My baby worships God

My baby worships God.

She doesn’t copy us. Neither Angus nor I are particularly expressive when worshipping God through music.

She isn’t just dancing. She dances, too, and it involves a lot of stamping and hip-wagging, whereas she sways as she worships, with her hands raised, eyes closed.

I thought I was just projecting my own experiences onto her, seeing what I wanted to see, but it is unmistakable. My baby worships God.

The first time she did it was a few weeks ago, at a conference we went to. Madelyn and I were in the parents room with a couple of friends, where the main session was being streamed to a TV so we could watch. A man began to sing ‘Scarlet Love,’ and Madelyn and her friend stopped playing and started to praise God, their faces intent, their voices lifted high. Before that moment, she had lifted her hands during worship and loved to sing, but that was just copying. This was very purposeful, and tangible in it’s holiness. Driving home from the conference, I was reminded that it says in the Bible that God ordains praise from the mouths of babies. When I got home, I looked up the specific verse, and found this:

From the mouths of children and nursing babies
You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries,
so that You might put an end to the vindictive enemy.
Psalm 8:2

Chills.

It’s not just cute that my baby worships God. It’s not just beautiful and exciting. God is using her praises as a weapon in spiritual warfare. How much more life is than what it seems at first glance.

Oh, hello there

Long time, no see. We’ve had crazy times around here, and my computer is broken, so this whole blogging thing has taken a back seat. I’m hoping to get back to normal now, but my computer is still broken, and it has all the photos I want to use for the blog posts I have drafted on it, so I need to wait until that’s fixed before I can do those. In the mean time, I thought I might do a little update, considering how long it’s been.

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So, hello!

We don’t really have a baby anymore. Madelyn, just these past few weeks, is looking like a bona-fide toddler. She is so, so cute.

She started walking shortly after her first birthday in February (oh my goodness, I really need to finish her 12 month update), and pretty much just took off running. She is now almost as fast at running as she was at spider crawling, which is saying something because she crawled like a flash. She’s also really good at climbing, both up and down.

Oh, and she says words! Not many (too much running), but it’s very exciting to hear what she has to say. She says the following:

“Dad” – a LOT, as well as all the variations of Dad (Dada, Daddy, Da, etc)

“Mum” – no where near as much as Dad, but still, she says it

“Ma” – her word for breastfeeding, she says it as she assumes the position, or while pulling down my shirt in public, so I know exactly what she’s asking for

“Cat” – clear as a bell, and while pointing at the cat, so there’s no denying it

“Please” – minus the L, so more like “Pease,” and usually said with an exclamation mark, or long and drawn out

“Who’s that?” – or rather, ‘Whosat?” and also, “Whatsat?” which really makes me realise how often I must say those things

“Wow” – very rarely said just once, it’s usually “Wow, wow, wow” about something really exciting like waking up or painting a picture

“No” – sounds more like “Ni,” and again, usually said several times in a row, while running away holding onto something I don’t want her to touch

She also ‘Moo’s like a dog. So maybe I shouldn’t homeschool.

Madelyn’s ability to communicate is unbelievable. I didn’t realise a toddler so young could understand and communicate so much, but it is very, very clear what she’s trying to say most of the time. She’s very expressive and good at pointing, and she babbles away constantly (we’re guessing she’s going to be a chatterbox once she gets her tongue around the words).

Around her first birthday, Madelyn picked up a regular nap. Everyone else is talking about dropping their one year old down to only one nap a day, and mine decided to start actually having a nap during the day. I discovered that I need to keep her super busy and tire her out by actually going out and doing something in the morning, and she’ll typically have a nap when we get home for around 2 hours. So we have an activity that we go to each day of the week. We have swimming lessons, a coffee group, music and then Playcentre twice a week.

I’ve shared a bit about swimming lessons on here before. Madelyn loves her swimming lessons. Her favourite part is when they get to crawl/walk/run across the mat that floats in the water and “jump” off the end to be caught by Mum or Dad. She’s really good at closing her eyes and mouth before going under water. In fact, the other night she slipped over in the bath and fell under the water, and was totally unperturbed.

We love coffee group. Most of Madelyn’s best friends come to coffee group, and it’s so nice to catch up with them all each week. Last week at coffee group, Madelyn and her little friend gave each other a cuddle and a full on, open-mouthed kiss. It was very sweet and so funny.

