gospel

Feeding Babies

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Ask any momma what stresses her out the most about motherhood and many would probably say - feeding babies. There are numerous articles and recipes online about kids and food. Occasionally there is some fun to be had with kids and food-like when they want to start feeding themselves. Get your camera ready, Momma! Baby is about to give you some great shots for Instagram! 

The first time my 8-month-old demanded that I let her feed herself (read demanded as “she grabbed the spoon out of my hand every time I tried to put it in her mouth”…Every. Time.) I fought her on it, thinking, “Oh no way! You will have this stuff everywhere.” But she wore me down, which had been her way since birth when she refused to nurse. I gave in and let her have at it. Yep. It was everywhere. The wall, the curtains, the floor, the back of the chair, her hair, my hair…everywhere. It was a wretched mess that I had to clean up after every meal. 

By the fourth child though, I had learned to hand the spoon to my kids ASAP because I needed those babies to be independent. I didn’t even care where the food went as long as some of it got in her belly. I’m not sure I took any pictures because by kid four, who has time for pictures during dinner? At that point, I was just trying to get everyone to sit at the table together for at least 30 seconds like normal people. “Just be normal!” I would yell and then realize they were all now quietly staring at the crazy lady with dried applesauce from lunch still in her hair. 

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Dinnertime is a beast, isn’t it? And it comes around everyday with desperate cries of starving children acting like I haven’t fed them in days. I mean, really y’all! My life revolves around shopping for, buying, storing, prepping, cooking and cleaning up food. And we won’t even go into the insane rabbit hole of healthy eating that I fell into because…well, nobody needs that kind of negativity in their life. My new motto is “Be happy. Eat ice cream.”

On days when I have lots of energy and feel inspired, I cook a feast. The other 364 days of the year, I try to pull it together in a rush at the last minute. Either way, a few bites are taken, a few bites are forced to be taken, and then everyone is excused. It really doesn’t seem to matter how good the food is, or how much time I put into planning and preparing. Kids just eat how much they want and move on. Like locusts, really. Ew.

But there are lessons about the dinner table that are changing my understanding of feeding my kids. There is a spirituality to food that really requires more attention than I usually give it. For most of my mothering years, eating has been about nutrition, which has led to lots of arguing about eating greens and trying to get “just one more bite” into my babies bellies. And guilt! Oh, so much guilt!

Lately, however, dinnertime has shifted in our house. Maybe it’s because the babies are not really babies anymore. Maybe it’s because I have just a bit more energy to give toward meals than I have in the past. I can’t tell you for sure what has shifted other than my understanding that food isn’t just about eating. 

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I know this shift began when I read this quote from Sally Clarkson’s book The Life-giving Table:

When we sit at our tables, we’re not just an aggregate of individual family members eating and drinking to stay alive; we’re a congregation of communing souls hungering and thirsting to experience the goodness and beauty of the life God has designed just for us.

Full disclosure - I often endure dinnertime, anxious for it to be over because I am exhausted from the day and ready to get those monkeys of mine in bed so I can sit quietly with my husband and a glass of wine. But, as I have contemplated the spiritual connection between our food and our souls, there has been a very slight shift in my attitude (very slight).

Dinnertime is gradually becoming more about conversation and communion with each other. It has become a time of reconnecting with each other after time apart at work, school and other activities. I have found that as we have intentionally started conversations at the dinner table, the kids have been a little slower to run off when they are done eating. It’s almost like they enjoy sitting at the table and talking to us. And, to my surprise, I sometimes really enjoy hanging out and talking to my kids during and after dinner! 

This, I have discovered, is where the real feasting happens. As we discuss different topics and events from the day, my daughters are sharing their hearts a little bit more each time. They share their thoughts, ideas and opinions more freely than they have in the past. This excites me, because I’ve come to realize that when I take time to listen to their hearts, they are more open to listening to what I have to say, as well. When we give our attention to listening to our children’s hearts, we are better prepared to offer them the truth of the Gospel in a way that means something to them because we’ve really heard what’s going on in their minds and hearts. 

