The following is a transcript of the audio. Transcript has been edited for clarity.
Emily: Welcome back to Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily Jensen here with my sister-in-law, Laura Wifler. Before we get started, we wanted to talk about something that would be encouraging and helpful for us - leaving an iTunes review.
Laura: I know we always ask about this and we usually try to leave it at the end but it seems like all the other podcasters are putting at the beginning, so [laughter] we feel like we can do that every once in a while. I put together a whole page on how to do an iTunes review and a rating and even how to subscribe to a podcast. We are going to have those up on our website, risenmotherhood.com because we have heard from many of you, “Hey, I want to leave a review but I don’t know how, or it seems too hard.”
It is not hard; I absolutely promise. If you know how to use Facebook or email or anything, you can do it. We desire to reach the Gospel message about motherhood to as many moms as possible and that is the best way to do it. If you think about Amazon reviews and how those work, or maybe you read reviews before you buy clothing or anything like that, that’s what people are doing before they listen to podcasts.
If you have already done that for us, we want to say a massive thank you. Ultimately, this isn’t about Laura or Emily. We really hope that all of you are feeling like the show is about Jesus. We desire to get out of the way, and we hope that you are encouraged to draw more deeply into your relationship with God. If that’s something that’s happening for you, we would ask that you leave a review. We are asking and humbling ourselves a little bit [laughter] because it is hard for us to do that but we really would appreciate that because it’s huge for being able to be ranked in iTunes and all their silly algorithms and such.
Emily: Today though, we are trying to answer the question, when does God start working in a child’s heart? I felt like when I had my first child and he was a little baby, that all the spiritual stuff and all of the God stuff was going to come later. Even more so, I had in my mind this beautiful picture of sitting at the kitchen table and doing these memory verses, and having deep theological conversations, and doing catechisms. He’s four and it still doesn’t look like that. [laughter]
Laura and I think it’s important that we don’t devalue the time when our children are infants because now looking back, which is just a tiny bit of time [laughs] I can see how important that stage was, and how the Lord was working in my children’s hearts even when they were infants and forming a bond and helping their brain develop and all of those things. That’s what we’re talking about today.
Laura: We want to talk through the importance of even when they’re babies and they’re not really responding to things – investing the Gospel into their lives starts the moment you meet them.
Emily: In the Bible, there’s even evidence of Mary, who, when she’s pregnant, goes to her cousin Elizabeth and her baby leaps in her womb. Laura and I don’t have all of the answers today but the Lord is working long before we even realize. I can remember working as a nursery worker at a local Bible study in the infants’ room. At first, when I was joining it, I was like, “I guess this is important, but is this a job where I’m really getting to pass along God’s love to these children?” At the end of the year, I was so humbled because after singing over those children and praying over those children and even speaking basic Bible stories to them, I had so much faith that God was planting seeds in their heart at that time even if I couldn’t see it.
Laura: I have always called myself ‘not really a kid’ person but I’m a ‘my kid’ person. [laughter] I really struggled with the baby stage because I wasn’t getting anything back or that's what it felt like. There was part of me that wanted to speed though it and get them talking and feeling like, “You’re my buddy.” [laughter] I remember when my son was 18 months old, I was like, “You’re my best friend!” we do everything together all day. Prior to that, I was struggling with wanting to wish it away until I could feel like I was being more intentional and having more feedback and things. Both Emily and I have stories of things that we’ve done with our kids prior to being a walking, talking, somewhat logical – though there’s a debate on when [laughter] when they become logical.
Emily: That takes a while.
Laura: Before that, things where our children have remembered songs or were able to say some scripture or prayers; different things that we have repetitively done, and even building a love for the Bible, reading it every night and them to help them understand what it is. There are a lot of things that our children soaked up during that time that we didn’t even realize.
Emily: If you are a mom of an infant right now and you’re waiting for the big work to start, take heart because you are doing big Gospel work right now. God is not limited like we are, by language or maturity or being able to understand. I don’t remember what speaker I heard this from one time but talking about how the Lord knows all things and He is all-powerful. He has access to a baby’s brain and heart and is able to work in there in ways that we don’t always understand. Be encouraged and know that this is an important season to be an image bearer of God to your children.
