If you had told me at 8 a.m. that morning, when I was crying my eyes out, that it was going to be a great day, I would have said you were crazy.
That morning, I woke up to the flash and boom of thunder and lightning just before 6 a.m. I turned off my alarm, snuck into the kitchen for coffee, and curled up on the couch under a blanket with my bible and journal. My bible sat untouched as I began to journal my thoughts. I had a lot on my mind, and I was hoping to unload it all on God and get on with my day, light as a feather. Isn’t that what they tell us at church? Leave your troubles at the foot of the cross?
Well, the opposite happened. As I let myself feel and unload every frustration I had, I felt worse. I didn’t realize I had become so stressed. As I allowed myself to feel every ounce of it, I walked away from five full pages of my journal feeling heavy and upset.
Before I could figure out why, 7 a.m. hit and it was time to pour cereal, make lunches, check on sick daddy, help scramble for socks and shoes and backpacks and teeth brushing and umbrellas. So the heaviness stayed.
It was my last Friday before sending my youngest Gavin off to four-day-a-week pre-k, meaning this year, I will have more free time than I’ve ever had since having my oldest eight years ago.
I had pushed off taking Gav to the zoo too long, and now it was raining. So we were opting for the museum. I was wavering on whether we would actually go, thinking I still had a lot to get done (cleaning and a Goodwill run and bins for Heidi’s new desk and a new haircut for Gavin and returns at Target and and and…). But I was firm with myself. No. You told him you’d go. So go.
We packed lunches and put on comfortable shoes. Daddy snuck Gavin some cash through the car window before we left, “for cotton candy” (and of course, there was extra for me to get an iced coffee, bless him).
We were off. I decided to ignore all the millions of thoughts swirling in my head so I could enjoy spending time with my four year old. It was tough…but it was the absolute best decision I made that day.
I stuck my phone in my bag and didn’t pull it out for a couple hours. We took our time. We lingered in the exhibits we loved (dinosaurs and trains!), skipped the ones that didn’t interest us, and made a stop for snacks and lunch. We played tennis together for over an hour at the Sports Legends Experience, at which point I marveled we could actually get a volley going for quite some time. We looked in each other’s faces. We teased each other and laughed. We played together, laughing and lingering and ignoring phones.
It was life giving. So often as moms (and I am the guiltiest), we are so incredibly strung out sometimes that we live our lives striving for that down time, that alone time, that stop-touching-me time. It becomes our focus and entitlement. It’s so easy to fall into that headspace. “I need a break” today turns into “I need a break as often as I can get it.” I’ll admit I had tried to find friends to join us at the museum, both because I love being with my friends but also so that Gav would have someone to play with while we were there, leaving mommy to chat.
But as the day wore on, I found myself so very thankful it was just him and me. Every time he looked up at me with a laugh, his dimples popping and his nose wrinkling, giggling and smiling and enjoying me, I felt like the luckiest. At one point, we were just walking, holding hands, and he looked up at me )I swear with heart eyes) and said, “I love hanging out just you and me.”
Guys, that’s what it’s about. I melted. How could I possibly want to miss this? In my heart of hearts, of course I didn’t want to miss it. But I had let the clamor and stress and responsibilities of the world get in the way.
And this isn’t even about moms. This is about us as people. How often do we miss these moments with our spouses? Our parents? Our very best friends? Our neighbors? Our coworkers? How often do we let the stressful stuff get in the way of enjoying all the good stuff right in front of us? Yes, we all have legit things to do. We have jobs. We have bills to pay. We have full schedules sometimes when we don’t want it. But even then, it’s really our attitude that dictates whether we are enjoying our lives. Regardless of our to-do list, how often do we look our spouse in the face and tell them how cute we still think they are? Or listen to our kids’ endless stories with genuine interest, even though you’ve heard them a thousand times? Or drop off donuts to your best friend for no other reason than to tell her you’re so grateful for her?
Three and half hours at the museum, and putting off a few things, made my heart lighter. The lessons I learned today are cheesy but hold so much weight:
You don’t have to listen to that voice. The one that tells you you’re falling behind. The one that says you have to keep up. The one that says all your ducks have to be a in a row and your to-do list smashed and your marriage/kids/life perfect. You have the power to squelch that voice. Those of us who are believers in Jesus would say that voice is Satan. All he wants to do is run you into the ground. Don’t let that voice run rampant. Shut it down. You tell yourself what’s important. Your family, your spouse, your kids, your network of influence, your faith, your work: whatever it is God has put before you to take care of right now. And it sometimes takes conscious effort to switch gears, to tell your brain no, and to recalibrate in a better direction. But it’s possible.
For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
Be present. In our age of the internet and phones, this is tough. But it’s so essential, especially for our spouses and kids! Look them in the eye. Hug them. Tease them. Make them laugh. Do little surprises. Make it your job to breathe a little life back into your house. Go out on a limb and do something out of the ordinary, like ½ birthday celebrations or a movie night in mom and dad’s bed or a surprise date night out (or surprise date in with your favorite takeout and old movies!) Get yourself to think creatively about ways to be more present instead of staying stuck in a resentful pattern and always waiting on someone else to create the fun and joy and appreciation. My little family and I have the most fun and connection when we do something outside of our routine, like travel or make a last-minute trip to the park or to visit friends.
“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world yet forfeit their soul?” Matthew 16:26
Stay in your lane. Focus on what’s in front of you. Not what others are doing. Not what you’d rather be doing. But what’s on your plate right now. And guard that plate with your life. Your journey will be different from other people’s journey…and their journey is rarely what it looks like on the outside.
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: mind your own business and work with your hands…” 1 Thessalonians 4:11
Acknowledge your stress and sadness but move on with your responsibilities and commitments anyways. Write in your journal. Call a friend. Pray. Go for a run. Find healthy ways to release some of the junk so that you can focus on what needs to be done. You don’t have to ignore those ugly feelings. But you can pat them on the head and set them aside, trusting God will handle it in His time. As we endure the trials, He shapes us into stronger, more steadfast people.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Be grateful. I can’t stress that enough. This is my biggest one. This flips everything on its head. It turns what’s stressing you out into something you’re thankful for. It turns situations I can’t control into opportunities for growth. It turns my long list of things I want but don’t have into a long list of things I have that I don’t deserve.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 6:16-18
Usually I am exhausted after a day at the museum. I started the day with eyes blurred by tears and a brain foggy with stress. But as the day wore on, I felt humbled and snapped back to reality. I thank God He uses the little children to teach us what life is all about. I got home that day with clear eyes and a full heart. It really was a great day.