It's a little surreal to think of what all the Lord has done, usually in spite of my own foolishness, in some key areas:
My Walk with the Lord
Nothing has kept me on my knees and driven me into the Word quite like the intense responsibility to disciple five young souls for Him. I started out as a mom without much experience or know-how, and at the time, we were not in a church that taught on these issues. Instead, I had to cry out to the Lord quite a bit, and spend time searching the Scriptures. Proverbs, once considered irrelevant and boring to me, was now teeming with counsel that spoke to my heart. Nothing got me studying the Bible quite like my need to know how to raise my children for God, especially early on.
Marriage teachers all say that the 2nd most important relationship we all should have, apart from the Lord, is with our spouse. I didn't get that 411 growing up somehow. However, as I sought the Lord in how to be a better mom, He helped me to also be a better wife. Marriage and motherhood both will teach us volumes about selfless living, unless we completely turn off the volume on our spiritual ears. Learning how to put others ahead of myself through the day to day life with my children, I was also able to put my husband's needs ahead of my own. During hard times, the children were like a glue that helped us to stay together, and overcome those hurdles that would have destroyed our precious marriage.
My Homemaking Skills
I was such a slob in college, that I had a room all to myself, because no one wanted to room with me by my last year, and so I willingly paid $100 to have a room to myself.
You have to picture it like a commercial:
"Private dorm room, $100 per semester;
not having to deal with a roommate's nagging about the mess on your side of the room, Priceless".
Having a baby on the floor putting things in her mouth motivated me in ways nagging never could to be more thorough. Somehow, as the children came and grew, multitasking became more and more easy for me. I was able to clean house, watch children, cook dinner, and keep a house orderly most days. It still won't pass inspection by my mom, I'm sure, but if we are comparing it to what it looked like when we first got married, it's a miracle.
I grew up in a somewhat critical/sarcastic/snarky environment. A sharp, rude and snarky put down was always readily sitting atop the tip of my tongue, waiting to be released. If someone's feelings were hurt, I would let loose on the family motto, "It's not my fault if you can't take a joke!" Hanging out and working in the theatre and art department at college, I also tended to have most of my sentences flavored with words not fit to print. Naughty speech is something of an addiction or a bad habit, so ingrained in you, that it is hard to just stop. When you're used to talking like that, it's more natural than not talking like that.
The Lord started sanctifying my tongue when I got saved, but it wasn't until my daughter repeated something that had slipped off of mommy's tongue but once, that I became even more cautious of what came out of my mouth.
Philippians 4:8 became my model not just for thoughts, but for speech. If I didn't want my child repeating things that were not pure, true, holy, honest, of good report, etc., then I needed to be extra diligent not to use them in front of her. The family legacy of crude and rude language, and of gossip, had to stop with me, and not passed to the next generation.
A wise man once said that Integrity is who you are when you think no one is watching. Once, with a two year old in the shopping cart with me, someone gave me back my $20 in addition to the other change. As money was tight, there was a moment that I almost pocketed it, but then I looked into some sweet blue eyes, and wondered what she'd learn. It's in little areas like this, where our character shines through, and we see who we really are. I could teach my daughter Bible verse after Bible verse but I would undo it all by modeling a lack of integrity and character before her. There'd have been an additional cost too: the cashier later got saved after coming to church after I gave her a tract a week earlier.
Children are like little mirrors into who we are. We sometimes don't see or notice our own character flaws, perhaps living in denial over it, or deceiving ourselves into thinking were a lot better than we really are. There's just something about seeing my bad habits looking back at me in the form of my child that convicts me like few things can.
Furthering my Education
Motherhood is also a great opportunity to further your own education, not through college classes or extension courses, but learning alongside of your children as they go through their own education. This isn't limited to homeschooling families Maybe through helping your child with algebra homework this time, you may even start to get it!
Looking at the World with Fresh Eyes
There's something to be said about looking at the world and experiencing things through the eyes of a child. My children have said some of the most outrageous and unintentionally funny things over the years, and some of the most profound, deep and insightful things as well as we walk this journey together.
Some people were critical of the fact that my husband and I were expecting a child so soon after we first got married. We didn't exactly start off with good odds: we both came from unsaved and dysfunctional families, we both were fairly new Christians saved out of rebellious lifestyles, we didn't have good jobs or good resources, and we were both pretty green in nearly every area of life. We had that blissful ignorance that afflicts most new Christians, and most 23 year olds, and so we had a double whammy being 20-something baby believers. Of course, we had no idea what a change God would bring into our lives through having a baby.
There's been some times when others have suggested that if we had waited a little while longer about having children, then it would have saved us a lot of grief and problems, mostly problems relating to money, and relating to us both being wholly unprepared for both parenthood and marriage. There's been times when we've even mused about that ourselves...And then, we snap out of it, realizing all of the ways the Lord has used parenthood and marriage to sanctify us further for His glory.
When we embrace motherhood, and yield to what the Lord is trying to do in our lives, the possibilities are limitless.