If you’re an overwhelmed mom and know something needs to give, keep reading. There’s hope for you, mama. I know just what you (and I) need.
All Kinds of Early Morning Toddler Fun
As I lay in bed squinty-eyed, the first rays of sunlight were peaking around the corner from the living room window, letting me know morning was right behind it. Just how early, I wasn’t sure, but my son quickly remedied that.
I heard a faint voice coming from his room and then the delayed echo coming through the monitor: “Outta my crib!” I fumbled for my phone and saw the bad news – 5:34 a.m. These early wake-ups are typically a harbinger of all the other good things to come later on in the day.
As per my usual response, I ignored it, hoping he’d go back to sleep. House rule, the boys stay in their cribs until 7 a.m. In 5-10 minute intervals, in increasing volume, ‘Outta my crib!” I got out of bed around 6 and made it until 6:30 before I caved. Getting him up earlier versus listening to that persistent scream was definitely the lesser of the evils.
The boys were in good spirits when I walked in, but it didn’t take long for the demands to start:
“Watch Battlebots?” No, Mikey, it’s too early for Battlebots.
“Battlebots!” Louder this time. No, Mikey. Not yet.
“Outta my crib!” Ok, let’s get you out.
Then James chimed in: “No, Battlebots! Monster Jam!“
And this is how we started our day – fighting over Battlebots and Monster Jam at 6:30 in the morning. You’d think the only place to go was up from there, but that’s rarely the case with toddlers. There’s always so much farther down to go. So much farther.
More fights. More tears (them). More yelling (me and them). Time outs, simmer times, trying to keep them busy with activities that ended up with even more tears.
When I looked at the time and saw it was only 10 o’clock, I could’ve cried. Those boys made me feel like I’d lived a thousand lifetimes in those few short hours (which I’m convinced is a toddler’s superpower). I was already done for the day and stressed about how I was going to keep them happy and me sane until naptime.
We all made it through the morning (barely) alive, but by the time their naps came, I concluded that I pretty much sucked as a toddler mom.
There was a reason I chose to teach high school and not preschool, and I felt like maybe I’m not cut out to do this. Be a toddler mom.
It was going to be a long couple years for all of us.
The Antidote That Felt Just Out of Reach
After the boys were down for their naps, it was time for my tears. I know being a toddler mom is hard, I know I’m ‘in the trenches’ (so they tell me), I know being a twin mom is extra stressful. But there had to be some kind of solution for this. I couldn’t do this every day for weeks and months and maybe even years.
Without much thought, I already knew the antidote: it’s God. I need more of God. I need His help.
I know this, have known this, I didn’t need to be convinced of it. I knew I couldn’t be the mom I’m supposed to be without Him.
But how? That was my question.
My life as it is, how do I get more of God when I can barely get a little of God?
Since I’ve had the boys, I’ve struggled with this – keeping God central and a priority in my life.
Pre-motherhood, when I was still teaching, I used to get up at 5 a.m., have an hour of quiet time – worship, reading my Bible, journaling, all kinds of concordances and commentaries up on every tab of my computer. During my summers off, that time extended leisurely.
But since having kids, it looks nothing like that. At. All. Not even close. When the boys were newborns, I gave myself lots of grace and rightly so; my whole world had been consumed and turned upside down by my adorable little boys. But as the newness wore off, I ached for some structure, some normalcy. And really, life was anything but normal. And hasn’t been since.
I’ve tried spending time with God before the boys wake up, during naptime, after they go to sleep at night. But I just haven’t been able to nail down anything that works.
And sometimes, when I do have a quiet few minutes, my mind just doesn’t work. I mean, no coherent thoughts. Nothing. Too tired to even think a prayer. Just empty nothingness.
And that afternoon, I felt completely defeated.
The Better Thing
So, let’s talk about the better thing. It’s from the story of sisters Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Busy Martha was cleaning, cooking and serving Jesus and the disciples, all the while annoyed that Mary wasn’t helping but listening at Jesus’ feet. Wanting Jesus to champion her cause, she complained to him about Mary’s inactivity. Instead, Jesus told her:
“[Y]ou are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (vs. 42-42, NIV).
Like Martha, we are worried about many things. Upset about many things. Important things. Our littles depend on us for survival. Our families need us to grocery shop, cook, do laundry, clean the house, pay bills. All of these things are good things and have to get done. But there is something better. And it’s what is needed most. To be with Jesus. And because it’s better, we gotta find time for it.
So How Do We Choose Better?
In John 15, Jesus told a parable about a branch that can’t bear fruit on its own. If it’s cut off from the vine, it dies. No fruit. But if it stays connected to the vine? Presto! Fruit.
There’s a certain beauty and hopefully comfort to the tired and busy mom’s heart to know that the life we need, the fruit that’s supposed to be in our lives, comes not from doing more work or adding to our to-do lists. It comes from staying close to the Source. Staying connected. It’s not about working at it. It’s not about hours of Bible study. This isn’t a college course; it’s a relationship.
Isaiah 55:1-3 says it this way:
“All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!
