciplines to have in place prior to the baby's arrival?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Baby Update

So, I'm a little overdue with a baby update. I actually started this post about a month ago but was waiting to scan the 2nd round of ultrasound photos. Now I'm less than a month away from "go time." What?!
First, the stats. I am now 36 weeks and feeling pretty large and in charge. It's amazing how much faster I got "big" the second time around! I had a second ultrasound about 6 weeks ago--she's still a girl and the time was weighing in around 3 pounds, 11 ounces. So I have about 3 1/2 weeks left with this girl rolling around in my belly... unless she decides to come (gulp) before the scheduled surgery!

Here (at last) are the latest photos of CAROLINE GRACE MCCULLOCH:

Head shot
Mouth open
And here's me at 36 weeks
(sorry about the crazy coloring, don't know what's up with that) Just to help you see how things have changed, check me out at 19 weeks.

Finally, I know you all have missed the "baby versus produce" comparison photos, so here's to my little Crenshaw Melon:

Your baby, almost 6 pounds and still packing on the pounds at a rate of about an ounce a day, is comparable to a crenshaw melon in size. (Length: more than 18 1/2 inches, head to heel.)