It was the beginning of summer. Swim team season. I had several kids splashing around in the early morning practice and there I was on the outside, pushing my toddler on the swing. Alone.
“Why does he only like to swing?” I asked myself for the thousandth time. No sitting contentedly at a picnic table while coloring with some other kids his age. No climbing up and down on the play structure with the active toddlers so he could tire himself out for naptime. No activity near any other adult I could talk to. Don’t get me wrong—he was an all-around total delight of a child. But there we were. Just swinging. By ourselves.
I looked longingly up to the tennis pavilion where my friends with older kids were relaxing over a cup of coffee and adult conversation as they waited out swim team practice. They had graduated. They were in the sweet spot of parenting, I thought. Kids in the pool, them sitting in chairs like civilized humans. Talking in complete sentences about things other than “pinecones are not snacks” and “please don’t step in THAT!” They had all decided that this was going to be their season of reading magazines and catching up with friends—and I could tell by the excited mummering, they were ecstatic that summer was starting. I recall feeling sad that none of them bothered to come keep me company. Had they forgotten how lonely this stage can be? Or were they so relieved to make it to the other side, all they could do was relish in their newfound freedom?
And there I was, pushing, pushing, pushing the swing by myself. Was I destined to always feel a little bit alone wherever I went?
Struggling to Fit into Our Season of Parenting
We don’t always seem to feel like we fit gracefully into the season of parenting we’re in. Especially if we have multiple kids that span over several years, we may feel like we’re getting left behind by our friends with older children if we have a newborn. Or as if we’re blazing a new trail of “what do I do now that my 8-year-old wants to start her own YouTube channel?” and our friends still have little ones in diapers and their biggest YouTube drama is how much Cocomelon is too much Cocomelon? (Answer: The jury is still out on that one.)
It’s hard to feel either too young or too old, too early or too late to the parenting game, or just a little off center from what everyone else is experiencing . . . never really knowing where we fit in. It’s lonely. It’s sometimes so very lonely.
Been there? Are you in that club?
Well, mama, you’re not alone. (Even if you have no one to talk to at the playground because they’re all sipping lattes under the pavilion.)
Hearing from God
In the Bible, one thing I’ve always found extremely fascinating is when Moses is speaking to God in the burning bush (Exodus 3) on the top of the mountain. Moses was out in the middle of nowhere, tending his sheep, and I’d like to imagine, if there had been a play structure on that mountain, that burning bush might’ve been right next to the swings.
So God called out to Moses. He literally called his name (Exodos 3:4).
Take-away #1: God is a personal God and knows US!
Then God tells Moses as he approaches Him to stop and take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. In the middle of nowhere, on a mountain, tending his sheep, he was on holy ground because God was THERE. (Exodus 3:5)
Take-away #2: Being with God, no matter where we are, is holy. Even in the messy middle of parenting.
And God tells Moses that He sees and has heard the cries of His people. (Exodus 3:7)
Take-away #3: He knows what His people are feeling and He cares. He hears us and cares about our feelings—which is a relief because sometimes being a mom feels, um, complicated.
God then tells Moses He’s sending him to do an important task to help His people. (Exodos 3:10)
Take-away #4: Where God sends us, we are doing important work. And you can bet some of our important work involves that kiddo who just put a pinecone in his mouth!
Moses then says, wait, God, you’ve got this wrong. Important work for you? “Who am I?” (Exodos 3:11)
Take-away #5: Even Moses doubted—and he was a major player in the Old Testament! . . . and God lovingly reminds him that He equipped him! Yep, that means He’s equipped us, too.
God responds to Moses’ doubt by saying, “But I will be with you.” (Exodus 12)
Take-away #6: There’s nowhere God isn’t with us. Especially in the hard stuff, like parenting. Like anything. Anywhere.
Paying Attention in Our Loneliness
Sweet mama, let’s listen today for the voice of God, calling our name in the middle of our loneliness. Let’s stop and pay attention to the cries of our heart when we feel displaced or off-center in our parenting journey. In those moments, think back to that burning bush (and if it helps to imagine it at your neighborhood play structure, go for it). And know where you are now, with those babies or toddlers or elementary age, or even high school kids—you are on holy ground. Because God is with you right where you are.
Today, if you feel lonely or overwhelmed, can you stop for a moment and look around where you are? It may be outside. It may be at work or near the kitchen sink, or standing near a diaper changing table, or driving in the car. Remind yourself that you are on holy ground because God is with you. You are not alone. You are never, ever alone.
Katie Kenny Phillips is the author of the children’s book series, God, You Make Me Feel, Jesus Loves Everybody, and Let’s Find Joy! by iDisciple Publishing. She is also a Senior Writer and Editor for best-selling author, Shaunti Feldhahn. She lives in Atlanta with her five kids, husband and two ridiculous doodles. You can follow her on Instagram for upcoming releases (and hilarious antics from her circus!)