Last week, I really started to panic about the upcoming changes in our life. I have really been seeking to banish that anxiety, because it becomes a vicious cycle and it intrudes on the precious time I'm so anxious about losing!
I listened to two other podcasts last week that I feel like really pointed me in an encouraging direction, and I want to write down what struck me, so I can reference it quickly in the thick of it.
1) Risen Motherhood Episode 60: Adding Another Little-- How Mom Can Greet the Transition with Hope
The words that really stood out to me are as follows:
"Expect that you are going to need the Gospel truth more than ever... I look at transitions like this as something I dread a little bit, but in God's kingdom, in light of the Gospel, these types of situations are good. This is where big, transforming heart work happens. And when I look back at the times God has transformed me the most and helped me repent of sin and trust him more, is times like this when I've been totally helpless and dependent and exhausted and at the end of myself."
"God can nourish you in these hard seasons with the tiniest nugget of truth."
This episode helped me plan for the fact that whatever quiet time routine I do establish in the next few weeks will most likely be challenged when the baby comes, and I was able to brainstorm a few ideas for staying connected to God in the survival stage:
-Listening to audio Bible or podcast episodes during nighttime nursing sessions
-Do not believe the lie that you don't have time to be in God's word, you almost always do have 5 minutes to just read scripture or a devotional at some point in your day
-Meditate on a Seeds Family Worship song in the background even when the kids (eek! kidS plural!) are up and at 'em
-Pick a weekly verse to write on the wall and memorize as a family
-Remember, duty turns into delight, and these little efforts are worth it even if they don't feel as substantial as what someone else may be doing in this season
2) Risen Motherhood Episode 63: Jen Wilkin on Growing in God's Word as a Mom of Little Ones
This podcast is what really resonated with me the most last week, and gave me the most encouragement for the last bit of this current season, as well as expectations for the weeks to come. Jen Wilkin is a Bible teacher and author, and one of the many people I've meant to look more into, join a study with, etc. I was really excited I stumbled upon this interview with her, because it tailored her message to young moms in particular, whereas most of her stuff is meant for women in all stages of life.
In response to being asked why reading the Bible is important, Jen responds, "I would say that a pretty common experience for young moms is that when that first baby comes, they have a renewed understanding of their lack, with regard to matters of faith. We're responsible for passing down this faith heritage to our children, and we can't pass down something that we don't have direct knowledge of. The heart cannot love what the mind does not know, and Biblical literacy is an act of loving God with your mind, which translates into greater affection in your heart, because by its own report, the Bible is living and active. For the believer, we cannot encounter the scriptures and come away unchanged. I would say that for young moms in particular, you're at a place where you know your vulnerability like you perhaps didn't before you had children, and that provides a unique opportunity for you to begin investing in some good tools for literacy now."
Jen goes on to talk about the coveted idea of a quiet time routine, and says that as a young mom, "You may have pockets of discretionary time, but you never can predict really when they're going to be, or how long they're going to be. Perhaps more than at any other time in your adult life, when it comes to learning the Bible, you really need an outside structure and some accountability."
The host says, "A lot of times I think as young moms the message we can hear from people is, 'oh these little years, you don't have time to read your Bible.' I think there's an element of truth to that, but there's also an element of a major excuse where you say, 'the little years are the lost years.' Is there something special about being a mom of little kids that does make theological growth challenging, or is that a myth?"
Jen replies, "I think it can be an excuse, but it is not always an excuse. I think that women have different capacities, and I think it's important to know yourself pretty well, and know am I the kind of person who's looking for an excuse not to do this, or am I drowning right now? ...We all find time for the things that matter to us... I'm all for a good binge on Netflix, just not if it's a replacement for something that's transcending."
Later, she notes, "Our children are our neighbors, which means that if we are going to treat them as the people that they are, we're going to need to have a solid grasp of the 'one anothers' in scripture. We're going to need to know what it means to be patient and bear with one another, and that those one anothers include not just my adult friends or my co-workers, but also these tiny people who I hang out with a lot in my own home... Young motherhood was such a time of selfishness and selflessness intertwined for me. I told myself it was beating the selfishness out of me, because you have to give up all your personal freedoms, etc. But it turned out that as soon as the kids got older and were able to do things on their own, I just took all the selfishness right back. So I think that nothing is going to get to that underlying issue of self-centeredness like spending time in the scriptures will."
I found this tidbit interesting, even though it wasn't the main focus of the podcast: "We never had a structured approach (saying to our kids) now you need to sit down and read your Bible... We didn't want to require or structure it, we just modeled it. The kids understand that's just what you do when you're an adult."
