I am currently a momma to 7 kiddos (ages 17, 15, 14, 12, 9, 7, 4). I say “currently” because we have a little one (7yrs old) we are fostering, so at some point we will go back to having just our own six. Regardless, whether we have 1, 3, 6, 7, or 12 kiddos, it’s easy to acknowledge that amidst the most amazing moments, life as a parent can be quite a challenge.
I’m not sure what your personal struggles or challenges may be, but one of my greatest struggles is my pace as a parent. I maintain a pretty brisk pace. Always moving, never slowing. I move quickly in order to get it all done. After all, I want to be the best. Mom. EVER! No pressure, right?! Ha! Needless to say, I work hard and push myself to the limit, often. Admittedly, this means I can easily push my kids too hard, as well. The struggle is real. The stress is real.
I pressure myself to do all-the-things-all-the-time: I want to have quality time with the Lord every morning, read all of the books, write all of the blog posts, start a podcast, homeschool like a pro, read aloud to my kids for hours a day, create beautiful craft projects, teach effectively, bake all of the homemade breads, decorate my home, feed the homeless, take beautiful pictures, make meals from scratch, grow a garden, run 3 miles a day, remove all of the clutter, have clean floors you could eat off of, never raise my voice, always be patient, serve the widows and orphans, tell my neighbors about Jesus, practice playing my guitar, put make-up on and look nice every day, have coffee with friends, talk to my far-away family daily, eat the healthiest meals, avoid getting sucked into screen-time, spend quality time with each of my kids on a daily basis, budget like a rock-star and stick to it, always fold and put away clean laundry immediately upon removing it from the dryer … and so the list continues.
That list, my friends, is not a pace I can maintain and definitely not sustain for the long haul. There just isn’t enough hours in the day and energy within me to get it all done.
I need to pace myself.
This leads me to Jacob.
Over the past week, I’ve been reading about Jacob (in the Bible) and was struck by something interesting when I came to Genesis 33. Just after Jacob and Esau (twin brothers who were previously at odds with each other) were amicably reunited, they discussed traveling back to their home land together (Genesis 33:12-14):
Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.
But Jacob said to him, ‘My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.’
I felt as if my eyes were growing larger as I read every word in those verses. Dare I say, it was an “aha” moment.
Jacob didn’t demand that his family and livestock keep his pace, he adapted and changed his pace to match theirs, to meet their needs. He slowed down.
Perhaps that’s exactly what I need to start doing. Maybe I need to “move along slowly at the pace” of my family. This does not come naturally. Even when I’m walking from point A to point B or bustling my way through Costco, I move at a rapid pace. I am often several steps ahead of my people, charging ahead. After all, if I want to do all-of-the-things I listed above, there’s no time to dilly-dally. Let’s get ‘er done!
There may have been multiple reasons for Jacob not to go with Esau, but I thought it was beautiful he did recognize and meet the needs of his family and livestock. The children were “tender” and the momma cows and the momma sheep needed to slow down to nurse and care for their young. He knew he couldn’t push them too hard or too quickly, or surely they would all perish. So, he changed his pace. He didn’t change their pace, he changed his. He also sacrificed walking with his brother (whom he hadn’t seen for 20+ years) in order to stay with and watch over his family and livestock.
Parenting involves sacrifice.
As I focus on being “present” (my word for 2018), I am choosing and trying to let many things go. I’m honing in on what matters most for our family and attempting to pace myself accordingly. This could be tough to discern as several of my kids are at hyper-speed at all times while others move at a snail’s pace. The tortoise and the hare, I have them both in my family! haha! I will be constantly checking in and making sure I’m not moving too quickly for my “tortoises” or too slow for my “hares.”
I want to walk with them. Keeping pace together.
I can hear the Lord beckoning me to walk with my children. To teach them about and exemplify living and loving Truth. God’s truth. THE Truth. If I’m always ten steps ahead (or behind) them, it’ll be harder to teach. It’s best if I am alongside them, connecting, teaching, instilling, correcting, encouraging, loving.
