The first few weeks with a new baby are so ironic. The baby is basically sleeping all time... and somehow you're not sleeping at all. There is so little mental energy and so much change. You're in survival mode. But it's a lie that you are too busy, too tired, or that your schedule is too unpredictable to observe patterns of rest, reading Gods word, and prayer in the earliest days of the life of your child. You might believe that you can't afford to practice spiritual discipline because of the intensity of this season... the truth is, you can't afford not to. Abiding in Christ and his word abiding in us is crucial during that time when our fatigue and hormones are most likely to betray our minds and actions. But how? How do you adapt your usual experience and habits when this tiny human is wreaking havoc on all the order and predictability of your world?
1. SEE YOUR NEED FOR GOD'S WORD.
As we got ready to leave the hospital, our sweet nurse packed up literally ALL the things in our room. All the diapers left on Will's little cart, the little bowls for bathing him, the sponge with the cradle cap bristles on one side (y'all... do not leave that thing behind.., it is magic), tucks, squirt bottles, swaddles, and all the extra mesh underwear and pads. But the thing I was super concerned about NOT leaving behind was that gigantic water jug with the crinkle straw. Over and over the lactation consultant told me that if I was going to nurse this baby, I had to hydrate to establish and maintain a supply. I carried that thing with me all over the house. Every time I sat down to nurse I drained it and got up off of my sore hiney to refill it. It wasn't hard to remember. Why? Because I was utterly convinced of my need for water. I saw a direct correlation between the amount I drank and my ability to produce milk for my baby. So I drank. The key to practicing spiritual discipline with a newborn is being convinced of your need. In a recent discussion about this topic, a sweet fellow mama friend of mine used the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention." If we are truly convinced of our need for time in God's word and communion with him, we will adapt our practice to our circumstances, remembering that he himself ordained them.
2. Let go of your expectations for the perfect "Quiet Time."
We've all seen this picture... the overhead shot of the open leather bible and pretty hand lettered journal on the most beautiful wooden grainy table next to a steaming cup of coffee in an Anthropologie mug with an uncapped micron pen ready to write the revelation that the super-spiritual-hipster-girl is ready to receive. You could sit there for hours with your worship music playing softly as you sipped and savored... Nope. Not happening right now. Not the time. Not the season. If you are chasing this "experience" of God, you're going to end up resenting your child and missing the beauty of learning to see God at work wherever you are with whatever you have. If you're discouraged because your baby ruined your quiet time, check yourself, are you longing for an experience or for God himself? These early weeks offer a unique opportunity to enjoy him in a new way through moment by moment dependence, stealing away for moments at a time to meet with him intentionally, and seeing his hand in the interruptions.
3. Do what you can with what you have.
Unrealistic expectations about our prayer time or engagement with God's word can leave us discouraged and disappointed. But our interaction with scripture should leave us encouraged, reminding us that God is at work, that he is good, and that he is with us. Be realistic about the amount of time, mental energy, and physical stamina you have. God is the author of your current circumstance. He is sovereign over your experience as a new mom (how much your baby is sleeping, etc.). He has given you exactly what you need to learn to trust him. He works everything for your good. That is especially important to remember in the first few weeks with a new baby. Over and over we see him meet people exactly where they are in his word. He will meet you where you are. So don't try to be somewhere else... somewhere where you aren't tired; somewhere where you have more time; somewhere where you don't have a baby. You might fall asleep before you can finish a paragraph... you might forget you're praying as your mind is consumed with feeding times and stool counts and wet diapers. Just be faithful with the time, energy, and attention span you do have and trust him to work in and through you. And you may just have more than you think... if you've got time to peruse craigslist, google baby questions, and watch Netflix, you have time to interact with God's word... even if it's a minute and a half.
4. Create visible reminders.
Go get yourself a cute roll of tape and a stack of notecards. Write good promises and important verses on them and put them all over your home. Stick 'em by the toilet, on your mirror, by the kitchen sink, above the changing table, on your nightstand, and on your computer. This is a simple and easy way to keep God's word and his truth ever before you when you are busy, distracted, and prone to placing your hope elsewhere. These cards act as safeguards for your mind to protect it from following your heart around as it rides the roller coaster of emotions and hormones and lack of sleep that plague these early days. Don't know what to write? Ask your friends what verses encouraged or helped them the most when they had a newborn and were tired deep in their bones. For me?: Ephesians 4:2 and Isaiah 26:3.
5. Use your phone.
Everyone I talked to about scheduling and nursing suggested that I download a breastfeeding app or use "notes" to track feedings. Consequently, I always knew where my phone was when I had a newborn. There are a bajillion apps for scripture memorization, sermon finding, bible study, articles, and book reading on a smart phone... the "hoopla" app offered through my local library proved to be an awesome tool for me to "read" while I was cooking dinner or ironing or doing other little chores without having to purchase audio books. You can use the reminder settings as prompts to pray throughout the day. Your phone is a powerful tool. Use it for God's glory and the renewal of your mind. Ask around about how the phone has been helpful in practicing spiritual discipline for people in your world.
6. Create "Habit" USING what IS predictable.
Sure, there's no such thing as a schedule in those earliest days and weeks... but there is a rhythm of things you are certain to do everyday. Go grab a paper and pen or use a sticky note on your desktop and make a list of them real quick. Yep, right now. Feeding the baby, changing her diaper, making the coffee, guzzling water, scrolling through social media. Now pray over this list for wisdom and think about how you can use what you're already doing to practice the renewal of your mind.
FEEDING YOUR BABY: Designate one "phone free" feeding a day where you pray. Make a prayer guide and tape it next to the glider in your nursery or wherever you feed the baby most often to devote that 20 (or 45 if you've got a slow nurser) minute slot to prayer and meditation. This can be 2-3 sentences or a stream of consciousness. If you get stuck, ask the spirit to just intercede for you, lay your head back and rest. If you find your mind darting all over the place, grab each thought as it comes and send it heavenward. Distracted by your baby's face and sounds? (thank you God for this blessing); think about your husband? (please bless him with endurance in the workplace as he is tired too; guard and protect our marriage as we transition into our new role as parents); start getting down on yourself? (Father, forgive me for placing my identity and worth in what people say or the standard of motherhood I worship, please give me the grace to rest in the finished work of Jesus).
DIAPER CHANGING: use this as a place to memorize scripture. Usually this is the thing that is most consistently done in the same place for newborns because who is gunna lug that diaper caddy all over? Write a verse that you have clung to or want to teach to your heart on a notecard and read it daily until you can say it without looking.
- SOCIAL MEDIA SCROLL: Reading a chapter of the bible usually takes less than 5 minutes. While instagram can definitely be a place to find encouragement, it can also be a gigantic stumbling block for you in these early days because of the temptation to compare. Download a bible app and use a portion of that scrolling time to read just one chapter a day. Or read the same chapter every day over and over if you're having trouble focusing or retaining. And friend, this may not be the season to read Leviticus. Have grace for yourself. When you're only getting 2-3 hours of sleep at a time, it's okay to break from whatever schedule you'd been following to read and epistle or the gospels.
Just as is the case with faith, we cannot conjure up the desire for God's word. It's a gift we are given, and so we must ask the giver. Pray that God would draw you into his word daily. Pray that he would convince you of your need. Pray for him to get glory during this season when you are distracted and simply surviving. Pray for his word to take root in your heart and make you more like Jesus. Ask others to pray for you.
What about you?
How have you been transformed by the renewal of your mind in the early days of motherhood? What tips do you have for adjusting expectations or making the most of your time? How do you teach the truth to your tired and weary mind?