This weekend, we were visited by our adorable nieces, and their beloved parents. One is a baby, the other barely a toddler. Somewhere in the middle of the weekend, my husband turned to me and said, “I remembered how much work this is, but now I remember how much work this is!”
I had to smile. It’s easy for me to recall the fact that I often had one child in the high chair, one on my hip, two more at the kitchen table, the vacuum parked in the living room (and the job half done), the dishwasher half emptied, and dinner in various stages of preparation. I can recall the degree of exhaustion I felt at 2am, when I’d just gotten cough syrup down one child, nursed another, and now I was rocking a third who had woken with night terrors.
It’s easy to recall the baby and toddler years, but my fuzzy memories of those years are different from remembering. This weekend we witnessed the juggling of two active, hungry, precious little people, and I remembered. Life with littles is hard. It’s rewarding, joyous, giggle-filled – and exhausting.
This month, we’re talking about discipling our children – aged 0-3 – and the visit this weekend left me contemplating the ways in which I found spiritual nourishment as a young mom. Seeking Jesus when my kids were babies required some creativity, but I found Him – in between soy butter sandwiches, baths, naps and sanity drives (what, you never drove down the freeway praying your kids would all fall asleep at the same time?).
We in the Church often stress the importance of quiet time. We talk about rising a half hour early, about reading several chapters, about structuring our prayer time. What I remember from my years with the littles is that nothing happened as planned, everything was new and exciting, and the mention of quiet time made me feel as though I’d failed miserably as a follower of Christ.
Here are a few of the ways I got my “quiet time” in:
- The Bible on CD ~ I had to make dinner, clean the bathroom, or play blocks with the kids. When I did, listening to the Bible turned out to be a wonderful way to hide the Word of God in my heart.
- Sermons via radio, MP3 player, or on CD ~ When my youngest two were babies, I made a conscious decision to turn off the television, and to listen to sermons instead. It was amazing to me how much I learned – and how much calmer I felt. I had a hard time sitting down during these years, but I could chase tiny runners and listen at the same time.
- Bibles scattered through the house; a chapter here, a verse there ~ When I did have a moment to read the Bible, I never knew where I was going to be. I tried to leave a Bible in each likely place – next to the rocking chair, beside the couch, by my bed. I’d try to get in a few minutes while holding a baby, or just before passing out in exhaustion.
- Prayer all day long ~ I learned to pray constantly because my prayers were constantly interrupted. I gave up on making it through my list all at once, and just chose to thank God for something, and bring a concern before Him as I had time during the day. That’s how a relationship is anyway, right? We talk to God as things arise.
- Bible study – they had daycare! ~ I must confess that during the long, hard years with littles, I loved attending Bible study. It was the only time I left my kids anywhere – and I knew and trusted the ladies watching my children. For an hour and a half each week, I’d eat pineapple slices, talk about theology, and sit still without anyone demanding anything from me. I’d go home refreshed, and better able to love on my littles.
There you go. I didn’t do any earth-shattering spiritual development program during my years of raising babies and toddlers, but I did look for Jesus in between moments of Cheerios, smooshed bananas, and angry wails. God’s grace was sufficient for me. I sought Him, and there He was.
How do you find time to learn more about the Lord in the midst of Cheerios?
We educate our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, to the glory of the Lord, in the joy of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4, 1 Cor. 10:31, Phil. 2:14-15)
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is a children’s writer with a love for God’s Word, history, wisdom and small people. Her work has appeared in magazines including Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr.; Upper Room Ministries’ Pockets and Devozine; CBH Ministries’ Keys for Kids, and Cobblestone Group’s FACES and Odyssey. Her work also appears in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters.