I remember the days leading up to the birth of my first child. I was so excited at the prospect of quitting my career job and staying home to be a full-time mother. It would be a stretch on our finances – to survive on my husband's job, alone – but we knew the Lord would provide.
And provide He did.
I just never thought I would feel so alone during that time.
Instead of overflowing with a sense of fulfillment and being thankful that I had the opportunity to be at home with my child – unlike many of my working-mom friends – I found myself missing my job, craving adult conversation, and even fantasizing about my care-free life before I was a mom. Feelings of guilt replaced what I thought would be feelings of fulfillment and I found myself spiraling downward into depression.
It was then that I cried out to God and said "What's the matter with me? You've given me my heart's desire and for some reason it isn't enough. I love my child, but why am I feeling there has to be more?"
After pouring out my heart to God, He began to show me, through circumstances in my life, conversations I had with other moms, and stories I read in His Word, that He was building in me a foundation that I would need to stand on later. God was giving me life experiences that would shape my character, prepare me for days ahead, and give me the tools I now need to raise a teenager!
I believe parenting is a time in which God can accelerate our growth – refining our character, producing in us patience, giving us wisdom through experiences – if we're open to receiving that growth. And when we're feeling particularly lonely as a parent, it's also a precious time in which He can draw us closer to Himself.
God began to impress upon me that as my child was growing physically, I needed to be growing, too – spiritually, mentally and emotionally. So I responded by putting myself in the place where God could grow me in the way He desired.
Here are some growth opportunities I focused on that you, too, can implement to make sure you don't miss your opportunity for a growth spurt, as well:
1. Prioritize Your Relationship with God. I'm sure you've heard it said that your children are your top priority right now. But if God was not my first priority when I became a parent, I never would've kept my sanity or my marriage! My daughter (and my husband) learned early on that if Mom didn't get her time with God, Mom wouldn't be pleasant to be around.
When you stop to pray in the midst of the chaos, rock your children to sleep with an open Bible on your lap, or sing songs of praise to God as you're singing them to sleep at night, your children learn that your love for God is an integral part of your life. And as your relationship with God deepens, your love for your children and wisdom to parent them deepens, too. Matthew 6:33 holds true for parenting as well:
"But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things (wisdom, comfort, peace, purpose) will be given to you as well."
2. Pursue a support network. Joining a "Mommy and Me" group through my town's community services department when my daughter was a toddler was something that grew her socially and grew me in terms of having a support network, something to do, and relationships to invest in. Or, find moms in your church and neighborhood and arrange play days for the kids, exchange free babysitting, and so on.
Some of my best friends today came into my life when I was lonely and looking for another mom. And some of the women I've shared my faith with through the years are the moms who were lonely, too, and came to find a new friend in Christ.
3. Plan growth opportunities. Make a list of what you'd like to accomplish in the next year and then relish in the satisfaction of putting checkmarks next to those things you've completed. Here are some ideas for your list:
Read more books -- Make a list of books you'd like to read that will grow your character, improve your parenting and relationships, make you into a stronger leader, or hone your skills in certain areas. Start a journal – Are you one who talks of writing a book some day? Then record the lessons you're learning. Write down those funny or meaningful things your children do and say that can be teaching moments. Or, just journal what you're learning everyday as a way of recording your life lessons for your children or charting for them your spiritual legacy. Complete a project – Working on personal projects like getting family photos into an album, exercising three times a week, or clearing the clutter from corners of your home will give you a sense of accomplishment. Or, investigate some work-at-home options. 4. Praise Him in your circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says it pretty simply: "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." I've found nothing grows me more than when I continually thank God for my circumstances even during moments I don't feel thankful. A heart of gratitude draws you closer to the heart of God. If nothing else, thanking Him every day for your child, your life, your circumstances, will draw you closer to the Lover of your soul.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and the author of several books, including her newest, â When Women Walk Alone: A 31-Day Devotional Companion'. For more on her ministry, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Find this article at: http://www.crosswalk.com/parenting/11605114/