Slow Down

Life is racing on in the Taylor household. We are busy with a lot of spring projects, and, of course, all three Munchkins. Lately I have been relearning the endless lessons of having patience and keeping the right priorities. It seems like I’m hit at least weekly with some sort of good reminder to slow down (let the laundry wait a day sometimes) and soak up some serious kiddo time. This was my reminder last night. Encouraging all you busy mamas to slow down, skip a blog post today ;-), and enjoy some kiddo time.

Birthday Reflections

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A couple of weeks ago I celebrated my 28th birthday. Of course, birthdays are always a time to celebrate, but also a time to reflect. I went for a jog one day as my birthday was approaching, and on my way out of our driveway I passed some crocuses that had sprouted up in front of our house. It got me thinking about spring, and seasons, and life. I started to go through the whole “seasons of life” analogy in my head.

Spring is a time of new birth. The flowers spring up as the snow melts. The grass turns green again and the birds return from their winter vacations. There is a lot of rain and a lot of growth. There is Easter and all of the reminders of the new life we can have through Christ.

The spring of life is the season children are in. There is a lot of growth, lots of learning, and wonder, and messes, and fun. For those who grow up in a Christian home, this is when they first get to hear about Jesus and the new life they can have in Christ. There is so much activity during this season, and so much work, and so much to look forward to.

When Summer comes along, there’s lots and lots of sunshine. There are summer vacation plans, and beach outings, and work in the garden. There are flowers and animals everywhere you look. There are holidays and picnics, and lots and lots of baseball. Most people just love summer.

Summer in our lives is also full of life and busyness and fun. There are dreams to dream and work toward, there are years to look ahead to, and there are lessons in following the Lord. During summer most major life decisions are passed and we’re settling in to “normal”. For those of us blessed with children, these are the years we get to watch them be young, invest in our families, and enjoy the time we get to have living under one roof together.

Fall has always been my favorite season. Things cool down and slow down after summer activities wrap up. The leaves change into brilliant colors before falling off their trees. The harvest comes in and we get to celebrate with lots of good food and Thanksgiving.

In the fall of life we get to slow down a little (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking as I’m in toddler-season right now!). At least the busyness changes. We can enjoy the richness of our lives so far and thank God for the blessings we’ve enjoyed. For those following the Lord, there will hopefully be a harvest by now! A harvest of souls, led to Christ; a harvest of children turning into adults; a harvest of dreams saved for and fulfilled; and a harvest of the fruit of the Spirit in our own lives.

Then, there’s winter.

Now let me tell you, this is the part where I would often get stuck. I spent two years in Arkansas and the winters were dead, brown, and cold. I’ve spent many winters up North where the winters are bitter cold and bitter long. People seem grumpier, heat bills are higher, and my hands always get dry. Thinking about the end of my life as a winter season was just never appealing to me.

But as I was jogging and thinking on these things, I started to rethink winter. I decided instead to focus on the end of a calendar year. I LOVE the beginning of winter. It starts with the Thanksgiving feast and celebrations with the people we love most. Then there’s a whole month of excitement and build up toward Christmas: a celebration of Jesus come to us. There are quiet, snowy nights covered in the brilliant, glittering snow. There are festive days filled with Christmas music and Christmas baking. The house is decorated and everyone stays in more as the nights get darker sooner, but it gives me a good excuse to snuggle up and read quietly by the fireplace. Winter is peace and quiet, contentment and anticipation, fullness and joy.

Winter in our lives can be like that too. We enter a potentially quieter, stiller season. We can’t burn as much energy running around like we did in the summer, but we can learn and grow, and teach others. We can sit back and see the wonderful things God has accomplished in and through us. We can celebrate our walk with Christ and our anticipation of going home, going to meet Jesus.

I wrapped up these thoughts as I wrapped up my jog and walked back down the driveway to my waiting family. On the way inside I picked a crocus to put in a jar of water. Lydia, always full of questions, quickly inquired why I had picked a flower and I sat down to dinner to share with my family the thoughts I had during my jog. And I left that crocus sitting on the table as a reminder to enjoy this season as I celebrate another year.