Toward the end, the host asks, "What are some things you would say, 'here's where to start.' In terms of getting into your Bible?" Jen responds, "The most basic thing to start doing is to read repetitively. And I know that sounds, like, not exciting, and maybe even boring. But it's actually the piece that most of us run right past. We want to read a passage and understand it immediately and know what to do with it, and that's just not the way that learning works, and it's not the way that good reading skills happen. So I would say if you're a young mom and you have limited time, you are far better served by picking a book of the Bible, starting at the beginning, and beginning to read to the end. Don't ask a lot of yourself as you're reading through it the first time. Just read it like you would read a book for book club... or listen to it on YouVersion on your phone every time you're in the car... those are ways to start getting the text inside of you. One of the things I like to debunk as often as I can, especially with young moms, is the glorification of the idea of quiet time. I think that we are going to face challenges in growing in literacy if we carve out 10 minutes a day versus if we had 1-2 times a week where we spent 30-45 minute blocks... You can have a some moment of reflection for daily contact with the scriptures to get you set for the day, but in terms of learning your sacred text, you probably need a longer stretch of time than that... If during the young mom years, all you did was read for comprehension, when you come out of the young mom years and you have more time and you're ready to pick up more of those tools (study tools discussed in her book Women of the Word), you will hit the ground running."
The host replies, "I love that you're saying this! I tend to be pretty legalistic... but I think this gives enormous freedom to a young mom, especially trying to protect some larger chunks of time a few times a week. It doesn't have to be this daily big hunk of steak. And also in trusting that God's word will work in your life, even if you're... just saturating your heart and mind with God's word and trusting that that will give you the ability to discern truth... Our routines as moms tend to last about 3 months, and then you have to switch to a new routine... But we really can take God's word how it can come to us, and we need to access it as much as we can, when we can."
Jen says, "It's also easy to spend all your time in devotional reading and not literacy-building. Before you know it, all you're doing is reading devotionally or topically... Devotional reading can be great, particularly for a mom who wants to have some daily contact the the scriptures. But devotional reading gives us something in the moment-- a takeaway you can hold on to. The literacy-building elements don't necessarily do that for you, so we may not gravitate toward them as naturally as we should. The thing with devotional reading, is that while it may give you an emotional boost for the day, it is not giving you comprehensive knowledge of the text, and when we become overly dependent on it, we can actually decrease in our ability to read scripture in context and in long stretches... Devotional content is more like dessert... but it will be way more impactful if you have a foundational knowledge of the entire book that that passage is being pulled out of."
Finally, she encourages, "You can do this! You can be in the scriptures in ways that are drawing you closer to what they say, what they mean, how it should change you. You NEED a transcending vision of God, high and lifted up, to get through this season of life, and the place it has been given to us is in scripture. So find the time to get yourself into it as you're able. Your love for it will grow the more you do it... What you're growing in love for is not the scriptures, but the God of the scriptures."
I just really love this encouragement from Jen, especially the tidbits in bold. It encouraged me to go back to what I had juuuust started doing on Christmas break from BSF, before morning sickness and germ sickness kicked in for the rest of the winter. And that's to literally read my Bible as a book, from front to back. I've never done that! I picked my smaller Bible, the one that isn't a study Bible, and just started reading. So now I'm picking up where I left off this winter, and just reading. I'm noticing patterns, like how needy and selfish and grumbly God's people (including myself) are, and how he always replies to those cries with an I WILL promise, or an I AM statement. It's really cool to read the story and notice who God says He is and what He says He will do. It sounds so fundamental, getting to know God. But it's what I NEED. I've been trying to brainstorm this perfect magical combination of racing to the finish line of pregnancy and getting all emotionally prepared for the next stage of parenting: early morning Bible study, reading parenting books and doing a workout at nap time, journaling at bedtime, or what have you. I kept trying to re-arrange the elements, but all of the ideas just felt overwhelming. Because while I have the desire to utilize every minute well, I really don't have the energy to do that. At least not the way I'm defining "well."
So Jen's words really gave me the freedom to keep it simple. I'm going to continue with my monthly prayer cards that I've been doing this year: intentionally praying for myself and for my family when I first wake up. And then I'm going to open the Bible and read. Most days, I'm going to expect that I have 5-15 minutes of this before I'm needed by someone. Some days I might get more time in the morning, others I might devote a nap time to process things a bit more (like I am doing right this moment) if I have the capacity to do and something really struck me and I want to flesh it out more before continuing. But I'm not going to force that. I'm going to start small and realistic, and I already feel lighter for it. I guess it's like that old saying, you can do anything, but you can't do everything. Note to self.
When baby comes, I expect even this simple routine to be shot to pieces. When that happens, I want to go back to the tips I noted above, and then, like Jen says, just pay attention to my heart. I can discern when I've switched from the survival stage to the simply looking for excuses to avoid getting into God's word. And when I sense the shift toward laziness, I have the opportunity to dig deep. I can use the three minute morning tips, or just the simple routine I've been doing the past few days, to get me back on track, and I won't regret it.