My Thoughts at the End of a Peaceful Day

There are nights when I close my eyes burdened by frustration over how I could have lived better; then there are nights when I fall asleep with a settled heart knowing I was present. What does a peaceful day look like?

It doesn’t mean that there are zero sibling squabbles. It doesn’t mean that I accomplish everything on my to-do list. It doesn’t even mean that I walk around with a smile on my face the whole day or never raise my voice in impatience or exasperation. Instead it means that I have approached all that I must do with an “I want to do it” attitude: the laundry, the meal-making, the routine child care (which consumes most of my day), even the dusting! My default is to feel frustrated when I’m not able to accomplish the things on my me-list such as being alone for a few minutes, reading more than a few paragraphs at a time, tackling the list of topics I want to write about or putting items in the chest freezer we bought over a week ago. But if when I view everything I did accomplish in my day as things I genuinely wanted to do anyway, I enter into those things with relish and joy.

In fact, just last night I was sitting on the girls’ bedroom floor for our evening song and prayer before bed. The kids were being goofy and not settling down; normally I would have gotten frustrated since we were an hour past bedtime but for a split second it felt like time froze for me and I felt 100% PRESENT! As I took time to journal about my day I reflected on the evening walks we have taken two nights in a row. They were perfect! The kids set the pace and we simply wandered, observed, and chatted. Taking this slower pace has been especially beneficial for our oldest since it allows him to verbalize the thoughts zooming through his deep-thinking mind. On yesterday’s walk he independently expressed empathy for strangers, something I would not have expected from someone so young. This is the life I dreamed of having – every bit of it – and I’m going to embrace it with the biggest bear hug I can muster.

What about you? Are there things you do every day that feel mundane or feel like cumbersome chores standing the way of real fun? Are there moments you are missing because you are busy trying to get things done in order to move on to something you’d rather be doing instead? For today, can you slow down and be present in each task set before you out of gratitude that you are capable of doing it? Trust me, you won’t regret a day of gratitude, joy and peace.

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The Wind Blows Where It Wishes

Monday is drawing to a close and I’m still catching my breath from the weekend. I was already resisting anxiety about the longer hours my husband would be working in the following days and then our 18-month old took a nasty tumble resulting in a fractured ankle. One member’s challenge quickly changes the dynamics of the entire household as all focus shifts to that person’s needs – but that isn’t easy to do when the majority of the family is under the age of 4. They haven’t quite grasped the fact that their needs might not be met as quickly as they usually are since Mama has to carry Little Sister a little more, and Little Sister is not appreciating her limited mobility.

Today the kids and I took our Little Bit to get her cast. I was nervous about how it would all go: me with all the kids, in a part of town that is unfamiliar to us, to a doctor we have never seen, for a procedure that we have never experienced. I packed food and activities and prayed. After Friday’s chaos, I prepared for impact and prayed some more. And you know what? The excursion unfolded beautifully. We didn’t get lost. We found parking. We arrived on time. The kids were cheerful. Our patient laid still and even held up her leg for the cast to be put on. The medical technicians praised her to the moon and back. We got home all in one piece. (Bedtime was another story, but for now the house is quiet and I have time to reflect.)

Sunday’s sermon was on the beginning portion of chapter 3 in the book of John. The pastor drew our attention to verse 8 where Jesus explains that the Holy Spirit moves at will just as the wind blows where it wishes. Jesus was using the wind to illustrate the sovereignty of God. We cannot know the mind of God unless He chooses to reveal it to us. If you’re like me, I plan out the hours in my day with the expectation that they will flow exactly as I want them to because certainly that is best, right? But in life the unexpected and the inexplicable happens, and we are left hurt, puzzled, frustrated, angry, bitter, or in despair. If we can’t understand something, we wonder why it occurred. And that’s exactly why it happened.

When control of our lives is wrested from our grip, we are forced to recognize that God reigns. He determines what is best for us and gives Him glory. When life trots placidly along, it takes more effort for me to give all glory to God; when it twists and turns, the only one I can hold on to is the Almighty Savior. My peace cannot lie in circumstances; it must rest in God’s goodness. In the tumult of the past couple of days, I did have peace knowing that all of this was going to work out for our good; if God is glorified then it is good for me. And when I let go I enjoy the ride so much more! I am thankful that the Master of the wind is my Master too.

