As we get ready to celebrate the first birthday of Baby Jay, it also marks my first year as a stay-at-home mom. Throughout my pregnancy with Baby Jay, God kept putting it on Frank and I's hearts that it was time for me to step away from the full time work world. That was a hard decision both emotionally, since I loved my work, and financially, since we didn't know quite how the numbers would crunch without my second income, meager as it was. But I was excited about this new gift of time to spend with my husband, my kids, and my church. I thought that God had some stuff in store for me in those areas that I needed to take a bigger part in. That turned out to be true to a certain extent. But I think the biggest thing I have taken from this past year is God's work in my OWN life. Funny, I knew that this change in lifestyle would have some effect on me, but I really didn't go into it expecting God would use this time to make me DO less so I could SEE God more. Does that make sense? I'm probably getting ahead of myself...
Here's the thing. I keep pleeeenty busy physically managing the house, taking care of the kids, and keeping up with stuff going on at church, with friends, with family and all the miscellaneous things in life. But these days my mind and my heart aren't frantically racing to keep up with life like they were a year ago, when at least 40 hours of the week was chock full of work and everything else had to be crammed into what remained. So that leaves a lot more room for thought and reflection and sometimes loneliness on a particularly bad day (or a day that I don't see another adult until 6 or 7 pm). But I really believe God uses change and uncomfortable new things to grow us up a little spiritually.
I don't think I realized how dependent I was upon ACTION as a way of expressing my love for God. Whether at the church or at my job, the "doing" part of things was a a big part of how I defined myself and saw myself as a healthy, growing Christian. And that's so true in a sense. You can't just hear the Word of God and it's instructions and do nothing...(See James 1:22-25)
First you have to hear the Word of God! Sometimes I think my mind and heart got so busy I forgot to do that vital first step. I'm not saying that everyone needs to quit their job to improve their spiritual life...but staying at home has been an excellent opportunity for me dig into the Bible and then step back and see that:
1. I just simply need to love God. Just praising him while I wash the dishes or drive to the store is just as important to Him as teaching a forgotten child to read or listening to someone's burdens. I don't know why we humans have a need to categorize things as "God values this and this" over "this and this," but we do. Or at least I do! For more on this read my post about it here.
2. Prayer did not have the importance it should in my life. It's like my prayers were kind of dry and kept safely in a little box. I think my whole definition of prayer has changed this year thanks to IHOP (not the pancake place, the prayer place) and our church. This is hard to admit, but I really don't think I believed in intercessory prayer before. It's like I knew it in theory and I knew God listened, but beyond that I didn't think what I prayed had any effect on the outcome. I know, I know... God has grown my faith through prayer this year. And the more I get to know Him, the easier it is to know the hows, whats, and whos to pray for.
3. My kids are an awesome ministry. I used to feel like I never got enough time with my kids. Every chance I got to spend with them was precious. I rarely got tired of them or needed a break from them because I had too much time away. Now...well, sometimes they drive me absolutely nuts!!! But a few weeks after I had Baby Jay we were at church...I had quit my job, but I was still struggling to let it go. We had a silent prayer and reflection time that evening, and as my head was resting on the table, I had this beautiful picture of Jesus come to mind...bright and shining and his arms were open wide. Three people were running to Him...and I realized they were my kids! They seemed to be all grown up but still children at the same time. Hard to explain. They were just so beautiful, too- laughing and running into his arms. That was so encouraging to me. When the days get long and I feel like I'm a crappy, grumpy mom, I know that God has promised me that wonderful things are in store for my kids through Him. I am exactly where I need to be right now. I know Annabelle's only 5 and doesn't truly understand Jesus' sacrifice for her yet, but when she prays and thanks Jesus for his death on the cross, I know she means it with her all her little heart. She loves to dance and sing about God. She knows that He protects, loves, and provides for her. Priceless...
Over the past year we adjusted to a new baby and life with 3 kids, had some growing (shrinking?) pains as a church, Frank's sister and my sister welcomed their first children into the world, Frank started seminary classes, Frank's dad had scary health issues, I got my first random physical ailment (or whatever Bell's Palsy is), my parents started a new adventure in life and are preparing to move, the church just moved to our own building...as usual, life is not boring!
But God has given me some great gifts this year to help me get used to my stay at home status. I learned that I can indeed cook without killing anyone. I got back into running after a decade of inconsistent exercise (That's putting it kindly!). I have read more than I have in years. The kids and I have had some mini adventures to the library, the lake, planting a garden, visiting friends, and other things that we just never had the time to do before. I have witnessed pretty much every day of Baby Jay's little life and he has been such a joyful baby! I started reading blogs and then writing my own as a new creative outlet. Out of that has come numerous friendships that keep me laughing, encouraged, and spiritually challenged. I have had the chance to deepen my friendship with my pastor's wife and that has been such a major blessing. I have had the chance to reconnect with the gals in my women's group here in town. There is so much to be thankful for these days.
So my sweet Baby Jay may not remember his first birthday, but I will look back on his first year with a lot of praise and thanks to God. He's the One who stays the same when life seems to change by the minute.
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