Jessica’s Book-Themed Baby Shower
I had the wonderful opportunity to host a baby shower for my sister-in-law, Jessica, a couple of weeks ago. I have known her since she was a freshman in college and we have experienced many seasons of life together so it was very special to celebrate this new season of her becoming a mother (and my brother becoming a father!).
As I was praying through the shower and all of the details, I felt led that I wanted to share some thoughts at the shower about being a new mom. I have actually wanted to write a blog entry for a long time about this subject and so I was thankful for the opportunity to take some time to reflect on motherhood.
So without further ado, below is the devotional I shared, followed up with some photos of the special day.
As you can see from all of the books around, you will read your fair share of children’s books once your baby arrives. One of my favorites is I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak. I thought I’d read it to you in case you haven’t read it.
“I love you through and through.
I love your top side. I love your bottom side. I love your inside and outside.
I love your happy side, your sad side, your silly side, your mad side.
I love your fingers and toes, your ears and nose. I love your hair and eyes, your giggles and cries.
I love you running and walking, silent and talking.
I love you through and through… yesterday, today and tomorrow too.”
In the past almost-two years of becoming a mom, a deep love for Olivia has grown inside my heart. My heart just swells over the cute things she does. And since she is entering the twos, she can look at me and blatantly disobey me but it’s amazing the love I still feel for her, even if she frustrates me to no end!
I’ve been continually struck as I grow in my love and experience in motherhood that as deep as this love is for Olivia, God’s love is so much more perfect and deeper than my love. And as I’ve been on this journey, I have felt like God has been inviting me to grow in my understanding of Him and His love, which is what I wanted to talk about today.
Before I begin I want to say that there are many amazing women in this room who have been mothers for thirty or forty more years than me and who could probably give this devotional with many more insights and experiences to share. But as a new mom, I wanted to share a few of the things I’ve felt God has been teaching me about His love as I’ve begun my journey.
The first thing God has reminded me as a new mom:
God’s love is not earned. You don’t have to perform to earn His love.
Jessica, you and I are wired similarly when it comes to being productive and getting things done. And if anyone ever doubted if you and Eric are productive people, all they have to do is hear about all that you’ve accomplished since moving into your house two months ago! You guys amaze me with how productive you’ve been.
I will tell you that one of the biggest adjustments for me as a new mom was how LITTLE I accomplished throughout the day. What a shift to go from checking so many things off my to-do list before baby to being excited if I actually took shower in a day!
Through processing all of this and shedding a few tears, God opened my eyes to see that part of me felt really good when I was productive and I had something to show for the day. And though I have been growing for years in realizing that God doesn’t love me more or less for what I do or don’t do, having a baby and having my life totally change has taught me this lesson in a whole new way.
I learned that it’s more than okay if you can’t do it all. That you don’t have to have the laundry washed, folded, and put away all before the baby awakes—and that is AFTER you’ve been up three times in the night. It’s more than okay if everything doesn’t get done.
It took me a while to realize that when you feel like you are accomplishing nothing—like responding to emails, taking a shower, actually reading a book—take heart, because you actually are accomplishing everything when you take care of your little boy. Because when it all boils down to it, the time you spend with him is building trust and intimacy that no amount of productivity can match.
As your baby arrives, you will have love in his sheer existence (okay, and maybe exhaustion too!). He doesn’t have to do anything for you to love him more or less. (And please rest assured that there is nothing wrong with you if you don’t have this magical “love at first sight” for your baby. Many moms will attest that their love for their baby grew and grew as they got to know their baby more and more.) But as you spend time with your baby, you’ll find he doesn’t have to flip to his tummy or even smile for you to love him more, you love him just for being him. I am learning more and more as I am a mom that God loves you and me the same way and in an even deeper, more perfect sense. You don’t have to perform for him to love you more or less. He is utterly over the moon for you and loves you for who you are, not what you do.
The second thing God has reminded me as a new mom:
God’s love is wrapped in grace. He invites us to accept His grace-filled love.