Madelyn adores Mainly Music. She used to stand up and sway while singing her little heart out, but lately she’s been taking a while to warm up to it all and get off my lap. I guess she’s just becoming more aware of her surroundings, so is feeling a bit more shy and unsure. She still loves to go though, she gets so excited as soon as she realises that’s where we’re going.

Playcentre is so wonderful. It’s essentially an early childhood education environment, except that the parents/guardians are with the children the whole time. We’ve made some really good friends there, and there is so much for Madelyn to play with. She really loves to paint pictures. The other day, she had a paintbrush in each hand, and was exclaiming “Wow! Wow! Wow!” as she painted.

On the work/ministry front, we are very sad because a dear friend of ours is leaving the ministry Angus works for. She is such an incredible, talented young woman who serves God and loves people with all her heart, and it is a huge loss to have her go. Nevertheless, we are excited to see what God has planned both for her and for the ministry here in the future, and we know that He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him.  In exciting news, the dance studio I teach for is moving to a new building. My boss has worked so hard, and is such an amazing woman and boss, so it’s awesome to see this new season happening in the studio.

I’m learning to find my identity as a wife and mother first and foremost, rather than as someone who works in full time ministry. It is harder than I thought it would be, because if I struggled with not receiving recognition and praise while working in ministry, the amount I get now is almost insulting. There is no one to thank me for changing dirty nappies, or waking up through out the night, or tidying up the lounge. I need to, yet again, learn that I will receive my reward in Heaven, and so not to seek an earthly reward. I also spend a lot of time reminding myself that I will never regret this, I will never say “Gee, I wish I’d spent less time with Madelyn and more time out working with other people.” It’s a journey.


So, that is what we’ve been up to. I will try really, really hard not to go so long before writing another blog post. Oh, also, you should watch this. especially if you’re having a bad day:

I have called you to be Mummy

Sitting up late at night, feeling isolated and overwhelmed, I mourned the missed opportunities to serve God as I have concentrated on my baby.

My Heavenly Father whispered into my heart, “I have called you to be Mummy.

You are not missing out. You are not useless. You are exactly where I intend you to be. I am preparing your heart to nurture people, to love them as they grow and tend to them until they blossom into who I have created them to be. I will give you a legacy, and an inheritance to leave your children.

I have called you to be Mummy.”

I have a new sense of meaning, a purpose for my life. Everything I do is not wasted. I am living out my identity

 

What I hope my daughter’s life holds

As Madelyn’s mummy, I find myself spending a lot of time dreaming of what the future holds for her. Even though she’s only 10 months old, she’s already had two words from God over her life. The first happened before she was even born. A man visiting our church who had the gift of prophecy said that her life would be full of colour and of song. He spoke of her being joyful and creative. He said she would dance. The second was a few months after she was born, a woman told us that she saw leadership over Madelyn’s life, and that she would be a shepherdess. It makes my heart happy to think of the woman she will grow up to be.

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I hope that she will know she is loved. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with her, I have sung to her, “No matter what you look like, no matter what you do, God loves you…” My greatest hope is that she would never doubt God’s love for her. My prayer is that she would be secure in God’s love, and that she would conduct herself accordingly. I dream of her having the presence of a princess raised in the royal court. I hope that she knows how much she is worth to God.

I hope that she will love God. I hope that she will be saved, and that she will walk on the narrow road to Heaven. My prayer is that she would know Jesus as her Saviour at a young age, and that she would never depart from Him.

I hope that she will love others. I hope that she is compassionate and kind, and that she puts others first. I imagine her being the kind of kid who stands up to bullies for other kids, who makes a difference in her school. I want her to have empathy, and for her to understand that each person is precious to God.

I hope that she will tell people about Jesus. I hope that she will be brave and bold, and loving. My prayer is that God would use her to draw others to Himself, and that her life would be used for His glory.

I hope that she will stand up for justice. I want her to be a voice for the voiceless, and for her to stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves. My prayer is that she would not be able to abide people not having the life they deserve, and that she would be spurred to action. I pray that she will have a strong sense of right and wrong, and that her convictions would be from God.

I hope that she will be merciful and forgiving. Not that she will be a doormat, but that she will understand the complexities of the human heart, and that she would be willing to let go of hurt and anger in order to live her life to the fullest. I hope that she wouldn’t seek revenge, but that she would trust God, knowing that He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him (and I pray that she will love Him).

I hope that she will be all that she was created to be. That she will be happy. That her life will mean something. That she will live forever.

