If your family is anything like ours, you’ve probably spent your summer juggling toddler nap times, summer camp, family vacations, play dates, and many requests for popsicles.
It’s mid-summer as I sit writing this, and my kids are enjoying 90 degrees and fun in the sprinkler. But even as the sun shines down on us, our future fall schedules loom large, and I can already sense the many pressures that September is going to bring.
Speaking honestly, I could probably schedule our lives down to the hour, and I have done that at times, just to manage moving people from Point A to Point B on any given day of the week. My husband mercifully stopped me from signing the boys up for football and swimming lessons last year just before I had our baby. But now that life is slightly more predictable, we are debating about soccer joining our list of coming fall activities and school classes, piano lessons, boys choir, and normal everyday life.
“Everyone get your shoes on and climb into the car!”
The amount of times I get to say that each week varies in the summertime, but this coming fall it looks like it could be my almost-daily mantra. Everyone gets in, I do a double-check that we’re all properly buckled, and we’re off!
Because if you’re a mom, you know it’s not actually that simple. I mean, you and I parent small humans who have meltdowns about hairbrushes and shoes, and just as we are about to head out the door, someone suddenly can’t find one of the socks he was wearing five minutes ago.
They’re little sinners just like us, of course, and we have the great joy and privilege of guiding them through basic tasks and life skills, all while hoping we can actually make it to whatever destination is calling us.
But even when we do make it there on time, how often do we make it with everyone’s hearts intact? And what is it that holds that elusive key to finding joy in the really busy moments of an action-packed family?
Preparation is huge for me. I’m a big believer in having everything ready and packed before I’m ready to hustle everyone to the car.
But the reality is that toddlers and children are preparation-defying geniuses, so I often find that I have to engage in basic parenting and discipline right at the moment we’re on the way out the door. I do believe it’s better to arrive with everyone in fellowship with each other, so taking the time required to invest in relationships with my children is worth it to me.
But whether we arrive truly happy and whole has nothing to do with possessing super-mom levels of preparedness.
How to find joy for our family has everything to do with how we are thinking about whatever mission we are about to embark on.
As the fog of new baby realities lifted last year, I recognized my need to consistently, consciously remind myself of the truth that joy in the midst of all the busyness of running kids around and getting places is actually possible. It isn’t as elusive as we might feel like it is.
Joy develops when I transform my “I have to” statements into “I get to” statements.
If I’m honest, even though I’m growing and getting better about it now, I do have to repent of my “I have to” attitude regularly. The really big thing I want to remind myself about is that for the rest of their lives, my children are going to have places to go.
And life now and in the future will be so much more pleasant if I help shape their thinking about having to go somewhere actually being a privilege. The only way I can do that, though, is by modeling this myself.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thess. 5:16-18 ESV
This circumstance, this action, this busyness – and having a good attitude in the middle of it all – is exactly God’s will for me in Christ Jesus. And no matter how difficult the challenge ahead of us, He will work through it in our family when we are submitted to Him.
When I think about all the ways I can transform my thinking from drudgery into joy, the world is so much brighter, life is sweeter, and everyone’s attitudes are generally happier.
It’s not second-nature to me, but I’ve learned that the challenge of intentionally changing my thinking is something worth practicing because of what I want to become as a mother.
Being a mother is a gift – it’s a “get to”.
Just like I get to be a mother to my children, I get to drive them to class and to choir.
I get to deliver them to their dentist appointment and take them to play with friends.
I get to forgive them and teach them how to follow Christ.
I get to… well, you fill in the blank. Anything on your list today can be a “get to”.
When my eyes are opened up to recognizing everything that is a “get to”, each of those opportunities becomes a gift for that day. Each gift unfolds into something even bigger and pleasanter when I’m giving thanks and my focus is on the joy of getting to do something for and with my children. My eyes are lifted up, off the difficulties or challenges of getting my people from one place to another and re-focused on Jesus, with thanksgiving for the immediate opportunities ahead of me.
And when I do that, I enjoy my children more and they enjoy me. But best of all, we are arriving at our destinations with hearts whole and intact, and possibly even more thankful than when we started out.