This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I have my sister-in-law Emily here with me. Today we are talking about something super fun; we're talking about birthdays. Before that, we wanted to ask you guys if you would take a moment to give us a rating and review on iTunes. These ratings and reviews might seem small and meaningless, but they are actually really important in the crazy iTunes algorithm that they have in order to serve our podcasts to new listeners. We have heard time and time again from new moms who have found us through random searches on iTunes all because of your reviews. If you would take maybe 5-10 minutes max – I mean if it's on your iPhone, it might even take three minutes. Take a few minutes out of your day to rate and review us on iTunes. That would make our day, and help us continue to spread the word to more moms about the gospel and motherhood.
Did I cover that Em?
Emily: Yes [laughter] and speaking of the gospel and motherhood, we have a topic today that may seem kind of fluffy, but the gospel applies to everything, right Laura? We're going to chat a little bit about birthday parties and celebrating our children's birthdays in general. It doesn't have to be a party, you'll find as we go through this. But Laura what do you guys do for your kids’ birthdays?
Laura: We have done the gamut. We've done everything from the big first birthday bash where we invite a lot of people, to the simple things like families getting together, some donuts and a candle – where we're throwing it together and making sure there's just at least a moment of “specialness.” What about you guys?
Emily: I feel like we did the same thing. Our first child's first birthday was this amazing backyard barbecue [laughter] but after that, the word we use for birthday parties is “sustainability.” A lot of our kids have birthdays close together or close to holidays. It is just not realistic for us to do like a ton of stuff for each child. Either my parents or your parents, Laura, are very gracious to host a dinner at their house. Grandparents come and usually grandma bakes a cake, there's a few presents, and we try to affirm them, and it's very simple.
Laura: It is sort of funny to be asking you, “What do you do Emily?” Because I know exactly what you do for birthdays because we are at many of your birthdays [laughter] and same with your kids at mine.
My daughter was born on New Year's Eve and so often, on the Christmas celebration for my side with Emily, we’ll just have some donuts and we do it on the other side too. She gets quite a few birthdays at every family gathering around Christmas.
Emily: When I was growing up, I felt like my parents knocked it out of the park with birthdays. I feel like my husband and I do low-key things. I can remember this one time my dad built a castle structure for the outside of our house, so that it would look like a legit princess party with a castle people were walking into. It fell over in the middle of a sleepover and we were all terrified. We were crying. That is just an example of extremes with birthday parties. I think they can be big, and people can really emphasize it, and then there can also be very simple things.
Laura: Well and then you turned 30, 31 – you have an older birthday, and it passes with nothing – and you're like, “Well this is mom-life.” [laughter]
Emily: I think my kids say “Happy birthday” to themselves on that day. [laughter]
Laura: Basically, as Emily said, birthdays can mean a lot of different things. While phrased it at first as a “birthday parties,” what we're really talking about here today is celebrating birthdays. Whatever that means to you, there are a lot of different ways to do it. The culture’s pressure is for us to be throwing these amazing, elaborate, intense and beautiful birthday celebrations. Some of that does come from culture or from your kids being influenced by culture, like wanting what their friend had, or what they saw on T.V. Sometimes it can feel like a competition against yourself, or social media, or what you've seen other people throw, or that party that your neighbors threw. You feel like you want to have the most beautiful thoughtful birthday party out of all the other birthday parties in the land. You're trying to create this beautiful thing for your kids.
Emily: The main thing we really wanted to touch on today is what’s your heart motivation? Because I think on the flip-side of that, we can sometimes be overwhelmed and just be exhausted with life and we don't want to take the time to celebrate our children and the work that God has done in their lives. I see all of the beautiful birthdays on Instagram and I feel grumbly, like, “Well my kid's not going to have a gold number balloon because everybody does!” And it's weird. I feel like we can play the game on both sides. What it really drills down to is, how are we encouraging our child and pointing them to Christ? How are we using this as a time to love them well? We don't want to over analyze birthday parties, but we do want to have a fun conversation that helps us think more intentionally about something that does come around every year.
Laura: I think there are a lot of messy motivations when it comes to birthday parties and as Emily was saying, that can be you wanting to buck the trend and not really do anything simply because you want to be different or not “play the birthday game.” Maybe you love to bake and craft and are into all of this stuff, but you're killing yourself to execute this gorgeous birthday party that is Pinterest-perfect. As Em said, there's a lot of motivations that go into it.
