I’ve been absent from here for the past few months as I counted down to and recovered from the birth of my daughter, J.J. In the flurry of preparations and other life stuff, I’ve had many thoughts of what I wanted to write, but I find every thought is a passing thought with a newborn and toddler demanding so much of my attention.
When I was at church last weekend, wearing J.J. in her carrier, everyone commented, “She’s so little!” and fawned over my sleeping 5 week-old. They almost immediately turned their attention to me, “Are you getting any sleep?” I honestly told them, “Yes!” Of course they were shocked. See, J.J. has loved to sleep since she was born. Fussy days have been few and far between (they do exist, though). She’s been an overall easy baby.
I was not prepared for this turn of events.
Even before my son was born, everyone told me that your first child is the easy one, lulling you into a false sense of your own parenting ability. “Just you wait and see,” they’d say with schadenfreude, “It’s when the second one is born, kicking and screaming, that you realize you have no idea what you’re doing.” I felt this vague sense of dread throughout my second pregnancy. “What have I gotten myself into?” I wondered frequently.
When my husband and I were discussing names for our baby several weeks before she was born, he came up with the name Joanna. It immediately stuck. Joanna’s name means “God is gracious”. I knew that every time I said her name, it would be a reminder of his grace.
It seems there’s a disconnect from my knowledge that God is gracious and the real-life ways that grace appears. I know that J.J.’s temperament has nothing to do with my parenting. It’s a gift from God, a gift that I don’t deserve and certainly didn’t earn. She is a living, breathing reminder that God is indeed gracious.
I can rationalize my cynicism and nagging fears by pointing out that we live in a fallen world and bad stuff happens all the time. We do and it does. Why wouldn’t my second child be the most challenging thing to ever happen to me, like everyone said? It makes sense to steel myself for unending pain and sadness. That’s why it’s so common to so many people. We tell ourselves, “If our hearts are hardened, things hurt less.”
But that theology is incomplete. I also need to see the fact that grace also breaks into our world all the time and overpowers the curse of sin and death. Grace is bigger than the curse. The biggest story is one of redemption, not suffering.
Ultimately, God is gracious.
As I’ve also been reminded by those meeting sweet J.J., there’s plenty of time for her to get difficult yet. Perhaps she will. Challenges certainly will come from parenting and life in general. I can’t let it diminish this reminder of grace, however. For this sweet season, I can see God’s grace every day.
My prayer moving forward is to hold tight to the fact that God is gracious. May I look for his mercies even in dark, challenging times. May I not be surprised by grace, but instead filled with joyful awe that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning.