Baby Shower Devotional for Johanna and Katelyn

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Two very dear friends asked me to give the devotional for their joint baby shower. It was an honor to read this on that occasion:

Life is a Story

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess. Her father loved her. Her mother loved her. Eventually a handsome prince loved her and married her. They had four beautiful children who were always very good. Each one grew up and ruled over one of the four corners of the kingdom. And the princess lived happily ever after. The end.

Not every interesting, huh? Maybe we should add a dragon, the kind that eats a virgin every week. Or maybe her father is old and feeble and her evil uncle is trying to usurp the kingdom. Perhaps the handsome prince should be under an enchantment, one that involves a dangerous quest to break. None of this would make life easy for the beautiful princess, but it sure would make her story more exciting to read. And by the end of the tale she would be a better person than she was at the beginning.

Your lives are the same way. Would you really want it to go this way: Once upon a time there were two lovely young ladies named Johanna and Katelyn. Their weddings were beautiful, their husbands were handsome. They each had eight children who never made messes and who always carried in the groceries. When they died at the age of ninety it was after a life of peace and neither had any wrinkles.

Think of your favorite stories. Darcy and Elizabeth don’t just get married after their first dance. But after everything that Jane Austen puts them through, they are both more mature and more wise and their marriage is based on a deep respect and love that will last long past the last page of the book. You may not like that Percy mistrusts Marguerite and the risks they both take keep you on the edge of your seat, but the end of the story is sweet in a way it wouldn’t have been without the tension and the peril.

Somewhere outside the walls of Mordor on the way to Mount Doom Samwise Gamgee said this:

“I used to think that [adventures] were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually — their paths were laid that way.”

And Frodo said:
“You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: "Shut the book now, dad; we don't want to read any more.”

Another story put it this way, “Adventure is what happens to other people. When it happens to you, it’s only trouble.”

Motherhood is an adventure. There will be times when all it is is a bunch of trouble. And the trouble won’t come on days when life is a bit dull and you say, “How about we have a little adventure today?” No, it will come in the middle of the night when you have to get up early for something important the next morning. It will come when you’re nursing and all you want to do is have some peace and quiet for a minute. It will come when you are making dinner or on your way out the door and it will always take you off your guard. But those are the parts that make motherhood a story really worth living. Those parts take the boring, undeveloped character that was you at the beginning of your life and shape you, transform you and refine you into the multi-faceted, exemplary woman you will be at the end of it. Proverbs tells us to train up our children in the way we should go, but we have to remember in the midst of it all that our children are also God’s way of training us. Right now, when you have moments when you want to shut the book and not read any more, think of it as character development. Every wrinkle, every white hair will be a chapter in your story. At the last day, when your Heavenly Father looks on each wrinkle, on each white hair, He will know each story and He will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

The Two-Kid Chapter

So, you both just began a new chapter in your story: the two kid chapter. To get through this adventure you will need a special tool, kind of like Frodo’s star-glass from Galadriel. This tool is called Two-Kid Grace and when all is dark and there are no other lights it will shine and show you the way. When you only had one little one you did not have the grace to take care of both the little ones you have now. And if you ever have the kind of days when you wonder how you will be able to handle more little ones, remember that in that day, you will have More-Kid Grace. With Two-Kid Grace you will be able to handle things like simultaneous vomiting and “Mine! Mine!” and “Would you stop touching me!” Pray for Two-Kid Grace. Pray for it when one of your little ones wakes you up in the night. Pray for it more fervently when the other one wakes you up fifteen minutes after the other one went back to sleep.

When Lucy was born I didn’t have too much trouble with the Two-Kid Chapter. She was a good sleeper and Joshua still took a 3-hour nap. Joshua played happily by himself so I was free to take care of my new little bundle of joy. The trouble--I mean the adventure--didn’t start until Lucy could get around and talk. I remember one day, it was a wet, rainy Monday...here’s what I wrote:

“I could have napped till dinner time, but Joshua and Lucy woke up after only two hours of sleeping. Gone was the drowsy quietness that had descended over our home.

It wasn't long before Joshua's grumpiness earned him a spanking. Then he helped me clean up the scattered blocks and cars, only to have Lucy pull out a stack of books. I went to start a load of laundry and came up to the kitchen to find Joshua furtively trying to use a dry bath towel to clean up cinnamon sugar he'd spilled. I like cinnamon swirled in bread—it's not so attractive swirled across the kitchen floor. After removing his socks and sending him away from the mess, I started to clean it up. But soon there were screams to deal with...

"Enough!" I told myself. There were still dishes to be washed and rooms to be tidied and I felt like I was chasing my own tail. So I pulled out the stroller, put on shoes, buttoned up coats, and buckled the kids in. "We're going to walk to Nanny's house," I said to them. "Just wait here while I finish cleaning up." Excited about a walk, they happily obliged. Besides, being strapped down, they couldn't make messes or annoy each other.

Twenty minutes later, the floor was cleaned, the washer was running, and the dishes were washed. And the kids were still sitting in the stroller. A fresh spring breeze washed over us as we began strolling down the wet street. As the rain fell on everything around us, I could only think of God's blessings showering down. A sense of great peace and calm filled my soul.”

I remember coming up the stairs to see Joshua furtively trying to wipe up the cinnamon sugar with a big bath towel of all things! He was so nervous and hurried and he was trying so hard, it was funny even then, though the combined effect of that and everything else didn’t make me happy. Try to smile when you land in these adventures. Try to make as many of those wrinkles come from laughter as you can. And seek peace, even if you have to walk in the rain to find it.

I watched Bill Cosby, Himself one month before Joshua was born. I laughed and laughed at the parts about children, but I thought they were exaggerated into ridiculousness. I watched it again a few months ago and as I laughed I was saying, “It’s true, it’s so true!” No, you shouldn’t handle your children like the Cosbys and you should never wield the spanking rod like a Samurai sword but there are days when it seems that the kids just can’t sleep without their nightly beatings! And when you hear the baby saying, “Mine! Mine!” you will be tempted to forget about justice because all you really want is some peace and quiet!

You may not be on your way to Mordor to save Middle Earth from the Dark Lord and you may not be traipsing through the French countryside hiding from revolutionaries, but whatever adventure you do land in, be like Samwise or the Scarlett Pimpernel and make it a story worth telling.

Turn to God and Your Husband

You are both married with two children. The opportunities to sin are many. You’re low on sleep, you’re hungry and so is everyone else, but they’re all waiting for you to get out the food. There’s laundry and dishes and diapers and everyone needs love and attention. And what about you? Didn’t any of them consider that you have needs too?? But where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. Let these adventures turn you to God. I never knew how much I needed God until my children needed more of me than there was to be had. But God is boundless. Let Him be your strength, let Him be the light in your star-glass that will shine out when all else is dark. Turn to your husband too. Turn to him when you need another pair of arms to help handle the tears, the poopy diapers, the little shoes and coats. Turn to him when you need the companionship of someone who speaks in complete sentences. It’s nice to be needed and you will need him. And as you need more of him he will have to turn more and more to God as well.

Both of you are godly women of valor, raised by ladies of wisdom. Ruby and Virginia and Katie and Victoria will look up to each of you as you looked up to your own mothers. And I know that someday they will rise up and call you blessed.

A Blessing

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.