This is a new step for me. Today I am joining up with others to write for five minutes using the one-word prompt – When - given by Five Minute Friday. The idea is to just write. No over-thinking, over-editing, or obsessing. Just write for five minutes. So here it goes…..
When? I ask myself this question multiple times a day it seems. When will my 18-month-old ever sleep through the night? When will I ever get this self-control thing under control? When will my kids ever understand that I have their best interest at heart when I tell them, “no”….(Well most of the time I have their best interest at heart, because honestly sometimes I am just taking the lazy way out.)…When will I ever get rid of the mental and physical clutter in my life and focus on what I really want my life to be about – pointing others to Jesus and His abundant joy and purpose?
Exhale. Realign my focus. Jesus is here in this moment. In the wondering. He offers serenity and peace when all we have are questions. His plans are good. He will hold my hand through every step. He loves me just as I am. He is not waiting for me to arrive with all my bad habits and selfish attitudes neatly taken care of. He is just asking, “When will you trust me and let me guide you step by step?”
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 New International Version (NIV)
After a six-week-long family season of sickness and poor to sleepless nights, I decided it was time to dig deep and reflect on some sweet moments from my almost four years of motherhood. Enough wallowing in the when will this end? and why me? moments!
I started my journey into motherhood when my then three and four year-old son and daughter came into our lives through adoption. I missed out on so many of their “firsts” in life. But I remember clearly the day we met them. My daughter stood at a little picket fence, chubby hands and stocky little body poised and eager to meet us . Her brother clung to his foster mother and hesitantly eyed us from under the longest brown lashes I have yet to see. We were off to a running start from there. Some days I wish I did give birth to them. I wish I had been there to rock them, to see their first smiles, or hear their first words. But I revel in the special moments that are mine now.
I didn’t see them take their first steps, but I still smile when I think about the crisp and sunny fall day when we took off their training wheels. They were just four and five, but the elation and joy I felt when I saw the tender pride on both of their faces as they glided along our driveway without help was such a prize. In some funny way, it was more than enough to make up for what I had missed. Isn’t life like that sometimes? There is such abundance if we can only see it. I find the if only thoughts and the why couldn’t it have been this way thinking cloud my ability to see the goodness in front of me sometimes…well a lot of the time, if I’m honest.
Two years after adopting our daughter and son, we were blessed to give birth to a baby girl. I wondered how it would be to get to know this child from the start, to not “miss out” on anything. Adopting and giving birth are so amazing and so different that it is hard to compare the two – at least for me. But I can tell you this, watching my baby girl’s first steps this last summer was just as amazing as seeing those training wheels come off! I love that I can celebrate her accomplishments from the start, but I also have to admit that I feel so privileged to have been chosen to witness and celebrate the milestones and day to day miracles passing in my older children’s lives as well.
I can’t change the past for my older two, but I can choose to see each day as a gift – no matter what that day brings. This is my challenge to myself and to you if you so choose: may we have eyes to see the goodness before us, and strength to rise above any self-pity.
Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions. Psalm 119:18 (NLT)
It is almost December and I still haven’t found a rhythm for getting my kids ready for school. I admit to idealizing these precious moments before they head off to school where they will spend the majority of their day apart from me. I want to wake them up sweetly, hug them and have some joyful conversation around the breakfast table. I’d like to impart some wisdom and warmth before they set off to negotiate their blossoming world at school. I would like them to be cheerful as they brush their teeth, get on their shoes and go straight to the car where they would then buckle without being told.
But three months into this new routine and our morning does not even begin to look like the Norman Rockwell picture I hold in my mind. Instead it is a swirling flurry. I should really have at least four more arms to accomplish all that getting them to school dressed and fed entails. Just getting them out of bed (after attempting the sweet wake up call that flat out doesn’t work) is enough to qualify for an early morning work out. Add in a crying baby who wakes and wants to be held the moment I enter the room she and her older sister share, and the chaos is off to a racing start. The baby has a wet diaper and wants fed. My second-grader won’t get up, and I finally have to pull her into a sitting position because it is time to wake up her brother. I remind them the school will NOT wait for them. It is dark out now when I am waking them at 6:30am. This does not help. Someone always seems to be crying during part of this. We offer rewards. We hand out threats. We find them playing with toys when it is their turn to brush teeth. We hear things like, “But you didn’t tell me to put on socks” when we are trying to head out the door and it is cold and raining.
By some miracle we sometimes manage to get to the front door with more than enough time to get to school. When this happens I start to feel a hopeful bit of joy bubble up through my chest. This happened today. Then I realized my six-year-old son was trying to put on a pair of lace up shoes that he had previously tied in a myriad of knots. That bit of optimism instantly sank. I pushed down the urge to yell. I gently told him he could wear the lace-up shoes tomorrow, but he needed to wear another pair today. He went rigid with stubborn resolve. I could feel myself tensing too. He finally acquiesced and headed to the car. Thank you Velcro shoes ! I grabbed my purse and happily found him buckled in his seat only to realize his backpack was still on. We went over seatbelt safety, then I realized he had left his lunch inside. My daughter began to then squeal her displeasure at something. It was then I said, “Enough. I don’t want to hear one more negative word out of anyone’s mouth.” This was not my finest moment.
As I drove to school, I began to make peace with the realization that my children would be tardy. I hate being late. I don’t want to be that mom. You know, the one whose children always are running to beat the tardy bell. Their hair is disheveled. Their clothes don’t quite match, aren’t quite wrinkle free and their faces look less than clean. I have judged that mom. I have judged myself as I realize I am that mom! The problem seems to be that they are not little robots who are programmed to methodically complete the same tasks with precision and without emotion. The problem seems to be that I too, have days where I wake up less than rested and with an equally short fuse. The problem is that we are all flawed human beings who are in need of grace. We are moment by moment being handed opportunities to teach, to learn, to offer compassion and connection versus condemnation and judgment. Perhaps we should all be a bit kinder to ourselves as we shape these individuals daily and whose free will gets in the way of our picture perfect plans.
I am learning to let go of this perfect standard that I have set for myself and for them. It is too rigid. Do I want them to learn the importance of being on time. Yes. But do I want them to learn it at the cost of my sanity and their self-worth? No. They are far too precious for that. Exhale. We pray on the way to school and their requests are so sweet. I kiss them goodbye and wish them the best day. We will all make mistakes again. But maybe, just maybe I will get better at seeing the bigger picture each day. I am not just getting them to school, but helping to shape their character and build their self-esteem in the process. Tomorrow we will try it again.
As a mom of three young children who has chosen to stay at home for a season, I often find myself drudging through monotonous daily tasks: drag the kids out of bed for school, make breakfast, snacks, lunch, snacks, dinner, change diapers, do laundry, clean the house (only to have it become dirty in five minutes), tell my kids to stop arguing, hitting, complaining or leaving the bathroom without washing their hands….You get the point.
Life can be mundane. Here is my attempt to find the miraculous and beautiful things that happen along the way, to stop and appreciate all that is going right in my life, and in the process, hopefully add some laughter and encouragement to your day as well.