I had a revelation this morning that was of rocket science magnitude.
Per usual, breakfast was going fairly crappy. Not gonna lie, mornings kinda suck at our house. Apparently we all wake up on the wrong side of the bed pretty much every day. Today was no exception. We had fun Saturday morning plans, but alas, the day that held so much promise was quickly plummeting. And it wasn't even 8AM.
I removed one child from the situation for awhile, took some deep breaths, fed the other children breakfast, pleaded Jesus to bring His peace into my kitchen, then went and got the other child. We sat down on the couch and prayed together. For obedience, kindness, and the peace of God to cover over us. It was short and sweet. It was also effective. Rocket science, right? Prayer is like the most basic thing ever and yet it's so often the last thing we think of.
Sometimes, for some unknown reason, young moms ask me for advice on mothering. Honestly, I don't know why. Maybe because my blog makes it totally apparent that I'm an open book and don't hide my failures. It's certainly not because I've got this parenting thing mastered. For one thing, my kids are too young for me to have mastered anything at all, and for another thing, there are many, many times each day when my parenting totally sucks. Today, between 7:30-8:30am and again between 7:30-8:30pm, to be exact. I was insensitive, rude, unloving, selfish, totally lacking compassion, and taking out my frustration with one child on all the other children. So I don't know why other moms would ever ask my advice.
But, thank you for asking. I finally have an answer for you. Oh, I've fumbled my way through answers before, making up every word as I go. Or maybe I even made it sound like I totally knew what I was talking about last time you asked. Or maybe I was condescending when you asked, sounding like it was my way or the highway. If so, I'm very sorry. Because truth be told, I can only take one day at a time, and I don't know anymore than you know. Sometimes (okay, everyday) I sit in the bathroom perusing facebook much longer than I actually need to be in the bathroom, just because I'm not ready to come out.
But I do know one thing and that's what I'm offering to you: pray.
That's it. Pray. Everyday in every way. Every moment of the day, it's the right time. (Anyone else singing that old VBS song now?) Such a cheesy song. Such a profound truth. Just pray.
Everytime I open facebook I am bombarded with motherhood blogs. (Mine is one of them, so thank you so much for reading!) It's overwhelming, isn't it? We have blogs about schedules, activities, priorities, discipline, how crazy our kids drive us, how much we love our kids, how much we should or should not look at our smart phones during the day, how to protect our children from predators. We read blogs that make women like me feel guilty for choosing not to breastfeed, and then women like me write blogs about how much better it is to bottle feed our babies because A) they sleep better, B) they poop less and C) we get our bodies back.
And now there's been a new trend in blogs about how we should all parent like our parents parented us, and care way less about the whereabouts and whatsabouts of our kids. (Which I kind of appreciate...but if we are saying that our parents did parenting totally right, then we're also saying that our generation of adults must be highly emotionally, mentally, financially, spiritually, and physically healthy people, and umm....well...) And then we look at pinterest to find awesome party and holiday ideas, and then we read blogs about how our generation of parents goes way over the top on parties and holidays.
And let's not even start about the millions of blogs we could read on children sleep training....
Oh my goodness gracious! It's completely overwhelming. And most of us reading these articles are already completely overwhelmed, post-partum emotionally crazy hormonal sleep-deprived mama-bears anyway, which makes the overwhelmingness that much more.
We are information-overloaded hot messes my friends. At least I am.
So, my advice for my fellow hot-mess mamas? Just pray. About everything.
Maybe it's time to stop reading all the blogs on discipline, and just ask the Creator of your child how you should discipline him.
Maybe it's time to stop reading all the blogs on sleep training, and ask the Creator of your child (who is also the creator of sleep!), how He wired your kid for sleep needs.
Maybe it's time to stop worrying about how much you should or should not look at your smart phone around your kids, and ask the God who loves you to give you the mental breaks you need at the times you need them, and the grace to cover you in all your parenting mistakes.
Maybe it's time to stop reading the blogs about how much a parent should or should not know the exact whereabouts of her child, and pray that Jesus would be your child's mighty protector and deliverer in all times and in all things.
When we had our first daughter, trying and failing to nurse ruined the first six weeks. The stress level was so high in our house, over breastfeeding, that finally I just absolutely fell apart and said I quit. No more. New mamas reading this, maybe you're going through the same thing, and the blog-o-sphere isn't going to help you on this one. It will bring condemnation either way. But you know what? You have a Heavenly Father who created your body and your baby's body, and He knows if breastfeeding will be a healthy choice for you and your baby or not. Ask Him before you read any blogs about it. And even if you are still doubting your decision, I assure you that His grace is big enough to cover the issue of bottle or breast feeding.
I'm not actually suggesting we stop reading or writing about parenting. Being well-parented is the most basic and crucial spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical development criteria for every single human being, so we should absolutely continue to learn and grow. But perhaps, my friend, if you are feeling information-overload in the midst of your overwhelming task of parenting, just stop reading and start praying.
