The woman unbuckles her shoes and settles bare feet on stone tile that glows with the colors coming through stained glass panels, a holy narrative to light the path. Sturdy brocade in white and gold hangs down to her ankles, the beauty of a bridal gown. She stood in this place once before, at the altar holding promises for her betrothed. Now she stands with her arms holding out a crying baby. They bring him to a tiny basin of water and speak holy words and promises over him, trusting he’ll someday be washed in the water of the Word, in Living Water. They christen him, and in faith name him as part of the people of God.

This morning, my three year old twirled about making up a song with nothing but the words “I Thessalonians”. It brought me back to the day we dedicated her in our not-so-liturgical ceremony. We christened her not with water, but with the words of Scripture, verses from the very book of I Thessalonians, and prayed a future full of joy for her to match the meaning of her name.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

This afternoon, my husband and I wrote out some favorite baby names to see how they looked on paper. We practiced saying them aloud, studied the meanings and listened for one to ring true to our dreams for this next child, echoing the special way we want to dedicate our parenting efforts for the new one entering our care.

I see it this way with naming the years, too. We pick a word in faith, trusting that it will soon become sight. We study it, pay it special attention, let the rays shine through stained glass to spotlight our steps. We chase it about and bounce it on our knee. We tend to its aches and pains and stay up late with it when need be. All the while, we listen and watch for it to fill out and come into its likeness.

I’ve never named a year in advance, only in reverse…the year of drama/trauma or the year of making room. But these last few weeks, I’ve felt a nudge to take one particular whispered wish from the last few years and name it out loud, to swaddle it and carry it along, to look for hints of growth in the months to come. I christen 2013 the year of becoming a more “cheerful giver”, especially toward the neediest in my circle…my own children.

I am already seeking out Scripture, helpful books and good role models to help train my heart to stay joyful and serve with intention when I’d normally feel trampled by tasks or tantrums. And here are some basic things I’ll be continuing from this past year or implementing anew to keep the heart light:

1. Fill up in Bible study before starting the day with the kids…a reminder that someone is taking care of me. (My Hello Mornings group is a great encouragement in this.)
2. Pray specifically for each child’s current challenges…and pause for re-focusing prayer when feeling overloaded.
3. Stop my domestic tasks more often to tend to the kids’ needs/requests. View the little ones as my first priority, not interruptions or hindrances.
4. Involve the kids in more of my responsibilities around the house. Make chores into games or experiences instead of something to just check off the list.
5. Make playtime with the kids a priority on my task list.
6. Plan special outings once a month with each of my children.
7. Read the Bible nightly as a family. (On January 1, we started the 2-year M’Cheyne plan along with our church.)
8. Make time for writing (and submitting pieces of writing) when the kids are sleeping. Take part in writers’ group each month and meet up with local bloggers periodically.
9. Journal about set backs, successes and discoveries in the quest to become a more cheerful giver.
10. Read helpful, uplifting books with my husband before bedtime.
11. Go to sleep on time in order to be fully rested for the next day.

On the days when I feel just plain barefoot and pregnant, let me remember that this is holy ground, the work of motherhood, a calling that begs us to unbuckle the shoes and walk in wonder while we tend to little souls, expectant, waiting to see the thing we once named in faith finally turn visible in our children…and in ourselves.

{Over the next several months, I plan to chime in here with insights on becoming a cheerful giver. Today, I’d love to have your insights as I begin to focus in on this character quality. What is it that zaps your energy and/or spurs you on in serving the needy ones in your care? How do you deal with discouragement in living out your calling? What books do you think I should pick up this year as I journal and journey toward fuller joy in the calling of motherhood?}