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I Don’t Have the Words

I feel the need to put this day into words. It started the night before with another midnight changing of pee-soaked sheets; despite the turbulent night I still decided to go to our splash pad play date. I’m still not sure if it was good I did or not – which is why I am writing about my day. You see, I ended up being that mom: that mom who was 40 minutes late, that mom who was disappointed she didn’t get in some long mom chats with friends because she was either feeding a baby, taking little people to the bathroom, or playing with clingy toddlers because they wouldn’t play by themselves. I was that mom who nearly burst into tears of frustration after having a wrestling match with her double stroller and the bathroom door in front of a bunch of people who enjoyed watching me rather than offering to help. Later on, I was that mom who tried to get everyone loaded into the van and headed home before any meltdowns ensued but despite my best efforts the baby screamed the entire half hour drive home. I was that mom who pulled into the garage feeling numb from head to toe, with millions of thoughts swirling in my head and no clue how to sort them.

I took some time to be still and let the thoughts swirl around without any filter. I know that it is easy for my mood to spiral downward when I feel unexpectedly stretched. In the effort to understand other people, I can lose touch with myself and need to make a point of getting reacquainted with me.  I especially need to allow my brain and mind to converse with each other. My brain tends to have trouble keeping up with the demands my mind places upon it. Being still offers the two a chance to meet in the middle. As I relaxed and pondered I realized that my initial reaction was to feel like the entire day was one big negative but further processing allowed the gems to shine. One of these was hearing my son’s voice in the midst of other child voices and feeling my heart warmed at its sound. Another gem was the unprompted kindness of my mom friends who made a point of coming to wherever I was in order to include me in conversation. And while the weather was hot it was an absolutely gorgeous day of breezes, sunlight glittering on the lake, and crystal clear spring water to gaze into.

My brain was extremely stressed today and in the heat of the moment it would have said that we will never leave the house again, but giving my mind a chance to process how I was feeling allowed me to come to terms with the stress.  It was real and it was rough but it was not bad and not worth settling into a negative mindset.  I think that experiencing the fullness of life means accepting the chaos and unexpected stress that will come with it. How is that for putting my day into words? I don’t know about you, but I feel a little better now.

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No Time to Judge

My pastor’s sermon was especially impacting to me yesterday. One thing in particular stood out to me: Christians should be some of the most humble, broken, and tenderhearted people because we know our sin and how God has delivered us from it.  That thought convicted me as I took note of how quick I am to critique those around me. “If I was her, I wouldn’t be doing that,” or “why would he say something like that?” or “whew! I am glad I didn’t make that choice,” or “she should really make this change in her life,” etc.  The ironic thing is that when my mind is filled with thoughts about others I am not working on myself.

That’s just it! Keeping myself on track is time-consuming enough! Even just a few moments reading my Bible shines the spotlight on all that should be on my to-do list: abiding in Christ, praying without ceasing, loving my enemies, blessing those who curse me, forgiving, serving, repenting, sowing the gospel seed, just to name a few.  And that doesn’t include those areas in my life where the fruit is puny, if even there at all, such as patience and gentleness! Minding my own log-cutting business  is work enough; I don’t need to add searching for dust specks in others’ lives to my day as well (see Matthew 7:5).

We often feel like silence is approval and if we see someone making, in our opinion, a mistake we feel like something should be said. But I am starting to wonder if more positive impact could be made by simply living my own life well through surrendered obedience to Christ. If I speak when He prompts me to speak, change when He calls me to change, and repent when He convicts, then my life will become a beacon of His love and truth to everyone I meet.  If I genuinely love people then I need to spend more time building up and cheering on those lives that intersect with mine than I do pointing out where I think they could improve.  I believe quiet observation of how others live inspires more lasting change than speaking does.  I pray my life is one worth observing.

Disclaimer: I must add that if I see someone close to me making destructive choices or nurturing habits that are clearly harmful to self or others, I will speak up.

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In- Between

We tend to photograph what we want to remember: the moments of laughter, the tidy house, the snuggles and family bonding, the celebrations, the breath-taking views, the serene pauses and transformational events. Nothing bad, broken, dirty, or heart-wrenching. Nothing that indicates we have fallen down, messed up, forgotten or lost. And when we see the picture of other people’s lives, we compare them to what happens in between the pictures of our own lives. I know I do. I remember the guilt of missed opportunities, of losing my patience, of distracted attention. I see my failed efforts to be somebody I’m not: the perfect mom, the flawless wife, the cool friend, the sage Christian. And now I want to change that life, that in-between.

I want the pictures to be what’s real. I am going to love my kids with gusto, adore my husband with passion, serve Christ with gratitude and humility, selflessly encourage my friends, and read and write my heart out. I guess you could say that I’m going to make living my hobby, to approach it with the eagerness that comes with choosing to do something rather than being forced. I choose to live all-in! I’m not going to live a picture-perfect life and I can accept that. But I am going to live a life worth remembering , in picture and in-between them. That’s the kind of living that fills the soul.

