Archives for January 2014

When “Way Better” Is Also “Way Harder”

Eight more days until my due date. Eight. More. Days.

My heart is nearly bursting with joy as I anticipate holding my second born child in my arms, looking into those precious eyes, touching those tiny feet and hands, caressing the silky soft hairs on his head, marveling at every little feature on his red, puffy and oh-so-adorable newborn face, breathing in the smell of freshly washed baby, and listening to that sweet sound of a nursing infant. Again and again, the Bible affirms that children are a blessing from the Lord. Again and again, my son Shepherd has proven that to be true. I know without any doubt that Landon Joseph Sweers will do the same.

shep_newbornThis picture of Shepherd and me is one of my most precious treasures. I have a hard time seeing  a whole lot of beauty in pictures of myself, but this picture is different. I have never looked or felt more beautiful in my whole life than in that moment as I held my first born son and pondered the magnitude of his life and the sheer goodness of the God who ordained every second of it before one of them came to be. This picture reflects so many of the hopes, dreams, and expectations I had of that sweet child and of motherhood in general. While it captures but one single moment in time, it continues to tell the story of a young woman who fell madly in love with a seven pound, fourteen ounce little boy who forever changed her life for the better. Way better. To think that I get to experience that all over again in just a matter of days – it nearly takes my breath away.

There is, however, one thing weighing heavily on this joy-filled heart of mine – one thing that has made this pregnancy very different from my first. This time around I know something about motherhood that I didn’t quite grasp the first time: I know it’s going to be really, really hard.

The young woman in that picture honestly didn’t have a clue. She had read and re-read Babywise, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and Shepherding a Child’s Heart (to name a few!). She was convinced she’d have her baby on a perfect “feed-wake-sleep” schedule and would be sleeping through the night in a matter of weeks. She wholeheartedly believed that breastfeeding would be the easiest, most natural, rewarding experience of her life. She envisioned happily rocking her always-smiling baby multiple times a day while singing her favorite hymns and reading Scripture – the perfect little “mommy and me” worship service! She would, of course, always have make-up on, be dressed in real clothes (i.e., pants that have a zipper and aren’t made of flannel), and exude the well-rested radiance of a successful  “Babywise” mom.

HA! To say none of that happened would be a severe understatement.

Yep, clueless . . . utterly clueless. But not this time . . .

This time I know how brutal the sleep deprivation will be.

This time I know
that however willing my husband is to help in the wee hours of the morning, I am the only one with “working” breasts.

This time I know that even if I could be the “perfect” Babywise mom, it’s highly unlikely that I will ever have a “perfect” Babywise baby.

This time I know that that postpartum depression is a life-altering reality, that it affects somewhere around 15% of women who have babies, and that I happen to be one of them.

This time I know the strain caring for an infant will have on my marriage, the loneliness/isolation (both real and perceived) I will experience, and the enhanced body image issues I will deal with.

This time I know about  the financial stress coming our way, the challenge of making sure my four-year-old doesn’t feel lost in the chaos, and the paralyzing effects of trying and often failing to manage an overwhelming list of day-to-day demands (to be completed in the VERY short time between feedings).

This time I know the sting of having to say “no” again and again to opportunities to stand on a platform and teach the Bible as I try to convince myself that the ministry I do inside my home is far more important and rewarding. (I really do believe that, but sometimes having to push the “pause” button on my passion is just plain agonizing.)

Yes, this time I know that sometimes “better” – even way better –  is also way “harder.” Sometimes great blessings demand great sacrifices. Sometimes the sweetest fountains of joy are mixed with bitter providence. Sometimes the most tangible expressions of God’s goodness make us painfully aware of our desperate need for His grace. Sometimes the most priceless gifts come to us in really complicated packages.

So what do we do when we know that “way better” is also going to be “way harder?” What do we do when the immense joy we feel is threatened by the things we fear? What do we do when the beauty of the blessing starts to get hidden behind the reality of the cost?

We saturate ourselves in truth from God’s Word until we are fully convinced that no matter how hard “harder” might get, God’s grace is indeed sufficient  (2 Cor. 12:9). . .that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) . . .that our times – even the hard times – are in His hands (Ps. 31:15). . .that in Christ, we are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37) . . . that He who did not spare His own Son will most certainly provide for every single need (Rom. 8:32). . .that we can cast every care on Him because He really, truly does care for us (1 Peter 5:7). . . that because Jesus is enough, so are we (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 John 2:2) . [Insert a thousand other promises here!]

We have to TRUST that we will eventually look back and see the words “WORTH IT” written across every single sacrifice – every stretch mark, every stressful feeding, every sleepless night, every emotional tidal wave, every diaper change, every frustrating attempt at potty training, every date night that never happened, every mess, every doctor visit, every forfeited ministry opportunity, every financial sacrifice, and every hour spent watching kid shows.

All of it  . . . absolutely, totally, completely  WORTH IT!

Why? Because all of it . . . every single ounce of “hard” . . . . is sovereignly fashioned by God to draw us closer to Himself.

I know I’m not the only one who is on the verge of a better but harder season of life, deeply thankful for what God has so lavishly provided but also very much aware – and sometimes afraid – of what it’s going to cost. It doesn’t have to be motherhood. It could be a new job, a move, a relationship, a new ministry endeavor, or a whole slew of other changes. Whatever “hard” we might face, we can do what comes so naturally to most of us and choose to dwell on the price tag. Or, we can choose to focus on the gift.

Better yet, we can fix our eyes on the Giver – the all-sufficient, all-wise, all-powerful, sovereign, gracious, loving, sustaining, merciful . . .  Giver. We can wholeheartedly trust that the words of Deuteronomy 31:8 are as true for us as they were for Joshua and the Israelites as they faced a promising yet challenging future: “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

This time I know things I didn’t know before. I know that my life is about to get way better. I also know that it is also about to get way harder. But more than anything, I know that my God is about to prove Himself to be way stronger.

Stronger than every sleepless night. Stronger than every crushing wave of sadness. Stronger than every lonely day. Stronger than every guilt-inducing failure.  Stronger than every “I’m just not cut out for this” moment.

The young woman in that picture was clueless, but thankfully she didn’t stay that way. She still doesn’t feel like she knows a whole lot about motherhood. She does, however, know one thing very, very well: Through the highest highs and lowest lows, her God has been and will forever be perfectly faithful.

It is upon that glorious truth that she hereby chooses to rest her anxious, almost-a-mom-of-two heart.

 

 

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