To the Mother: Stop, Look, and Listen
This is Liesel writing you today, and I must give full disclosure to the content of this post before I divulge. My confessions are not a pretty picture of parenting, but my hope in sharing is that you can look at my mess and not make the same one. If you're on the "I know the Lord has brought me up to be a better mother than this" bandwagon, then you'll appreciate the rest.
I've realized recently the gravitational pull away from relationship with my daughter. In a new season of life, with new responsibilities, new friends, new projects, it's been heavy on my heart for the past few weeks that I'm not offering my best as a mom.
Since she was little, we would go once a week to a place of her choice (on months I knew finances were tight, it was a dinner picnic in the park or the back yard) and talk about whatever in the world she wanted to. This continued throughout the week and we both really savored this time. I was a small business owner working over 75 hours a week, I was a single mom, a full-time student, and teacher of high school students at church. This night had to be made a priority, or it just didn't happen.
My daughter is exceptionally special. You probably know what I mean by that. She's mine just like your kids are yours. Samara is dynamic, and lovely and tests me. She's gentle, loyal to the core, and loves all things sparkly. Her understanding of symbolism and her ability to connect dots astounds me sometimes. Her memory recall blows me away. When she's telling a story, her beautiful brown eyes glow. When she's trying to hash through her thoughts out loud, she does this squinty-eyed thing and talks out of the side of her mouth. I tell her that I can't stop myself from smiling when I get to hear her thoughts, because my heart loves her so much. It's true. You don't have to search too hard to find little pieces of her all over my home. She is always leaving little pieces of paper, napkins or post-it notes with her drawings on it laying around. The drawings almost always have a crown or tutu involved in some way. They are everywhere. All. Over. The. Place. She's such a kid. She's not a baby anymore, by any means. But she still needs to be pulled up into my lap and held. Sometimes I forget that.
Our lives have changed a lot recently. I've made the weighty mistake of stopping this tradition of dating my kid. As I was driving to my office this morning, I was asking the Lord to show me what I've missed in her life. My world was turned upside down in 2014, and I wrongly prioritized much. I need Him to show me if there's a weak spot in her life that needs nurturing. Father, are there soul wounds that I've made or missed in my busyness that need to be dressed with your Word and mama kisses? Are there lies that have infiltrated her heart that our enemy would want to begin to shape her thoughts? I'm begging Him to show me, and I'm believing that He will. I know He will. He says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart." This goes for seeking Him on our children's behalf too.
There is a lie that I want to address that might be circulating your mind regarding your parenting. We're not too busy to be exceptional parents. Take it from someone who knows what it is to weep and irrationally beg the Creator of the universe to multiply the hours in a week- just this once. I believe with all my heart- because He has done it for me- that as a single mom, he will honor your request for supernatural insight for your children and give you direction on their behalf and give you discernment when you need it most. He wants us to be good stewards of parenthood, and asking Him what is going on with these little humans He entrusted to us is a huge part of that. And guess what, sister! He loves that child more than our finite brains can wrap our (invisible, yet known to Him) thoughts around.
I confess that I have parented in micro-moments without macro-perspective in the past year. I've corrected her in annoyance and absolute selfishness because she's not falling in line with the direction our day needs to go. (Hello? Because she's FIVE-YEARS-OLD). I've punished her for speaking back to me with the same exact tone of voice I was speaking to her in. (By this I mean, neither one of us should be raising our voices in frustration or anger.) I've neglected to accept her invitation to engage in activities with her in moments when I could have made the time. There is so much grace in all of this, and I know that. But I'm putting my yucky out there in case there are other moms out there who need to understand that the relationship we offer our kids dramatically impacts their self-worth and sets their expectations for future relationships.
Mama, I want to challenge you to be wiser and a better steward than I have been. Something the Lord has impressed on my heart in the last few weeks is literally to Stop, Look, and Listen.
