Monday, July 17, 2017

Reflections on My 1st Year of Motherhood... The 8 Biblical Qualities I Want to Instill in My Son

** Disclaimer: I wrote the majority of this post on January 24, 2016, the eve of my first born son's first birthday. Life got in the way and I never posted it, but today, almost a year and a half later, I finally finished it. My little one year old is now a spit-fire curly haired toddler of 2 1/2, but my prayers for him haven't changed. ***   

 Tonight I laid my baby boy down to sleep, and tomorrow when he wakes, he will be 1 year old.    One year ago today, I was 2 weeks past my due date and 80 lbs heavier than I am right now.   One year ago today, I sat in a labor and delivery room hooked up to a pitocin drip and bouncing on a birthing ball, breathing in and out through ridiculously painful contractions. One year ago today, I would soon be lying in a cold operating room, shivering, and absolutely terrified as they cut me open after a long, emotional, and unproductive 21 hours of labor. How has it been One. Whole. Year. since I brought forth a little life into the world?  One year since my prayers were answered and the desires of my heart to be a mother were fulfilled.  One year since I heard the sound I had been waiting to hear for 9 son’s first cry.  One year since I put my beautiful baby boy to my breast and he latched on for the first time.  One year since my love and appreciation for my husband grew to an entirely new depth….
   Everyone tells you that it will fly by. Everyone says “don’t blink.” When you are in the midst of those first few weeks with a newborn and you are waking up to nurse every 2-3 hours, other moms tell you to cherish those night wakings because one day you will miss them. And that is the absolute last thing you want to hear. In the beginning, you live in the present. You go day by day, hour by hour.  You are just trying to keep your head above water…..making it to the next feeding, the next morning, the next shower! You truly believe that your reality at the moment is going to stay that way forever.  But it doesn’t. It is gone in the blink of an eye.  I certainly don’t miss being tired now that I have experienced what it is like to have a baby who sleeps 12 hours straight, but every now and again I think back with fond memories of those long nights while I was on maternity leave.  It really wasn’t so bad.  I think back to the precious memories I have imprinted into my mind of all those sweet baby moments….the coos, giggles, splashes in the tub, milk drunk smiles, and that intoxicating new baby smell…...kissing his dimpled little hands and tiny feet, rubbing lotion on his soft silky skin, and blowing raspberries on his tummy. As Harrison has gotten older, I have loved spending evenings at home sitting on the floor playing with toy trains and blocks and reading the same 4 books (Harrison’s favorites) over and over. I love the way he smacks his lips after he gets done nursing as if to give “compliments to the chef” for a tasty meal. I love the way he twists his hands back and forth like he’s revving a motorcycle when he gets excited about something.  I love the way he just randomly bursts out in song in the car, in his crib, while playing, etc. Although it probably has damaged my hearing, I love the way he will squeal at the top of his lungs for no reason and then giggle like he just cracked himself up.  That boy surely loves to hear his voice!  There have been stressful times, of course, but I truly have enjoyed my first year of being a mother.
Oh the difference a year makes!
   Over the past few days, this flood of memories and emotions has come over me. I keep recalling distinct memories from pregnancy, labor, birth, and those first few weeks home with a newborn. That whole span of time in a mother’s life is such a beautifully overwhelming time, and it carries with it such a strong and deep range of emotions - hope, excitement, worry, anticipation, exhaustion, frustration, love, disbelief, gratitude, contentment, joy...and so much more.  It’s hard to describe the sensation of all those emotions coming back to you at once.  And while I have been working through all those emotions from the past, I am also being flooded with all of these thoughts and feelings about the future.  If his first year has gone by this fast, that means all the years to come will fly by too.  I have been entrusted by God to raise a man….. a Godly man….and I really don’t have a whole lot of time left.
    Before Harrison was born, I thought a lot about what kind of young man I wanted him to become.  Of course, I realize that I do not have ultimate control over his future. But God does. And God has entrusted me and my husband with the care and teaching of our son. While some parents try to downplay their role and influence in their children’s lives and seemingly think of parenting as the ultimate game of Russian roulette, the bottom line is that we have a huge impact on our children’s lives. While there is no secret parenting “formula” that will guarantee a child who is kind, respectful, responsible, obedient, and Ivy League bound, we as parents have been given the task of shaping the people that our children will become.  Parenting is a responsibility that holds great weight, and that should not be taken lightly.  Yes, our children will have their own unique personalities, but it is our job as parents to teach our sons and daughters how to become men and women of noble character and to ultimately teach them how to become more like Jesus.
   When I was pregnant, I talked over and over about wanting to make a list of the qualities that I wanted Harrison to have when he grew up. I wanted to write them down, because when you write something down, you take ownership of it. I wanted to write them down and post them in a prominent place so I would constantly see them and constantly be held accountable for them.  I figured if I was reminded everyday of who I wanted Harrison to become, I would be more purposeful in driving my daily parenting decisions to align with that vision…….since all those decisions will ultimately affect the man that he will one day be.  
     Right now, I am the #1 woman in my son’s life.  I hold his heart.  I get all his kisses and all his snuggles.  When I walk in his room to get him out of his crib, his face lights up when he sees me.  He grabs my face with his chubby little hands and squeezes me. When he is sad or hurt, he wants his mamma.  And I like it that way.  But I know that one day that my son will grow up and will love another woman.  My prayer is that one day he finds the love of his life.  I pray that he marries his love and that they will be blessed with a happy marriage and one day, children.  But I want him to be a good gift to his wife. I want his mother-in-law to rejoice in the man her daughter has chosen. And not only that, I want his life to have meaning and purpose and for him to make a mark on this Earth and leave it an even better than when he entered it.  And so my prayers begin now.  My action begins now.  I am writing down these traits, because I want to hold myself and my husband accountable for instilling these traits in our son.

