by Wendy Henderson
When my kids were preschoolers, I felt like every day was met with a new and unforeseen challenge. Honestly, there were days that were simply overwhelming. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself asking “What is the purpose of all of this?”
It seemed as if some days all I did was survive. If the kids were fed and still alive at the end of the day, I would count that day as a success. Now, my children are teenagers and I’m able to look back on those days. This has given me a perspective that I didn’t have then. Looking back, I see there was a vast amount of purpose in those days. It’s just hard to see when you’re in the middle of it. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you are in a season where it’s hard to see the big picture.
If so, perhaps I can point you to three truths that not only provide some perspective but some much needed encouragement as well.
1. Your purpose is found in His purpose.
Whenever you have one of those days when you wonder, “Is there any purpose to what I’m doing” we need to remind ourselves that our purpose is connected to His purpose.
Colossians 1:16 says “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
I love the phrase “all things have been created through him and for him.” We were created FOR HIM. So were your children and mine. This reminds me that in the hard days of parenting, I have been chosen to be a steward of children who were created for God. Is there a greater purpose than this?
One of the many things I love about Courtney DeFeo is she’s an Auburn alumnus like me. War Eagle! Whenever Courtney and I are around each other, we make sure everyone knows we are both FOR Auburn. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, unless of course you cheer for a team that wears crimson. The War Eagle chant is a rallying cry to Auburn fans to remind us of our purpose – to cheer on the Auburn Tigers!
Colossians 1:16 is a rallying cry of purpose. It reminds you that you have been created FOR God, and so have your children. In the difficult days of parenting, I found it helpful to remind myself of who I am ultimately parenting my children for – my Heavenly Father. One of the ways I show Him that I am FOR Him is to give Him my best in raising, love and parenting the children He has given me. Praying through Colossians 1:16 is a reminder and a prayer of purpose.
2. Practice Purpose by Being Present.
When Courtney asked us to interview a mentor, I knew exactly whom I wanted to talk with about this topic, Sandra Stanley. Sandra is married to Andy who is the Lead Pastor of our network of churches. Andy and Sandra have a great marriage, three incredible adult children and a teenage foster daughter. They collectively do many things well, but one thing that stands out to me above about everything else is their parenting.
When I asked Sandra about her purpose during these years, she essentially gave a one word answer that I believe we can all relate to: “Survival.” These years are some of the most physically challenging and there are days all you can hope for is that you are not the one “booted off the island”.
Sandra said that in these days the most important way to find your purpose is to be present. First, decide what it looks like to be present for your family. There are many different dynamics in each family, so look at your situation and decide what needs to change or not change so that you can be most present. For stay at home moms, it may be easy to say that you are always present, but take a hard look at how truly present you are.
Are you more concerned with getting tasks done or fostering the relationship with your child?
Are you on your phone most of the day, do you have Netflix constantly going in the background?
Are you nodding as your child is talking, but not really listening to what they’re saying?
We have to be very self aware to be most present.
For working moms, Sandra’s advice is to “be vigilant and guard the time your have.” This too will require self-awareness. You will need to know when to shut off work. That may be coming home earlier and doing that extra work at home after your child’s bedtime, or when you do come in, shutting your ‘work brain’ off for a time to focus more on your ‘mom brain.’
Again, there are many dynamics to every family, so look at your situation and figure out how to best be present with your current reality. If you cannot figure out how to be present in your current reality, then you may need to reevaluate your situation. You don’t want to miss anything.
3. Turning Purpose and Being Present into a Habit.
To be as fully present as you can be, you must set your priorities up where they reflect this purpose. For example, consistently having dinner together around the table as a family is one of the most rewarding disciplines for a strong family. In today’s world, this has actually gotten to be quite a challenge due to all of the extracurricular activities that are available to us. And our family is no exception. We have to work really hard to have dinner together. Unlike Sandra, I’m not much of a cook and we have two teenagers that are constantly one the go. So the number of dinners together at home for us is not as high in this season, but the priority of the four of us being around the same table is extremely high. So we sometimes have to meet in the middle at a restaurant, then divide and conquer, but we all four were able to spend some time together and share about our day.
One of the best tools for being intentional about your time and your family’s time is your calendar. Putting things on your calendar will allow you to stay more committed to them. If you have to put “have dinner together” on your calendar three nights a week, then do that. That way, when you look at your calendar to see if you can give something else a “yes”, you will have a visible reminder that your priority is dinner with your family. And that way to say “yes” to this other opportunity, you will have to say “no” to dinner with your family. This will help you determine if it is truly worth that “no” to your family. Most of the time it’s not.
This was a consistent theme in my conversation with Sandra. She reminded me that, “You cannot get this time back.” She knew during those early years as a parent she didn’t want to look back with regrets of having said “yes” to things that didn’t necessarily reflect who she was wanting to be as a Mom. That requires focus. In these early years you may find yourself saying “yes” to very little. But what you do say yes to must align with who you are wanting to be. Sandra describes it as a funnel. The bottom, narrow part of the funnel represents those early years of parenting. Your world is smaller. You are desperately needed by your kids.
As a result, you only really interact with the people that are in this world with you, namely family and close friends. As your kids get older, your world broadens as their world broadens. You do life with a broader scope of people because their worlds are broadening too. You do more things because time can allow for that. And you can take advantage of more opportunities as your world gets bigger. Basically, you can say yes to more things. So simultaneously your worlds increase in size but all along the way, you are still very much a part of their world.
As your kids get older, your availability to them is still very important. They will need you less, but when they do, it’s speaks volumes to them that you are available. All along the way, you will realize that you can’t get any of this time back. As Sandra said, “Often those truly important things are not the things that ‘feel’ most urgent.” Make sure you are discerning what’s urgent and what is truly important.