Commit a moment in your day, or a few times a week to stop what you're doing and enter into your child's world. We know this in our head, but we don't know this in our agenda and to do lists. These moments of opportunity will not last forever. These moments with your child feel so long but the days are short and will be a memory soon. How we approach and invest into this stage will shape the next and then the next and so on. For at least 30 minutes a day, stop and engage with your child like they are the only thing that matters in that moment, because they are. What's 30 minutes? The other stuff (dishes, laundry) can wait.
Look at your child. It's that simple. One day they'll be grown up and they won't look like that anymore. But for now, look at them. Savor the sweetness of those cheeks, the soft carelessness of their kid-looking hairdo, and ask them questions about their life. Children are never too young to talk to. If they're too young to answer questions, they still love their mama's voice. Tell them about the things you know they like and how they are gifts from God. Teach them to LOOK around and give God glory for his creation. I'm just going to speak some "real talk" for a second, and tell you to put down your phone. Giving your child your phone is not the answer either. Distractions are often the vehicle for shame and isolation. Don't give it any room between you and your kids. Just stop what you're doing and look at them. Ask the Lord to give you a vision for them. As I write this I am asking the Lord to give us eyes to see.
Stop the noise - turn off the television, music. Silence the world around you. Ask questions and listen to the answers they give. Maybe write them down in front of them so they know, "My mommy doesn't want to forget this." (Samara loves when I do this.) Maybe pray as you listen to their words and ask the Lord for wisdom to really understand what they are saying and not just hear they words that are being spoken. He will give you the words THEY need to hear if you're able to hear His voice. Stop the noise.
If your child is too young to give you answers, listen to their behavior. Pray over them as they develop. In doing this "stop, look, and listen" you're showing them how it's done. "Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known".(Jeremiah 33:3) This Scripture is something the Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, and is not to be taken out of context from that. But in the same way the Lord calls us as watchmen and messengers for our children.
Listen to me, if this is spurring on mommy-guilt in anyone reading this, please understand that the voice of God corrects in love and gives direction, and the voice of your enemy condemns with shame and guilt. If you haven't been a great steward of time with your children, then it's time to change. There is no time for you to beat yourself up about it. Don't you dare say, "my child is doomed" and then give some illegitimate reason why. The Lord says something different, and you want to agree with Him. I know I do! You haven't ruined them beyond the point of Christ's redemption. It's one step at a time, and He will guide our steps. He's faithful to do that gently and firmly.
The reality is that as moms, we can become so starved for nourishment that we don't think we have anything healthy to provide our children. It seems we are pouring ourselves out for everyone around us. The ground we're trying to grow in is dry and cracking, and we just need a drink of water. Take heart, you brave woman. Check this out:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream,and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green,and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
Put your trust in the Lord, and make the Lord your trust. It is one thing to put your trust in the Lord with all the stuff going on in your life, but there is a steadiness that happens when the Lord IS your trust. We can trust because He is I Am. If you feel like you don't have anything to give, ask the Lord to fill you up. He will if you let him.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
The reality is not overlooked that for some, it is very hard to get a moment of silence with a child around you (multiplied by your number of offspring!). There have been many mornings that I have invited my daughter into my time in the Word, because the reality was that she's not going anywhere. Either I would have her "read" her own Bible (meaning read the pictures of the stories), or I would let her do some activity as I read aloud to her. Show your kids what it looks like to "search and find" the Lord. Tell them what you're learning. Who better to show them how the Lord is ministering to their family but you since you're leading it?
We would love to know how we can be praying for you in this area. Parenting on your own is something that is very difficult to do outside of a supportive community. We are rooting for your families so loudly before the Throneroom of Grace, sometimes it feels like our voices get raspy. This is when we're glad He hears the cries of our hearts. We know that He is moving and pursuing you. Our God is so crazy about your family being whole in Him, and so are we. We pray peace and unity over your homes in Jesus' name. We pray that the Lord would be your refuge and the One you call on and listen for in time of need. You are loved wildly, my sister.
In Chrst Alone,