1) Believer/Seeker
  • If I could have only one wish for Harrison, and nothing else, it would be that he would know the Lord, because if he grows up to love and serve God and devotes his life to becoming more Christ-like, all these other qualities will follow suit.  I want Harrison to truly grasp the fullness of God’s love for him, and I want him to know God and walk in the Light and Truth of His Word.  I want him to continually seek His face and have an inner longing for all those things that are good and holy. 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Phillipians 4:8

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

2) Integrity & Noble Character
  • I once heard someone describe integrity as being the same person in private that you are in public. It means having sound moral character…..doing the right thing even when others are not and even when you think nobody's watching.  I want Harrison to have integrity and to uphold his strong morals and values even when it is not “popular” and even when it is not easy.  I want him to be a leader and not a follower.  And when he chooses to do something that does not uphold integrity and good character, my prayer is that he gets caught EVERY. SINGLE. me, my husband, his teacher, or whomever. I want him to learn that it never pays to be untruthful or to compromise your integrity. 
“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out…”  Proverbs 10:9

3) Hard-Work, Self-Motivation, & Perseverance

  • There are few qualities that speak higher of a man than his work ethic.  Laziness is not an admirable quality in anyone, but especially not in a man.  I want Harrison to know the value of hard work, and I want to make a conscious effort to try and resist the urge to make his life too easy by doing things for him that he can do for himself or by "rescuing" him from difficult circumstances that will teach him important life lessons.  I want him to become independent and learn the sense of accomplishment that comes with working hard towards a goal.  I also want him to WANT to succeed.  This is one quality that is sorely lacking in today’s youth.  They only will put forth effort and action if they are forced to, get a reward for doing so, or are threatened with a consequence if they don’t.  I pray that Harrison is self-motivated and learns to persevere through challenges even with things get tough.  

