My life is defined by stages. As soon as I think I’ve got the hang of one stage, it’s over and a brand new one starts.
Last week I was sitting on the couch with my toddler.
I had been up for three nights in a row helping my little ones with the stomach flu. I was on day three of antibiotics for mastitis. I held my hot sleepy boy and watched the baby on the rug push up onto his knees and rock back and forth smiling at me. I could read it all in his grin: “Look at me, Mommy! I’m about to start the crawling stage. It’s the perfect time. You haven’t unpacked the baby gates from the move, you haven’t vacuumed in weeks, there are dangerous Lego pieces everywhere, and you’re distracted with sickness. I think I’ll start…NOW!”
This stage of raising kids is full of transitions. Three naps a day, two naps a day, baby food, table food, crawling, toddling, spitting little piles of chewed up food on the couch (yes, that’s a phase in our house), etc.
The kids’ baby books are overflowing with exciting notes and cute pictures documenting each stage. (And by baby books I mean hand written post-it notes jammed into a drawer waiting to be organized.) But as any mom knows it’s not all fun and games. On stressful days like the one I had last week I find myself yearning for the next stage. “When is this going to be over?”
It can be so encouraging to know the current stage won’t last forever. But if we constantly live for the next stage we will miss something precious in the meantime.
“I can’t wait for him to sleep through the night. I can’t wait for her to start walking. I can’t wait for him to tie his own shoes. I can’t wait for her to do her own hair. I can’t wait for him to drive himself to practice. I can’t wait for her to meet a godly man.”
Do we realize that by the time they can do all those things they will be gone? We won’t get another chance to embrace those moments.
We can spend their whole childhood wishing it was over – not because we really want it to be, but because it can be so stressful that looking to the future eats up precious time spent in the present.
How can we embrace every moment when some days are pure survival? Isaiah gives us a beautiful strategy for making the most of those difficult days:
“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:10-11)
Moms don’t have to go far to find those who are hungry and afflicted. Do we think of meeting their needs as “pouring ourselves out” for them? It’s the opposite of holding the unpleasant stage at arms distance. It’s fully embracing it.
I thought about that last week when I was scrubbing the carpet next to my sick toddler’s bed. “This is my moment to show gospel love. This is my moment give comfort that only a mommy can give. This is my chance to be faithful in the little things.”
Not every stage is rainbows and flowers. Some stages are a “pouring out” of yourself. How do we do that? When you want to moan, pray. When you want to yell, hug. When you want to sigh, sing.
Hold that screaming baby in the lonely hours of the night and tell him, “There will be a day when I can shower again. There will be days that I feel human. There will be nights when I will sleep. But in this moment I will pour myself out for you.”
Once in awhile a well-meaning woman smiles at me and says, “Enjoy every moment! It goes by so fast.” It’s easy for us young moms to cringe at that statement because not every moment is enjoyable. Sometimes we feel guilty that we can’t enjoy every second of it. Some stages are great and others are genuine trials. They are painful, messy, inconvenient, exhausting – but each one is God-given. In those difficult moments we catch glimpses of God’s grace and then turn around and give that grace to our children.
This is one of those mommy lessons that applies to all of life. (Aren’t there so many of those??) It crosses over into other areas like this:
I can’t wait for my husband to get that promotion.
I can’t wait to move.
I can’t wait to get that part of the house done.
I can’t wait to reach my goal weight.
I can’t wait to get through postpartum depression.
I can’t wait for this painful trial to be over.
Don’t wait, moms. This is your chance to pour yourself out for the weak. This is your chance to see a depth of God’s grace that you’ve never experienced before.
There are a lot of people waiting to be content, waiting for the current stage to be over. It’s the “grass is always greener on the other side” mentality. But if we can’t learn to be content in our current stage, we won’t be content in the next one either. When it comes to contentment it isn’t about what’s next – it’s about what’s now.
Every stage of life is a gift and an opportunity. When they pass they will be gone forever and new ones will be given. Live in the present. Accept this current stage as your very particular calling from God.
“Father, I know that all of my life
Is portioned out for me;
And the changes that are sure to come
I do not fear to see;
But I ask Thee for a present mind,
Intent on pleasing Thee.”
– Anna Waring, 1850