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An Open Letter

Dear Moms Like Me,

I am writing this letter at the risk of sounding a bit cliche, but I am recently returned from a brief family getaway and was confronted once again with how quickly time passes. I came home saddened by that fact and wondering where time so steadily goes? Sometimes I feel like time marches ahead so rapidly that I cannot keep up. I see everyone around me changing and I feel left behind, especially when my shortcomings, mistakes, and inexcusable failures seem to be on repeat mode.

Where does time go? It is in the newborn who is suddenly holding up his head, sleeping through the night and ready to exchange the bassinet for the crib. It is in the baby girl who doesn’t need me to hold her hand anymore as she toddles around on her own; it is in the toddler who initiates “I love you’s”, puts on her own shoes and sleeps in a big girl bed. It can be found in the handsome little boy preparing for preschool in the fall who can do oh so many things, “all by myself, Mom.” And it can be spotted in our own ageless siblings and parents who are transitioning from one season of life to the next when you subconsciously thought they would be the same forever.

So dear Mom Like Me, snuggle that newborn for one extra long moment longer before laying her down because she won’t nestle on your chest with all her limbs tucked under her forever. Time passes. Breathe in his smell, embrace the exhaustion, study those curled up toes and tiny fists.

And while you’re at it, hug that toddler tighter, even if you have to fight her for that moment of slowing down. Savor her indomitable spirit and laugh in the midst of those tantrums because no one else will love her through them quite like you will. Time passes.  There will come a time when you will no longer have to remind yourself to go to the bathroom, brush your teeth and get dressed before noon but in the meantime, study his chubby toddler feet and look at the world from his perspective.

And Friend, pull that preschooler close to your side for an extra chat about life. He has such a unique outlook on life, fueled by a fantastic imagination. Soak in the life advice that he is unwittingly offering you.  Time passes. Enter into the constant presence of another human next to you, especially in the bathroom, because there will never be a time quite like this when she will be so willingly influenced by what you have to say. Your attention, your presence, your time will never be quite this satisfying to her again.

And to you, Mom with older kids and teenagers, I respect you. You have said farewell to these little years. You understand that while it’s a relief to not have to do everything for your kids now that they’re self-sufficient, you also miss it because now time has really picked up speed. You can have rich discussions with their critically thinking minds, but they are also making decisions that can make you cringe. You don’t have to tuck them in at night, but you probably still have sleepless nights knowing that soon they’ll be driving, going out on dates, heading to college, getting married, and becoming parents themselves. Your children are so close to being adults and you wonder if you were a good mom and if they are ready for adulthood and if you’re ready for them to be adults.  All I can say is, yes. Yes, you were a good mom, especially if you are telling them no sometimes. Yes, they are ready for adulthood, especially if they think they aren’t ready for it. Yes, you are ready because moms are always ready for the next challenge God is calling us to face.

In closing, I am challenging myself to do a few things to help me keep up with time. I may not be able to change its pace, but I can at least walk with it and not feel so sad when I look back.  One thing I have decided to do is limit my screen time to three times a day when my kids are not around. I don’t want to miss out on the life that’s happening while I’m looking at the screen. The second resolution I have made is to take no more than 5 photos a day, as a general rule.  I am often  trying to capture that perfect shot and end up being a bystander to the fun of living rather than a participant. Finally, and most importantly, I’m rising an hour earlier than everyone else in my family so that I have time to collect my thoughts in the quiet of the day to determine how God and I want the day spent. It might mean that the dishes are only done once that day or the laundry doesn’t get folded, but if the results are a peace-filled house with lots of laughter than it’s absolutely worth it.

I hope you are encouraged by these thoughts and resolves from,

A Mom Like You

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The Natural Order of Things

I’ve been doing some reading lately and it seems like every page I read is reminding me to be intentional, to slow down and to savor the little things. I don’t need much convincing, however, as this kind of loving has been the desire of my heart since girlhood. The desire has only intensified as the years slip by at an ever increasing speed.

And so I sit here in my rocking chair, reflecting on how I can lead a less complicated life. I think I’ll take a cue or two from nature. Have you noticed how every season has a focused purpose? Spring is time of energy and new life; Summer is a time of rest and recreation after a job well done; fall has the harvest, a time of reaping from one’s labor and a time of renewed effort in preparation for winter. Winter is a time of reflection and completion; a time to be still and wait. I have written about the cycle of seasons in previous blogs, about the necessity of each one and now, more than ever, I can see how I can benefit from structuring my routines according to the seasons. In this way, I can experience unique layers of living that would otherwise be neglected and no routine will have a chance to grow stale.

This summer I am going to take a slower pace with living. I am going to make time for special projects that I normally wouldn’t get around to doing. There are going to be road trips, water fun, cookouts, berry-picking, tent-building and blank spaces in my planner for spontaneous memory-making. And when the next season rolls around I’m going to be ready for that one too.

Which season is your favorite?

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