Not one parenting blog ever written was written about your child, unless you wrote it. God is the only source that is fully trustworthy for our answers on our own kids.
Now, I know you already pray. Mamas pray...that's how God made us. Daddies pray...that's how God made them. I know non-believers who've told me that even though they don't necessarily know why or to whom they are praying, in moments of crisis, they pray for their kids. It's innate. So yes, you already pray, absolutely.
I just mean pray more. About everything. Very often, in the midst of the disaster that is morning at our house, I'll just stop in the middle of the kitchen and say, "Jesus, come into chaos this now."
"Jesus, calm my heart." "Jesus, teach him to obey right now." "Jesus, I need sleep. Make that child sleep. Cover that child with your peace and let him fall asleep. Immediately."
I think we human creatures shy away from two things in our prayers: The things we think are too big to pray about, and the things we think are too little to pray about. However, God is mightier than the biggest thing you face, and He is more detailed than the tiniest detail with which you struggle. He wants you to talk to him about it all.
When our first daughter was three-years old, her tantrums were something beyond what you ever could have prepared me for. They brought me to tears many times, and sometimes lasted hours, even in the middle of the night. Sometimes in the midst of tantrums, I'd call girlfriends in tears, "What do I do???"
One time I was talking about this at church to an acquaintance, and she said, so calmly and matter-of-factly, "When you daughter is in the midst of a tantrum, have you ever tried holding her tight and praying over her?"
Ummm...what? I'm too busy being angry and overwhelmed. Oh I pray for her a lot, when I'm calm. But in the midst of a tantrum? I'm embarrassed to say it had never occurred to me. But that advice was six years ago, and it has been incredibly influential advice. We have another child whose tantrums rival and exceed the tantrums of our eldest; many times I have held him tight like a straight jacket and prayed over him as he has been tantruming and flailing. And not every time, but many times, as I pray over my upset children, I can feel and see the peace of God flood over them and over me. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
When our second daughter was three-years old, she didn't have tantrums but she did have a very terrible time learning to use the potty. I remember one night, when Paul and I were both just at the end of our rope, I was just asking God, "Okay, you know her better than me. How can I train her to poop in the toilet?"
Friends, I kid you not, I heard one word from God: "Princesses." Yep. Princesses. Princesses poop too. We knew that the reason she hated pooping is because she hates all things gross. God knows her heart, and he told me what she needed.
I went back into the bathroom, and started talking calmly about how princesses poop. Belle poops in the Beast's castle, Ariel must have an underwater bathroom, Tinkerbell uses a Pixie Hollow restroom, Rapunzel has a bathroom in her tower, and on and on and on. We covered every princess imaginable, and then the girl pooped. The next night, fewer princesses, then fewer, and then eventually we didn't have to discuss princesses in the bathroom anymore.
When people asked me what finally worked and I told them, the response was always, "Princesses! Ha! How did you think of that?!" My response was, "Me? No way. I would never have thought of that. God told me." Oh my. The baffled looks in response. But it's the truth. I cried out to God and he faithfully answered. And it worked.
The thing is, God really does know the answer for every single thing about our kids. Every question we have about our children, God knows. God loves our kids more than we love our kids, and God knows what our kids are thinking all.the.time. When we look at each other as parents and exclaim, "WHAT WAS HE THINKING!!!???' Well, guess what. God does knows what he was thinking, and it does well to just ask him.
"God, what was my son thinking when he did that? Is there something here I need to know?"
God knows the number of hairs on our children's heads and everything else about our children. He knows how each child needs to be disciplined, how each child needs to express herself, how each child needs to be loved, how each child is going to respond to every single situation. We must ask Him. And His word promises us that when we call, He will answer.
As parents, we need to listen expectantly for God's answer. When Jeremiah is depressed and in prison and totally at the end of his rope about how he is going to get the people to obey (sound familiar??), God came to him and said: "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things that you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3
Other versions use the words hidden and unsearchable to describe the things that God wants to tell us.
Friend, do you need to know great, mighty, hidden and unsearchable truths about your child? Do you need to know the mysteries of how your child should be disciplined or how you can help your child develop her fascination with pandas or his utter (albeit destructive) love of mechanics and engineering and taking apart everything to find out how it works? God knows. Do you need to help your child become physically healthier but don't know how to motivate her to exercise? God created her body and her muscles. He knows. Whatever your question, God has great and mighty answers for you. Anxiety? Pray. Disobedience? Pray. Sassing? Pray. Nursing? Pray. Sleeping? Pray. Fighting? Pray. Won't stop hitting sibling? Pray. Drugs? Pray. Potty-training? Pray. Tantrums? Pray. Body Image? Pray. Mama's emotional ability to make it through a day? Pray. Pray, pray, pray.
Because friend, the God of the great and mighty created our children to be great and mighty. God's heart is for us to know how to parent each child in all her uniqueness, not so that you can win parent-of-the-year, but so that God can be glorified through the gifts and abilities that your child brings to the world.
So friends, let's start asking the Creator of our children for answers on our children. The God of the great and mighty is waiting for us.