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Friday, February 06, 2009

Gently Led

Today in response to Missy at It's Almost Naptime I am reflecting on the preschool years.

In letter form, but actually more of a rambling...hey, I'm at the end of the precious, hair-raising preschool days. My baby climbed to the top of the pantry today to eat gummy bears for breakfast (before I awoke) so cut me a little slack! Here goes.

Dear self of last decade,

My kids are 9, 7, 5 and 3(as of next week). Yes, number 4 is technically a preschooler. However, last year I had a revelatory moment where one thing became clear to me. No matter how many more babies joined our family, the days of being at home with preschoolers were over for me. Over. **sniff, sniff**

Yes, I am one of "those"mothers. The ones who from the tender age of 8 decided I would be a mommy when I grew up and carry babies all the time. There was only one thing that rocking Baby Tender Love and feeding Baby Alive failed to prepare me for. Real babies grow into school aged children. Children with opinions and emotions and habits and character.

I loved the days of waking up, donning sweats and never looking in the mirror. I loved the feeling that came when a touch of my hand or the sound of my voice stilled their every cry. I rocked babies a lot, sang and danced in the kitchen and desperately wanted my babies to feel loved and nurtured. I made it a point on days that I consciously made choices to rock, hold or cuddle a baby over mopping the floor or scrubbing the sink to write it in my journal. I want to look back and have as few regrets as possible.

Even with the no regrets motto, I still did plenty wrong. Many, many days and weeks and months were spent in "survival mode" because I was tired. Very tired.

It has taken me years to learn that putting my husband before my children's needs is actually allowing my children's needs to take top priority. When my husband feels as if he's being respected by my words and actions and that his goals are my own goals, everyone flourishes in our home. Still, easier said than done. I wish I would've taken the rubberband out of my hair and worn that cute skirt to our dinner table a little more in those days. My man thinks it's important.

I wish I would've really, really listened to him. I wish I would've held the same views on extra activities, play groups, clothes, pictures and discipline. I tend to be indulgent while he's not home. Obeying his rules when he's gone has made a huge difference. I am slowly learning that whatever Daddy's standard is, that's what I am to train my children to become. (See any spiritual truths there?)

I made naptime a huge goal. Getting all two or three or four children to sleep at the same time was paramount. That was "me" time. Time I planned for each day. Time to wash clothes, do dishes, read, write, study the Bible, shower. When it didn't happen, I became angry and frustrated.

I made a commitment to God about my time just this year. If any of the five other people in this house are awake, it is their time, not mine. If that happens before 10:00 at night or after 6:30 in the morning, it's a bonus. I wish I would've been more flexible with that when they were at home all day. When three slept, why didn't I read to the one or create a pretty picture with the other? Well, again, I was tired. So very tired.

I constantly reasoned with myself that if I only had one at home there would be more quality time. The reality is that I now have one at home, the battles are the same. This is where the shift happened. School-aged children have a different set of needs. The time is even more limited and the car happens to be our home on most days. **wink, wink**

I remember the day that God spoke several blessings to my heart about having my kids so close together in age. They don't fight much. They play lots. They rely on each other, often more than they rely on me. They challenge each other in ways I could never challenge them with their different personalities and their birth order. Choose the blessings over the harder to live with things and don't sweat what you can't change.

I always had a week long plan for a spotless house (Anybody heard of Fly Lady?). After number three it became a biweekly plan. After number four, I burned the plan. I let a "dirty" house keep me from entertaining and practicing hospitality far more than I should have.

I let "the way I always dreamed it would be" rule decisions that I made instead of asking God to reveal the way He says it should be and change the way of my heart.

I have realized that I had stretches that were good, easy, enjoyable, all by the grace of God and many Godly older women, and then there were the growing phases. The months that I had no playgroup, the months a certain child cried everyday...all day and all night...every night, the months that I couldn't hear God's voice in the midst of the child-filled chaos that was my home. That goes back to the issue of my time. I have come to a point now where I want to hear His voice more than I desire a good night's sleep or any night's sleep at all. I sleep less, much less. Yet, I hear Him more and I hear him consistently. I wish I would've read the Bible when I nursed each baby instead of watching the television. (I started this with #4)

Practically, I wish I would've been prepared for all the stuff. Mountains of stuff invaded my house. Then in just a few short weeks or months the baby would outgrow it. How I just wanted to be rid of the stuff. How I wanted space. Nothing touching me. Open places in an already cramped house (Okay, I still long for this but am repenting by the minute). I wish I would've had a storage system, filing system, any system for that matter, in place for all the stuff. Seriously. I didn't. Still don't know exactly how I would fix it, I just wish I had. Example, I got rid of my daughter's Polly Pockets. She didn't play with them and I kept sucking up their cute, little stylish shoes with the vacuum. Why didn't I store them in a plastic container until she was a little older? Because sure enough, she asked for them. And, the mother guilt appeared.

Here's a list of other mother guilt regrets (however, I know in heaven my memory will be perfect and there will be no need for a scrapbook): far too few home videos, no scrapbooks of babies 2 or 3, no photos of baby 3, throwing away Polly Pockets and other momentarily unwanted objects of desire, being too tired to read, pray, sing or cuddle to sleep babies, letting my survival (or lack thereof) affect my loved ones in any way, and there are more. So many more. And, about the mother guilt, don't. waste. the. time. or. energy. going. there.

Despite my many shortcomings, I clung to my mantra during this time. "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11

Through it all, we managed to talk with our kids about Jesus every time we got a chance. Still do. We weren't perfect but we did make it a priority. Still do. We have managed to pray for them daily giving them over God on a regular basis and trusting He will use us, even in our weaknesses, to fulfill His grand purposes in their little lives. We take time regularly to monitor our progress. God is so faithful!

