On Being Present

Wednesday, August 13, 2014  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

I love that you can share ideas with a ton of people through the medium of blog posts. It's very cool and convenient. But at the same time, sometimes it leaves gaps in the story, advice, or overall picture of what is being typed out. To be honest, I enjoy the process of writing to share my heart, but I do not consider myself a writer per se. I'm a leader, an investor in people, a passionate prophet, and I use this blog to share my heart, however, my written words don't always flow naturally, and sometimes, a week or so later, I feel heavy at the thought of placing unintended burdens on people.

Last week I enjoyed the privilege of sharing a bit of parenting advice on my lovely friend Alysa's blog. I most certainly stand by the overall point that, for me, each stage of parenting has been better than the last. However, after more thought on this very subject I wanted to take the opportunity to add some clarification of what it has meant for me to be present through each season with my kids.

A definition of present that I'm quite fond of is "existing in the now." That's it. Pretty basic. It doesn't say loving every single minute, thriving always, knowing exactly what to do, or being overly positive or inauthentic about life's challenges. Being present is existing in the now. Shauna Niequist put it this way a few months ago: "Present over perfect." Yes, present as to not miss anything, but being present does not require rose colored glasses of fakeness or oblivion.

My overall hope of the post was to encourage parents to be present in the seasons of their kids' lives. However, a burden of day to day drudgery may have been hoisted onto the backs of moms who are currently struggling, and that is never ever my intention. Listen, I'm no perfect lady. Through the years there were late summer days that I just wanted/needed school to start, or night terrors or vomit explosions that led to sleepless nights that led to grouchy next day mom, or kids that wouldn't listen so I yelled my frustrations in their face to say "CAN ANYONE HEAR ME NOW?!"

Oh yes. So many sins I could list here, but that isn't the point. I've owned up to my mistakes with my kids and with my Jesus, so I'm able to move forward and trust that God is molding me through the process of parenting. Make no mistake. Parenting isn't only about you molding your kids. In fact, through parenting, my life is continually being molded by a gracious and direct God in unbelievably profound ways.

But here is what I really want to tell you about being present as a parent.

It's not about being in every moment of every day. Sometimes we get so caught up in keeping our heads down to do the work on the ground level that we forget to look up and see the trail, to gain our bearings from the sun and stars, and see the path ahead. Sometimes being present is about living in the day to day, taking it all in, caring for sickies or whiners, making memories, holding and cuddling. Sometimes being present is about keeping your parental vision of raising humans beings that love God and love others in focus so that you don't lose your way.

The times I struggle the most in parenting is when I've been neglecting taking care of my soul. Do you have the times that you are "so present" that you haven't showered, gotten out of the house and walked through an isle of breakable things without panicking, read a book, or talked to an adult? Those times for me shriveled my soul. Now, I've never been a proponent of "me time." Seriously. I cannot stand that phrase. Our culture is obsessed with self. But I am a very strong proponent of soul refreshing time.

Friends, one of the very best ways you can be present as a parent with your family is to care for your soul. What fills you? What breathes life into your weary bones? Do you even know? Are you willing to set time aside to just read for 10 minutes a day? Can you leave your child in their room so you can take a five minute shower? Do not just take care of your body through diet and exercise. Do not just take care of your mind through reading a good book or engaging in good conversation. Do not just take care of your heart through spending time in prayer or going out with friends.

Take care of your whole, entire person. Your soul.

Do not get bogged down in the external distractions of self, self, self. Look inward to see what you truly need, and then allow God to deal with your soul. Five to ten minutes a day of soul care will carry you through being present so that you can believe that each stage is better than the last.

For those of you that are in the trenches this is what soul care looks like for me then and now:

  • exercise 4-5 days a week at a gym with childcare (glorious gym childcare. *sigh*)
  • read 5-10 minutes a day, not to my kids, to myself
  • meals at the table most nights when I had littles, 2-3 times a week currently
  • showered when I wanted to, put my kids in their crib or room guilt free
  • "Go play in your room without my direction or instruction. Just play."
  • regular Bible study either by myself or with a group of friends -- so refreshing
  • investment into others' lives so that I wasn't self-focused
  • invited people over regularly and taught our kids that they weren't the center 
  • adult music in my car -- the Wheels on the Bus can wait 
  • deep breaths, eyes closed, whispered prayers of thankfulness and love

Oh this is such a short list. Soul care is deep, important work. I continue to learn about how important it is. (I'm currently reading a book on this topic. I'm only on chapter 3 and I love it so much, but feel the need to be responsible to read the whole thing before I recommend it. Stay tuned for more on this subject.) 

