Is This the Way?Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Blundering, bungling, fumbling... Hi, I’m Ann Kroeker. And those three participles pretty much capture how uncertain I felt during my early days of parenting. If I'm honest, here I am fifteen years into it still feeling like I blunder, bungle and fumble. Parenting didn’t come naturally. Believe it or not, I hadn't changed a single diaper before I changed my newborn baby girl’s. Everything was new to me. Feeling my way along the dimly lit halls of parenting, I’d nervously inch forward like a blind woman running her hands along the wall in search of Braille. I was groping for something to assure me that I was on the right path.
Lacking confidence, I looked to others. I’d talk with couples who seemed to have a successful family and ask about their choices. A mom told me how important gymnastics is for kids to develop balance and strength, so I signed mine up for a class. When someone told me that music helped children develop early math skills and a lifelong love of music, I enrolled my kids as quickly as possible. If I heard about a club or a free concert or a story hour with crafts, I'd show up. When warned that my kids would fall behind if I didn’t get them reading early, I insisted on daily phonics lessons for my tiny preschoolers, whipping out alphabet flash cards for them to review during lunch.
Nothing was necessarily wrong with the sports, music classes, clubs, concerts, story hours, crafts or phonics lessons—they can be good things. But for us, life got overloaded, and too many good things turned into a bad thing. We were so stressed that meltdowns were the norm. When we were running late and had to hurry, things would escalate and the kids would flop to the floor at the back door and weep. After I managed to scoop them up and click them into their car seats, still wiping tears from their eyes and snot from their noses, I’d back out of the driveway thinking this can’t possibly be the right path for us. I’d pray for input and direction; I’d beg for wisdom and insight, hoping to hear, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). At the time, I felt like I was still blundering, bungling, and fumbling my way through each day without a lot of divine input; but in retrospect, I believe He was listening and leading, because “he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).
Over time, we shifted to a much simpler and slower pace of life. We've been through experiences that stripped our daily activities down to the essentials, and those extreme slow zones showed us that our lives could be rich and full without being filled up—that, in fact, they were richer and fuller for being more open and free. We began to flourish when we preserved some unplanned space in our schedules. Our slower path now winds down to the park where we wade in the creek and to the back yard where the kids cut out a cardboard castle. We pause to read aloud together, memorize a poem, or talk about a verse of Scripture. We're free to be part of other people's lives, because we’re available to play or serve. This is the way we’re living; this is the direction we’re heading. But is it the right path? My blundering, bungling, fumbling self often wonders—even worries—about it. The other day, my eight-year-old boy, asked, “Can we go on a family walk?” It was late. The rhythmic concert of crickets and tree frogs had just begun to swell as the sky deepened to the blue of night. We grabbed a flashlight and headed out. “Look at the moon!” he exclaimed, pointing to the nearly full moon rising just above the rooftops. “It’s so big! Wait. Stop here … look at it through the trees.” He paused and gazed at it through a tangle of limbs, so I did too. “It’s so beautiful,” he said. “I love that.” “Me, too,” I agreed. We continued the walk. Moonlight spread like filmy gauze over the path ahead of us. My son reached out for my hand. I felt him give it a squeeze. “I like family walks,” he said, “because it’s so quiet and peaceful.” “Me, too,” I murmured. We turned to head back. Though it was dark, the path was softly illuminated, and we could see clearly where to go. At least for that night, for that moment, I felt sure that this was indeed the way, and we were walking in it.
Photo and post by Ann Kroeker.