the gift of being present.

In an age where each of us has multiple social media accounts, laptops, iPads, and iPhones, it can be incredibly easy to always live in the virtual and never in the present. Obviously, I love social media and am thankful for it in many ways. It was Facebook and text messages with my friends in the wee hours of the night while nursing my babies that helped me get through some very dark and lonely times. Social media is also a great way to keep in general touch with all of our friends and family, even when miles make us far apart.

My boys get to have me all day, everyday, since I don't work outside the home and so my days pretty much always revolve around them. I love to watch them do imaginative and independent play and consider it a double bonus when they play with each other without me having to break up a toy argument. 

Today on our way to swim lessons I was listening to a Christian radio station that talked about an article focusing on the gift of being present, and I was convicted hard. It made me think about how there are many times throughout the day where I think I am being present with my kids but my heart, mind, and focus are on other things. When I was growing up, my mom always made sure that we gave her eye contact and respect while speaking to her and I think it played a big role in why I loved communication since childhood. I can see now how I am not always demonstrating the same focus to my kids but at the same time I am constantly asking for it back. Calvin even confronted me today and said, while grabbing my face, "Mom, can you talk to me!?" It broke my heart to hear these words. I never want my kids to feel like they need to compete for my attention with a device and here Calvin was competing for my attention.

So now I need to focus on balance when I am with them. I am not glued to my phone or laptop and do not need these things 24/7 to feel connected or anything. But I am trying to see how I can better be 100% present with my kids and when I can be fully present with my husband and then also have time to be present in my interests (blogging, reading, etc.) instead of partially giving myself here and there. I have found that putting my phone on airplane mode so that I am not tempted with notifications has been helpful in being fully present. I do not want to always feel guilty while reading a blog, news article, or streaming through Instagram, but the fact that I do feel guilty tells me I probably spend too much time on these things.

God's mercies are new each morning, so I pray that tomorrow I can focus on balancing my interests, my boys interests, and my responsibilities to take care of matters in our home. If you are like me at all and find yourself having some mom guilt, then join me in putting the phone and laptop down while the kids are playing. I want to notice and be alert whenever my boys show each other kindness. I want to see their reactions when they learn something new. I am more convinced that the world will look a lot more beautiful through my own eyes than through the glass (or whatever material it's made out of now) of my iPhone.

Tomorrow I hope I can give Calvin and Max the gift of me being present. I may think I do not have enough time in a day and therefore need to do 20 things at once, but truly I do have time. I just need to learn how to use it wisely. 

Kind of contradicts my post but her are some pics of the boys playing well together. A time and place for everything. 

Kind of contradicts my post but her are some pics of the boys playing well together. A time and place for everything. 


Guest Post by: Kerrie DeBerry Mothering Wee Ones

Guest post by Kerrie DeBerry. Kerry is a pastor's wife in South Dakota and a good friend of mine from seminary, she has 4 beautiful daughters.

It happened again. I’m in the most comfortable position ever, blanket wrapped around me, all tucked in and warm. You know that moment right when you’re blissfully on the verge of falling fast asleep. And then comes the cry “Mommmyyyyyy,” out of the depths…AGAIN. I had just rocked one little one back to bed after a coughing attack and tiptoed back to bed. It’s like those old cartoons where the character is resting peacefully and an anvil falls on their head. That’s how I feel. Nonetheless, I painfully peel myself out of position A and go comfort another child in the middle of the night.

I’m pretty sure you can relate if you’re a mom. Maybe your child has that special, God-given piercing cry. We joke that our third girl wakes up crying like she is trapped in a dungeon. Actually, that’s kind of what getting woken up several times a night can feel like—torture. As a mother of four little girls with the oldest just five this week, I have had my share of these moments. I know many people have it worse than me. I have some friends who struggle with this EVERYDAY, not just when the kids are sick or particularly ornery.

Discomforts like this tempt me in all sorts of ways. Actually motherhood in general has revealed a mountain of struggles I didn’t know were there. Not because my circumstances have caused me to sin, but because they have brought to the surface the sin already in my heart. The love of comfort might be the granddaddy of them all.

