04.19.2016

5 Ways I’m Finding my Spirit in the Messiness of Toddlerhood

Raising toddlers is no joke. If I’m honest with myself, having “me” time is one of the things I miss most about my younger, pre-kid years. I love my girls fiercely, I really do, but finding time to cultivate my spirit between diaper changing, crumb-sweeping, tantrum calming, and teeth brushing is hard work. It’s difficult to hear the still small voice within us above the “Mommmmyyyy’s!” and “Nooooo’s!” and “Miiiine’s!” I recently listened to a podcast with my all-time favorite blogger/writer/podcaster/traveler, Tsh Oxenreider, and she interviewed pastor and writer, Katherine Willis Pershey about everyday spiritual practices. Katherine said something that really resonated with me. She said that one of her spiritual practices is, wait for it…reading.

I love reading. Settling into a cozy chair with a blanket, a hot cup of tea and a good book is like waking up on Christmas morning to snow on the ground. Practically. ๐Ÿ™‚ Part of my excitement over settling in to a good book is because it doesn’t happen often, at least not the way I described it. It usually goes more like this: I step into bed after the dinner, bath, reading, brushing teeth, and tucking-in routine, pick up the book on my nightstand (the one that’s been on hold at the library for 6 weeks and is due in 1…), and anxiously open it and begin reading. 4 minutes later, I’m asleep. So when the vision of the blanket, the tea, the book I simply can’t put down actually happens – it’s a big deal.

5 ways I'm finding my spirit in the messiness of toddlerhood

During this season of life with small kiddos, practicing spirituality happens in small ways. It happens in the fringe hours, between responsibilities and commitments and errands.

Here are a few ways I’m finding my spirit and tuning out the noise:

Dinner Time

Growing up, family dinner with my parents and sister was standard. I give major props to my mom and dad for making that happen as regularly as they did, because the reality for my family during this season of life is that “family dinner” happens less rather than more often. The consumerist, over-scheduled, workaholic culture we live in often pulls us away from each other more than it calls us together. Therefore, I hold family dinners hallowed. They’re an opportunity for 20-30 minutes of the day to pause the demands of our calendars, phones, and laptops and simply enjoy being together. When I sit down at the dinner table with my family and hear the clanking of silverware and the giggling of two sweet voices, I’m happy. Plain and simple.

Driving

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m an introvert and I love quiet time every once in awhile. Because quiet time is harder and harder to come by these days, my solo 20-minute commute to work has become sacred. I sometimes often find myself smiling as I get into my car after dropping my girls off at preschool – not because I don’t love them dearly, but because it usually means taking my first sip of (lukewarm) coffee and a 5-minute stop at one of my favorite viewpoints in Seattle. Driving is often my prayer time, my time to acknowledge 1 or 2 or 3 things which I’m thankful for. It’s an opportunity to go through my mental rolodex of people and things I’m grateful for and also an opportunity to keep myself in check. What am I struggling with? What am I focusing on? In what ways do I need to shift or change?

Do I do this every morning on my way to work or every time I’m in my car alone? No, but whether it’s once a week or once a month, it’s time well-spent.

Reading

I love reading. I’ve always said that if I could have any super-power, it would be the power to touch a book and instantly know it’s content. Reading is two-part: there’s the content, which can be exciting or inspiring or astonishing or interesting or a million other emotions, and there’s the actual act of reading. Both what I read and how I read matters. Books impact us – some in such a way that we put down a book and never again want to pick it up, and others so poignantly that we are changed individuals. Reading is good for the spirit.

At the Grocery Store

One thing I’ve tried to be especially intentional about in the past six months is seeing the person behind the counter. It’s easy to develop a sense of entitlement toward those in the service industry, to reduce our relationships to transactional rather than personal. We try so hard to be kind to our friends, our neighbors, and our co-workers, but how often do we go out of our way to be kind to the person bagging our groceries or cashing our check? When I slow down and really see the individual in front of me,  Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words become more than a catchy Pinterest quote and rather, a way of living.

We may all have come in different ships, but we’re in the same boat now. tweet

So, how does this play out? It could be a comment about how much I love my cashier’s name, asking how their day is going and genuinely wanting to know the answer, or asking them about the symbol they have tattooed on their forearm. The point is, we belong to each other and we’re here to take care of each other. If not us, then who?

Slowing Down

I’ve always been a fast walker, but a few years ago, I attended a yoga retreat and one of the activities we were encouraged to do was to walk a labyrinth. The point was to feel every step, to make each step really count. It was difficult for me, I’m not going to lie – I was amazed at how hard it was to literally slow my body and even harder to slow my mind, which is often one twelve steps ahead of my body. But walking the labyrinth was such a good exercise in patience, intentionality and mindfulness. Since then, when I catch myself walking fast, I literally slow.my.roll. And when I do, I see so many more things and faces and beauty. I smile more at the people around me. I see buds on the trees and stories behind the faces.

Slowing down has become an act of gratitude. I encourage you to give it a try. Your soul will thank you.

In what ways do you find your spirit?

During this season of life with small kiddos, practicing spirituality happens in small ways. It happens in the fringe hours, between responsibilities and commitments and errands. Here are a few ways I'm connecting with my spirit and finding ways to tune out the noise.

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About Erin

I’m a thirty-something, coffee-loving mom of two living in a funky neighborhood in Seattle….all while seeking a balance between keeping up and slowing down.

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