But today specifically, we are going to be talking about moms’ heart motivations. As Emily and I were chatting about this offline, we were like, what about the child's expectations? Or how do you love your child all through this?How do you instill gratefulness? We know those are questions you guys will bring to us and we are asking ourselves. We want you to know we are saving those questions for another day on how to instill gratefulness into your child. Today of course, in classic Risen Motherhood style, we're talking about mom’s heart motivations.
Emily: And we'll have some resources linked on our show notes too. And we’ll point you guys to other people who started the conversation. [laughter]
Let's go through the Gospels since it’s Risen Motherhood and talk first about what the Gospel has to say about this.
First, it’s important to remember that God values life and he is the author of birth. He made Adam and Eve in His own image so that they could enjoy him, and bring glory to Him and work and worship in their work. We see that all throughout Scripture, God values generations going on and he also values us being born again, right? He sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we could be resurrected to a new life with him. So obviously God values birth, He values life, and He is the creator of all things.
Laura: We know that God values traditions that help people remember what he has done. We talked about this on last year's Advent show which we’ll link to in the show notes, but if you look back in the Old Testament, you see that all the ceremonies and festivals were God's invention: Passover, Festivals of Booths, Feast of Unleavened Bread, were designed for the Israelites to remember the things that God had done. A birthday, often, is a great tradition for us to look back and remember the things that God has done in that person's life and the things he has yet to do – which we'll get to more in a bit.
Emily: Another thing we talked about in our design show, interior decorating, was that God values creativity, beauty, and art and he is a great designer. If you look at the beautiful intricacies of the tabernacle, the priestly garments, the creation around us, like a flower or a bird or anything like that, it is obvious that God values color and order and thoughtfulness and all of that. He created us as image bearers in ways that we're going to live that out too. That's not a bad thing to love beautiful design and even blessing people with that.
Laura: And God values parties. I mean dancing, singing, rejoicing; all those celebrations are found in the Bible. Even in the traditional festivals that we were talking about. One of my favorites is looking at the story of the prodigal son when the father threw a huge party when his son came home. With a Biblical mindset and a right heart – parties and delighting yourself in the Lord– when that delight and joy is found in Him, that is a great party and one that God is celebrating in.
Emily: Absolutely and Lord willing, we're all going to be partying in heaven someday. It’s the greatest birthday party of all time.
Laura: I can't wait. [laughter]
Emily: But of course we are sinners, so if we look at the fall, the reality is that our motivations are sinful and they're about us, ultimately. Our joy starts to not be found in the Lord and how we can bring Him glory, but kind in how we can bring ourselves glory. Laura already mentioned this earlier but some ways that this might play out is just wanting people to like us or appreciate us because of this great party that we've thrown or, “Wow look at the decorations.” Or how well we planned or even how well we're hospitable to those who come in our door.
On the other hand, maybe you are just totally burned out and you don't want to have to take the extra time to love your children well, by maybe doing something extra that that would make them feel loved and special that day. It becomes about you in that way too and just finding your hope in your comfort. Wherever we are in that spectrum, we all sin and bring that to the table.
Laura: But there is hope, of course, because of Christ's sacrifice, we have new life in Christ. We have an even better birthday than the earthly birthday that we're about to celebrate for our kids, husband, or even ourselves. If we're feeling sad about a birthday, we can remember we are adopted as daughters into God's kingdom and now we share a glorious inheritance with Jesus Christ Himself. That is something that we can celebrate within these birthdays, if or when our child has become a believer, we can consider throwing them a party that day or even just acknowledging it during their birthday party celebration that year. We'll get more to it later but it’s just being able to say, “Let's recognize some of the spiritual milestones in your life. As we celebrate your physical birthday, let's also celebrate your spiritual birthday.”
Emily: I think another thing that redemption and restoration brings to reality is the fact that we are defined in Christ, and our identity is completely secure. We're not defined by the way we “do” birthdays. It doesn't matter if we're doing an awesome job at them, or maybe we're doing something simple. We don't have to feel prideful or ashamed or anything about the way that we are choosing to celebrate our children. We can rest in Christ and know that this is an area of freedom and this is another way that we get to glorify God and serve Him. We want to obey Him and delight in Him but we don't have to be ashamed or burdened by the birthday.
