Numbers don’t lie…or do they?

  Do you like quantity or quality?

Would you rather buy 15 pairs of sandals from Target or one pair of more expensive, high quality sandals? Do you like to have 30 different t-shirts hanging in your closet or a handful of higher quality, longer-lasting t-shirts? Do you buy the expensive, high quality cell phone case or go for 5 of the cheapest ones that look cute and break after a month or two?

I will admit that I tend to like quantity. I like choices, options, and if I buy one really nice thing, I am afraid I will get sick of it before it wears out and just be stuck with something I don’t like anymore. I have changed some over the years, but my closet is still filled with cheap clearance finds that were worn once. I have learned that if I am patient and wait until I find a shirt I really love, I will wear it more and feel better when I wear it, too.

There is something about numbers that can get to us before we realize it. Unfortunately, I think Facebook has made it much more obvious to me than it was in the past. In high school, it was pretty clear who the popular people were – those who were elected to student council, those who performed well in sports or other clubs, those who always had a crowded table surrounding them at lunch. High school ended 20 years ago for me, but Facebook and Instagram have kept the popularity contest alive (just in case you were missing it) I notice how many people like my pictures or how many visitors read my blog. And yes, if I’m going to be honest here, I wonder why that friend always gets so many likes or why this person has dozens of comments on everything she posts.

What is it about numbers that makes us feel important? Why do I think that if a larger number of people read my blog, then I will really make a difference? I don’t see this anywhere in the teachings of Jesus other than the fact that we are to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19 ESV)

Jesus spoke to large crowds, and He attracted lots of people wherever He went. But He also surrounded Himself with a few chosen disciples with whom He shared the days and nights of His ministry. When Jesus spoke the Sermon on the Mount, I don’t see any indication that those who speak to thousands of people regularly or who have large Facebook or blog followings will be blessed. I read blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the peacemakers (selections from Matthew 5 ESV).

Hmmm. Do the poor in spirit, the meek, and the peacemakers have a lot of Facebook followers? Some of them do. But when Jesus says that He came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45 ESV), He was encouraging His disciples to follow in His very footsteps.

I served in ministry positions in both a local church and a national denomination for 10 years before I became a mother. Even in the quest to share the gospel, the tendency to count the numbers is always there. Do we have more than we had at this event last year? Did our district give more money than we gave last year? Did our church rank higher this year than we have in the past? It is exciting to reach more people with the Good News of Jesus, and we can feel that our work and our efforts matter more if they reach an increasing number of people. The more people we reach, the more souls will be saved, right?

Except that saving souls is God’s business, not ours. We fulfill our calling with humility and grace, and we remember that God is the one who brings the fruit of salvation.

In mothering and parenting, we fulfill our calling with humility and grace, and we remember that God is the one who brings the fruit of salvation. Except in this case, our efforts are concentrated on a handful of souls into whom we pour our very lives. I honestly think this is one of the toughest underlying challenges of motherhood. This is the most concentrated effort of servanthood you or I will ever experience. No one else gets the full weight of our efforts in the way that our children do. Yet those efforts are seen by just a few and acknowledged sparingly. There are no large, ever increasing numbers to count and impress ourselves or others unless you want to count the hours spent scrubbing dishes, folding laundry, buying groceries, and changing diapers.

I am too easily impressed by numbers. I am too easily disappointed by the lack of them.

Jesus, please change my heart. Make me grateful for what you have given me and where you have placed me today. Encourage me to be faithful in my calling and responsible with the gifts you have given to me. Thank you for glimpses that remind me that I do make a difference, and that is why I am still here on this earth.

Advertisements

New Life (or, I am the worst pregnant woman in the history of ever)

IMG_6454

I am terrible at being pregnant. I feel like a zombie. An exhausted, hormone-riddled, angry, crying zombie. I think for 9 months that something has completely taken over my body and I will never be the same. Okay, so those things are both true. Due to my extreme hormonal surges and intense anger at, well, everything, I rarely sit around and bask in the joy of being a part of the creation of a new life.