Really, it does go by so quickly. I never thought it would end but time is marching forward and this newer season is just as exciting, thrilling and challenging!

And, Missy, I'm giddy just thinking of all the treasures I'll glean from this too. Thanks!


2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Lisa I enjoyed this very much. I, too, have the same regrets about naptime versus one-on-one time. But like you, I was TIRED. My kids slept terribly. But they're basically grown now and I have plenty of time to sleep.

Joyful said...

Lisa...this is great! I want to come back and read it again. It reminded me of the letter Anita Renfroe wrote and read on one of her DVD's.

I laughed myself silly about the week long plan for a spotless house - that was me! In fact, I FOUND my original plan while cleaning one day, and thought - "I really used to try and do that?"

Beautiful post. I think I'll try and write something like this one day. It's a great way to reflect, hold on to memories and see how the Lord has grown aspects of His character in us and taught us what is truly precious.

Have a great day!

Dena said...

I loved your letter, and may I say that your children are beautiful!

Melanie said...

Yes...the school age years bring their own challenges. Even when one is in college, challenges a plenty!

Suzanne Eller said...

I love the photography on your site. Are the pictures your's? If so, they are amazing.

Thanks for dropping by my blog this morning and sharing your new mantra. Love it!

Sandy at God Speaks Today said...

OK...did I write this? Seriously. I think we are the same exact person in different bodies.

I would LOVE to get to know you better. Well, I feel like I already do. Every single thing you described is me. Totally. Completely.



Shonda said...

Oh they do grow so much and I have things I wish I'd done differently. I cried when my youngest lost his first baby tooth, for then I new that my baby was no longer going to be a baby. Now he's 11. My oldest lives on his own now. I pray more fervently now for him as he learns to be an adult.

I love this letter. You have a beautiful family. I am certain you are a wonderful mother!!

Love & blessings--

Renee said...

How sweet and precious to read this! My preschool days are just about over too. I think I will be incredibly sad thinking back about all the things I didn't do. That is so funny...Flylady...I got as far as cleaning my kitchen sink...halfway! I must get back to that and actually was just back on that site recently. You are such a precious Mom! I love you!

Penny said...

Wonderful...so much of what you wrote rang bells from my "former" life! I remember evaluating women I knew based on whether or not I thought they got "enough" sleep! The "sleepers" wore ironed blouses and had actual hairstyles!

Molly said...

Oh Lisa! How glad I am that I found you now! You have stopped me in my tracks as these reflections are the days that I am IN. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me. Isn't it funny what we think is important at the moment? And then years later we look back and wonder what we were thinking and where the time went.

My heart is heavy, but full of hope as I pray God will strip me of who I am and constantly remind me of what's important.

Looking forward to getting to know you more. Thanks for your comment on my blog, and I agree...we are a LOT alike!

Lora said...

What a precious heart you have! My darlin' teens,it seems, were just pre-schoolers yesterday. The Salesman and I are really working on our relationship at this stage when, in the not to distant future, our nest will be empty. My heart heard what you said about putting your husband first.
Blessings to you!

Julie said...

It's nice to meet you. I came from Missy's blog.
I didn't post a letter though. I am 51 years old with 5 children. I was like you... I wanted babies from the time I was young... God heard my cry and answered my prayers.

Thanks for sharing your heart here.

This is my first time at your blog. It's nice to meet you!

Colored With Memories said...

thanks so much for doing this for all of us "younger mommies"! you've given me a new way to look at naptime. i've been lamenting for months about how my 4 year old doesn't nap anymore. not wanting to give up that "me" time...you've challenged me to turn it into some "lily" time while her sister sleeps.


Mocha with Linda said...

Thanks for your encouraging comments on my letter. I enjoyed reading yours. So true how much of what we do is because we are "tired, really tired." LOL

Great reflections here!

Lindsey @ A New Life said...

Girl, I so get "survival mode" and "tired. I have two kids with ADHD/ADD, am a horrible housekeeper, and burn everything I cook. Talk about feeling like a failure and struggling to survive in this role as a Proverbs 31 woman!! Luckily I have a loving God and a grace-filled hubby on my side!

Have a blessed day, and thank you for the encouragement on my own post.

Laura said...

Oh, friend, this spoke to my heart so deeply. Everything you said resonated, from treasuring your husband to being lighter on naptime. Amen? My babies are almost too big to cuddle (though I still do at times) but the time when they fit in my two arms was the happiest for me.


Julie said...

Lisa, Thank you for visiting my blog and your sweet words. You have blessed me today.

I didn't get the letter written because I didn't know about it nor did I have a chance...

I have learned alot through the years of raising these kids, mostly through my mistakes.....

I am glad grace covers everything...even my mistakes.

I look forward to visiting with you again.

Hugs from Georgia

Angie Love said...

I told Mark last night on the way home from dinner how much I missed the nights when Noah woke up crying. I miss being able to hold him tenderly in my arms late and night while I prayed over his little body. I remember you writing to me, telling me to spend time in the Word during those long, sleepless nights. I remember you encouraging me, as you told me you wish you could come and help me rock a baby who would not stop screaming. I remember the verses you sent so that I would be drawn nearer to the God you love, I love, so much.
Thank you.

Rachel Kerbel said...

oh man! i will miss these days too! you brought up a good point about the journal- i STILL need to do it, but you encouraged me:) and remembering to put my husbands needs in front of the kids-thanks!

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

Lisa thank you so much! I related to SO much of this.