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October 1st and fall is sure here in Washington. Grey skies, rain, puddles, light wind and little breaks of sun to warm you back up. We naturally start getting nestled back into our indoor activities, which can easily feel suffocating and claustrophobic after being out of the house so much all summer. The days will start feeling longer and darker, and boy do we have a lot more “oh my gosh whats wrong now?!!” Moments. I actually don’t like the fall and winter much at all. Little boys inside for long periods of time is quite crazy-making. But, there’s a few ways I’ve found to find some rays of sunshine in the irritatingly, long days. I find joy by falling in love with my family.

I purposefully take a moment to look at who these little people really are. It’s so easy to continue the path of everyday nothingness. What I mean is, we walk through our routine, reading the same books over and over, going to the same play spots, taking the same baths – all without really looking at WHO we are carrying, changing, pulling, wrangling or dragging. I get caught up more in the text of the story I’m reading for the 167th time, rather than the special spirits of my boys, and why they love that story. They love it because of who they are, what they imagine and what they believe as individuals. Wow, these little mess – makers are individual souls developing and emerging right before us, yet sometimes all I see is the mess.

As fall approaches, I direct myself towards true joy by really looking at who my children are. I open my eyes and see a creative, energetic, sharp little 3 – year-old, who loves to be in charge and on patrol. He lives and breathes for police chases. He’s simple, taking very special care of a few of his favorite  toys without needing anything but a bungee cord and his imagination.

I turn to the little two-year-old who loves batman, the color orange, his fire-truck sippy cup and his pirate book. He is very intentional about every question he asks, and so full of positive joy. He responds with “K” to any question, and he thinks he’s three like Benjamin.

I really allow myself to see these little humans, their opinions, their personalities and their struggles. We can date our children, and ultimately fall in love with who they are. If we are intentional and set up special times to interact, talk and just be with our kids, just like we would on a date, we discover so much more about their thoughts, ideas and beliefs. We might find more laughter, hear more silly jokes or just get kicked in the face during a wrestling/tickle fight – but, we will bond and connect on a relationship  level that is bigger than the care-taker level.

I think it goes without saying that this is a non-negotiable  practice and effort with your spouse. We are told to date our spouses, be intentional with them, laugh and spend time talking purposefully with them, but why not our kids too?

Opening your eyes to the people God gave you to love and nurture creates space for joy and peace to transcend the messes and frustrations. We fall in love with our family and the interruptions, whining, needing, flat-out – misbehaving and all-round chaos are soothed.

Even greater, when we realize the beautiful souls we helped create and bring into this world are half of us, we can find joy in who we are as mothers and the work we are doing. Falling in love with our families encourages us to fall in love with ourselves and remember the value we have and are giving, not just the messes we are cleaning.

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