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I have been guilty in the past of trying to force bites of the Gospel into my children’s hearts like the Brussels sprouts they really don’t want to eat (actually, I hate Brussels sprouts too, so they never show up on our table). Yet, that’s not how God has fed our souls. Rather than forcing the Gospel down our throats, he invites us to “work…for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:27). He has set the table for our souls through the work of Jesus and invites us to join. He does not force anyone to take a seat, but instead invites us as a generous host would invite guests to a fancy dinner. Those who make excuses as to why they cannot come will sorrowfully miss out (Luke 14:15-24). 

I don’t want my babies to miss out! But I cannot force them to take a seat. I must trust the work of the Father in their hearts. He is the one who draws them to Christ (John 6:44; 65-66). I know his desire for them to come to him is greater than mine. He is the one who works in our hearts and grows our relationships for the purpose of his Gospel, so I must trust him.

So, what’s an anxious Momma to do as she watches and waits for her children’s hearts to be drawn to God? 

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She prays and sets the table. She prays daily for the souls of her children to be drawn to the feasting that leads to eternal life. She faithfully sets the table with stories of truth that both little and big ones will not be able to resist listening to. She daily invites them to willingly take a seat at the table, and partake of his goodness and mercy. And when they refuse the invitaion, she faithfully tries again the next day. 

That is our prayer for our children, but it is also a prayer for ourselves. My youngest loves avocados, because I love avocados. She watched me enjoy eating them and just had to give them a try. Sweet Momma, we cannot feed our children bread that we don’t have. We must first “taste and see” so that our children can know that God is true and good (Psalm 34:8). We must commit to daily sitting at the table with Christ, and feasting on the Gospel for ourselves. When our children see that we are filled and satisfied with God, they will want to know him, too. That is why I continue to write here. I long for mommas to encounter the Gospel for themselves and then share it with their children. I believe this is the most important work we as mothers have to do. We cannot be lazy and distracted disciples. We must focus our hearts and minds on the bread of life, or we and our children will spiritually starve to death. Stay faithful to your calling, Momma! Share what you know about Jesus with your children, search to understand what you don’t know, and be filled with the sustaining bread of life that He is!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it is the dinner-witching hour and the natives are getting restless for their food...

They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst...All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out."    John 6:34-37

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”        Isaiah 25:6-9

There are many who say, "Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!" You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.            Psalm 4:6-8

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”  Revelation 19:9

For further encouragement, study John 6:22-71; John 3:26-36; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32 

Is God Nice?

“Are you nice?” My four-year-old posed this question about 5 minutes after I had scolded her for jumping around on the couch.

“What?” I asked, confused by her question.

“Are you nice now? Or are you mad again?”

Ah. I see. She was testing the waters to see if it was safe to approach. She stood staring at me with wide, dark eyes, waiting timidly for my response. I wasn’t sure what to say. The closest thing to the truth would have been, “Yes, dear. Mommy’s eyes are no longer shooting angry laser beams, and the fire in her belly has been squelched for now.” After all, it wasn’t the first time I had told her not to jump on the couch. The volume of my tone had conveyed that the last straw had been dropped on the proverbial camel’s back and the end was near. My wrath resulted in an entire household cowering in their bedrooms to see if the runt of the family would survive the lightning that was sure to strike her where she stood.

Sigh. I knelt down and opened my arms. She immediately ran to me so I could wrap her up in a big hug.

“Yes, Baby Girl. Mommy is nice now. I’m sorry I yelled. You shouldn’t have been jumping on the couch, and I shouldn’t have yelled. We were both wrong. We both need Jesus to help us do right.”