Fear and perfect love

Before I had my baby, I was frustrated at the foster system in New Zealand, which favours sending children back to their parents into homes that are “good enough.” Why, I wondered, should a child survive in a good enough home, when they can live in a good one? There was one particular little boy we had who I cried for after we dropped him off. My husband, too, felt angry that this little boy wouldn’t be loved, cherished and enjoyed the way he deserved to be.

When Madelyn was born, I understood why it was always preferable for the child to be with his or her own parents. My baby needs her mummy. The only place she wants to be when she is sick, or tired, or hurting is in my arms. Children have an intense loyalty to their parents, and they want to stay with them – often even in the face of abuse. So now I understand why, when there is no abuse and needs are provided for, children are sent back to their families. Three weeks after I gave birth, I watched a documentary from the UK about families in the social services system. Towards the end of the documentary, a young mother, who was living in a foster home with her two week old baby, messed up and lost her last chance to keep her baby. She was filmed sitting on the couch, looking at her baby, having just been told that she would lose custody of him. She just sat there. One may wonder why she didn’t show any emotion, but I think I know why. Where would you even begin? Straight after watching the documentary, holding my new baby in my arms, I told my husband that when Madelyn grows up, I want to open our home to young mums at risk of losing their children.

In September, I realised that I didn’t have to wait until I was older, had more experience, had more money, had more space. I could help mums keep their children right now. So for the last two months, that has been my mission, my prayer, for one mum who has become a precious friend to me.

Today, for the first time, I’m really stepping out to see that happen. Doing something tangible, but also something that involves taking my child into the midst of people who take drugs and who are violent.

I am terrified.

Nothing bad will happen. It will be totally fine, and there’s not even a legitimate concern for anyone’s safety. But if I had my way, my sweet daughter would never know anyone other than those who live healthy, fulfilling lives, those who are safe for her to be around.

My darling, my heart, is fast asleep and dreaming happy dreams while I pace nervously around the house. What do you wear, the day you take your baby right into the real world? What do you dress your child in? What snacks do you pack? What do you eat for breakfast? Nerves and fear twist themselves in my stomach, reaching their long fingers into my throat where they threaten to make me sick.

There is one thing I know to be true that comforts me right now.

God loves Madelyn more than I do.

He has asked me to serve Him. He will take care of her as I do His will. He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him. I can trust Him with my baby.

Perfect love drives out fear.

Deserving extravagant thanks (the Proverbs 31 Woman)

The husband half of a couple from our church is treating his wife to a trip to Melbourne with a friend (who he is also treating), to thank her for the way she has supported him and helped him with his farm for the past couple of years.

What extravagance. What thoughtfulness. What a guy.

And if I’m honest, my first thought was “Oh, how lucky she is. My husband would never do that.” I even thought about telling him, specifically to make him see how much sweeter he could be. But as I thought more about it, a horrible realisation dawned on me…

The reason my husband would never treat me to a shopping trip in Melbourne is because I don’t deserve it.

I don’t say that to put myself down, to get sympathy, or to be shocking. It’s simply the truth. My husband is a reasonable and kind man, and if I deserved such an extravagant gift as thanks, then I would get it.

I might look after Madelyn relatively well, but I don’t do all that much to improve life for Angus. I don’t really keep the house that tidy, I don’t cook him dinner, I spend all his money. And I expect thanks for every tiniest thing I do.

In the 31st chapter of Proverbs, King Lemuel recalls his mother’s advice about the ideal wife. She is hardworking, she rises early in the morning to feed and clothe her family. She is wise with money, and makes good decisions that result in prosperity. Her body is strong from the work that it has done, and even at night, she does not give up her duty. She is generous. She helps those in need. Her children and husband praise her, and her husband is respected because of her. She honours the Lord, and for this she deserves to be praised.

My husband needs a wife who is steadfast, loyal, and motivated. Who takes care of things at home with joyfulness and humility. I want to be that wife. I want to be “the Proverbs 31 woman.” I want to deserve extravagant thanks.

‘J’ is for “Just a stay-at-home mum”

My daughter is 6 months old now, so when I meet people. they often ask “So, what do you do?” When I reply “Well, I take care of Madelyn,” they look kind of put off by that, so I always find myself qualifying it by saying “I do teach 3 dance classes a week…”

Because it seems there is something wrong with spending your days caring for your family.

…and that’s good enough for me

Women are assured that they’re not “just” a mum, that what they do makes a difference, that they have an important role in society. But I don’t really think that society’s view of stay-at-home mums is always that they’re unworthy. Mothers are becoming more and more valued, and raising a child who becomes a successful adult is considered significant. No, I don’t think that people are put off by my doing “nothing” because of their view of me as being lazy or not making a difference.

