Bring Them Alongside You

An 'Interrupted' Morning
While the sun was still too low to be seen, I rolled out of bed anticipating a few moments to read, meditate and pray privately.  Knowing this was my one chance to care for hygiene, I put on real jeans and brushed my hair, and prepared myself physically for the morning.  But before my last brush stroke, I heard a little boy through the connecting bathroom vent,

"How does he know I'm awake?" I wondered.  "I still haven't left my room and this is nearly an hour before he's usually up.  What is going on?  And why is he YELLING my name?"
My heart sighed a little, but I still felt hopeful I could put him back to sleep.

"Mommy, I want you to leave my door open a little bit more."
"Okay, but Mommy is going to be in the other room for a while.  It's not time to wake up yet."

In the kitchen I scooped grounds into my coffee pot, looking forward to that warm goodness now that silence reigned again in the house.  "Maybe I'll get my quiet time after all." I smiled to myself.

But before the thought even left my mind, I heard my twin toddlers banging at their bedroom door, mounting into tears, pleading to come out.  I took a deep breath.

This is the morning that God gave to me.  Not a quiet, peaceful one (like I do get from time to time), but a child-filled one.  What will I do next?  Accept it or resist it?  Find joy or fight my circumstances?

I walked down the hall prepared to give everyone a speech,
"You may get up, but this is Mommy's time to read her bible.  So you can either play quietly or go back to bed."
"Ohhhh I will play.  I can play!" They all assured me of their good intentions as they scampered down the hall.
"Mommy, will you sit here on the couch and read?  Don't go in the other room.  Please sit by us." My oldest pleaded.
I could feel my ground slipping.  How could I legitimately refuse this request?  

As I repeated, "This is Mommy's time to read her bible.  Remember, you need to play..." a fight broke out over stuffed animals and train pieces.  Immediately I was wiping tears, calming spirits and negotiating among possessions.  But when the storm calmed, I whisked myself into the other room.
Little feet followed.

"Mommy, what are you doing?"  
"I do it!  I do it!  I read!  I read!"
A 2-year-old swiped my highlighter, "I color!"

As much as I wanted to enforce all the rules and draw a little circle around myself.  As much as I wanted to promptly send everyone to time out for disturbing me.  As much as I wanted to push them out, away and out of my space, something in my heart whispered,
"Bring them alongside you."

"Okay, fine.  You might not want to play, but this is what we do in this house when we wake up before dawn.  We read our bible.  So go get your bibles and come to the table!"  Little feet excitedly pounded down the hall.

After a couple minutes of arguing over who had what children's bible, each boy sat perched at the table looking at pictures.
"Look at this, Mommy!  What is he doing?" 
"Jesus!  Bible!  Mommy look mommy look!"
It was evident at that point - I was going to get NO personal reading time in.  This was going to be all about them.

"Okay," I closed my agenda and set it aside, relying on the Spirit because my flesh still longed for this moment to pass.
"Here's what we do when we read the bible...First, we pick a story.  Then, when we are done reading we need to ask 'What did I learn about God?'  Do you want to try it with me?"
"OOO YESS!"  My oldest exclaimed, shoving his bible in my face.  So I read the story of the good shepherd.
"Okay, what did this tell us about who God is?"
"God is a sheep!"
"We learned that he is our shepherd.  Do you know what shepherds do?  They take good care of their sheep.  They feed them, watch them and help them.  That's what God does for us."  
"Mommy, I want to be a shepherd!"  Hmm...
"After we ask a question about God, then we ask a question about our hearts.  What does this mean for you?"
(blank stares)
"This means that you can trust God - today and forever."

A child was climbing onto the table.

"Let's pray.  We need to pray about what we learn in the bible."
They all were quiet...
"Dear God, help us to trust you as our shepherd.  Amen."

Come Alongside Me
For those of you thinking I always respond in this picturesque way, I don't.  This one, spirit-fueled response was the result of many frustrated mornings, followed by times of conviction, learning and repentance.  But here's what I'm gleaning, both from the scriptures and wiser moms who have gone before me:

So much of godly parenting involves "making disciples".  And making disciples requires time, modeling, attention and a general spirit of, "follow me, do as I do."

Yes, there is formal training and instructing in obedience.
Yes, there is a time to teach a child to play independently.
Yes, we want to involve other godly adults in the lives of our children to help.
But primarily, this discipling stuff happens in the mundane daily moments as we look for ways to teach our children gospel-centered living.  There isn't a shortcut - it's just steady, faithful, time-consuming, persevering work.

Sometimes I want to use stay-at-home motherhood as an excuse to be distracted.
"Well, I'm ALWAYS around my kids, so I can check out and parent-by-screen time for a while."
"I'm home every day, surely my kids feel close to me."  But that isn't necessarily the case.
  • A woman can spend days in the vicinity of her children, supervising, feeding and directing them without actually making disciples.
  • A woman can speak a million words to her children without actually communicating what it means to live according to the gospel.
  • A woman can squander whatever hours she has with her family away by staring at her phone or finding other idle ways to ignore her God-given responsibility.
This serious stuff is the reason I want to say yes when my children ask to read alongside me in the morning.
Would it be easier to do it alone?  Yes.
But would they learn as much?  No.

I hope that in the coming days, weeks and years I can do more saying "Yes.  You can join me.  Here's how we do this..." and less, "No.  You need to go play by yourself and leave mommy alone for a while.*"

*Final side note:  Self-care is important.  I'm not saying we should be mommy-martyrs and NEVER have time to ourselves.  If my children woke before the crack of dawn EVERY morning, prohibiting quiet moments, I would find something more structured for them to do because having personal time with the Lord is critical.  If my children never learned to play independently, and were relying on me for constant entertainment and stimulation, that would also be unhealthy.  But in my personal experience, I'm very quick to push them off by themselves and slow to engage, instruct, get down on their level and do the hard work of training.  Maybe your bent is the other way, and you need to care for your heart so you have enough to pour out.  This is just my experience!

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