On the heels of that love, though, came the panicked thought, "What am I supposed to do now?!?"
No manual popped out after he did.
Daddy went back to work and for hours at a time it was just the baby and me.
A year and a half later, another baby.
A year and a half later, and another baby.
A year and a half later, and another baby.
And I'm still asking the same question. "Lord, you gave me these kids. I love them. But how do I do this mommy job? You know me. I can't keep the houseplants from slow, agonizing deaths. Why did you entrust me with these precious little lives to raise?"
Does He have some confidence in my abilities that I just don't have? Should I, like all the Disney movies tell me, just "believe in myself" and I'll intuitively do it right?
If that's the case, I think my intuition is broken. There have been a few nights, a few, when I have come down the stairs after getting the kids in bed for the evening, and collapsed in an exhausted crying puddle on the sofa (after pushing the books and pokey plastic insects out of the way) in bewildered frustration at my lack of Proverbs 31 skills.
I read through I Thessalonians recently, and was struck with the parental tone of the letter to a young church group. It could almost - almost - be the manual I need as a parent with young children.
What is the mark of a parent of young children?
"Recognize those who labor among you." In the notes, my study Bible renders this, "Those who work even when weary."
I Thessalonians 5:12
"Let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober."
I Thessalonians 5:6
"Remember [we were] laboring night and day."
I Thessalonians 2:9
Those all sound like they epitomize the early days of parenthood. I remember getting up to change a newborn diaper in the middle of the night once and forgetting to put a fresh one on after getting him cleaned up. That terrible exhaustion haze at 2 a.m...! I had no idea what it meant to be tired before children.
Need some guidelines for parenting?
"We exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children."
I Thessalonians 2:11
Warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone... Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks."
I Thessalonians 5:14-16
That covers a lot of my job description on a daily basis. Seems like someone is constantly rendering evil for evil to another brother. Maybe I should duct tape their hands in their pockets to keep them from swinging at each other at every provocation. Paul didn't say specifically...
So how do we parent in a godly way?
"Night and day praying exceedingly for you."
I Thessalonians 3:10
"You also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands."
I Thessalonians 4:11
"We were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives."
I Thessalonians 2:8
That last verse initially summed up the job of mommy hood in my head. I'm supposed to pour out my life - happily - in this, the great work of parenting.
Well that sounds truly righteous and holy and great.
To give my own life up to another - especially for an ungrateful, snotty two year old who willfully disobeys me - does not generally "well please" me.
In fact, it goes completely against my own selfish, willful nature.
"As we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak."
I Thessalonians 2:4
You may not know me like my kids do. I'm on the job with them 24/7 for at least 18 years. They will know how un-God-like I can act by then. My qualifications for being their parent are not based on my prowess as Susie homemaker or Supermom. Obviously.
What's the criteria God used for approving me to be entrusted with His word and the kids who need to know Him?
"For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise."
I Corinthians 1:26-27
Because He has called me to this, He is enabling me - in spite of me - to fulfill the work. I have a manual in 1 Thessalonians and I happen to know the manual Writer. That is good news.