Laura: We image Christ as life bearers and so this is a huge gift for us to show our children who God is, what He is like, not only through our actions, how we serve our child over and over again. It’s a lot of repetitive actions. If you think about it, we are like babies towards God. We really can’t do anything on our own. God continues to gently care for us especially when we are new believers. The whole milk to solid food saying, there are a lot of parallels that you can see come alive when you’re nurturing a baby.
Emily: There’s this part in 1 Thessalonians where Paul talks about how he treated the people of Thessalonica like a nursing mother. I love it and there’s those types of imagery that are used all over the Bible. He talks about how he was gentle with them and He gave of His whole self. Anyone who’s fed a baby at all, in any way, knows how much sacrifice every couple of hours it takes to feed a baby. Think about all of the spiritual realities that we are imaging for them even if they don’t understand it. The Lord sees other people. It is a beautiful picture of what discipleship looks like and what God’s love for us looks like.
Laura: Another big thing that I’ve been learning as I go through this adoption process is, I feel like I’m learning a lot about what’s happening in the infant stage, because we are planning on adopting children that are two to four years old, somewhere in there. It's a huge amount of development that’s happening in those years, that we as moms don’t even realize, the foundation that we are setting with these infants.
I’m reading through this book, The Connected Child and it’s by Karyn Purvis and a couple of other people. I will link to it in the show notes. Honestly, even if you’re not adopting, it’s a great book to check out. I have highly recommended it. It’s one of my favorite books on parenting in general. A lot of the stuff that they talk about, even from a research standpoint is that even a mom’s emotional circumstances during pregnancy affect the newborn, which is an amazing thing that God has done. Things are happening. even from the moment of conception.
Especially learning about adoption, when children don’t have a caretaker that shows affection, they don’t learn to process sights or sounds as well. Often, that can result in a sensory disorder or even difficulties in how to bond with people. That’s from not having a caretaker who is lovingly holding a child or gazing into their eyes, mirroring their face, using a warm voice. A lot of children don’t develop moral compasses; they don’t understand how to not hurt someone because they’ve never closely connected with a person so they don’t have that bond. It’s really fascinating research.
I have more but I won’t even go into it, [laughter] so read the book. It shows how vital God has made that time of bonding with a mother or father or grandparent, but specifically, we’re talking to moms today, of how a mother could care and nurture for that child. Now I’m looking at, with my adoptive children, again, I haven’t done it yet so I can’t speak from first person experience, but of needing to make up for that time that my children may have missed having someone to closely nurture them, and the after effects of what will happen.
Emily: From what I remember, especially being in the baby stage, a couple of times like you were saying Laura, there’s this feeling of wanting to rush through it but feeling like it’s less important. Like Laura said, there are majorly life-altering important foundational things being developed and laid. This is the groundwork from which you can talk to them about the Gospel, or talk to them about the Bible, or talk to them about obeying God down the road. If they don’t have language, or they don’t have a bond … with your own baby, all of that naturally happens, but see it as important and that it is part of being able to pass some of these deeper things on later. I always joke that it’s like making good Iowa soil so that when they are a toddler or when they are a little bit older, you have great heart soil to be planting seeds in because you’ve been nurturing it. Today, we thought we’d go through some specific ways. You probably know a lot of these but: taking time to snuggle them, taking time to be face to face with them. Taking that time to linger and interact, and make sounds and being with them.
Laura: Those are really good, especially when you have more subsequent children to keep in mind because what’s harder for me, the moment I had baby two, it was like my attention’s divided and only pressing needs are met. Totally a normal stage. God is so gracious that just because we give our first, all this adoring eye contact and our second, we’re like, “Hey, if you’re crying hard enough I'll give it to you.” It’s a good reminder of taking that time out even when that baby isn’t needing our attention, but of intentionally making sure as your family grows larger, you are able to do those things.
Emily: What’s fun too, at least I’ve experienced as I’ve had subsequent children, it’s a gift. It is such a joy for me to be able to go be with the baby because my other kids, [laughs] they climb up onto my lap and they’re needing things. It’s a little bit more stressful. View it as a gift because that time is a joy. It’s a nice break. The other night my husband was like, “Can I feed the baby?” and I was really possessive of him like, [laughs] “I have to do the other kids? No, this is my little time that I have with him.” Find those times and make it special. Whether you have one child or four children or more, you can find those little times.
