The thing our kids do better than their mamas

You can’t hurry a toddler with eyes full of wonder. You can’t motivate her to rush into the carseat when an anthill has caught her eye. You can’t convince her that clouds taking new shape in the breeze aren’t the most important thing happening right now. Little ones dwell in the places I rarely remember to visit. They dwell in the colors of the butterfly and the feeling of blades of grass under toes. They revel in the magic of sand running between fingers and snowflakes landing on eyelashes.  From a daddy’s tickles to a sibling’s knock-knock jokes, young children can delight in a silly moment and want to recreate and relive it as many times as they can (perhaps until an adult tires of it, and asks them to play a new game). Living in a house full of small people who know how to embrace and enjoy the moments of their days, I realize that I am the only one who doesn’t get it.  So, these days, I am a student of my children, in the school of “Stop and smell the roses.” I long for more of their joy, their calm, their freedom, their humility. They rarely feel that life is too heavy to giggle. They don’t feel too important to slow down. They never feel too busy or stressed to play. In their view, life is play. When something beautiful or interesting or unexpected crosses their path, they are not inclined to view it as trivial or ill-timed. They receive it as gift.

And, marvel of marvels, Jesus instructed us to be like them. What hidden treasures might be found in encountering God’s world through their lens.

Mamas, do most of your arguments with your children begin with being in a hurry? I know mine do.  Children move slowly… they have a natural drive to take in, experience and learn about the world around them. It can be maddening when the rest of the world is moving so quickly. When there is a clock ticking, a place to be, a thing to be done, I can look at my children and think that their slow pace simply reflects a lack of responsibility. But it strikes me, that as children of God, we are given the opportunity to live with the same freedom. If it’s all up to me, and the weight of the world is on my shoulders, than there is simply no time to spare. But if God is on the throne, and I’m just a child in His world, destined to live in this fleshy body and with a limited number of hours in a day, then I am actually and truly free to slow the heck down. It has always amazed me that Jesus never seemed to rush. He was highly demanded of – perhaps more than anyone else who has walked the planet. Crowds by the thousands were desperate for his teaching and his healing touch. They chased him across bodies of water, and interrupted his quiet moments.  He knows how we feel, mamas!  And yet, he never seemed to hurry. Perhaps there is a childlike faith that allows us to believe in our depths that God only intends for us to be in the singular moment that we are in right now. When we feel we need to be in more than one place at a time, we are believing a lie. God can be all the places – we are only meant to be in the one.  Children seem to get it, but as we grow and gain responsibility and start believing that we are desperately needed to keep the world spinning, we forget how to live with this kind of presence.

I am watching my children, and trying to do everything in my power to NOT RUSH. I am vowing to never try to squeeze in a grocery store run on our way to another appointment. I will always build in time for someone to need to poop. I will expect the unexpected and stop viewing it as an inconvenience. I’m learning that life is sweeter when I spend more time observing and learning from my children, and less time trying to make them like me. If we play by their rules a little more, maybe I will spend a bit less time making the perfect birthday cake, and a lot more time enjoying the rolly polly on the sidewalk.  Friend, I’m finding this sweetness in building in “kid time.” Let the 8 yard walk to the car take 18 minutes so they (and you) can smell every flower and throw 47 helicopter maple seeds and pick up a caterpillar or two. Of course, many many mornings in my home still begin with my barking orders to put on shoes, or buckle up seat belts. Many times, we simply run out of time, and I grow quickly impatient. But, I am trying to shift my view and change my goals – delight versus efficiency.

I want to stop and smell the roses with my children, even if it means it’s going to take a little longer to get to where we’re going.  After at least a million failed attempts, I now know fully and officially that I cannot muster up patience, especially when every moment that I try has been preceded by all of the things that make me want to pull my hair out one strand at a time. No, I can’t muster up patience. But I can choose to stop and delight. I can choose a gratitude that slooows the mind and body. I can soak the laughter, and the long silly stories from the lips of my children. I can ask them why they think that beetle is so amazing, or to teach me how to turn a cardboard box into an amazing day of adventure. I can laugh as they eat an ice cream cone upside down, praising Jesus for washing machines.