It’s so easy to say, “accept grace” but much harder to really internalize these words and allow it to change our lives. I’m learning that in motherhood and life there are a lot of expectations—and most of them unspoken. They come from society, people in your life, other moms, and even yourself. And so as moms we seem to internalize expectations more than grace.
As you probably remember, in the first couple of weeks of Olivia’s life we had a difficult time figuring out nursing. We had multiple appointments with doctors and lactation consultants. After one such meeting, I left in tears and as I drove home trying to uncover why I was so upset, I realized it was because I felt like I was failing as a mom. And I was only two weeks in! I had expectations for myself that I wasn’t meeting, and I felt like a failure.
God has been teaching me throughout this journey that He has no expectations for me to be the perfect mom and to perfectly handle the transition into motherhood flawlessly. You don’t have to—and probably won’t—perfectly balance working outside the home, spending time with Eric, taking care of your house, and keeping up with all of your friendships, and spending time with God. It will not look like it used to look. God has been reminding me that, like I said above, He desires just to be with us. That’s it. And he’s extending His grace to us over and over as we grow into our new roles as moms.
Back to the expectations that we feel as moms: I’ve had a crash course over these last two years in realizing that I also need to accept God’s grace as we see other moms who may appear to be balancing it all perfectly. Or moms who have a hot meal prepared every evening for their families. Or moms who are dressed in an outfit not consisting of yoga pants and actually have make-up on! Or babies who sleep through the night at two weeks. Or who are awesome nappers. The list goes on and on.
I’ve had to learn to stay tuned into God and hear His voice the loudest rather than the expectations all around me. And ultimately to accept God’s grace to not try to be and do it all.
The third thing God has reminded me as a new mom:
God’s love compels Him to provide for our needs. Your loving Father knows what you need.
Your new role, especially at the beginning with a newborn, is to take care of baby Toy’s needs. You’ll feed him, change him, hold him, bathe him because you are the parent and you know—more or less—what he needs. And if you don’t know, you’ll figure it out eventually! (I can attest to the whole baptism by fire thing!)
This role as a mom has given me a new perspective on how God sees me. When I come to Him with concerns or requests, He is not annoyed. He loves that I came to Him with my needs, just as I feel with Olivia. One of the cute things Olivia says these days is, “I need help,” and I can’t resist helping when she asks in her sweet voice. In the same way, God loves when we come to Him for help and He loves providing for our needs.
This was never truer to me than early on when I was trying to get Olivia to take a nap. As you know, she has never been a great napper; she just didn’t want to miss all the excitement. So I was up in her room rocking her, bouncing her, doing everything I could to convince her to sleep. I remember saying out loud, “Olivia, you’re so tired and you need some sleep. Mommy is right here holding you, just go to sleep.“ At that moment, it clicked with me that God often does the same with me. I may be kicking and screaming over a certain circumstance in my life, but He is lovingly saying, “Sweet Michelle, I know what you need. I know you may not like it, but trust me as your loving Father to give you what you need.”
And particularly how it relates as a mom, when you’re up at all hours of the night, trust Him to give you the strength you need to make it through the day. When you feel like all you do is nurse all hours of the day, trust Him to give you the time to get done what needs to be accomplished. When you go back to work and don’t know how you’ll do it all, trust Him to provide the big and small things you’ll need.
Spoken from experience, there will be moments when you literally don’t know how you can do this motherhood thing, but God has used motherhood to draw me closer to Him and refine areas in my life that have needed refined. And He knows as a loving Father that I needed that, even if it hasn’t always been easy.
These are just a few of the lessons that I have learned on this motherhood journey. To close, I asked a few people in both of our lives to share what they have learned about God through motherhood.
- “Being reminded of His patience with me. It’s so hard to have patience with my daughter at times because you tell her the same thing over and over day in and day out, but she still will do it. But it’s the same way with me…And that God has a sense of humor!”
