(Republished with permission from Press Service International, for Christian Today Australia )
Here I am, writing my last article before baby number two arrives, and I find myself reflecting on the experiences and challenges my husband and I have faced in our last two years as parents. We have both been through new seasons and stages of life before, but parenthood really impacted us.
Perhaps it was the combination of sleeplessness, time constraints, overflowing advice and the sudden realisation of our weaknesses that made us re-evaluate so much. Perhaps, it was also God who knew the perfect time to hurl us into the chaos and growth that comes with raising a child. God, our constant guide in the twirling labyrinth of parenthood and life has remained faithful in spurring us on, showing us grace, and teaching us how we can fully embrace the life He has given us.
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Married with kids
When we got married, priorities and lifestyle changed. Then our daughter came along, and these became constant changes, shifting with each rapidly progressing stage of growth from newborn to baby to toddler.
Life with kids looks different for different families. For us, it reminded us to look at our values and intentionally plan in what mattered. We needed to make sure that in the ensuing busyness and sleeplessness, we made time for God, for each other and for ourselves. If we didn’t, we felt the consequences and saw them in each other both emotionally and physically. So, we learnt to remember a few important things that helped us plan and prioritise how we spent our newly stretched time and resources.
God is number One. We need God. I certainly feel the change in my attitude and perspective when I have not spent time in His presence and in His word, and hubby sees it too. The way we spent time with God had to change once our daughter came along. It wasn’t so easy to have prolonged, alone and uninterrupted sessions of quiet time. Instead, we have been learning to use opportunities throughout the day and night to pray, read or listen to a passage from the Bible, and just connect with God. He always gives enough time, and it is a matter of us choosing how to spend it.
Marriage comes before kids. Both Christian and secular experts agree that a strong marriage is the best thing you can give your kids. Seeing mummy and daddy love one another gives security, confidence and an irreplaceable example of how to treat others. While we absolutely adore our daughter, we have had to remind ourselves to put time aside for just us, time to spend strengthening our marriage and purposefully loving one another.
Self-care is important. We think a lot about what our daughter loves, wants or needs and it is easy for the schedule to get overwhelmed with birthdays and pre-schooler activities. Sometimes we just need time for self-care and this is something we have learnt to help each other with. We are also so thankful for family who have supported us with this through babysitting.
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Old friends, new friends
We are so thankful that God brings people around us at all the right times, and we have learnt much from both old and new friends. We reconnected with families we have not seen for a while, and for others going through different life experiences we perhaps became more distant, unable to meet as often as before. These friendships are all valuable to us, and we have really appreciated people reaching out and checking in on us.
Fellowship is so important in encouraging our faith and we are thankful for those who have shared their journeys in solidarity, lifting us up with words, catch ups and prayer.
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Adapt but remember
The last two years have brought change, uncertainty, and also much joy. I wondered if we would ever make it back into a full church service, and where I could possibly serve with a child attached to my side. I have tried to dance a crying baby to sleep in the church pantry, and was always on high alert for any potential vomits. Thankfully, things have since become much easier!
While adapting to change is part of life, there are also things worth remembering. One big thing I am continuously reminded of is first love.
“Remember your first love.” No matter how busy we get and what challenges we face, God remains worthy of my greatest love and worship.
“Remember your first love.” The passion, desire and compelling strength that drove me to spend hours just resting in God’s presence.
“Remember your first love.” The courage it gave me to boldly share testimonies of what God had done and how He had changed my life.
“Remember your first love.” Remember, God loves, and is always with us.
So as our season changes once again and we prepare as best we can, we hold on to God who is our hope and life. He is the one who sustains, guides, grows and delivers us, and we know that He will faithfully continue to love and teach us. To those who like us are navigating the challenges of parenthood and raising a young family, take heart and don’t give up. God sees you, and He loves you.
“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love.”
(Psalm chapter 33, verse 18)