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My journey

An unexpected gift at 39

By Catharine Phillips

I did not fully appreciate how a baby changes a mother’s life until I had one. In the four months since the birth of my first child, life has changed far beyond the fact that on Friday I was in rush-hour traffic headed to work and on Monday I was a stay-at-home mom. Recently, I’ve found myself re-evaluating my life and priorities.

My son was a delightful surprise and nothing short of a miracle. After suffering the heartbreak of miscarriage, the disappointments of infertility and the out-of-reach costs of adoption, my husband and I concluded parenthood simply wasn’t going to happen.

When we discovered I was pregnant — just before my 39th birthday — the scars of past experience kept my enthusiasm at bay. But fear gave way to unbridled joy as my pregnancy progressed trouble-free and I began to consider how this precious gift from God would affect our lives beyond my staying home.

I realized I was not only responsible for my child’s physical well-being, but for his spiritual growth too. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (NIV). I’ve heard it preached this goes beyond the admonishment to parent children well; if parents teach children to truly discover who they are in Christ, there is great likelihood they will remain on that path throughout their lives.

In other words, it’s far more important I raise my child to seek who God created him to be in Christ than to raise him to be who I want him to be in the world.

When I was 16 the church I’d attended split in a nasty fight. That left me disillusioned. I spent years waffling somewhere between atheism and apathy. Since then I’ve sought to reclaim my faith in starts and stops — periods of intense commitment punctuated by extended spiritual dry spells. I understand now that some of my faith struggles had more to do with being lazy than any real theological issue.

True faith is born as much of a determination to seek as it is an inspiration to find. Without one, there cannot be the other. If I’m not putting forth effort to seek Christ and implement His will for my life, how can I expect my child to do so?

As a parent I’ve committed to do four things:

1. Pray
Parents should be prayer warriors for their children, asking for good judgment and insight and praying that their children will be full of wisdom and integrity.

2. Study
Devotional time not only gets me into God’s Word on a daily basis, it puts me in a better mind-set to handle the day’s challenges.

3. Attend church
In church God’s Word is preached and the support of fellow Christians can be found. We need to be there.

4. Be a transparent example
If parents are not models of what they believe in their homes, how they live elsewhere is irrelevant. I’m not talking about the rules and regulations that some consider the definition of Christian behavior. I’m talking about living faith day to day — loving Christ and living in such a way that His grace shines through failures and triumphs.

I don’t expect to be a perfect parent, but I want to be a godly one. I know even godly parenting holds no guarantees, but if through my example my son sees a life lived for the glory of God then I will consider my job as a mom well done.

CATHARINE PHILLIPS lives in Avondale, Ariz.

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