|They still fit.|
Have you ever seen a need, and thought to yourself, "if only I didn't have these kids, I could totally help out!" I have. And I had every good reason to do so. So do you. Lately, though, I realize that I've used my children as an excuse perhaps for too long. When they were little, I used to set the alarm on my wristwatch to alert me when it was 6:30 p.m. No matter where I was, no matter how much fun my kids were having, no matter how much fun I was having, that alarm would go off, and I would pack it up and beat it home in a minute flat. I only did this because, too often, I had previously found myself indulging in another half-hour of friend time, or I would give in to a few more minutes of play time... and I'd pay for it dearly when my kids missed their 7:30 bed time. There was a direct and predictable scale of crazy-- the farther off-schedule we got, the more frustrating bed time and my feeling of defeat grew. And my sweet relief when they were finally asleep was always tempered by the fact that these kids, no matter how late they got to bed, would still get up at 5:30 in the morning. So, sticking to the schedule and saying "no" became paramount skills to employ to keep me sane, and my children unharmed. They're 8 and 5, and bed time is STILL pretty immovable. But other times... like free time in the afternoon... these are growing much more flexible, save the time set aside for extracurricular activities. But I'm finally beginning to see that a new world of opportunity is opening up to me.
For instance, on Tuesday morning, a girl on my Worship Team asked if we could get together for an extra practice, and I truly didn't think I could find time to do so. It would mean a lot of prep time before she came, which I could do when my kids were in class. But I couldn't find a window of time to rehearse while my kids were gone. The thought of scheduling a rehearsal while my kids were home never crossed my mind until I was forced to imagine attempting it. And, all of a sudden, hours of availability became mine. So I held rehearsal after school yesterday, and it went FINE. There were very few interruptions (albiet a lot of iPad time for the young one).
A couple of months back, a friend who needed to not be alone on a day she received heartbreaking news was able to come over. In the last few weeks, and she and I have had tea while I've listened, handed her tissues, and prayed with her, all while my kids have been home. Because little ears can be pretty big in a small apartment, I was once able to give them the privilege of letting them use the iPad behind a closed a door for more privacy for the grown-ups, and in one instance, run out to my friend's car and listen (I brought the tissue box with me). I was very much "home," but we still had a very private place to talk. And my boys new exactly where I was if they needed me.
Today was my first time including them in a "helping" situation. A sweet neighbor has been homebound while her toddler recovers from surgery. Her daughter's cast makes it impossible for her to be buckled into a car seat, so running errands is actually a luxury she doesn't get these days. A couple of weeks ago, while anticipating the "big event," I asked God to help me figure out a way to help her. This neighbor answered my question for me by posting a Facebook appeal for any local friends to help. She specifially asked for people to come over so she could run errands, or for people to let her know when they were going to the grocery store so they could get stuff for her. Well, that answered my prayer. And I knew that with this shift in perspective of not dividing my time into what I can and cannot do with my kids in tow made it possible for me to offer US. Not just ME. I told the boys we were going to give our time to this family. A couple of hours every week so the mom could run errands, take a nap, take a shower, anything... just GET AWAY for a little bit. Today was the day we started. The boys did great keeping the toddler entertained. God's timing was pretty rad, because today has been the first day that she has been more "herself" since the surgery. Her sparkle was returning, and she was able to bowl us over with her giggles and funny phrases. I am certain my kids are looking forward to next Thursday. Same time, same place. And I wouldn't be surprised if they even wanted to go sooner.
For the last several years, in my moments of solitude, I've had to be honest with myself, and with God. I've seen needs go unfilled because I knew it was not my job to fill them. I've wanted to give more than I had been able to. And it's not that I have NOT given, but I gave carefully measured portions of my time and myself--many times working administratively at coordinating Children's Ministries and Worship Teams after my kids were in bed. I've been tired a lot; very scattered-feeling. Proud of myself for the smallest of accomplishments--wow, I grocery shopped AND cooked dinner today! With something like that being an accomplishment, I often wondered would I ever again be the GIVER of the help I so often wished I could receive from someone with more energy, more free-time, more wisdom, more experience? I've been in a pretty thick mommy-fog. It's not gone, but... BUT... it's clearing. I don't know how much of this clearing is due to my circumstances changing (my kids are older and much more independent, and I've only got TWO), and how much of this is due to my perspective changing. But I've gotten to give a little more lately. I feel like I've rediscovered the gardening gloves that I broke-in years ago, took off and set down for a quick break, but they got buried. These gloves once helped me tend to the garden in which I found myself way back when: taking neighbors places, impromptu get togethers, lingering chats where we talk about how we're not REALLY "fine." But I took them off, and tended to other growing things. Two of which are my MOST important treasures:
I still do tend to them, but they don't need every ounce of my energy the way they did. Am I back? Not all the way. Nor do I expect to ever be who I was before I had children. But I think I can see some familiar flowers dotting the side of the road of my journey. I smell Availability, and it's reminiscent of Honeysuckle. I feel like I'm returning from a trip I didn't know I was taking, and I'm full of anticipation at what may bloom with just a bit of tending.
Here's a promise to cherish:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (New International Version).
If you're at a point of NEEDING help, God will provide. There's probably someone waiting for a prompt. ASK for help! If you're at a point of learning how to AVAIL yourself to others' needs, I PROMISE, God will provide! Even if it means bringing your kids along for the ride. What a fantastic way for our kids to see that the world is full of opportunity to share God's LOVE.