As she snuggled in tighter, wrapping her little arms all the way around my neck, I thought about my early days as a Christian. There were years when I approached God just as my little one had approached me. I timidly tried to pray, knowing that I had messed up yet again, and wondering if God was nice, or still angry. There were times when I knew I needed to pray, but I waited, feeling like maybe God needed some more time to calm down before we talked. I knew God hated sin, and it stood to reason that my sin would be met with a frown and cold tone.

There were times in my faith when I thought that this was really too much. There was no way I could keep God happy all the time, and I decided I didn’t want to be a Christian anymore. After all, I had friends who lived how they wanted with no thought about whether they were making God angry, and they seemed peaceful and happy enough. Maybe I could just stop worrying about it. But I couldn’t. I kept finding myself longing to be right with God. There was no peace in my heart when I didn’t come to the Father and ask forgiveness. But, I really felt like God was angry with me all the time. Why wouldn’t he be? I kept making the same mistakes.

Sometimes, I would reach a point of determination where I’d decided that this time I would do better. This time, I wouldn’t make the same mistake. And for a few days or weeks, I felt pretty good about myself. It would seem like I was finally getting the hang of this Christian life. Then I’d find myself back at square one, where I knew I had messed up big time again. Surely, God would be completely peeved this time. Surely, this would be the last straw with him.

What I lacked during this season of my faith was an accurate understanding of the gospel. I knew Jesus’ death washed away my sin, but I didn’t understand that his sacrifice also appeased the wrath of God. I knew that Jesus’ death grieved God to the point that he turned away from his son, and Jesus cried out “Why have you forsaken me?” But I didn’t understand that Jesus bore, not just my sin, but also the wrath of God towards my sin. I never have to experience the full cup of God’s wrath, because Jesus drank all of it for me. Without a better understanding of the Gospel, we will continue to feel like we are on the outs with God. Sure, he said he’ll forgive us, but we feel like we still have to earn back our good standing. Believing this lie will keep us from repenting, because it just seems too hard. It will keep us working to earn our place in his family.

I figured God was mad at me, because I would be mad at me if I were him. Yet, God is not a human. His anger is always right. Mine is not. When I get angry with my kids, I have to ask myself if my anger is because they have done something that could bring destruction to them, or am I angry for selfish reasons. When my daughter’s do something like run into the street without stopping to check for cars, my anger is right. I am terrified for what could have happened. I scold them because I love them and don’t want any harm to come to them. But when I am angry with them for interrupting me while I am reading, I am angry because I don’t want to be bothered. My anger is wrong. It is self-serving.

As we begin the Holy Week leading up to the celebration of Jesus' death and resurrection, we are confronted with the atrocity of sin. We see the lengths that God has gone to on our behalf, and our temptation will be to tiptoe to him in fear of retribution. But we must understand that God’s anger is righteous. He hates our sin because sin brings death. He loves us and does not want to be separated from us. So he separated himself from his son, temporarily, so that we could be reconciled to him forever. We will never see God’s brow furrowed in anger. Instead, when we sin, we are met with the grief of a loving Father, who hates the way sin is destroying his beloved child. He is a good Father, and his anger towards sin is right. What's more, his love toward us is steadfast. And this is what compels us to respond with obedience.

Milton Vincent talks about the appropriate response to God's loving kindness in his Gospel Primer:

I also found the grace of the gospel producing in me a huge passion to love and obey God. In moments of temptation, I enjoyed saying to myself, "You know, I can commit this sin, and God's grace would abound to me all the more as He maintains my justified status...But it is precisely for this reason that I choose not to commit this sin!" In such moments I would walk away from sin with laughter in my heart!

My prayer for us today, is that God will give us the faith to believe the truth about the full gospel of Jesus’ work on the cross. I pray that when we timidly test the waters to see if God is angry with us, we will find ourselves met with open arms and a celebration. I pray that we will open our own arms to our children when they have sinned, so they won’t grow up thinking God is still angry with them. I pray that we would be so relieved at the grace of God, that we would respond with obedience out of joy, rather than fear.

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.            Luke 15:20-24