How do you care for your soul? Do you engage more in your external or internal life? What importance do you see in the balance of both internal and external when it comes to being present? Have you experienced that your current season with your kids is better than the last? Why or why not?  

Choosing to Believe :: Better Than the Last

Tuesday, August 05, 2014  ::   7 important comments

As we walked out of the orphanage, tiny little arms clung to our necks like we were her only hope of survival in this strange outside world she just entered. Red taxis zoomed passed us blaring their horns as was the cultural expectation. The sultry air was thick, but mostly because of the weight of responsibility we took on that day. From this moment on, we vowed to be Mom and Dad, to care for, raise up, nurture, invest in, lay down our lives for this child and any other child God saw fit to put into our hearts and arms.

Today as we drove Kyle to his fourth day of ninth grade, he announced, "177 school days left in this year." My heart sank and all I could do was shush him.

In only 177 short days the sweet arms that so tightly gripped our necks will be walking across the high school graduation stage. Esther will wear her purple cap and gown over the lovely dress I'll probably have to beg her to wear. I imagine her guest list at the ceremony will be one of the largest of all the students because she so dearly loves the community of people that so dearly love her.

As all moms do, through the years I've received my fair share of advice, critiques, and future projections from friends and strangers about parenting. So many of the unnecessary and annoying comments pushed me to be a better mom, to be more present, to not fall into the ugliness that people projected onto me and my family. I wrote a guest post describing my philosophy concerning this for my lovely friend, Alysa. You can read it here if you would like more context for what I'm writing now.

In trying to be present, I honestly feel like I've done a great job not looking back, wishing for the old days or looking forward, longing for time to go faster or get easier. One of my parenting goals is to be present in my four kids' lives while raising them with vision and hope for their future. It has not always been easy, but like training muscles, I worked to train my heart and mind to be disciplined in each stage of parenting.

But currently I'm being challenged in this goal. You just read that there are only 177 days of school left! Esther will be graduating and forging her way in the world. I am so looking forward to watching it all unfold. She is determined, trustworthy, intelligent, loving, loyal, and dependable. God's plans for her probably do not include living at home forever so I can peek in her room at night to say a little prayer over her while she sleeps. It is for the best of everyone that our journey keeps moving forward.

I've never been afraid of any coming season for my kids. Sure, I've been completely ignorant of the next step, or nervous for kindergarten, or apprehensive about letting them gain more independence, but fear about the future has not been a plague to my heart.

But, friends, I'm struggling to remain present in this season knowing what is coming in the next season. It feels like as soon as Esther moves out, Kyle, Morgan, and Carah will move out a minute later. It freaks me out to the point of tears leaking out of my eyes in the most random times. Like now.

Confession: I'm afraid.

Redemption: God knows.

He is giving me scripture in each moment of heart-jarring future dread.  He is enabling me to choose to continue to be present and fully enjoy this stage, while choosing to believe each stage is better than the last. He is giving me moments with my family to savor all their "You're such a dork, Mom" grins while I make them stand in a circle and hold hands so I can look deeply into their faces and make a mental memory picture. He's filled my home with love, laughter, and hope for the future that overcomes my minutes of gasps as I realize Esther turns 18 in one month and I have gray hair and wrinkles.

They give me this look often. I have no idea why.
LKM Photography 
So do not fear, do not be dismayed. I will strengthen and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~ Isaiah 41:10

It will be ok. It will be so difficult to transition through these coming months and years, but so far God has provided experiential truth to my declaration that each season with my kids has been better than the last.

Where are you in journey, parenting or otherwise? Does being present come natural for you or does it take work? Do you look to the future with dread or with a better than the last mentality? Please share your comment love. 

P.S. Here is an interesting observation: Most of the people in my life don't have kids, have kids that are significantly younger than mine, or already have grandkids. I don't know very many people in my current stage. Please know that I'm raw in this area before you type out your comment or send me a message. You may not want my feisty response. I mentioned in an earlier paragraph that moms often receive advice, critiques, and future projections. I'm a little or a lot more straight forward with that kind of stuff than I used to be. But don't let this disclaimer deter you from sharing.