Laura: We hope that you're hearing on the show like it doesn't matter which way you sway. If you are a person who loves to craft and do these amazing decorations and you have monogrammed gift bags, or you've made these amazing Clifford cupcakes, please do that and enjoy that. If you love doing that – love your family and bless them in that way. If you're a mom who says “Hey, my giftings are in other areas and I like the simple birthdays,” or like Emily you like “sustainability,” (that sounds like a word my engineering brother would use) that is wonderful as well. It's not about how you celebrate. It’s not about the party or the lack of a party, it's really about your heart. If you're getting cranky and stressed because you're trying to bite off too much to plan a party, maybe it's time to take a step back a little bit.
Or maybe your child really would value doing something to recognize that day and just wants to feel a little bit more special on that day, but for some reason you're refusing, it's time to probably evaluate your heart. Are the reasons that I don't want to do this right before the throne of God, or are they seeking my own comfort, desires and wants over the way that I can best love my child?
Emily: Side note: Laura and I got into this contingent conversation as we were prepping for this show today, about loving our children well. Even in our culture today, sometimes life revolves around our kids too much and there can be expectations, entitlements and ungratefulness, because the birthday party thing can become an expectation, instead of a joyful celebration. One way that we can sometimes love our children and train them in godliness might be to pull back a little bit and do something less. The main thing we're trying to communicate as Laura said well, is thinking strategically about how to do this in another way. We can train our kids in godliness, love them, disciple them, and then also consider our own motives.
Okay, we wanted to transition to a few little practical takeaways here for the end.
Laura: Okay, here are three things to consider when you're looking towards your child's next birthday party. Again, you can throw the most elaborate bash of the year and it could be fine. Or you can be super low-key with pancakes and a candle – whatever you want. Some things to think about with that: 1) How can you take time during anyone’s birthday to verbally affirm God's work in their lives? A birthday is a great chance to honor and affirm how the Lord is working in your child's life. You can take time to talk as a family about how the Lord has grown and changed them over the years and also look forward to the things that God will yet do. I think something that we were joking about – it’s comforting for a 30-year-old but a little heavy for a 5-year-old – is the fact that every day we get older we grow more into the image of Christ and that is something to be celebrated. Every day we're closer to glory and get sanctified. That is a celebration in and of itself and so a birthday is a great chance to mark that.
Emily: I love that you guys do that so well, Laura. I can still remember the very first birthday I celebrated around Laura’s family and they all started affirming me about all these things that God was doing in my life. I was like, “Wow! This is great.” And I should say that with my parents, I always get a sweet card from my dad too.
2) The second thing is to make memories around people and relationships instead of stuff. There is nothing wrong with presents. We love giving good gifts to our children and God is the ultimate giver of good gifts. There's nothing wrong with that, but what is going to last forever is not that plastic dinosaur that your child got but it's going to be their relationship with you, their siblings, and the things that God is doing in and through those relationships. I think it's good emphasize that and emphasize fun and memory making and not necessarily focus on the stuff.
Laura: It's a good reminder for sure. Finally, think about how can you use birthdays as a chance to minister to other people. I have friends who, especially when their kids are really young and don't really have preferences on who comes to their parties, they'll invite their whole neighborhood with people of all ages and it's a great chance for people to get together. It's sort of an excuse to have a gathering and they can then see the way that you are affirming your child or the way that you use that party in order to have a godly influence on your child and those around you. I think it's a great chance for a ministry opportunity. Again, inviting friends from your child's class or having their parents come; anything like that. I think we can always be on the lookout for, “What are some ways that I can use milestones and events in our family's life to minister to those who are lost and are unbelievers and don't know Christ. How can I show God's glory to them through the natural things that I'm already doing?”
Emily: How cool would it be to have a party where you have some people over and you start talking about your child like, “Hey, we're going to take 1.5 minutes to say we're so grateful for what we see God doing in this child's heart and the way that we see him.” Helping this child to obey and helping this child to love others – what a cool witness opportunity that can be.
To wrap up, remember that there is freedom in this. Again it goes back to our heart motivations. What are we worshipping? What are we putting our hope in? Where we are putting our identity? All these different things. We get an opportunity to bring glory to God through our unique giftings and circumstances.
Laura: Check out our show notes for more on birthdays and gift giving and what wiser people than us have said about instilling gratefulness in your child. Also, follow us on social media. We are on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter as @risenmotherhood. We would love it if you would come join us there. Thanks for listening guys.