Sustaining Spiritually with 2 Kids Under 2 (or for any young mama)

by Hilary Horn

By Hilary Horn

I’m fresh into motherhood – barely two years in. Yet, we didn’t take things slow and I ended up having two children 15 months apart.  A baby flips your world upside down. There is such beauty and joy in motherhood. But any mom you follow on social media, you’ll quickly see how a toddler can turn a room upside down in a split second or get themselves into some sort of mess in a blink of an eye. You’re surprised each day that your daredevils are even alive or didn’t end up in the toilet again coming out with a big grin because someone got to touch poop. We wear our sleep-deprived faces as boldy as possible as we are in a this never ending marathon of sleepless nights. Long days and short years was never more true.

Motherhood. So much depth in that single word.

A friend had asked me how my devotional life was going sometime after Ephraim, my first child was born. “What devotional life?”, I thought.  Then I plummeted into a stairway of guilt, realizing not only my physical tiredness, but my spiritual drain too. How was I to sustain spiritually during this season? I’m a pastor for crying out loud! Shouldn’t that be a given? I was so exhausted and busy that my devotional life was forgotten.

So that question took me into a journey of wrestling with what even a devotional life looks like now as a mother. No longer are there days I can wake early and have a nice, undisturbed, quiet few hours enjoying breakfast, reading scripture and having lengths of time in prayer and meditation. Because even if for some uncanny reason I wake up at 5am to do it, it’s that day of course that someone is screaming 5 minutes later and needs me when they should be in bed for another hour or two. It’s not about a scheduling problem or being disciplined for most of us. When you have kids, each day is just full of surprises and no matter how hard you try, your well intentioned schedule will be totally screwed up.

I began asking mentor mom’s questions like, “How in the world did you seek God in this season? How do you take time for yourself? What sustained you? What are ways you experienced God while taking care of everyone? How did you even pastor at your church with kids? What was your role? Tell me all your knowledge!!” Seriously, I was so desperate. I wanted a quick fix. Most of their answers varied, but boiled down to this: this season is limited. Embrace it with all you have and seek God in the little moments. Don’t wish for the future years, but be where you are at now. Seek God in the everyday moments. My fresh mom-self just left more confused and asking what did that even mean? I wanted a 5 step program that brought back my old way of doing a devotional life. Give me the steps. Let me have a checklist!

Later on, God gently reminded me about contemplative prayer. I remembered an old book I read from Brother Lawrence, called Practice of the Presence of God. He was a humble cook who learned to seek God’s presence not just when he is praying, but when doing the dishes!

He says, “The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were on my knees.” Can I get an amen from a mom who has kids screaming at her while trying to get dinner on the table? He knew what was up! He is an old Desert Father who teaches us about seeing God in the everyday, often mundane and chaotic parts of life. That those moments are just as special, just as powerful as having a few hours to sit at Jesus’ feet.

That concept changed my life. Folding laundry became my space to meditate on scripture. Cooking dinner became my prayer room. Doing the dishes while blasting worship music became my daily worship experience. In between cries and diaper changes, stopping for 5-10 seconds to take a deep breath and ask the Holy Spirit to dwell with me saved my life.

Contemplative prayer doesn’t always mean hours of solitude and silence. It’s where we see deep transformational power in our life in the mundane, gritty, joyfilled and often complex thing that we call motherhood. Where somehow we meet God in such transformative places in our day to day that helps us be grace-filled and fully connected to the Creator and with others. Where our snuggled up babies become our sanctuaries and tantrums in stores become our avenues of practicing grace. Where you look back and wonder how you breastfed and took your entire family through the airport security check at the same time with an insane amount of luggage. Grace. Where you actually notice a beautiful flower on the walk to the park because your toddler decided it’s the most wonderful thing in the world. Rediscovering child-like faith and practices admits our hurried and frantic paced lives by letting these moments not slip away, but embracing them – even if it’s just for a moment. Or you stop for 5 seconds to take a deep breath and ask the Holy Spirit to be with You or for Jesus’ love to be upon you. His presence, it’s with you. It’s not glamorous, but through the simple practices, these type of moments transform us – powerfully.

Sure, your devotional life as a mother will never look like it did when you didn’t have kids. You have to truly come to terms with that reality. You’ll get time back someday, but remember that this is a season – a season you’ll never have again. Your babies won’t always be babies. But embrace all those little moments. Stop to just breathe. Stop to just ask God to be with you or speak a scripture out. Make the mundane a place to experience the divine.  Sustain and thrive in motherhood.

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2 comments

Ninabeth Metcalf April 17, 2018 - 9:27 am

Hillary Horn, a devoted mother of two kids under two and Pastor writes: “Sure, your devotional life as a mother will never look like it did when you didn’t have kids. You have to truly come to terms with that reality. You’ll get time back someday, but remember that this is a season – a season you’ll never have again. Your babies won’t always be babies. But embrace all those little moments. Stop to just breathe. Stop to just ask God to be with you or speak a scripture out. Make the mundane a place to experience the divine. Sustain and thrive in motherhood.”
Remember this – this too shall pass. We will move on from here. We are not stuck in this moment forever. Words spoken and unspoken to my first born, just under thirty, son. And to myself. I can no longer snuggle up with him. I can no longer swoop him into my arms and whisk him away into a land of imagination and wonder; away from the reality of his life gone awry. All I can do is sit with him, listening, as despair tumbles from his quivering lips. My heart tears apart with each regret, dead end, and broken relationship. I cry to God; this hurts Lord, this hurts! Painfully aware that time has passed and is inching forward, terrified that time might stop – for him. I gasp for breath and hold on.
One thing motherhood and life has taught me is that our very breath is a contemplative act. We breathe in life abundant and we breathe out gratitude for all that is. Seasons change us and our devotional life. As I look back over all the little moments that made up all of my seasons I am comforted by the words found in Isaiah; “it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” This season of tears is contributing to God’s river that makes all things new. To sustain myself in this season, I seek out prayer warriors who will not tell me what to do or over analyze, or relive their own dark terror. To thrive, I grope for ways to find blessing, to trust in God’s healing whole-making Love, to embrace liminality, even, to tarry in the reality of this moment.
As Hillary so eloquently and honestly states; our devotional life as mothers will never look the same. We need to be real about this. And we do get time back. Kairos time. A chance to dwell with God. Sustain and thrive and remember; this is a season, so seek the divine in the moment by moment ordinariness of your life.

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Hilary Horn April 18, 2018 - 3:52 pm

Thank you Nenabeth for your vulnerability and thoughts!

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