Emotional Tool: Be Present

This year was supposed to be all different.  I blame a wonderful New Year’s tradition my friends and I have.

Would you like to hear a story?

For the past few years a group of mommy friends and I have held a tradition.  Each of us picks out a word as our focus for our life that year.  We then encourage each other toward our goals throughout what life throws at us.  This year, they picked out words like Grace, Endurance, Still, Soft, Focus, and Thankfulness.  Mine?  Publish.  It wasn’t a spiritual or character development goal, but I was pumped.  This was going to be my year.  I poured over podcasts on Compel Training (an online resource for women who want to write for the Lord).  They outlined exactly how to start your career as a freelance writer: submitting queries for articles to magazines and periodicals.  They showed how to get PUBLISHED.  And what’s more, to get PAID per publication.  I was hooked.  I bought the two-inch thick Christian market guide.  I set up times to sit down and research my market niche of Non-fiction/Christian/Self-Help/Humor.  I have a niche!  How exciting!

You might have a question right about now – it’s the question I made sure I didn’t ask myself too squarely: How was I going to keep up my blog, still care for 3 small children, AND start down the road of writing and submitting articles?  I dunno, but I was LASER FOCUSED!  I was going to chase down my dream!  It was all I could think about.  Rather, it was all could obsess about.  Sure I had no childcare.  Sure it was the sick season of winter.  But I was going to manage to overcome.  After all, I AM A WRITER!! And did I mention that freelance writers get PAID for their articles?  My dream was about to come true.  I could feel it.  I was very nearly THINKING in all caps.

But something felt different.  My kids became really bratty.  So I started yelling more.  My baby became much more needy.  So I became much more huffy.  My husband started looking sideways at me and taking a step away.  I didn’t notice as I shoved the last of the dishes into the dishwasher with my mind twirling around which month I would see my name in print.  Would it be April?  No, too soon.  Possibly July?  Oh surely by then.

Then one night my husband and I had a conversation.  I began by complaining about how awful the kids had been behaving that day.  Bedtime was a clipped time, marked by sighs from me, and worried looks from the girls.  What had really set me on edge that day was a conference with the principle of the girls’ school.  She very graciously showed me that I needed to put in many more volunteer hours than I had been.  She was very kind about it, but the truth was, the hard numbers were pretty pitiful.  It was another strain on my time.  So, I made a plan.  I decided to outline to my husband how he could take all the kids for an extra few hours every week so that I could work writing and submitting articles.  It was my dream, after all.

Then, he very gently reminded me of another dream I had.  It was one about which I cried desperately to him.  I OBSESSED about it.  I dreamed and dreamed until nothing else in the world mattered to me.  I ACHED to have children.

“You have your dream now, Steph,” he said.  “You are living your dream-come-true.  Don’t throw away this dream prematurely for the sake of a new one.”

I was loading the proverbial gun with stinging comebacks when he said: “I am fully confident that you will publish.  You are going to publish so much in your lifetime.  I will do all that I can to make sure of that.  But right now you have another dream to tend to.  The dream of motherhood while your children are still small.  It takes much more than you’ve been giving it lately.  Keep your blog and add to it as you can, but make sure it doesn’t override the precious task you have of raising and caring for your three little dream-come-trues walking around.  Digging into your volunteer hours is just another part of that dream.”

I knew he was right.  I was mad – as I usually am when reality checks me like a hockey player.

I picture this emotional tool to be something of a wrench: a tool to loosen and adjust pipes and fittings as needed.  Lord knows that adjustment is the key to a long, healthy, maintained life.

So I chose another word(s) for my year:  “Be Present.”  It’s kind of scary telling you all this: you in the great wide land of the internet.  But it’s gotta happen.  I’m focusing on being present with my kids, focusing on them, on what’s happening right now, on what needs to be done.  Because these are short little years, I’ve heard.  I keep thinking about something an older mom once said:  “What your children need more than a pinterest-perfect house, or many “enriching activities,” is an unstressed mom.

I must be available to my kids.  If not me, then who?

I will publish.  But it must wait.

You may have noticed that I have been silent on the blog for a few weeks, simply because our whole family has been fighting off sickness.  Life this winter with little kids takes more time to care for.  I have to be more available to them and to the changing needs as doctor appointments come up, kids stay home from school, and babies wake often with sore teething gums and a snotty nose.

But cheer up little pup!  An unexpected benefit of being present is that it allows me to soak up the sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings of the moment.  These turn into vivid descriptions and word-pictures and story illustrations.  Kind of like this blog post. So I will take notes.  Or maybe not.  But I am shifting my focus to the work of this motherhood dream-come-true, and feeling surprisingly better for it.

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Steph Lenox thinks women need tools to build the unique lives God designed them to live. She suspects there is a way to feel better - a deep peace, and an abiding love - that is both a gift from the Lord, and a skill to cultivate and share. To this end, she loves sharing her emotional tool box with moms in these intense little years.

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