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I was in my little parlor, sipping my favorite tea while sitting by the open window. It was the perfect slow down moment. I was being serenaded by birdsong and completely engrossed in my latest book. The boys were building a lego village that is quite impressive, the toddlers were playing with waffle blocks, the baby was napping, and my sweet girl was walking the dogs. I thought it was a little slice of heaven and I was determined to enjoy it.
I was reading The Writer’s Jungle by Brave Writer again and also Partnership Writing to really get going with my oldest daughter who wants to learn to write well. I was ready to really settle in and make notes, a plan, and mull over all I was learning because everyone was content and occupied and all of our household tasks were miraculously completed for the day.
Not five minutes into this idyllic scene the baby wailed, the toddlers started fighting, one of the boys had a fit, and my blissful afternoon started to disintegrate at a rapid rate. I put away the book, took a deep breath, began to pray for patience, and asked God to help me stop being frustrated and see the beauty.
I recognized that someday I’ll long for the chaos of a home filled to the brim with children, even if they are squabbling. I knew that all too soon they would stop wanting to snuggle with me and instead just want to borrow my keys to go out with their friends. What I didn’t know was how to make it through that moment without getting frustrated and saying something I’d regret.
Take a Moment & Stop
I’m learning the beauty of slowing down so that I can stop and see the beauty. Stop is not my default, by the way; I’m a doer. I make lists, check things off of them, and add to them like a mad woman. I like order, I hate clutter, and very little makes me more content than a well run home. None of these things happen when Mommy just stops.
Or do they?
On this day, at that moment, it was my stopping that allowed things to halt and then run smoothly yet again. You see, I could have made the choice I’d made a million times before. The choice to raise my voice, to become exasperated, to lose the joy I had in motherhood. It’s an easy choice to make.
Perhaps because I was reading The Writer’s Jungle and it was encouraging me to delight in my children and foster an atmosphere of trust, perhaps because I’d been reading in my Bible that morning about a harsh word stirring up anger and a soft answer turning away wrath, perhaps because God heard the desperate cry in my heart for grace, I was able to STOP.
I didn’t stop the children; I stopped myself. I stopped myself from using the same tone of voice and ugly attitude that I wanted to yell at them for having. I stopped myself from laying waste to their tender hearts with words of anger than once let loose could never be erased from their minds. I stopped myself from being the person I always say I won’t be and yet often become because I’m over tired and under nourished by the Spirit.
But I still couldn’t see the beauty. Until.
See the Beauty
My daughter, blissfully unaware of the turmoil swirling through the home, came prancing in with a huge smile on her face and a hand hidden behind her back. She got out my grandmother’s little vase, filled it with water, and began humming as she fiddled with the first blossoms of spring. She danced into the parlor and gave me a stunning bouquet of hyacinth (my favorite), royal purple violets, a mini daffodil, and some dandelions. Her face was beaming with delight over being able to give me such a treasure.
And that’s when I saw the beauty.
The beauty isn’t in the moment. The beauty isn’t in what a child is or isn’t doing, in whether or not I get to finish the chapter in the book I’m reading, or even in the hearts and attitudes of the family. The beauty is in what we are willing to give.
My sweet girl showed me a truth I often overlook, although God tries to teach it to me frequently. Her excitement wasn’t about picking flowers or the triumph of finding treasure in our new yard. It wasn’t in creating a lovely work of art, although I know she enjoyed that. It was in giving something to someone she loved. My heart was so overcome with love as I looked at my sweet firstborn. I changed from a mother who felt like a volcano that was about to erupt into a mother who was overwhelmed with love for her babies.
In that moment, I chose to give grace to my children. I chose to give love. I chose to extend mercy. I let mercy triumph over judgment. Because I had stopped, I had a moment to respond instead of just react. I’m so thankful for that moment. Too many times, I barge in with my emotions blazing and my tongue wagging because I have forgotten to stop and I have been blind to the beauty in my life.
Each Day, Slow Down
Each day I have that choice. Each day I need to consciously become aware of how precious these moments are and choose to stop and see the beauty. I can’t seem to do that unless I start my day in the Word and continue it in prayer. Each day I’m making a little more progress, stopping before reacting and praying intentionally for God to help me see the beauty.
Stop & See
Instead of seeing the mess on the kitchen counters and floors, let me stop and see the beauty of children who are being helpful in the kitchen, who give eagerly of their time and effort.
Instead of being frustrated with the bickering over toys, let me stop and see the beauty of brothers growing up together and learning how to share, brothers who constantly give words of encouragement and a favorite toy.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the floor that needs to be mopped, the laundry that needs to be folded, the dishes that sit unwashed, and the errands that need to be run, let me stop and see the beauty of a life that is tenderly and sweetly given to me by my husband and the Lord.
Instead of wishing for an hour to myself, let me stop and see the beauty of children who are eager for my love and attention and let me give my time and my attention and my focus to them.
Instead of dreaming of the days of more sleep, let me stop and see the beauty of full days and cherish every minute God gives me with them because I never know how long we have and let me give joyfully every second we are together.
Instead of letting my emotions get the better of me and lashing out with words that wield the power to hurt, let me stop and see the beauty in exercising self-control and in giving kindness, in mercy, in grace, in peace, and in gentleness.