851 days ago, we welcomed our first son, Toby (Tobias) and officially became parents. It sounds like a lot of days, but it's really only 2.3 years. Last December, we welcomed our second son, Amos. He's now 3 months old!
|(L) Toby and (R) Amos|
When people ask me how it's been with two kids, I've been saying that the transition from one to two has been challenging for me. But actually, it's more than that. Parenting altogether has been challenging. Amos likes to be held 99% of the time, and Toby wants to play 99% of the time. If there's one thing that will reveal your impatience, selfishness, sinfulness, it's being a parent.
BUT, being a parent also reveals a glimmer of God's unconditional love for us.
I would describe myself as a pretty strong person. I can persevere. I don't give up easily. I have grit, and I'm resilient (teachers often do/are 😉). But, the early days/months post-Amos, I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, just from being mom to both of my boys...on top of that, the days on which I had to "hold down the fort" while daddy was away at work + other responsibilities I had to take care of or think about = a lot of pressure and burden. Toby started having meltdowns daily. Why is he having another meltdown?! Doesn't he see how hard I'm working? Doesn't he see how hard I'm trying? Why am I so impatient? Help me, Jesus. These were some of the thoughts that would run through my mind.
And then there was a Sunday in January. Our pastor's wife wanted Ted to meet with a retired medical missionary who happened to be visiting that day. While he went to connect with them after service, I went to pick Toby up from the children's ministry area. Toby and I made our way back to where Ted and Amos were waiting/chatting. I briefly said my hellos but immediately returned to supervising my ever so adventurous toddler. Standing nearby was Sherry. Sherry has 6 children and 19 grandchildren. I didn't know her very well, except that she volunteered in Toby's classroom. "Toby is such a sweet boy," Sherry said to me. I jokingly/carelessly responded, "Yes, except when he's acting crazy or having a meltdown." And she looked me straight in the eyes and gently but firmly said, "That's why he has you to lead and guide him. That's why God made you Toby's mom." Tears were already streaming down my face before she finished. I try to explain, "It's been really hard." And she says, "It's not supposed to be easy. You're not meant to be able to do it alone. Walk by the Spirit, Eunice. What is the fruit of the Spirit...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. HE gives you these."
That was my first reminder of His presence, and while I was greatly comforted that day, my circumstances still remained -- still having to "hold down the fort," still dealing with the meltdowns, still trying to find His joy through hard days.
Then came another Sunday (the following weekend). I was extremely distracted throughout most of the service. Amos was extra fussy; I had forgotten my "nursing cover" at home; I started zoning, thinking about the to-dos..."we have to get things ready to send on the container to Burundi; oh-no, the language placement exam is coming up...I haven't had time to study; what if I don't do well?; I need to get those forms completed...boy, I'm tired." Sadly, the message had become background noise. My pastor is wrapping up. All of sudden, zap - attention - captured, and I hear him say...
1) God's in charge. He knows what's going on. Trust Him.
2) Take things one step at a time. God knows the timing of things.
3) God's desire and ability to speak to you are greater than your fears and uncertainty.
What??!! I don't know why I was surprised, but He sure swept me off my feet...again. I remember Ted and I looking at each other and going "Whoa." Lord, even when I am so distracted and can't possibly imagine hearing your voice...you can speak so clearly to me. You can reach me. You know me. You care for me. You are with me.
The enemy schemes to instill fear within us and create a mistrust between us and the One who sent His only Son to die for our sins. The enemy tells us lies...what lies had I been hearing? Here are a couple...
- Lie --> You're going to be a missionary? Look at you. You have all the comforts here, yet you are struggling and overwhelmed. That's not going to change once you're on the field. It's going to be even harder. What are you going to do then? Don't go.
- Lie --> You're going to move your family overseas? Are you sure your kids are going to be okay? What about your family here? Who will take care of them? Don't go.
But as I shared in my last post, for every lie, we can counter it with an attribute of God through His Truth. Here are my counters...
- Truth --> Missionaries are not superhuman or superheroes. They are not more holy or godly. We're the same sinners in need of His grace. ""My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (1 Corinthians 12:9)
- Truth --> Worries? Fears? Yup, they'll still exist no matter where I am, but I have a big God who asks me to cast my worries upon him as He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). He also tells me not to be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let my requests be made known to Him (Philippians 4:6).
In our most recent e-newsletter, we shared that though not an easy decision, we decided to enroll Toby in preschool full-time. Last week was his first week. We're already on Week 2, Day 3. Last week, he cried everyday at drop-off (of course, he is always smiles at pick-up). But this week, it was different. With the warmer weather, they've been opening the classroom window. There's a little step stool in front of it. And this week, as he stood near the classroom door with one foot still outside, his teacher pointed to it and asked, "Toby, do you want to stand by the window and wave bye to your mommy?" Toby paused and said "yah." He walked in slowly, stopped, and turned to face me, "Bye Amos. Bye Mommy." And then he ran to the window, trying to beat all the other kids who also wanted to wave bye to us. I hear the teacher, "That's Toby's mommy. Let him wave bye to his mommy." They made room for him. He stuck his head out and started to wave. He was flashing his 100-watt smile as usual, and even though he doesn't have a ton of words to express all he feels, I could read his face. Why? Because I'm Toby's mom. He was saying, "Bye mom, see you later. I'm a little sad, but I'll be okay!" And I started walking away, and when I turned around at the corner, I could still see his little head sticking out the window. See you later, Toby!
My heart bursts for joy each day we do the "window wave," and I'm reminded of the Father's love for us. Being a parent, a mom, is such a high calling. It challenges you. It stretches you. There are so many hard days, but man, it's such a privilege, and I'm so grateful.
Dear Toby and Amos,
Neither of you can read yet, but one day you will and maybe you'll come across our family blog and this letter. I can't even express how much I love you both. Know that on the really hard days, it's not your fault. It's me -- good news is that God's still working on your mom! I'm going to make mistakes along the way, but He's going to help fill in the gaps. And as much as I love you, you've got a Heavenly Father above that loves you even more, so perfectly, so unconditionally. So, it is my greatest prayer that the both of you come to know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and that you both will walk with Him all the days of your life. He's worth it all. He's the reason we're doing all of this. He's called us as a family. And we're taking the Good News with us, to those that have never heard it. We're going to plant seeds. We're going to help water them. It might not be easy, but He promised to be with us always.
"O LORD, you have searched me (Toby and Amos) and known me (Toby and Amos)! You know when I (Toby and Amos) sit down and when I (Toby and Amos) rise up; you discern my (Toby and Amos') thoughts from afar. You search out my (Toby and Amos') path and my (Toby and Amos') lying down and are acquainted with all my (Toby and Amos') ways. Even before a word is on my (Toby and Amos') tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me (Toby and Amos) in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me (Toby and Amos). Such knowledge is too wonderful for me (Toby and Amos); it is high; I (Toby and Amos) cannot attain it."