Motherhood: Thriving Over Surviving

photo by Emily Hooten

photo by Emily Hooten

“Mother is a verb, not a noun.” ~Proverb

In the brief time I’ve been a momma, my identity has been flipped upside down and my dependency on God has been tethered to the cross of Christ. No season of life has brought me to my knees more than this new journey of learning to be a momma. Each day, much less, each second is a holy emptying of my self-centered desires and a filling up of Christ. I can’t do this work of sanctification on my own. We can’t do anything beautiful and worthwhile on our own. That’s the beauty of the gospel in everyday life. Just like the changing of nature's seasons also brings a change in our habits, wardrobe, and lifestyle, so do the changing of the seasons of life bring a remaking of our identity. God is remaking me into a woman who hungers after His heart and clings to Him with a fierce grip as I learn to be a momma. 

On May 24th at 1:16 a.m., a cry pierced the air as I let out a sigh of relief and my eyes flooded with tears of joy. Nolan Louis Saffles entered the world on his due date and changed our lives forever. After laboring for hours in intense pain with an epidural that failed to work, my heart was overjoyed as they placed Nolan on my chest seconds after he was born. I wept as I held him for the first time, examining his face and holding his tiny body that just minutes before was inside my womb. This creation, this precious being formed by the hands of God, was my son. My world was radically different and my identity changed. I was a momma. I am a momma for the rest of my life now.

photo by Emily Hooten

photo by Emily Hooten

Two days later, we loaded up our bundle of joy in a carseat and nervously drove home. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I would do anything for this baby. No longer did I care about my appearance (which was far from being put together like I had dreamed it would be), and no longer did I care about my comfort (which was nonexistent after a grueling delivery that left me weak). All I cared about was my son. God began stripping me of my routine I loved and my quiet moments I coveted and began filling my days with full arms and long hours. Every day I am learning that though my time and days look radically different than they used to, God’s presence and strength is still very near and very real. He is doing a mighty work in my heart that is teaching me to depend on Him and not myself for my strength, joy, and satisfaction. Jesus holds my life together as a woman, wife, and momma. He is the Key to fruitfulness in this new season! He is leading me into new truths and paths of righteousness with the dawn of each new day.

Thriving Over Surviving

I went into survival mode the moment we walked into our house after bringing Nolan home. I felt like I had already run a marathon after giving birth and was beginning a new marathon of being a momma! My role of being a mother never takes a break. Long nights and little sleep still are the theme of my days. However, just because I am tired does not mean this season should lack joy and purpose. Before I gave birth to Nolan, I was told over and over again of the “woes” of having a newborn. People would joke that we should say goodbye to sleep for the next 18 years and enjoy our freedom now. While it is true that we get a lot less sleep and more effort for us to get out, I don’t believe it is true that this season has to have a negative “let’s get through this” attitude. 

As I look at Scripture and the promises of Jesus, I do not see a call to merely survive. Surviving would be settling for less than God’s best! Instead, it is clear that Jesus came and died and rose again so that we could thrive. The gospel is good news for this weary momma’s heart! God showers me with His grace every day and floods me with His peace when I run to His presence. Weariness and weakness aren’t things we should shun in our lives. Rather, we should embrace them and boast in them, because in our weaknesses we know that God is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9). Jesus tells us Himself in John 10:10 that He came so that we would have abundant life to the full. The enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy us. Every day he is out to crush our spirits, kidnap our joy, and rid us of purpose. Every day God is greater than his attempts at thwarting our life (1 Corinthians 10:13). Jesus is good both yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). 

photo by Emily Hooten

photo by Emily Hooten

As I’ve sought to thrive instead of survive, God has been teaching me several things about Himself and the beauty of the gospel in my new everyday norm. There have been times I’ve felt like I was sinking and didn’t know how to swim. The feeling can be overwhelming and I am sure many of you know exactly what I mean. God’s grace in our “overwhelmed, in over our head moments” is this: we don’t have to swim, we just have to open up our hands so that Jesus can pull us up into the boat with Him.

