"Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest" (Psalm 55:6).
"She took my toy!"
"Watch me write 'pickle' in cursive!"
"Guess how many marshmallows I can fit in my mouth?"
"What do you DO when you're in heaven?"
"Here's a note I forgot to give you last week. It's from my teacher asking you to make a costume for the school program. It's tonight."
"Why does God let those bad guys run around?"
Kids can bewilder parents with their demands for attention, time, energy, moral guidance, and information.
For example, as they grow up, their sense of spirituality begins to sharpen, prompting "out there" questions and a need for a perceptive mom's or dad's eyes and ears. Their emotional maturity on any given day can dramatically tumble from "even-tempered" to "volatile" or "well-adjusted" to "ultra-sensitive," requiring a delicately balanced mixture of tenderness, wisdom, firmness, humor—and an occasional batch of chocolate chip cookies. Their social lives begin to blossom, intruding into time that we used to call our own and often putting us behind the wheel more than we've ever been in our lives. That sparks the need for our flexibility, diplomacy, and tact. And as if that's not enough, the daily news unleashes a deluge of issues that we must decide if/when/how to discuss with our inquisitive young citizens. Questions about education, extracurricular activities, violence, safety, and budding independence make worries about other child-rearing issues like nursing, teething, and diaper rash seem like, well, child's play by comparison.
One morning when I was feeling particularly stressed over these kinds of problems, I grabbed a cup of hot tea and decided to delve into a chapter of the Bible I had never studied in-depth before. I turned to the book of Ecclesiastes, not knowing much about it other than its tranquil tone and the "to everything there is a season" passage. But once I started reading through the chapters, I just knew that God, in His foresight and grace, had designed them just for moms like me who sometimes feel overwhelmed.
Here are some things I learned as I read:
There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) How comforting to know that moms all the way back to Eve have gone through all the "stuff" we go through each day—both big and small. Kids throughout the ages have had runny noses, the chicken pox, and worse. They've always teethed, needed to be toilet trained, swallowed things they shouldn't, been rebellious, accidentally broken a neighbor's something-or-other, gotten in trouble at school.
I imagine Eve could give a heart-rending account of her firsthand experience with sibling rivalry and the loss of a child. Jochebed could describe feeling nearly paralyzed with fear for her son. And wouldn't it be grand to talk with Mary about both the worries and the wonders of pregnancy—an unexpected one, at that. So if you're feeling like you don't know how to handle whatever it is you're going through with your own kids, take comfort in the fact that you're not the first! There is nothing new under the sun.
It's not always about "good things." Martha Stewart's trademark comment "it's a good thing" has echoed through thousands of living rooms as many a mom has watched her to derive some domestic inspiration. Lots of times we try to order our world to create a "paradise" within the walls of our homes. We think that making our own jellies, decorating our own gift wrap, growing our own herbs, and throwing the perfect party can be our ticket to an appealing brand of paradise. While none of these actions, in and of themselves, are bad, Ecclesiastes 2 gently points out that nothing we can do can bring us peace. Only a day-by-day, minute-by-minute connection with our heavenly Designer can position us to grab our portion of peace on earth and secure our lavishly decorated room in the heavenly mansion He's lovingly preparing for us, even as we speak.
There's a time for everything. As moms, it's our "time" to do lots of things—and in a relatively short amount of time. So when you're feeling like you're floundering, and you just don't know how to order your "to-do" list as you try to juggle the kids, your marriage, the housework, the volunteer work, etc., here's a prescription for you: Read Ecclesiastes 2 as a medicinal meditation that will give you a sense of life's rhythm and help you maintain some balance as you juggle those priorities.
We have a heart full of eternity. "I'm having a bad day." We've all said that from time to time. To me, yucky days include things like sick kids, broken down cars, a low checking account balance, dismal weather, appliance malfunctions, or extra-ferocious sibling squabbling in the backseat of the car on an errand-packed day. Those are the days that it's easy to lose focus and wish away time by launching into countdowns. "When we get more money..." "When the kids get bigger..." "When baseball season is over..."
But then something usually happens to snap me back into reality. I'll hear Erin warbling "Alleluia" in her toddlerish tones; Lindsey will ask me to pray with her; or I'll catch Nick giving his sister the extra dollar she needs to buy the notebook she wants. Then I realize that I am so grateful for my home, and I'm grateful for the privilege of a minute-by-minute chance to tackle challenges that have eternal significance.
Solomon said that God has set eternity in our hearts—what big cargo for such a humble little boat as me. I have the privilege of not only being able to accept Christ in my own life so that I can tap into that eternity, but also of becoming the God-designed tugboat that He can use to draw my own precious little ones into the kingdom!
Two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). If you feel the only places you ever see are your home, the church, and the school, seek out a partner. Naturally husbands are pretty terrific partners in parenting. But it's still important to find another friend, better yet, more than one, who can help you negotiate the obstacle course of parenting. My closest friend has kids about the same ages as mine. I wouldn't take a room full of chocolate for the encouragement she's given me as I've whined to her about my busy calendar, my contrary offspring, my day-long morning sickness, my insecurities about new projects I've taken on. Begin praying today that God will lead you to someone who can fill that role and to whom you, in turn, can minister to as well.
These are the days! (Ecclesiastes 9:10) Mothering is a stressful job. There's just no way around that. It's physically demanding, and it takes us on a roller coaster ride of emotions. The kicker is that while we're doing it we're expected to carry out an endless number of additional roles: Wife, daughter, friend, church member, soccer coach, parent-teacher volunteer, informed citizen, cautious consumer...But when you're feeling overwhelmed, just take a few minutes and meditate on these verses. It's a love letter from God! It encourages us to seize life's opportunities and use them to the fullest in serving Him! Doesn't that help put things in perspective?
Angie Peters is the author of a Bible study, Designed to Influence: A Woman and Her Testimony, and Celebrate Home! Encouragement and Tips for Stay-at-Home Parents.