Our lives are messy. Days are full of dirty diapers, spilled sprinkles, cleaning bathrooms, and half finished to do lists.
It’s always nice to look at January as a start to something new. Realistically though, as a mom of little kids, right now I don’t have the bandwidth to set huge goals and overhaul everything. Are you right there with me?
Those major changes everyone is talking about are not easy and I’m already doing lots of things that are not easy. Like keeping little people alive. Trying my best to love them well and show them God’s love and grace. And then having the hard conversations with a 7 year old, a 4 year old, and even a 2 year old when I mess up. And I mess up a lot. Like I said, my life is messy.
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But, right there with everyone else, I’m swept up in the excitement of ushering in a new year. I bought a new 2018 planner and am excited to implement little changes that will have the biggest impact.
Thinking about everyone being a whole year older means there will be much change this year. I longing look forward to the idea of no more diapers, more independence, and increased abilities in my kids. But it also hurts my mom heart as I think about fewer instances of a child falling asleep in my arms, less “firsts”, and even again in this category too, more independence.
So what are we to do? What can we do to make changes for the new year when we are tired and our lives are messy?
First, I think we should be stepping back to recognize our own limitations.
We can’t do it all. It may seem like others can. Whatever that thing is that you wish was different, you’ll probably easily spot in others - they have more money, are smarter, have more time, have a more successful ministry, have closer friends, the list could contain almost anything. But... you don’t know what that person struggles with.
Hopefully you have close friends who open up to you and tell you what their real struggles are. Even that mom who seems like she has it all together, whether she’s the voice behind a blog or that acquaintance you see each week at soccer, has her own struggles.
I struggle with all sorts of things. I did open up earlier this year when I wrote about my own struggles and self-centeredness. I often find half-eaten string cheese around my house, piles of laundry abound, and quite honestly there are more days than I like where I am still simply surviving and not thriving.
We all have things that shine and look great to the outside world and things that we don’t want to expose because we battle them daily. It isn’t that women are being fake when they don’t immediately tell you their darkest struggles - it’s just that they are still struggling through them.
Jesus said (in John 15:4-5 ESV), “ Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Recognize your limits, don’t compare yourself to another mom, and know that you must be abiding in Christ each day.
Second, to make a practical change when our capacity feels low, we need to seek out ways to make the ordinary more meaningful.
A while back, there was a lot of talk about making childhood magical for children. Then after that, there was even more talk about how that is so terrible.
I want to find ways to make special memories with my kids in the ordinary. Not special times that lead them to thinking the world revolves around them but special times that lead to us having more joy in the ordinary day. I want them to know they are loved by God and by me. I want us to strive together for man's chief end - to glorify God and enjoy him (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q & A #1).
Realistically, as moms, we have a whole lot of that ordinary time to work with. Many hours in a row. Many days in a row. And then months in a row. But soon the years will have flown by (just like the lady in the grocery store keeps telling you) and we’ll have kids who are potty trained, can read, and will all too soon be out of our house.
Once we recognize our limitations, we need to embrace what we have when we have it. On most days, I have a lot of interaction with my kids and I get to choose how I treat them each moment. Will I be loving? Interested in what they have to say? Willing to show them grace and mercy? Or will I be impatient and frustrated more often?
It’s hard work to strive for the fruit of the Spirit and pray often for a better attitude - but it’s worth it.
One easy thing I did for 2018 was write all of the baptism dates for my kids in my planner. I’m looking forward to celebrating these days as special this year. It’s something small but I hope it will create lasting memories.
There are lots of other simple ways we can make the ordinary more meaningful. Add to your to do list more things that will bring you and everyone else in your home more joy. Take off some of the things that are just bringing everyone down.
If you have more than one child, having more one-on-one time with each kid is a great place to start if you’re able.
Find ways to share interests with your kids. Find something you both like and jump in for quality time - puzzles, board games, nature walks, sports, learning about animals, or music.
Talk about theology using something simple like the Children’s Catechism.
Do the fun things you can do with your little kids because you do have flexibility and time even if it doesn’t feel that you do. Look at your schedule and pencil in some fun this year, even if it’s just an hour every other Friday afternoon you put in your planner. Or set the timer for 20 minutes of undivided attention with your little ones and see what a difference it makes. These little “appointments” won't always be perfect but by being intentional they will lead to building better relationships with your kids, pointing them to Jesus more often, and will result in more joy for everyone.
I hope your new year is full of hope and love and joy! Happy New Year friends!