In that vein, God has been convicting me lately of how I can play the victim in my mothering. I just read from an author I love about how if we are sitting down at the end of the day recounting all the ways we’ve been “robbed” of something, that’s probably a red flag signaling deeper problems in our heart. I can often dwell on those little “thefts” when it comes to my children and all the work I put into them.

So I thought it might be encouraging to some, and to be honest, helpful for me, to think of some categories where I often feel “robbed” as a mother. But then to examine how Scripture speaks into those areas.

Robbery #1: Comfort/Time to Myself

It’s not only lack of sleep that bumps my comfort cup. For instance, not sitting down for a meal, having half distracted conversations, rushing most of my showers, minimal reading time, and a plethora of other comforts that were a given before. I can easily celebrate with my own pity party—with thoughts invited to the party like, “Can I just go meet someone for coffee or go out on a date with my husband without having to spend more time wrangling up babysitters and getting the kids ready than time I actually get out?” Motherhood is one big juggling act that is often physically and emotionally demanding.

I am becoming more and more aware of my love of comfort. The things I desire are not bad in and of themselves. But I am not entitled to them. I am giving something up, that’s the point. I’m laying down my life for others, monthly, daily, hourly and I need to do this without measuring how much “me time” I get back, or holding it against those whom I am serving. Jesus’ words are recorded in Matthew 8:20-“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” God Himself in Jesus Christ came to lay his life down including his own comfort and ease. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” He didn’t say “Well, I don’t mind coming to save you, but if it means pushing myself too hard or giving up my little comfort zone then never mind.” It cost him all the comforts of this world, even unto a death he didn’t deserve. In everything he did, his aim was to please his Heavenly Father. When I lay aside my desire for comfort, ease, or more “me” time and serve my children without calculating a return on investment, I am pleasing my Heavenly Father. When I don’t do this and I fail, I can look to Jesus who has perfectly obeyed in my place.

Robbery #2. My Plan for My Life

This is a big one, right? If I am able to nurse our fourth daughter until she is 1, it will have been six and a half years of being pregnant or nursing…nonstop. That is some serious hormones going on! God formed our family the way he wanted to, perfect for us and in his good timing. But if you had asked me ten years ago, this would NOT have been my ideal plan. Whether an unplanned pregnancy, not being able to bear children, a sick child, a needy child, wanting your career back, wanting your husband to change, or wanting things to be the way they used to be; all of these can challenge our contentment and seemingly disrupt our plans. And most days it’s just the plan for the day that gets threatened. “If these kids would just listen and do what I need them to do then I could actually get something done!” “It would be great if they could not throw a fit when we are already running late.” “If that baby would just sleep, ugh…” It could be anything. Your “plan” was ruined or hijacked.  And I know for me, my response can be anger, impatience, annoyance, frustration, and even despair at times.

Yet, what God has in mind for those who love him is infinitely greater than any plan we could have concocted. Our perceived “disruptions” are actually opportunities. How will we respond? I have to daily fight with this. He knows when the child will have the fit, when they won’t sleep, when they half listen, get sick, or interrupt you. Not only knows it, but planned it! He wants you to simply be faithful in that moment. The temptation for us is always to see what we don’t have and conclude that this “thing” (e.g. child compliance) would ultimately round out my plan and make life better. But just like we observe in little children who want a toy when it’s being used but suddenly lose interest when they get it, what we want won’t ultimately satisfy. And it may be that our “plans” getting messed up is exactly what God wants in order to reshape our hearts. As Augustine said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”

Robbery #3. Joy

I can be crazy mom…a lot.  By joy, I don’t mean simply putting on a happy face. I want deep down joy in my heart that is not shattered by my circumstances or how much sleep I get or how productive my day was, or how patient I am with my children. I want joy that seeps into every part of me, from the less frequent super-fun moments (it’s OK if this isn’t ALL THE TIME) to the more frequent monotony of wiping noses, changing diapers, doing laundry, making meals, working another job, balancing friendships, loving my husband, and getting down-time.  Again, just like that ideal life or day we desire, we can think that joy is somewhere “out there.” If only I can get through this phase, then I’ll be happy. If only I can have more time to do this with my kids, then I’ll be happy. If I can just get this over with, fulfillment awaits.

