Friday, August 7, 2009

Finding joy

Last summer, I linked to an article that appeared in the Counting the Cost newsletter. Unfortunately, the newsletter is being discontinued, but I really connected with an article in the final issue, which was written by newsletter founder Nancy Twigg. She graciously gave me permission to post her words here:

Finding Joy among the Crayons and Carpools

“This is never going to end!”

I was standing at my daughter’s changing table, giving her a clean diaper for the umpteenth time that day. Lydia was only a month old at the time. Being a brand new, first-time mom was taking its toll on me in the worst way.

Lydia wasn’t what you would call an easy baby. The words “high need” would be more appropriate. From day one of her first year of life, she wanted to nurse non-stop, and when she wasn’t nursing, she wanted to be held constantly.

“She is never going to stop nursing,” I thought as tears welled up in my eyes. “And I will never get a good night’s sleep again!”

Four years later when Lydia *finally* decided she was through with nursing, I was surprised -- surprised that the time slipped away so quickly. I was also shocked that it grieved me so to see that phase of our lives come to a close.

A year after that I was stunned again -- this time that my little girl was getting ready for kindergarten. I would have never guessed how hard it would be for me the first time I dropped her off at the front door of her homeschool co-op.

As I pulled my car away slowly, it was all I could do to keep from running in after her. I wanted to scream, “No, this can’t be happening! Who stole my baby?”

One thing I’ve learned in my time of being a parent is that every phase of our family’s life is a season -- a time that inevitably comes and eventually goes. Some seasons are longer and more difficult than others; some pass so quickly that I hardly notice their arrival or departure.

I like to compare parenting to running. As part of my fitness routine, I run several days a week in the hilly neighborhoods that surround my Knoxville home. Often as I run, I struggle to get up hills that at the time seem larger than life. Once I reach the top of the hill, I can breeze easily down the other side. But as enjoyable as the downhill runs are, I know they won’t last forever. There will always be another hill to tackle on the horizon, just as in parenting there is always another season -- complete with its own trials and adjustments -- waiting for me around the bend.

Ecclesiastes tells us, “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven…a time to plant and a time to harvest.” (v. 3:1, 2b) There is a time for nursing the baby until you think your breasts will fall off. There is a time for changing messy, blow-out diapers and wiping spit-up off your shirt. There is a time for colic and teething and all those other challenges of babyhood. But eventually that season concludes and you and your child move on to the next season, and then the next season after that.

The early years of your child’s life -- when she is small and requires so much care and attention -- is the season for planting. As any farmer will tell you, a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into planting! So much time and energy is invested in preparing the soil, carefully burying the precious seed, praying that it receives adequate water and sunlight. Likewise, these formative years are spent preparing your child’s heart, carefully planting seeds for future growth, and then nurturing what is planted until it grows to maturity.

As a parent, you gingerly plant now in hopes of the harvest later -- a time when your child becomes more independent and actually begins to exhibit some of the traits you’ve tried to instill. As distant as it may seem now, the season for harvesting will eventually come. But rest assured: its arrival will be bittersweet because it will mean your child, your baby is growing up.

Now is the time for planting. My “baby who somehow morphed into a kindergartner” is now in fourth grade. We’re through with pacifiers and potty training, but now we deal with new issues: What is the most effective form of discipline? Will she ever learn good manners? How can I teach her respect and responsibility?

And sometimes, just as I did that day when she was only a month old, I still say, “This is never going to end!” The writer of Ecclesiastes also penned another jewel of wisdom applicable to parenthood: that finding joy and satisfaction in the hard work of life is a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 3:13). Let’s face it: parenting is hard, sometimes thankless work. But to find joy in the juggling act, satisfaction in the sacrifices -- that is a precious blessing from God.

The next time you think to yourself, “This is never going to end,” remember that inevitably whatever season you and your child are in will come to a close. And like me when Lydia stopped nursing, you may find yourself grieving over the days gone by.

Seasons pass so quickly. The moments you have with your child are numbered. Don’t waste them. Don’t let them slip by unappreciated. Look for the joy in each season of motherhood now. And when you find it, thank God because it is truly a gift from Him.


Michele said...

Love it!
Thanks so much

Jenny said...

very good!

erin said...

this really resonated with me, thanks for posting it! :)

Kendra said...

I needed this! Thanks for posting it, Carrie!

kelseylynae said...

Thanks for sharing this Carrie. It applies to a much broader audience than just parents, as well.

By the way, thanks for the recipe. Can't wait to try it. Also, was sorting through old pictures last night and found one of N and I when he was probably about 4 and 1/2 months at the end of the year picnic in your backyard :)

Christy said...

Very true! I remember thinking the same thoughts when my first was little, and was high need. Time seemed to drag by slowly then. Now she is learning to drive, and I miss those days. They go so fast!

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

I'm really going to miss that newsletter.

I know it's not really the same thing, as I have cats and no children, but I often find myself exasperated with Calvin's illness when he's peed on the bed yet again. But things like this remind me to cherish him right now because in his case, the next season will mean that he's gone. :-(

Washing urine-soaked bedding for the umpteenth time at least means that my furbaby is still with me. This is a good reminder to cherish the moments.

Maggie said...

In my reading over the years, I came to realize that I could not give my kids everything they needed. I could only give them the part that God wanted me to give to them!