Why spend money for what isn’t food,
and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me and eat what is good;
enjoy the richest of feasts.
Listen and come to me;
listen, and you will live.”
You’re thirsty, tired, broke, starving spiritually? Just come. Everything else will leave you thirsty, tired, starving, and broke. All of your cleaning, cooking, sacrificing, toiling will leave you empty. Unless you come and get fed first.
But here, with God? Eat up on the best there is. And more than that – actually live.
So that afternoon, in tears over the morning, guilty over my lack of connection to God, all I could do was cry. There were no words to pray. But I just sensed God asking, “Can you just sit with Me? Just be with me? Can you do that?“
Yes, God. I can do that.
I put on some worship music, let the rest of the tears fall, and just eased into His presence.
The Most One-Sided Relationship You’ll Ever Have
As moms, it’s inherent to give and invest way more than we get back. For a long, long time, it’s a one-sided relationship. You love and love, and you don’t expect anything in return. It’s unconditional. You love your kids whether they love you back or not. Whether they say thank you or not. And sometimes, in a discouraged state, we can feel like martyrs, like we’re always the ones loving and giving and not getting much back in return. Feeling like it’s pretty one-sided. Feeling empty.
But our relationship with God breaks that mold. We switch sides, and now we’re on the other side of that one-sided relationship. [click_to_tweet tweet=”God lives in a perpetual state of giving & loving more than He ever gets back. God will NEVER be on the long end of the stick. He ALWAYS loves more than He gets back. That’s Who He is, it’s His nature; it will not & cannot ever be any other way.'” quote=”God lives in a perpetual state of giving and loving more than He ever gets back in return. God will NEVER be on the long end of the stick here. He will ALWAYS, forever and eternity, love more than He gets back. That’s Who He is, that’s His nature; it will not and cannot ever be any other way.'”]
And because of that, being in relationship with God is the easiest relationship you’ll ever have. [click_to_tweet tweet=”It’s not that it’s not ever hard following God or obeying Him, but when it comes to being in relationship with Him, you never have to worry about loving until you feel completely spent. He will always out-love you. ” quote=”It’s not that it’s not ever hard following God or obeying Him, but when it comes to being in relationship with Him, you never have to worry about loving until you feel completely spent. He will always out-love you. “]You’ll always receive more than you give. Because you can never give more than He does. You can never love more than He does. You are the recipient of all that goodness.
And that’s the beauty. When you are connected to Him, when you are in His presence, His love fills you, then overflows to the family who needs your love, too.
How Do We Choose What’s Better?
I can’t tell you what abiding with Jesus looks like in your life. I know that you need to and that I need to. Because it’s LIFE to us. We are dead without it. So, no sugar-coating it: spending time with Him will make you a happier human, a better mom, a more loving and giving person. There is no other way for this to happen. If you’re doing this on your own fuel, in time, you’ll run out. You need Him as the source.
I’m all for productivity hacks and Pinterest inspiration and taking care of yourself – but it’s HIM we need.
I’m still figuring it out and your life looks different than mine, so there aren’t steps #1-5 to fulfill. That’s the beauty of a Spirit-led life. It’s custom-made. But here are a few ways I think it COULD look:
- Laying on the couch with your eyes closed during nap time with worship music on
- Reading a devotional on your phone before you get out of bed (First 5 is a great one!)
- Talking to God all throughout your day, in any and all situations, (especially when you’re counting to 10 before you lose it on your kids. That’s a greattime to talk to Him!)
- Listening to worship music or podcasts in the car
- Playing worship music in your house throughout the day
- Having Christian TV or Youtube sermons on
- Having prayer time/Bible reading before the kids wake up/during naps/after bedtime
- Following Christian leaders on Twitter (This has been a great source of encouragement for me throughout the day; it gives me something focus, meditate and pray about).
The point is – just come. Just show up. No grand plans. No elaborate gestures. If all you can offer is just showing up, just show up. He’ll fill in the spaces. Let Him set the agenda, and it will be the most life-giving, the least-pressure-filled minutes of your day.
He has so much grace for where you’re at in your life right now. So much understanding. He wants to fill you with all the strength and love and wisdom that you need. Not put more expectation or pressure on you.
The Difference He Makes
So when the boys woke up from their naps, I can’t say I was a completely different mom and they magically morphed into perfectly cooperative, obedient toddlers. We were all the same people, but there was more grace in the mix. The joints and gears were lubed up a bit more. Things flowed more smoothly. I handled the drama better. He was started to spill out on me, and from me to them. And that always makes everything better.
Moms, this is the better thing. It’s a struggle to choose this. We have so much loud noise in our lives screaming for our attention. But this is what’s needed. More than anything else.
If I’m to love my kids, my husband, the world like I’m meant to, this is the one thing I can’t neglect. I NEED Him. I need to choose the better thing. It’s my life. And yours, too.
But if we choose it, it won’t be taken away from us.
And it will make all the difference.
How are you doing, mama? I’d love to know, I’d love to pray. Leave a comment!
Feel free to share if you know other mamas who could use some encouragement!