This is what matters most in this season of raising my children. As my eldest child approaches adulthood (he turns 18 this year!), I am hit with the reality of time. It is so short, so fleeting. It’s time to change my pace.
Some of this process is choosing to slow down and simplify our daily living. For example, last year I let Facebook go, and that was the best decision for me (emphasis on “for me”). This year, I’m re-evaluating once again. I am asking the Lord to give me eyes to see how to change my pace and my focus, ultimately, to honor Him and honor my family.
Perhaps you are re-evaluating your parenting as well. If you are a nursing momma and caring for your little ones, take note of what Jacob did for his nursing ones. He deliberately kept a slower pace so they would not perish in the process. Mommas, it’s OK, nay, it’s healthy to slow down and meet the needs of your wee little ones. Not only for their sake, but for your sake, as well. Burn-out is real. Our littles need a Momma who is present, available, healthy, and ready to love well.
Or, maybe you are in the thick of those grade school years of raising your children. If this is you, I’d love to encourage you to enjoy the journey of wonder and the bazillion questions that accompany it. The travels are often slower and faster during these years. They are slower because they want to learn and ask about everything, while simultaneously bouncing from adventure to adventure with unparalleled enthusiasm. I need to remind myself of this one as well since I have a couple of littles who hardly take a breath between questions and activities. They are curious, curious, curious. They want to see and touch and smell and taste and listen to … eeeevveeerrryyyything. This stage, truth be told, could be my hardest. The hurrying up only to slow it all way down, it’s exhausting to keep track of it all. There is an immense amount of intentional training during this season. I often try to expedite the process to get to the next point or destination and be done with this stage. Yet, that’s not always what’s needed or best. I must allow more room for exploration and wonder, while also investing in every aspect of their very being, for God’s glory.
If you are beyond these first two parenting seasons, you are likely in the midst of the culmination of all of your parenting journey. You’ve traveled many miles and happen to look over to find an emerging or full-blown young man or young woman walking beside you. This is such a powerful portion of the journey. As parents, everything we’ve instilled and invested, taught and trained, encouraged and equipped into our children is implemented in this stage. Our children are truly branching out and testing the waters of independence. Our roll looks a little different. We may steadily walk the pathway and be a constant strength, while our children regularly journey away from us, putting into action all that we’ve taught them. But they don’t stay away, they keep coming back to check in. We’ve become a touching point in the journey for our young men and women. A safe place. We are still able to walk with them daily, but we are also starting to let go as they are stepping out. Our pace and our voice is still influential, so don’t let go too quickly or discount your impact, friends. This can be tricky to navigate; to find the balance between walking with our children every step and regularly letting them go out on their own.
To change analogies a bit, we have shaped them for so many years, but the arrows in our quiver aren’t meant to stay with us. They are meant to fly. So we pull back, point them toward Christ as we have done all of these years, and let them fly and be who they are meant to be.
Whew. What an adventure!!!
Maybe you are like me and have a kid or two at each phase of the journey. This is where I am seeking direction from the Lord. He is the source of all wisdom, so I seek Him for it. In order for me to know best how to keep pace with each of my children, I learn to pace myself with Christ. If I am attuned to Him, I have no doubt He will guide my every step, be it fast or slow, active or still. I physically cannot be both fast and slow at the same time, but, I can recognize what pace is needed in the moment, in the present moment, if I’m paying attention and allowing the Lord to show me.
I don’t know about you, but reading how Jacob cared for his family by seeing and meeting their needs during that particular season of the journey was a precious reminder for me. It reminded me to watch my pace and the pace of those around me. It helped me remember to look around and not be so focused on my own journey. I won’t be able to do all-the-things like I often dream of doing, but I can walk with my family: pacing myself, being present, engaging with them, teaching them as we walk along the road, and ultimately enjoying the journey.
To God be the Glory!