Recently two thoughts have struck me about my Savior from Scripture. First, Jesus found great joy for 30 years living a quiet, obscure life, learning a trade, serving his family—doing the same things over and over again. He was content in God and filled with joy without every circumstance being perfect. We don’t have to experience something amazing or some self-made “victory” to experience joy. Joy comes from humility. Sacrifice is what it means to follow Jesus’ example—for the “joy set before him.” In mothering young children, humility looks like doing the same things over and over, sacrificing in a thousand little ways, being self-forgetful and being OK with not being noticed.

I have been discovering that humility admits that I don’t have it all figured out…and also not constantly pining to make it look like I do.  It is accepting my circumstances and limitations with joy. It is not striving to just get through so I can do what I really want to do or be in a season that would really satisfy me. Because the next season will come. When we finally throw the diaper pail away, give our toddler clothes away and stop hearing “mommy daddddy come wipe meeeee” we will just be facing new and different challenges. So right now I want to embrace this season with all of my heart before it slips away.

In a favorite book of mine lately, “Treasuring Christ when Your Hands are Full,” Gloria Furman says, “Is that service to my child a sacrifice that brings its own blest reward in their well-being, the consciousness of serving God, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? When a mother triumphs in the gospel, her bright hope in Jesus outshines any earthly gain she could have had from holding back from her child Jesus’ sacrificial love.”

I know I haven’t said it all. I know I miss things and there is so much more for me to learn. And in ten years I’ll re-read this and smile at how naive I was and how much more I had to learn. But whether you are sitting as your little ones are ransacking your house and laughing and playing, whining at your leg and cranky, or you have just tiptoed away from a sleeping baby, be encouraged. Motherhood is a difficult gift. Through tired, dreary eyes I hope you can see a God who is orchestrating all of your days so that you might find your ultimate rest in him.

extra hours.

I have been telling myself for a few years now that if I only had a few extra hours a day I would be a much better wife and mom. 24 hours is not enough time to complete all the tasks I give myself and the time to fulfill all my families needs. But when I take a step back to see how I do spend all my time I can see where my sinfulness and selfishness get in the way of being productive but also intentional with my day.

At any given time I have a running list in my head of ideas, lists, to-do's, tasks, and goals. I once heard that guys are like waffles and girls are like spaghetti. Women tend to make all areas of our lives to be on equal playing fields and equally urgent and guys are better at categorizing.  While this might not be true for everyone it is true with Nick and I. My family definitely has needs that need to be addressed quickly and timely but they do not demand all of my day 24/7.

The extra hours I wish I had would be used to read, study, creativity, and community. Many days I feel so guilty because I am counting the hours until the boys go to bed so I can have "me" time. I don't think there is at the surface anything wrong with me wanting time alone to dapple in all these areas.  But when these ideas consume my thoughts during the day I can see how it affects my mood with my kids. My dream for as long as I can remember was to be a mom and here I am with two healthy boys. I never want them to see me frustrated or anxious because I am not reading the blogs I want, or the book I have sitting on my night stand, or that recipe I have been dying to try out. They are my priority and my life right now is a season. 

If I had extra hours in the day I would hope that I would first seek time with the Lord and more time with my family. I admit that for months my bible had sat on my coffee table. I had every intention of reading the Word when the kids napped but then would find myself watching TV, or going on Pinterest, or blogging. The funny thing is every time I used the time I do have to workout or be in God's Word I in turn would have a better day and appreciation for all I have. And the times spent wishing for things I did not have left me feeling ungrateful. I know there is nothing wrong with wanting some extra "Gina time" but my prayer is that I would be content with this season life knowing how fast it goes away.  I am praying that each day I would learn how to better balance my many hates. Mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister, and blogger.

Do you ever wish you had more alone time during the day? Do you have older kids and therefore have some more time to dapple into some of your hobbies? How do you balance your day?