A new life is growing inside my body right now. I can hardly think that thought without simultaneously being completely amazed and terrified. I do not spend a lot of time considering what an absolute miracle this is. It is hard to believe that God would choose to use me to be a part of the creation of an entirely new life, one with a heart and soul and an eternity. As I write this, I feel her kicking me and think about how much she is growing right now. I wonder why I am tired all the time, and I miss having more energy. I have to regularly remind myself that growing new life is hard, hard work. Even though no one can see the work, that doesn’t diminish its value. Others may not know or remember what it feels like to carry a child inside your body, so I have to be wise enough to set my own boundaries and to give myself permission to rest as needed. I am 23 weeks pregnant, and the next 17 weeks will be gone before I know it. I will not be a pregnant or a nursing mom forever, so I do my best to give myself grace and compassion in these short months.

Now that I have a 2 year old and a 5 year old, I don’t get to spend a lot of time contemplating this new sweet baby and what she will be like. When I do consider that I will soon be the mother of three children under the age of 6, I remember that many, many mothers have gone before me in this three-child land. If they can manage it, I certainly can, too! My mom had three pre-school aged children for a full two years! I am looking at about two weeks between the time the baby is born and Isabella goes to kindergarten. I am certainly planning on awarding my mom some sort of medal for her heroic efforts to keep herself and us three girls alive during those years.

Even as I have these thoughts on pregnancy, it breaks my heart to have very close friends who cannot and will never have this experience of carrying a baby. I wish I could change this for them, I somehow wish I could share it with them. One of my dearest friends told me that she recognizes God gives each of us a different path with different struggles to work through, and she didn’t want me to feel inhibited or worried about sharing my struggles in motherhood with her just because she is not in that position right now. Her wisdom really blessed me and challenged me to remember that perspective when jealousy wants to get the better of me.

My challenge for the next 17 weeks is to keep a perspective on pregnancy and the things I will miss when it is over. Pregnancy is interesting because experiencing it for the third time gives me a perspective that I did not have the first time. I know that parenting multiple children is the same way, and I am really grateful for the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and actually get another chance at it.

So if I look mad or weary when you see me, I am. I really, really am. But the end result will be worth it.

In the Silence

IMG_3046

I am a pretty firm believer that you don’t wake a sleeping baby. I feel like I am in the minority here, but I rarely check on my children while they are sleeping. I have no desire to accidentally wake a child from peaceful slumber, and I certainly need the quiet time myself, so I have chosen to just stay out.

Matt and I listened to a podcast by Dr. James Dobson a few years ago regarding strong-willed children, and a lot of it stuck with me. I have gone back to it on some of my really difficult days. Some of the mothers told great stories about their strong-willed children that reminded me I am not alone. I don’t know if it was that podcast or another, but I believe one of the moms talked about going in after her daughter was in bed and praying over her. That came back to me a few months ago, and I decided to try it with Isabella as I can use all the help I can get with her.

I was amazed at how much easier it was to speak words of prayer over her when she is in her peaceful sleeping state. The frustrations of the day and even the impatience of bedtime routines have faded, and I love to look at her sweet face as she slumbers. It helps me to remember that her obstinate behavior throughout the day is only a part of who she is. The truth is, most of the time I just stare at her and pray, “Help me, help me, help me.” I love to read and listen to experts on parenting and children, but many days I still feel I am doing nothing right and this stage of constant discipline and correction will never end.

Experts don’t give me hope. Jesus gives me hope. He reminds me to look hard for the blessings in each day, and over and over I am reminded that this time is short. She will not be a small, slumbering pre-schooler for much longer. Every once in a while I get a tiny glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. She will demonstrate that she is learning so much about Jesus and the Bible, and my heart swells with the knowledge that things are sinking into her mind that will impact her soul.

I will add that I do not do this with Jack. My two children are so different, and I have many moments throughout the day in which I connect with Jack and feel close to him. Those times are few and far between with Isabella. She is and has always been a much more independent child who rarely wants to cuddle or have a quiet moment with me. I am grateful I can take those moments even when she is sleeping and be encouraged by them.

I press on, day after day, and those small glimpses certainly give me the fuel I need to keep going. Kneeling beside Isabella’s bed, looking at her sweet face, I am reminded whose child she is and how grateful I am that He gave her to me.