Baby No More!

Yesterday, our baby girl turned TWO. No more baby... now she's a toddler! No more counting in months... no more monthly pictures in "the chair".

It's been quite a wonderful two years. When news broke that Melissa was pregnant, I was anything but excited about it. I think it was something like seven months into the pregnancy that I was like, "Hey, I think I'm finally excited about having a kid!" I know you're thinking, "Gosh, Matt, how terrible!" But hold on for a sec...

We had purchased a run-down, early 1900s home only three months prior, and had commenced gutting it to the studs, and renovating it from top to bottom... and the only room in the whole place that was finished at this point was the living room. We had no kitchen cabinets, countertops, sink & faucet. No tile in the shower. No trim in most of the rooms. A new addition on the back had just begun. Oh, and I was in the middle of hunting for a full-time job, because all I was doing were odd jobs, here and there. Lastly, Melissa still had a year-and-a-half of school left, and was commuting from 30 miles away.

Aaalllriiight... I feel the empathy now.

Thankfully, by the time we brought Madelyn home, we had cabinets, countertops, and fixtures in the kitchen, tile in the shower, most of the rooms trimmed out, and the addition almost complete! We even managed to make time to put together a baby room. Many thanks to my family for all their hard work, without which we never would've accomplished all this.

When August 20th came, we were anxious, but exhiliarated. The life of another human being was entirely in our hands. It would be hard enough to become the full-time babysitter of a kindergartener who could walk, feed themselves, use the potty and wipe themselves, communicate clearly and reason with us, and head off to school for 8 hours a day, five days a week. How much greater the task when you inherit a child who is utterly dependent upon you for just about 100% of your time and energy. After about four months, she was sleeping through the night, and so things got quite a bit more sane. We started really enjoying being parents! And my, what a ride it's been since. It just keeps getting better and better. (I know, I know, wait till she's a teenager.)

In many ways, renovating an historic home virtually by ourselves, in a year, under the pressure of a child on the way, was excellent preparation for what lay ahead of us... a bootcamp of sorts. It pushed us beyond our "limits", and it forced us to grow up a lot--both with regard to our expectations of what life owed us in terms of recreation and social life, as well as our understanding that raising a healthy, successful family is hard work... probably the hardest overall job one can have. The stakes are so much higher than yourself. Adding a third (fourth, fifth...) person to your home forces you to divide your priorities, while continuing to meet the needs of those who were already present. It forces you to prove your love. It takes the marriage relationship beyond the realm of being mere "best buds", intimate lovers, and even "business partners". It forces you to engage in ongoing, committed relationship, no matter the cost, regardless of convenience. It's do or, literally, die. Whether we like to admit it or not, our spouses for the most part could get along fairly well without us. They don't, in the realest sense, need us. Children, at virtually every level and every age, do. What an awesome responsibility.

As an aspiring minister, it will do me well to frequently remind myself that my biggest, most important, and most influential ministry will always be my family. If I neglect my family so that I can do "God's work", then I'm not only a failure as a minister, I make God out to be a liar, because he has entrusted to me, before all other things, a wife and daughter. As my pastor says, "You may not be able to follow a special formula that will keep your children from personal destruction, but there are certain things you can do to ensure they will make destructive decisions." Another way of saying this is, there are certain characteristics of a godly, effective parent
which will make it almost inevitable that your children will follow the Lord into old age and avoid devastating pitfalls due to poor decision-making, but a few will slip through the cracks. This should be the rare exception.

OK, before I get off into a sermon, I better turn the ship back around to the personal note I started with. Happy 2nd Birthday, Madelyn! I'm proud to be your daddy. If you aren't a parent, I'm not trying to persuade you to get on the ball or anything. :) Enjoy the one-on-one time with your spouse, or with God, if you're still "dating Jesus". But I am commending parenthood in the highest degree... if you're up for the most challenging and rewarding task of your life.

[Check out these great birthday pics. TGIFriday's treated her like royalty, as you can see. I highly recommend it for birthdays (at least the one in Schaumburg... haven't been to another one in a long while).]

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