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  Colossians 3:23-25

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”  Proverbs 14:23

4) Servant’s Heart

  • The qualities of kindness and generosity were originally what had come to my mind, but I am changing that to “servant,” because anyone who truly has a servant’s heart acts kindly toward others and wants to love and serve them.  I want Harrison to love who he is, but I want him to hold others in even higher esteem and to having a heart of giving and be known for his outpouring of love, thoughtfulness, and generosity.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

5) Patience/Gentleness

  • Patience is one quality that people have far too little of, myself included. In today’s world where everything is at the click of a button, instant gratification is basically expected.  I want Harrison to know what it is like to wait for something. I want him to understand delayed gratification and that good things do indeed come to those who wait.  I also pray that he does not ever struggle with anger.  There is nothing more unbecoming of a man, or anyone, than a volatile temper and a brash/harsh personality.  Though I want him to be strong, fiercely loyal, and protective of those he loves, I want him to be gentle and even-tempered.

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."  Proverbs 15:1

"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."  James 1:19-20

6) Self-Control

  • Self-control is a quality many people don’t like to talk about because it “holds one back” in a sense.  But there is a reason it is one of the Fruits of the Spirit.  God wants his children to exude self control because there are so many sinful things in this world and He wants to keep us from them….not because he wants us to be deprived, but because he loves us and wants us to protect us from the trappings of the Enemy. I love the song "Slow Fade" by Casting Crowns, because it speaks of how easily it is to get pulled into sin if you don't keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to the temptations of Satan. The lyrics say, "Be careful little eyes what you see, for it's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings." 
    I pray that Harrison has that inner voice inside of him and gets a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach whenever he knows he is being tempted with something that he should not do or see or even consume.  As he grows up, I pray that he is able to stand up to temptation when he is offered drugs, alcohol, introduced to pornography, or sex before he is married.  Unfortunately, we live in a world where addictions are rampant and completely consume individuals until they are left as nothing more than empty shells of the people they once were.  Praise the Lord, many people overcome addictions.  But there are far more who do not.  My own brother has gone down this path and is still living with the repercussions, so I have first hand experience with how an addiction can literally ruin someone’s entire life.  I know that my son has free will and the ability to make his own choices, but I pray that by God’s grace and goodness, the quality of self-control will come forth within him when the stakes are high and keep my sweet boy from going down the wrong path.  I want him to walk in the Light.  

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. ... “  Galations 5:19-25

7) Wisdom

  • I still remember driving past a local church and seeing this quote on their sign out by the road. I said it over and over again to myself as I drove by so I wouldn't forget it, because I thought it was so profound: "Wisdom is the quality that keeps you from getting into situations where you might need it." - Doug Larson. I feel like wisdom is really the product of having many other qualities such as knowledge, experience, understanding, insight, and good judgment. But it certainly is a quality held in high esteem by the Bible. Have you ever met a child who is wise? I have. As a teacher, I have met a handful of "old souls"....children who are wise beyond their years. They come few and far between, but they always seem to have this joy and peace about inner light almost. They are very grounded and they don't seem to let the trappings of this world lead them astray. Usually, wisdom comes with age, but there are some children who learn to become wise early in life, and it serves them well. I want Harrison to enjoy his childhood, but I pray that the gift of wisdom is bestowed upon him.

    "Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.."  Proverbs 3:13-18

    8) Joy

    • 15 years ago I would have probably said that the words "happiness" and "joy" were basically synonymous. But through learning about joy over the years, I have learned that happiness and joy are not really the same thing. The Bible does talk about happiness, and it is not a bad thing at all, but joy is different. It is a state of attitude.....a choice. One can be unhappy, but still be joyful. Happiness ebbs and flows with one's life circumstances, but joy comes from within. I pray that my son has true joy in knowing that he is saved by God's grace, and that no matter what circumstances he finds himself in on any given day, he can still have joy. I pray that he understands that material things can bring happiness, but not joy and that people should be valued over things. I pray that he learns early on that true joy comes from hope in the Lord.

    I know my parenting journey has only just begun, and I know I have made plenty of mistakes already and will continue to as the years go by. I can only thank God for the opportunity to be a mother in the first place and ask Him to grant me the grace, wisdom, and discernment it takes to intentionally love, discipline, teach, and guide my son so he is able to grow into the man God wants him to be. - Beth