Laura: Other practical tips. One that was really helpful for me is to speak scripture over my kids during a diaper change. I taped a verse above my changing table so my husband could do it or I could do it. We would change them out weekly or when I would remember. That’s a very practical tip - to trigger in your brain, “I want to speak scripture to them.
Emily: The practical ideas are awesome though. Those are the ones that are really inspiring to me. I was at a baby shower one time and the woman who was giving the devotional was talking about this investment, even in your baby. She was saying every night her husband would recite a Psalm over her baby’s crib. They did this every night not really thinking anything of it. Then when their daughter was somewhere around two years old, one night, she stood up in her crib and she recited the whole thing. They didn’t even know she was really listening and she said the whole thing for them and they were shocked. It’s like, “Wow, that is deeply imprinted.
I know I’ve had the exact same thing happen with two or three things, especially with my oldest who I’ve seen time pass a little bit. Things that I told him spiritually that I said over and over and over again, or even songs that I know I did not sing much to him past the age of two, that he sings to me now word for word like "Amazing Grace." I’m like, “He retained that from before he could talk.”
Laura: My son knows "Amazing Grace" as well, and a lot of the verses because we both sing it. I’ve heard that of people, having a hymn for their child and that’s the main one that they will sing over and over them again. Any time it comes on, then they hear it at church and they’re like, “Hey, it’s my song,” Starting that when they’re really, really young of like, this is their song or a life verse, a lot of people do that.
That ties into another one of going to church with regularity. I remember with my first child, it was pretty easy. When you’re newer to motherhood and trying to figure out, there’s a lot going on and a lot happening. It can be easy to slough off some of those commitments, especially with naptimes and those things. Making that a priority, allowing your child to see even as a baby is important. I know it seems like they’re not learning anything but they are as we clearly talked about here. They'll get familiar and comfortable with how a service works and understanding that church is super important to mom and dad. It’s part of our weekly routine. It’s vital to our fellowship with other believers and my relationship with God. Even as an infant, they can begin to build that block into their life.
Emily: Other practical things would be things like, go out and start a routine with them. Maybe it’s reading a little Bible before bed, or it’s praying before meals, or it’s speaking a blessing over them before bed. I know we’ve done that with our kids since they’re babies. Whatever you start, even if they’re not totally aware of what you’re doing and they’re squirming around, what’s cool is when they get to the toddler stage where they’re starting to push back on things, a lot of times if they’ve been doing something their whole life already, they don’t know any different. I remember an older, wiser mom said, “If anything, start the routine for you, for your self-discipline as a parent more than anything.” This is the easiest time to start, when they are a baby. Not that you can’t start later; you can start any time. [laughs]
Laura: These are a few ideas to get you started. Talk to your mom friends; see what other people are doing. There are a million great ideas out there. We want you to feel like, hey, this time is really special and to realize the foundation that you are building as an infant is so important. That God is not limited by language; He’s not limited by maturity. A lot of times we’re constantly thinking like, “This is what I’m going to feed them, this is when they’re going to nap.” We’re very focused on the physical, which is important - and is in your face - with a baby. But we want to encourage you guys to be very aware as well as what’s going on spiritually and that God is not limited in His work for them and their hearts right now. He started long before they were even conceived. For you, that hands-on work is starting the moment they are in your arms.
Emily: [laughter] That’s encouraging for me too. We hope that even though you are not seeing all the fruit right now, that you are encouraged to go be an image bearer of the Gospel to your children as you are giving life by your sacrifice like Jesus did for us. We hope that you enjoyed this today. We will have all of our show notes on risenmotherhood.com where we will try to include more links.
Laura: We’ll put in maybe a children’s Bible or some music that we like, some of those practical things.
Emily: You can find all the practical things, anything that we mentioned on our show notes. As always, you can find us on social media @RisenMotherhood, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Don’t forget about the rating and review on iTunes. Thanks for joining us guys.