When I was in high school, I always wished I was two years older. In my youth group, most of my friends were two years older than I was. I wanted so badly to be the same age as them: to get my license when they did, to stay out as late as they did, to graduate when they did. I could not wait for college.
In college, I found that I was glad I was my age, as I had a great group of friends. I had incredible experiences in mission trips and ministry teams. Yet I still couldn’t help but think, “When I’m older, I could lead this mission, or live off campus, or get into that bar.”
After college, it was looking ahead to when I would get married. Then it was planning the wedding. And when we finally did get married, we wanted to wait a year before getting pregnant to get used to living with each other first. Enter honeymoon baby, perhaps the first thing I wasn’t accustomed to waiting for.
One of the things I regret most as a mom is continuing this mentality of “when I’m older”, only it changed to “when they’re older.” When they’re older, they’ll sleep through the night. When they’re older, I’ll be able to stop breastfeeding and wear dresses again. When they’re older we will be able to travel. I had been told that when your oldest is 5, you can get out of the survival zone. I began to look forward to these milestones and say, “When x happens, we’ll finally be happy.”
Now that my oldest is 6, it’s looking forward to when he’s 10 and he will be super helpful, do chores, and read to the younger siblings. Then, when he is old enough to babysit, wow I’ll really start to enjoy life. And finally when the kids are out of the house, my husband and I will travel the world and live it up!
Only, this is my life now, today. I have a teething 7 month old, a whiny 3 year old, an oblivious 4 year old in danger of seriously hurting herself at any minute, and a perfectionist 6 year old who doesn’t want to do something unless he can do it flawlessly. It’s chaotic, it’s hard, but it’s also beautiful. And it’s all I’ve got.
I used to get so mad at those older ladies who would tell me to enjoy this time because it goes by fast. You mean you want me to enjoy the night feedings and spit up all over my shirt? And a day can seem forever and blend in with other days when you have a newborn. After having a few babies, though, I’m starting to get what they mean. I still won’t miss the spit up, but it’s important savor those moments in a “you don’t get this moment back” sort of way. You don’t have to enjoy the late nights or exploding diapers, but you have to lean into them and take whatever God is giving you in that moment.
I’ve been missing the present moment because I keep looking to the future, thinking the promise of what lies ahead is greater than what I have today. I haven’t been living my life to the full because I have failed to be present to it.
God meets you in the present moment. That doesn’t mean the now isn’t hard, but it’s all you’ve got. My life-word these days is “intentionality.” I want to be more intentional about how I use my time because time is a gift, one that we can’t get back. Once we’ve used it, it’s gone. I want to be intentional about using time to cultivate my marriage, good friendships, my relationship with my kids, and my prayer time with God. I don’t want to waste my days binging on Netflix or social media because my family is here with me, now. When I think about my obituary, I don’t want it to read, “Wow she watched a lot of movies and shared a lot of memes.” I want it to say, “She loved greatly.” And if I look up and my oldest is all grown, I fear I will have missed too much.
Something we teach in our first lesson in marriage prep is that original sin was wanting to be like God, only on our terms and right away. We don’t want to depend on God and instead try to make ourselves our own gods. When we look at the way Eve was tempted by the serpent, we see that she was projecting herself in the future. She missed the way that God was present to her in that moment, and wanted to do things her own way. I know that I’m not alone in struggling to live in the present, as it is a characteristic many women share. Still, God’s grace is in the now.
When I’m exhausted because my baby doesn’t sleep through the night, God gives me his grace. I don’t want to wait until she does sleep through the night to be present to that moment. I don’t have to enjoy it, per se, but I have that time to connect with her that will be gone in 6 months time. It’s the same with all the other parenting milestones. I’m tempted to believe life will be so great once x happens, but life can be great right now because God is here and I’m living my vocation. God’s grace is in the present.
We need to be good stewards of the gift of time. God is here right now in your family, your children, and your vocation, so don’t fail to be present like I have been!