I’ve stopped trying to swim and am learning to simply rest in Him.

Let It Go

photo by Emily Hooten

photo by Emily Hooten

Perhaps you’ve heard this tune about a hundred (or more) times since the move Frozen hit the movie theaters. My niece loves to burst into this song at any given moment! These three words have been bringing freedom to my life lately. One way that we can thrive in our season as mommas is to let go of expectations. Specifically, we need to release the expectations we have placed on our babies, our husbands, ourselves, and others. I know that for us, we expected to bring home a calm baby that never cried and was always peaceful. The first night we were home Nolan didn’t sleep well and we were dead tired. I remember my husband and I both saying “he wasn’t like this in the hospital!” How were we to know? They brought our sweet baby to us when he was hungry and took him back to the nursery each night! 

I am learning that if I am going to embrace this new season, I need to let go of the expectations I placed on my baby. After all, he is exploring this world and everything is new to him! If I let him be a baby and love him and care for him, even in the tears, diaper blowouts, fussiness, naps, spit up and feedings, this season will be a gift rather than something to get through.

Learning to “let it go” and love all the chaos of a newborn has brought joy to my tired days.

I’ve also had to let go of expectations I have placed on myself. The to-do lists have been set aside for this time and the house hasn’t been vacuumed by me since Nolan was born. And that is okay. My role right now is to be a momma to Nolan and treasure the moments I have with him. I don’t want to miss them by being distracted by the things I feel I have to do. Instead of getting things done in nap time, I rest, and that has been one of the most fruitful things I do with my time! This is hard for someone who is a multi-tasker and lover of lists like me. Becoming a momma has stripped me of my self-sufficiency and self-centeredness. Every day I am being sanctified to become more like Christ. Learning to let go of the expectations I’ve placed on myself to be a “perfect mom” has been humbling, freeing, and exciting. You see, when God does His work in our hearts, He brings it to completion (Philippians 1:6). God knows that only Jesus is perfect and we desperately need Him.

Letting go of “perfect” in whatever season you are in and embracing Jesus is the key to abundant life. 

Worship In The Chaos

Another lesson I am learning is that quiet times don’t always have to be quiet. Rarely do I get a whole hour to myself to study the Word, but I do get opportunities all day long to live it, think about it, and worship as I mother Nolan. In the mornings, we read together as much as I can get in while I nurse him and then throughout the day I try to meditate on Scripture. Even in the moments when Nolan is fussy, we turn on worship music and dance and sing together. As simple as this sounds, these moments have been precious between me and my son! Being a momma is an incredible opportunity to worship our Creator. After all, we are holding His very creation and witnessing miracles every single day. Momma’s should be some of the most awestruck worshippers!

Cultivate A Quiet Heart

As I’ve said and many of you know, life is seldom quiet with newborns and young children. However, we can cultivate a quiet heart. Elisabeth Elliot talked about keeping a quiet heart in this midst of chaos. As a momma, life is much more fruitful and peaceful when I stay calm and quiet even when Nolan is crying. This is easier said than done when I can’t figure out how to calm him. However, my attitude is reflected in my baby. If I am stressed, he can sense it. The Lord tells us over and over in Scripture to bring our worries and anxieties before His throne and to trade them for His peace (Philippians 4:6-7). The way we cultivate a quiet heart is through constant, continual prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is a gift. It is our lifeline as mommas and believers. It is an opportunity to commune with God always.

Prayer is key to thriving in every season of life!

No matter what season of life you are currently in, whether you have a newborn in your lap right now, a toddler running around the living room, or maybe you are in a season of waiting, one thing is always certain, God desires our best and the gospel is good. It is not just good at salvation, it is good every day. The gospel frees us from expectations and places our hope in Christ who never disappoints or fails. It compels us to worship with every fiber of our being in all circumstances of life, even as a momma nursing a newborn in the middle of the night. It frees us from worry and anxiety and instills the peace of Jesus in our hearts. The gospel is our hope, friends. Let’s live in light of the cross and trade our mode of surviving for thriving in His grace.

Your Sister,
Gretchen