To me, what may seem more often than not, wearying, dull, repetitive, continuous, never-ending unfruitful labor of a daily home life, is in reality what is shaping, creating, and knitting together the character, hearts and lives of each member of our family! Each day is like a little stitch that is placed in the quilt of our family's life. Just like any manual work in progress, it's never pretty when it's "in the making," be it building or remodeling a house, where you have dust, tools, materials everywhere, or while working on a sewing project, or even cooking (if you could only see how my kitchen looks like!)... but once it's finished and done, that's when we can see how our hard work paid off, and hopefully can enjoy in the fruit of our labor!
In years to come, all this mundane day-to-day home life, will morph into the precious childhood memories our children will carry the rest of their adult lives--and how will they be??? Will they be magical family memories that will bring warm and loving nostalgia? What will be their memories of me??? What will be their memories of their parents? Will they think of us as parents who were deeply committed to God, to each other and deeply in love with one another?
We sometimes forget that today is what shapes tomorrow! As Sally says in the book, "...I understand that life really does fly by. It is crucial that I make the most of every moment and learn to enjoy, inspire, and encourage every chance I get, because soon the minutes will all be gone." We get so caught up in the mundane, that we begin to see our days as "tasks to be accomplished," and completely miss out on the blessing of creating and shaping LIFE!
Sally goes on saying, "I understand so much more deeply now that what really mean the most are love and deep relationships, the well-living of mundane life, the discussions around the dinner table, and the sharing of memories and celebrations that have knit our hearts together." That is so true, and SO easily missed in our daily lives! It was so encouraging to read Sally's edition written 10 years after writing Seasons of a Mother's Heart, and be able to see her insights now that her children are grown and most living their independent lives. Not being in the trenches of it, she's able to see it ever more clearly all that has passed. This to me is like jewel! There are a few things I value more than wisdom from godly people who have been through life and now can look back and point to us the right direction, or how to best live certain seasons of life.
Sally says, "As I look back on the spring seasons of my life, especially the babyhood years, I wish that I had been more able to rejoice in them. I wish I had taken more time to rejoice in the pleasure of little children running in old ballet suits and delighting in the simple beauties of life..." I'm right in this season of life, and reading this made me really reflect on how I'm rejoicing and enjoying the many pleasures that this season provides! I know I'm well aware of all the challenges that it brings, but am I focusing enough on the pleasures as well???
She later adds, "Looking back, I can see how I jumped into too many 'busy' activities because I thought it was something we 'should' do or because my friends were doing it. In the end, many of those activities only added stress to my life and overstimulated my children." How true! I'm not totally there yet...but I can see myself easily falling into this trap, and have seen more than enough families living it.
I love how she finishes this section by saying, "But even rejoicing requires a choice: We have to submit to the limitations of the spring seasons. We have to accept the small graces and embrace both the beautiful blooms and the little storms." How true! Ever since I had my first child, I quickly learned I had to take each blessing as it came, and just rejoice on each good day I was graced with. A good night of sleep is never guaranteed with little ones in the house, so I learned to thank God each morning I happened to be blessed with a good one. But Sally takes this a step further, and reminds us that life is full of seasons, and each comes with its limitations. We have to learn to rejoice in the blessings and adjust to its limitations.
In Chapter 1 she delves more into this subject, reminding us that, "As rugged individualists, Americans don't want to hear that living in a fallen world means that life will never be as perfect as we want it to be. Yet that is part of living between the ideals and realities. I have come to understand, after much struggle, that I will spend the better part of my life adjusting my expectations to life's limitations rather than having my expectations fulfilled." Wow! How powerful is that? And I love what she says a little later in the chapter, "If I choose to, I can learn to be content with the life that God has given to me, whether I have a little or a lot to live it with. What keeps me from being content is not what God is or isn't supplying; the real problem is that I, Sally, refuse to adjust my expectations--I want more than I can have, ask for more than I need, strive for more than I can do, and expect more than God has promised." Seriously...she could be writing about ME!!!
It is just so completely encouraging to see how God has worked in her life to reveal these truths. It is my prayer that God will impress these truths in my heart so that I don't have to look back in 20 years and think of all the time and opportunity I have missed at enjoying my children, my husband and the life God has gifted me with because I was too caught up in the daily tasks of the mundane and could not see past the limitations of each season.
If home life with children is simply seen as getting through the day and completing tasks, then life becomes very complicated and difficult. Children seem to be born with a PhD. in disrupting tasks, creating distractions, annoying behaviors or simply creating chaos and messes! I LOVE the story Sally shares in one of the early chapters of how she had this great idea of making Christmas cookies with her children, and was so excited about creating life memories with them in that moment. While she was focused working on her tasks, had melted some chocolate to do some candy-coated pretzels, and then went to check on some other cookies in the oven, she looks back to find her three year old son finger painting with the chocolate, and had his face, hair and clothes covered in chocolate, as well as the kitchen cabinets and floor! She says that in her anger she made a bigger mess of the situation and completely missed the joy of that moment. In her words: "But time and experience have since tempered my temper. Today, I would get a big laugh out of my chocolate-covered child and take a few snapshots. I would choose joy." I can totally see myself ruining the moment in anger as well in a situation like that! Having a three year old myself, I've had plenty of similar situations, and never once have considered looking past the "inconveniences" to instead look for the JOY in the moment and just have fun with my daughter and build some good and fun memories!
We just get SO CAUGHT UP in the tasks that we miss the POINT in family life! I have to write Sally's following thought after this story, because it's just so good: "I am more convinced than ever that even in the midst of the mundane, burdensome, and oftentimes frustrating tasks of life allotted to me as a mother, God wants me to find his joy. He wants every single day of my life to be a celebration of his blessings, whether large or small. He wants me to celebrate life--the life he has given me." This is particularly important to me, because I can see just how easily I can lose my joy during difficult seasons at home. When things become difficult, I become even more focused on "tasks" and getting through my days and just "surviving"...and this is when I often completely lose my joy. The days become heavy on me, and I feel as if I have no time for joy. But as Sally says, joy is the result of the choices we make. If we choose to be thankful and learn to be content, then we are opening our hearts to receive joy. Sally writes that, "Joy is not a supernatural feeling that God pours on you from heaven but a gift of the Holy Spirit that is released by faith." In Galatians 5:22-23 says that, "...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." As we choose each day to "die to the self" and let the Spirit fill us, we are opening our hearts to receive His gift, His fruit, and be filled with it. By doing this, not only will we be able to rejoice in the mundane of life and refocus on what's really important and valuable in life, but we'll also be gifting our children with a great treasure by showing them how it's done!
As Sally says, the choices we make as we journey through the seasons of our lives, will determine whether our life's messages will have an eternal impact after we are gone, or fade with time and be forgotten. I don't know about you, but I know that for me this is the defining reason as to why I am fully motivated and committed to pressing on to be exactly where God has called me to be. I hope and pray that my choices will be one to have eternal impact and value, and far exceed my time here on earth.
So let us remember each day as we open our eyes, "This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24