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Exactly ten years ago, I became a parent.
In real life, our celebrations this week will be focused on Mister, involving Laserquest and chocolate cake. But on the blog, I’ve been reflecting on how my life changed in Autumn 2009 through this mini-series ‘Plus Baby Makes Three’, offering some thoughts to those who are currently making the adjustment to parenthood.
Whether you’re wondering what you need (and don’t need) before your baby comes, how to make your family life more ethical and sustainable, what should be considered ‘normal’, and whether it’s possible to enjoy the newborn phase, we’ve got you covered, with some incredible guest posts.
And now I’m drawing this mini-series to a close myself, with a post which gets right to the heart of what this blog is all about: pursuing God through the haze of parenthood.
You may be preparing for parenthood, or you may already be there. You may feel like you’re doing quite well with it all, or you may feel like a total failure. You may have taken to parenthood like you were born to it, or you may be longing for your old life and work. You may be sensing God’s presence and peace as you care for your baby, or you may be wracked with guilt because you haven’t given Him a second thought since this little person arrived and filled your mind.
When I became a mum I became short on time, energy, headspace and just about everything! So let me keep this really succinct – a few encouragements to hold onto as you battle through sleepless nights, cracked nipples, decisions about how to wean, parental comparisons, pressure from Instagram, disapproving in-laws, and everything else which comes with parenthood.
Breathe God’s presence
I think those of us who are used to a faith built on the study of God’s word sometimes find it difficult to get our head around other ways of connecting with God. We have been drilled to believe that if we’re not having a daily quiet time, then we’re not really connecting with God.
When we become parents, though, it’s not always very easy – practically or mentally – to open a Bible. I’ll freely admit that it took me over seven years after having our first child to get into a decent daily routine!
But you can still practise being aware of God’s presence. Breathe Him in, during the long days and the longer nights. Hold your baby and know He holds you. Commit the nights to Him who doesn’t slumber. He is always there, wanting you to know that you are loved and safe.
Bring to mind any Scripture which you’ve memorised through the years – perhaps in a song. Sometimes it’s helpful to put worship music on, although I’m rubbish at remembering to do this! Allow God to speak to you through the Scriptures which are already in your mind and heart, even if you can’t read any new ones just right now.
(I’ve produced some gorgeous printable Bible affirmations which you can use as visual reminders of what the Bible says to you – these are yours free when you sign up for email updates!)
Let Him nurture you
You know something I’ve been discovering recently? That God longs to nurture us as a loving Father. “I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Luke 13:34).
It may sound obvious, but we Christians are good at keeping busy-busy, running around in ‘service’ to Him and others, aren’t we? We don’t often allow ourselves to just sit and be loved by our Heavenly Father.
But some seasons of our life demand that we slow down and just ‘be’. Serious illness can be one example – and so can early parenthood. When you are out of resources for anything other than caring for your little one, simply acknowledge that God is caring for you.
You know the protective, self-sacrificial, unconditional love that you feel right now for your child? That’s how God feels about you.
Even if the words don’t come, focus your mind on this fact. God loves you. He would do anything for you. He is able to protect you and nurture you and help you grow. Allow Him to minister to you without feeling duty-bound to ‘give’ anything to him in return.
Cast your burdens
It’s a familiar verse, but the challenges of new parenthood really do force us to make a decision about what we’re going to do with the anxiety that comes our way.
Are we going to swallow it, deal with it, bury it? If we do, we may find it emerging further down the line, and more difficult to deal with when it does.
Or are we going to give it to God? This glib-sounding phrase doesn’t mean that we’ll be totally free from our struggles, but it does result in more peace, and a healthier perspective which helps us to work out if there are changes we or others can make which will help us to thrive, and not simply ‘survive’.
It’s amazing how often I’ve reluctantly given my worries to God, pretty sure He can’t do anything about the situation, then woken up the next morning with new ideas which will help, and which seem to have popped out of nowhere…
God is not burdened by your burdens. He never gets to the end of His resources for you. He will never ask you to stop talking, or stop sharing, or stop with all the requests.
You can trust God with everything which wears you down, from the lack of sleep to concerns about your marriage. He can work miracles in your suffering – like making your baby sleep through the night! – or He can use your suffering to grow your character – like giving you increased stamina to survive a sleepless night.
My printable ’12 Prayers for Tough Days’ might help too. Sign up to receive them free!
Find your tribe
It’s been a privilege to be part of parents’ Bible study groups for nearly a decade. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s been the single most helpful source of my discipleship since becoming a mum.
If your church has a midweek, daytime meeting for parents – utilise it! Bring your baby along and be spiritually fed by others when you’re too tired to do it yourself.
Because we need each other. We need those who will lift up our hands when we can’t, who will pray words over us when we’re speechless, who will take our babies and make us coffee and bring us meals and all the things.
Don’t attempt to do this parenting thing on your own. It’s a lonely place to be. We were always designed to raise children in communities, and just because your own parents might be far away, doesn’t mean there aren’t new friends living locally who can be that community for you and your child.
If there’s no appropriate group at your church, meet up with a Christian friend or two, and try to do this regularly. A prayer triplet is a fantastic source of support and accountability during this busy season.
Becoming a parent has been an exhilarating ride for me, and I’m still learning so much as my children grow and move from stage to stage.
But it was also tough, spiritually. That’s why I started this blog. I wanted the accountability of writing to help me pursue Jesus through the haze of it all, and hoped that others would find encouragement from what I wrote too.
It’s also why I wrote my e-book 30 Ways to Purse God (Through the Exhaustion of Parenthood). It’s packed full of non-traditional ways to connect with God – habits we can build into our daily routine, visual reminders, and resources we can share with our kids. The point is not to do all 30 (!) but to pick one or two which work for you in the season you’re in.
This book is yours FREE when you sign up to get my weekly emails, which are full of honest, down-to-earth encouragement for Christian parents. Subscribers also have access to my VIP Library, full of exclusive freebies and helpful resources.
I hope you sign up so that we can do this parenting thing together!
But regardless of what you find to help you as you prepare, I pray God’s blessing over you and your family, that you would all know His presence very, very close by you as you learn and walk this journey together.