It seems to come from the perspective that I could not possibly be fulfilled by staying at home with my child.

They don’t look at me with disdain. They look at me with pity. I am educated, and have a high earning potential. And it seems to be generally well-accepted that someone like me, who could do very well working outside of home, would be bored at home with my baby. So they really can’t understand it when I claim to be so happy. In fact, the answer I get when I qualify myself by mentioning the dance classes I teach is a relieved “Oh, it must be nice to get a break from Madelyn.”

I don’t know if I’m a member of the norm, or not, but having Madelyn in a different building to me stresses me out. A different room is bad enough. The longest I have been away from her, apart from the 2 hours of surgery the night she was born, is an hour. One hour which felt like an eternity, where an invisible hook in my stomach pulled me towards the door, compelling me to go and find her.

Time with adults is wonderful. Time to dance, to shop, to read a book, is fantastic. But time away from her is not what I need. On days where I feel like it’s all too much, what would be far more helpful than being away from her, would be to have someone come and spend time with us both. Play with her while I have a shower, take a nap, or just sit and do whatever I want. Come and do my dishes, vacuum the house, or fold the washing. Time away from her isn’t what rejuvenates me. Time away from the heavy responsibilities of my new life is what rejuvenates me.

There are a whole lot of things that I love doing, and could do as a job. But I love kissing the soft underside of her chin more. I do have days where I wish I could be more involved at the dance studio, but I remind myself that I’m never going to regret the time I spend with Madelyn. There is not one moment of her life that I have missed. I received her first smile. I made her giggle her first giggle. I saw her first clumsy attempts at crawling. I wouldn’t swap those moments for anything.

I am so, so thankful that my husband and I are in a position that allows me to stay at home for as long as I like. I know how rare that is these days, so I don’t take the privilege lightly.

I don’t need pity. I don’t need assurance that time without her is good for me. At home with my baby, I am more happy than I have ever been.

Motherhood

Today is my 27th day of being a mother.

In the last 27 days, my life has changed beyond recognition. I no longer am who I was before. My identity is set, firmly, in motherhood.

Motherhood is harder and more wonderful than I thought it would be. In these early days, motherhood is the giving of my body to nourish hers. To exist solely to meet someone else’s needs is overwhelming. The few seconds I get to myself in a day are more precious than gold.

But then I see the excitement in her eyes as  she realises she’s about to be fed. And she purses her lips and raises her eyebrows as she stretches after a nice, long feed. I kiss my floppy baby and hold her for a moment longer before putting her back down after her midnight snack. And her eyes smile as I sing to her during our morning cuddles. I see my husband holding his daughter, and I know she is an arrow in the hands of a warrior.

And I know that I am doing exactly what I was created to do. To nurture my baby daughter is to fulfill the plan God has for my life.

Motherhood.

For it is not the same river

Having finished work for the year, I’ve found myself feeling rather sad these past few days. Although I plan to still teach several classes next year, most of my students will go to other teachers, who will have the privilege of seeing them grow as dancers and as people, instead of me.

The truth is that teaching dance has never been about dance for me. Some teachers get into teaching dance because they love dancing, and they see it as a way to continue dancing forever. For me, to get to dance is a bonus. I do consider myself very fortunate that I get paid to be creative and to do what I love, but the reason I teach dance is not because I want to dance everyday. I teach because it really, really matters to me that the children I work with know that they are loved and of worth. I teach because I love them, and I know that having one more person in their lives who loves them can only help. I teach because it’s one thing I know I can do to make the world a better place.

I wasn’t prepared to have to stop teaching so much next year. In fact, the plan was for the exact opposite. I am thankful that I don’t have to give up teaching entirely. I am thankful for an understanding boss, who is allowing me to take the first few months of the year off and come back in the beginning of May. I am looking forward to a new adventure and changing priorities. But, still, I am a bit sad.

From here, things are different. The things that have mattered to me, the time I have been able to take to do those things, that will all change. I am a mum now.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” 
― Heraclitus 

Parent, talk to your child about the end of the world

A lot of what I do is based around building relationships with children and young people. I have had thousands of conversations over the last few years, ranging from the mundane to the really serious stuff. The conversations I have with these fabulous little people allow me to have great insight into what is on their minds. One thing that I have noticed a lot lately is the anxiety that children, particularly 7 and 8 year olds, feel about death, dying and the end of the world. Often, I am the first adult they have had the chance to talk to about this, which makes me really sad because it means their parents aren’t talking to them.