The real deal on abundant life


John 10: 10b

…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)

…I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (NASB)

…I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (MSG)

Full. Abundant.  More and better than we could dream of.  I have read or heard this verse probably a thousand times, in all of it’s versions, about how Jesus came to give us full and abundant life.  Beautiful.  But rarely have I stopped to consider what this kind of fullness and abundance looks and feels like in the reality of my days.  In any version, with any number of interpretations, this verse draws our spirits to the kind of life that we long for – a life that is more and better and fuller than the one we would otherwise know.  Our souls long for the kind of fullness and meaning and satisfaction offered in knowing Jesus as the hero of the story…that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. So, why does life sometimes continue to feel empty and meaningless? Or just busy? Why do we get to the end of the day and wonder what it all was for?  Or lay our tired bodies down and wonder why we’re here?

I’ve been pondering these things in days that seem to be bursting with fullness of every kind. My days right now, with a newborn and four other children under 8 years old, are full in every imaginable way.  FULL of joy.  Full of tears.  Full of noise.  Full of laughter.  Full of boo-boos.  Full of kisses.  Full of love.  Full of hurt.  Full of mistakes.  Full of apologies…Just so full. Life is literally bursting at the seems. I am abundantly blessed. I know that this kind of fullness can’t really be what Jesus means when he says he came to give us full life, but I have a sense that there is something to learn from this place. I think what I am beginning to see is that, although grace though Christ Jesus is absolutely and completely free, the abundant living we are offered comes at a great cost to us. If we cling to our own abundance (of to-do’s, of worry, of fear, of busyness, of control), we miss the abundance that God offers us, and life begins to feel like too much in all the wrong ways.  For me, there are many moments when the fullness of my day does not feel like a gift, when the weight of it feels unbearable, when I don’t have enough hands to help, or eyes to keep watch, or ears to hear stories and questions, or food – never enough food…and I know there must be more to it.  There must be a way that I choose to either step forward into the abundant blessing offered to me through Jesus, or to just sit under an abundant pile of “too much.”  Whether you have a houseful of children, or one child whose needs and future weighs heavy on your heart, or a desk full of work, or an abundance of grief and loss or difficult diagnoses, or you just read the news this morning, the weight of the world can be crushing…abundantly so. So how can we step into a different kind of abundance? An abundance that frees our souls and makes our spirits soar? A fullness that makes us feel untouchable, because our spirits are secure and our feet are firmly planted in love and blessing? An abundance that makes us unable to keep our lips from singing God’s praise because it is just bubbling out of us?

I see that I can receive this kind of abundance only when I make a difficult trade. It costs me everything. I have to trade in the too-muchness of my life that I desperately feel cannot go on without me. I have to let it go…into the hands of God. I must make a choice to relinquish my control and admit that I am not and never will be enough. And only when I bring my brokenness and never-enough to the Lord can I receive the abundance that lets me live through too-full days with a sense of enough! I have to trade in an abundance of worry, submit to the sovereignty of God, and receive an abundance of peace that surpasses my understanding (Philippians 4: 6-7). I have to trade in an abundance of insecurity and self-doubt and let God wash me in an abundance of promises and sweet truths about how he knit me together in my mother’s womb and knew each of my days before I lived even one of them (Psalm 139). I have to trade in the tension and stress that builds with an abundance of fast-pace and noise and needs, and allow God to bring a slowness and rest to my spirit in the midst of it.  Rather than placing my hope in another cup of coffee, I have to lay down my broken, tired body, and allow God to use my emptiness as a vessel for the God who IS love, and the God who never sleeps to pour out his love and grace and energy. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my coffee. But there is a striving of the soul that exhausts beyond sleep deprivation. And there is a freedom of the soul that comes when we allow ourselves to live from inside of the weak and limited fleshy vessels God gave us.

All of this trading requires a difficult trust. It costs me everything that feels like it makes my life work. But I think I’m seeing that the truly abundant life that is offered to us in Christ, is found on the other side of letting go.

Life feels abundant in all new ways lately.  I feel beyond myself in almost every minute of my day, and as I am emptied out, God’s abundance is all I can live on…I need his filling every minute.  And to live in that place of constant dependence on Him is sweet blessing. The abundance that Jesus offers us cannot be “icing on the cake.” We can’t add it on top of our self-sufficiency.  In order to receive the fullness of the grace and peace and joy and love that He offers us, we have to first be empty.

So, today, as the noise builds and the pace quickens, I am abundantly empty of my own ability…and abundantly full of His. Praise be to God.