My "quiet time" or ideal "God time" involves me and no one else. Preferably I have my iTunes playlist of instrumental music strumming or a quality Christian radio station, a candle lit and various books, Bible and journal strewn on my bed. In the days when I was apartment dwelling with just me and my cat, General Maximus, I spent a lot of time doing just this. And it became, in a sense, "how I found God" and in my mind, it's still how I must find Him, if I intend to at all.
Enter in late nights and nearly a year of interrupted and poor quality sleep, along with days spent trying to balance what I want to do and what I need to do and that has left the books, the Bible and the journal sorely lacking. Not to say I don't try to read or study, but it's not the same. I don't often get that long drawn out time... many times I sit down to get my focus where it needs to be and the baby cries or if he's awake, he's suddenly clawing at me and clamoring for attention. I am learning that God made me a mother and to be a mother that glorifies Him, it means I have to mother. I have to find ways to be me with God with baby.
It ain't easy.
But with all of that said, in the midst of motherhood and of watching my son grow, teaching him how words sound and toys work and which things in the house are off limits to his chubby little paws, I am finding God. I am seeing Him more clearly in some ways than I ever did in that one bedroom apartment with a cat named after a gladiator...
Exhibit A ~ Sleep Training & Night Waking
A month or so ago, we became convinced that we had to start training Joel to fall asleep on his own. He was painfully dependent on Mommy and would not go back to sleep without cuddles, multiple times a night. This was just not going to work long-term. The first time he cried for 45 minutes (with us going in to calm him every 10-15 minutes) before passing out and when he finally did, we were so proud. We were proud of him and proud of ourselves. And in just a day or so, he was going down for naps and bedtime without any fuss whatsoever! Impressive! And what it made me think of was difficulties in our lives and how we have to learn to deal. We have to readjust our expectations. We have to be retrained sometimes. As Joel's parent, sometimes I have to do what is best for him - change his diaper when he wants to stay in it all day, for instance, or aspirating his nose when he'd rather drown in snot, or in this case, learn to fall into a deep sleep that he desperately needs without my constant consoling. I'm still here, I'm still watching, but he has to learn some things sometime. We all do.
Because Joel had become so dependent on me rushing in to check on him and rock him back to sleep or hold him and sway back and forth until he could get back into a sleepy state, we had to exhibit some tough love, meaning: once you're in your crib, you stay in your crib. Joel likes to get up on his hands and knees and crawl around (i.e. run away from you) so there was a lot of pulling him back into place, laying him back down, saying, "No, no, it's sleepy time." patting him and walking out, only to hear immediate screams. But in no time at all he learned that he was okay and could fall back asleep on his own. Why? Maybe because he knows that if he really ever needs me, Mom is there. In my room hangs a picture with the verse, "The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will watch over your life." Every time I see that, I think of my Heavenly Father who never sleeps. I like to think that I'm a very doting young mother, but the truth is... I fall asleep. A lot. I wake up as soon as I hear my son's cry, but I still rest. I still nod off as soon as I can. Not so, God. When I get up in the middle of the night with Joel, sometimes I have the clarity and awareness to think of the fact that God is already awake, taking care of both of us. I like that. I like it a lot.
Exhibit B ~ Learning & Growth
Not only do I log all of my little man's accomplishments on a hand-dandy "Baby's 1st Year" wall calendar and baby book, but I file them tightly in my heart. That's because every time he does something new or right, my heart grows and I want to just sit there and cry: I am so proud of him. He's learned to eat "big boy foods" and can hold sippy cups and bottles with enormous confidence. He has stood, unassisted, for the splittest of seconds, before realizing he's not leaning on a piece of furniture or me.
Today, our proud moment was him stacking two large, pillow-like blocks on top of each other. He did it over and over again, so I knew it wasn't a fluke. Typically he flings blocks (and everything else) and is more into knocking down your tower than building one of his own (such a boy!): but today he chose to do something new. To do something totally big kid. I am proud of him when he eats well, proud of him when he stops when I tell him to stop, proud of him when he goes and gets his book when I ask him where it is, proud of him for learning to crawl into my lap to read stories, to "dance" to music, the list goes on. Some things he picks up on his own, but the majority are things that he has seen his Daddy and I do. He's learning by example to stack blocks and eat grapes. And so often when I sit there watching him mature before my eyes, my heart tightens and think: "Is this how God feels?"
When we finally "get it", do we do Him proud?
Exhibit C ~ Peek-a-Boo
Joel LOVES to play peek-a-boo. He thinks it's hysterical. I'll be trying to feed him and he'll throw his little arms up and over his eyes until all I can see is a toothy grin. I know this is my cue to say, "Where's Joel?!" He loves to "hide" from me when we're playing on the floor - to scuttle under the dining room table or set up a fort under the coffee table. Today we were playing his favorite game, which involves me chasing him around and around the outside of his exersaucer, while he giggles and tries to move fast enough to get away from Momma (he never wins!) Today he squealed and crawled as fast as he could under an end table and sat looking at me and I said, "I found you! You can't hide from me! I'll always find you!" And immediately I thought, "That's God. We can't ever hide deep enough or run fast or far enough. He will always, always find us." And as I pulled my grinning boy out from under the table by his chubby legs that make my heart melt, I just smiled. Because I've been pulled out of tight spaces and my own personal forts before. What a relief to be found.
I think all the time how my love and devotion to our baby has to, somehow, dim in comparison to the love "that the Father has lavished on us". It's hard to comprehend such a thing, because I love him so much than I can express or ever write about. I know, too, that as natural as it feels to love Joel... as instant as my fierce devotion was to him from the second he entered this world and was put in my arms.... I know that I know how to love because I was first loved by God. And that's why I can't help but think, in all the milestones and the sleepless nights and the days when I want to lose patience and especially on the days that I do... that I know how to love, only because of what has been poured out on me.
And yes, sometimes I miss the ability to have consistent, long, absorbed quiet times with my Bible and journal and colored gel pens. But the thing that makes me smile is the thought of how I used to view my apartment as a sanctuary. It was just me and God (and General Maximus). But now... now that I am in this house, with this husband and this baby... I think, wow, if that was a sanctuary... then this is a temple. This is a temple with refining fires that burn night and day. This is a temple where we take pictures and where I journal and scrapbook memories as virtual altars of what God has done. Is doing.
As a single woman, eating entire pizzas by myself, or as a stay at home wife and mother, learning to leave the extra pizza for someone else, I am finding that I am not lost. Even though there are days when I may be all fogged over and unshowered, I am not lost. I am still here. I am still God's. I am still worshipping, learning and serving. It's not what it was and for that, I'm thankful. Because now,... now I have a child. Now I have a living, breathing opportunity to die to self. To love as God has loved me.
I have so much more to give... and to gain... than I ever, ever dreamed.
"We love because
He first loved us.
Whoever does not love...
whom they have seen,
cannot love God,
whom they have not seen."
~ 1 John 4:19-20