- “I think that God has taught me that schedules, expectations met, and perfect decisions, are not the mark of a healthy family…our hearts toward God are. I’ve learned that everything changes post baby (priorities, commitments, social life, my body, my relationship with my husband), but it’s okay because God hasn’t changed and never will change. His steadfast love never ceases, and I can always bank on that…even when I feel like I don’t know myself or my life anymore. I can trust that he’s doing what he’s always done in my life – working something new and beautiful. “
- “God does care about the mundane details of life…and the first 3 months sure are full of the mundane! Eat, play, diaper change, sleep, and over and over. There’s purpose to the daily tasks we have to complete. Doing those well allows for a kid who’s growing, learning, and thriving, and slowly builds the trust relationship between baby and parent!”
- “God’s love has no limit. His mercy runs deep. Very deep! That motherhood is a precious gift not only to the mother, but to the spouse, the marriage, of course the children, but also to the world b/c the family is they very foundation on which society is built. As it goes with the family, thus goes the world. We have been entrusted with a huge task as mothers, but thankfully, have not been call to walk this path without His aid.”
- “I have learned the importance if truly abiding and testing in him. My personality is such a type-A and I feel guilty when I feel like I’m unproductive or when I take time to rest when I could be doing something to help around the house. But He has taught me that I need to rest. Work is good…but I need time to rest so that I can do the work and be a good mom. My quiet times with God became that much more important whether it be a walk, a work out, or sitting in my room just listening to worship music. The house work or whatever needs doing will always be there. I find that if I start with just resting in Him and keeping his peace with me throughout my day I am more patient and ready for the mommy moments that sneak up.”
- “God will use motherhood to shape you and mold you into the woman He wants you to be so you can be the best mom for your son. It will be easy to look around at other moms and start to compare “If only I had her patience” and “If only I had her creativity” or “If only I had her energy.” But God chose YOU to be his mom and no one else. Take it one day at a time (because there will be glorious days and there will be hard days) and know that He is using those good and bad days to change you and mold you into the woman He wants you to be.”
- “For a person who could easily feel that she had to earn God’s love through good behavior and performance-based criteria, through motherhood I began to understand the Father’s love for me with new clarity. I began to understand that my very existence filled His heart with love for me. And how nothing could separate me from the love of God. I also began to understand why His love meant that He needed to set boundaries for me for my own provision and protection. When I ignored those boundaries, I began to understand how it grieved Him and how much He yearned for me to make a course correction. There is nothing like parenting to give you a fresh revelation of God.”
- “I think when I finally just let go and play and enjoy my son a little bit without thinking of all the things on my to do list, the whole time I’m playing with him I feel like God says, “See, it’s okay. I want you to just be with me like this.”
- “Seek wise counsel from other parents but try to not get too caught up in everyone’s opinions. Be confident in your choices and try not to compare to others.”
- “That grace is bigger than just a pretty idea or my daughter’s middle name or something to throw around loosely in our circles when we’re talking. Grace is a capital “G”, a man, Someone who died on a cross for me, so that even when I mess up, lose my patience, scream too loud one too many times, thank the good sweet Lord I am covered by this thing called Grace and that it keeps me on my knees looking to Him and able to even tell my kids, “I’m sorry, Momma messed up.” Parenting is a big old dose of humble pie. But I’d delighted to eat it every day with the gift of being a mother as the exchange.”
- “How crazy God can be about me even when I am so messed up and have so much to learn. Also how it grieves Him to watch me fail and yet He loves me too much to not allow the opportunity to learn. Also how my value can only come from Him, often I want to be the perfect mom and am always disappointed there.”
I loved throwing Jessica’s shower with her sister-in-law on her side, Sarah, and Melissa, my twin brother’s wife (though sadly Melissa wasn’t able to come to Cincinnati for the shower since her daughter was just beginning kindergarten). But we worked as a good team; Melissa was in charge of the invitations and print work, Sarah was in charge of the food, and I was in charge of the decorations.
Now onto the exciting part, the food!
After we ate we tested our knowledge about childhood storybooks and took a little quiz. I was not prepared for the fact that so many would get all 10 correct (so they got pats on the backs instead of prizes. Whoops!).