Monday, February 22, 2016

Thoughts on "Loving the Little Years" (Part I)

Just yesterday, I finished reading the book Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic. This thin, little book was stuffed to the brim with encouragements, challenges, and nuggets of truth for mothers. Rachel shares her stories in such a warm, honest, and heart-touching way that at one point I was laughing out loud, many times I was smiling, and one time I even had tears in my eyes while I was reading. I was so touched by her book at this stage of my life, as a mommy to two littles, that I wanted to do a little journaling about it to help me think a little more deeply on some of her points…

  • “The state of your heart is the state of your home.” As noted many times on this blog, and I’m sure noticed by anyone who knows me, I really love order and organization. Scrubbing the kitchen sink or getting the grime out of the nooks and crannies of our stove is kind of like a refreshing sort of therapy for me. Strange, but true. So, when I read this phrase, “The state of your heart is the state of your home,” it made me think. I tend to want to flip this phrase around- in other words, the state of the kitchen or the state of our living room floor sometimes determines the state of my heart. Yesterday, when there were about one hundred toothpicks sprawled about on our living room floor, a chunk of bread surrounded by bread crumbs on our kitchen counter, play dough “cupcakes” in muffin tins spread throughout the kitchen, a crying baby, and a clingy toddler, I had one of those “moments”- moments when I can feel my heart becoming anxious, stressed, and frantic. With a toddler and a newborn these types of chaotic moments tend to happen more often than not! And, when they do it can be easy for me to want to be stressed or anxious because things are not as “orderly” as I’d like. This little nugget of truth from Rachel, however, stuck with me as I took in that situation yesterday. Things can be seemingly crazy all around me, but, by God’s grace, as I am thinking on Him and not on the craziness, my heart can still be calm and controlled. And this is what brings glory to my Father- and much more joy to me!
  • “Building up little people, and not tearing them down.” Just the other day, I was telling someone (probably Matt) about how fussy Clara had been that day. Annie must’ve picked up on this, because she has been playing with her baby dolls and saying, “Cranky! Fussy!” “Crella (Clara) so fussy!” Having a toddler repeating everything you say can really show you glimpses into your own heart and attitude that are sometimes not so pretty! When I read this section in the book about building up the little people in my life, it made me think of how I speak about our littles- especially to my husband. When he comes home from work or school, and I’m telling him about our day, am a building our littles up or tearing them down (even if I think they can’t understand me yet- because I’ve found toddlers are quite a bit smarter than you’d think!) Jesus always speaks well of children, and I want to follow His example. Not that it is wrong to share struggles I’ve had throughout the day with Matt- because my day is filled with little people, there will always be both joys and trials related to them!- But being careful to set a guard over my mouth, especially how I speak in front of them, and seeing my words as a glimpse into my own heart. Continual complaining reveals that my heart is not content and is not thankful. And I want to have a heart that is overflowing with thankfulness for the two little gifts of life that God has blessed us with! 
  • “Thanksters” vs. “Cranksters”- Going along with the previous point, Rachel says she and her husband are often asking their children (and in turn checking their own hearts as well!) if they are being thanksters or cranksters. She defines these in such simple terms- a “Thankster” thinks on what they DO have while a “Crankster” focuses on what they DON’T have. I love how simple and clear cut this is- no room for excuses! So when I speak (out loud or even just in my own head), what am I focusing on? Yes, the toddler may be clingy and fussy, but I can thank God that I have been blessed with this little toddler in my life. Sure, the baby screamed the whole way in the car, but I can thank God she is healthy and has an obviously healthy set of lungs! Being a thankster like this will not only make life more joyful, but will speak well of my heavenly Father and will help my mind be focused on Him rather than dwelling on thoughts of discouragement or self-pity. 
  • Sacrifice- Rachel encouraged mamas to sacrifice for their littles. After becoming a mommy, I realized you could define mother by this one word- “sacrificers” - sacrificers of our bodies, our time, our sleep, the list could go on. But Rachel gave examples of more simple kinds of “sacrifices,” ones that happen over and over in the little moments throughout our days… sacrificing peace and quiet for the joy your toddler gets from that musical toy, sacrificing a clean floor for special time with a little who wants to “help” grate the carrots for the salad, sacrificing time on Pinterest for quality time together sorting colored buttons with a toddler who took your hand saying “Mommy, do it ‘gether!” … And, after truly thinking about it, these are not really sacrifices at all. They are simply choosing the more important things over the lesser things in life. 
  • “Bodies are tools, not treasures.” This is a tough one, especially in our culture where we are bombarded by images of what is considered “beautiful.” And then we are confronted by the realities of what being a mom does to our bodies. The two do not seem to align very well! Mommy-hood totally changes your body, and it can be very easy to resent this. But, Rachel reminds mamas that our bodies are not ours to treasure. They are given to us by God to be used- and what better use of them than one of the things they were designed for- carrying and giving birth to new little lives! This is beautiful to God. We just need a redefinition of beauty.

Continue to Part II  to read on some thoughts I had on some her parenting advice...

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