I know 7 and 8 year olds are babies, and they seem way too young to need to know about this stuff, but they are picking up bits and pieces and without an adult to talk things through with, they’re getting afraid. This is particularly so with this year being 2012, the year the world is supposed to end. Parent, you need to talk to your child about this. Pretending it isn’t an issue won’t help. They need to know that there is nothing to worry about. Here are the three most common questions I am asked on this topic (my answers are based on what I would say to an averagely intelligent 7 or 8 year old):

1) What happens to you after you die? 
I know many parents choose not to tell their children their beliefs about an afterlife, preferring to let them figure out their own beliefs. I challenge you to tell your child what your beliefs are. She will figure out her own beliefs as an adult regardless of what you tell her – children go against their parents’ beliefs all the time. At this age, children are developing their core values. These will have been developed, for the most part, by age 10. They are figuring out the world, and they need your guidance in doing so. You can start with “I believe…” and finish with a disclaimer that they may believe differently, and that’s okay, if you want, but give them something. Even if it’s “I believe that dying is like having a really long sleep.”
When talking to children in a religious context who ask this question, I say, assuming I have explained the concept of sin and Jesus’ sacrifice:

“The really cool thing about Jesus is that He died in our place, so that when we die we can go to Heaven and be with God. The Bible says Heaven is a really awesome place, with only good things. When our bodies die, our souls (the part of you inside that holds all your thoughts and feelings) go to Heaven. Our souls already know the way, so we don’t need to worry that we won’t know how to get there.”

Hidden questions (the real reason they’re asking) include: Will I know anyone in Heaven/the afterlife/where ever? Will you be there? Will I be lonely and afraid? How will I know how to get there?

2) Is the world going to end in December?
There are adults who have fallen for the hysteria surrounding this, so is it any wonder that children are falling for it? Yes, it is true that the 21st of December 2012 brings to a close the 13th Bak’tun, and almost 400-year long period in the Mayan long-count calendar. But this is like the year ending on our calendar. It’s the end of an old phase, and the beginning of a new one. There is nothing to suggest that it predicts either the end of the world, or a phase in which the world will decline to it’s eventual end. If you are still convinced that there is serious cause for concern, I point you back towards Y2K, when the new millennium was starting and everyone thought that the computers weren’t going to handle the changeover and subsequently the world was going to descend into chaos and then end. Or the countless times a “prophet” has predicted the coming of Christ, and then that day has passed like a normal day. Or the days dated 666 in some way.
With that in mind, I confidently tell children:

“When I was just a little bit older then you are, everyone thought the world was going to end because it was the new millennium and they were worried all technology would fail. I went to bed that night and I was so, so, so scared that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. But I woke up the next morning, and guess what! The world hadn’t ended! And the world isn’t going to end in December, either. Some people like to say they know when the world will end, but it never comes true. There is nothing to worry about.”

I say this which such confidence because not only is it probably not going to happen, but if it does we’re not going to know about it, because we’ll all be dead. Children don’t yet know how to discern truth from scare tactics from the media. They haven’t had enough life experience to know that predictions such as this don’t tend to result in the world’s end actually happening. The last thing they need is adults buying into the hysteria and scaring them more.

3) When will the world end?
This one usually directly follows the above question. If it’s not going to end this year, when will it end? Spiritually speaking, Jesus could come again at any time. But no one knows when that time will be. The Bible is very, very clear about that. A lot of Christians think that the time is near because current events seem to line up with the prophecies in the Bible. But they have done so since the beginning of time. You don’t think they thought the same thing in either of the World Wars? In the Dark Ages? During the periods of revolutions? The writers of the New Testament clearly thought it would happen any day. No body knows when Jesus will return. Physically speaking, when scientists say “soon,” they are talking within the context of several billion years. Remember that when reading about global warming, imminent eruptions, etc.

“No one knows exactly when the world will end, but chances are it won’t happen while you are still alive. It will probably be thousands of years from now.”

This question scares us all, because we don’t like the idea that we can’t control what will happen. I think that’s why people get so caught up in end-of-the-world predictions. If we can predict it, we can prepare ourselves. The world might end in December, but you might be in an accident and die next week and therefore never know about it. Worrying does nothing to prolong our lives. God knows what each one of our days holds, and no matter what happens between now and the end, all will be alright in the end.