My Mommy Secret to Surviving in the Overwhelming Moments

When Lydia was a baby, I was a supermom. I did everything: kept the apartment spotless, hosted guests, tackled projects, learned new things, and spent time with my baby. Abby came along and our world was turned upside down with several weeks in the NICU that stressed us beyond anything we’d ever known before. It was horrible. So, when Abby came home from the hospital, I stubbornly thought I had to prove it’s easier to have two at home than to have one at home and one in the NICU. I tried to “do it all” again and be a good mom to both girls all at the same time.

Do you know how that went? I broke. I snapped. I realized that I was acting in pride and living a lie. When I started being honest with myself and others, I found a lot of freedom. Being a mom is HARD.

During my pregnancy with Paul I was praying for the transition to three, but also preparing myself to be overwhelmed.

It’s just a season.

The house will be messy at times (most of them!).

I won’t be able to do projects the way I used to.

Taking care of three will be almost all-consuming, but we’ll survive.

Do you know what happened? The transition was not nearly as difficult as I anticipated. We do survive. In fact, sometimes the house is tidy and clean (rarely). Sometimes I cook meals with side dishes (special occasions only). I still have a quiet time alone (although, at 5:45 AM). I teach the kids, play with the kids, read to the kids, and I still manage to clean the bathroom, change the sheets, and vacuum. I still have time to plan meals and cook them, spend time with Dan, and read books (grown up ones, even). But, it’s still hard.

I have sat down on various occasions to seek advice from more experienced moms, ones that I really respect. I think one of my favorite pieces of advice that I try to put into place daily was on how not to be overwhelmed.

Pray.

One mom in particular told me about Susanna Wesley, mother to nineteen children (ten survived to adulthood), including two sons who eventually founded Methodism and wrote a lot of hymns still being sung today. As the mother of so many children, Susanna would get overwhelmed too. Then she would throw her apron up over her head to have a moment “alone” to pray for help.

Since the day I first heard about Susanna’s “apron prayers”, I’ve started to try to do the same, though, not with an apron since I rarely wear one. 🙂 Sometimes I go to my room, and sometimes I gather the kids around me and we pray together. Often I just stop whatever I’m doing, close my eyes, and let out a short, desperate, completely sincere prayer for help.

Well, last week I was encouraged when I was reading about King David and I saw him put the same tactic into practice.

David (not yet King David) had been running away from Saul for months and months. He hasn’t done anything wrong, and had, on several occasions, proved his loyalty to King Saul even while fleeing his persecution. Finally David fled to the Philistines and lived among them for over a year. One day he gathered his troops together and made a journey to help the Philistine’s fight their battles. However, the Philistine lords doubted David’s loyalty, so the king sent David and his men home. Bummer.

David and his men arrived back home only to receive devastating news. The city had been raided. Their homes had been burned down and their women and children carried away as captives.

As overwhelmed as I sometimes get as a mom, I can honestly say I’ve never had a day that bad. Can you imagine coming home only to find your house burned, your possessions destroyed or stolen, and your family kidnapped?

And what did David do? Well, he wept. I probably would too.

Things got worse for David when the people grew bitter against him. Then they started talking about stoning him. Do you know what happened next? (I love this part!)

“David strengthened himself in the LORD his God”.

And then…

“David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?”

God told David, “Yes”, to go pursue and overtake the band. David and his men pursued the band. They didn’t find it right away, but they found an Egyptian who pointed them in the right direction. Then David and his men went on to find the band, struck them down, and recovered “all that the Amalekites had taken”. When he got back home nothing was missing and no one was missing. With God’s help, David saved the day.

(See 1 Samuel 28 and 30)

So I’m no future king and my home isn’t being attacked and burned with fire, but I worship and follow the same God as David, and He is just as able and willing to help me with my little flock of Munchkins. Not only can I seek God for strength when I get overwhelmed, but I can also seek his direction in what to do in those moments when I’m tired and emotional and not sure what to do next.

I was going to post this last week but I just couldn’t get it to come out right. The next days were terrible. The kiddos were difficult and I was tired and overwhelmed. I realized God was not only preventing me from posting this in pride, but He was also giving me an opportunity to practice. (And I do need more practice.) But now a week later I can come more humbly and share the lesson I’m learning.

God hears us when we are overwhelmed (for big reasons or small). He wants us to come to him for help. He will strengthen us. And He can direct us in what to do next.

PS – For all you creative people out there who make words into pretty artwork, I think 1 Samuel 30:6 would totally make a mom-worthy print.

But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.