The gift of being present for your children

Published on October 20, 2023

We live in a society (and a time in history) where we have a plan for everything. Knowledge and information are only a click away, which has given us a how-to guide for almost every aspect of life. I often long for a time before the information flood when we powered through and learned by experience, grew from our mistakes, and found our answers in the faces and lives we experienced. Being present was the best gift we could give one another. 

What if I told you the best prescription or the most detailed guide of how to be present in the lives of your children and family was simple and singular? Brace yourself! In order to be present in your family’s lives you only need to be . . .still. I know, mind-blowing rocket scientist stuff there. One word, one syllable, but with such profound meaning. Let’s look further at the idea of stillness. 

My oldest daughter fought her way through a battle of depression and anxiety following the COVID-19 pandemic. The things she loved she began to hate, and her faith in God and the people he placed in her life were on shaky ground. As her mom, my only desire during that time was to help her heal and remind her she was a loved and chosen child of God. So I stayed up late with her on the nights she cried herself to sleep, and I assured her that she was an amazing, beautiful, and profound gift from God. But the more I fought to remind her how amazing she was, the more she shrank into the abyss of her sadness and pain. 

I remember driving her home from a soccer game in which I thought she played amazing, yet I listened to her belittle herself and criticize her every move. Desperate to remind her of her giftedness, I yelled at her all the way home, terrified she could not see herself the way I did—the way I knew God did. 

When we finally got home, she went straight into her room and I did not see or hear from her until the next morning. Brokenhearted by the way I had treated her, I knocked gently on her door asking if I could come in. (It was locked. She had never done that before.) I sat on the edge of her bed, tears streaming down my face as I apologized for failing her. Tears soaked her pillow, and she nodded as I spoke but still couldn’t form the right words. Finally I asked her, “What could I have done differently? I am lost and I only want to help you.” Peace washed over her face as she said, “I don’t need you to fix it or to say anything. I just need you to be there and to listen.” She only needed me to be still. 

A lot changed in both of our lives after that. She was victorious over her battle with depression and anxiety. She grew and blossomed at a rate I could hardly keep up with. And I learned that sometimes it was more important to sit with her in the rain than to remind her of the rainbow. I learned to be still. I can’t say it was easy. Watching her hurt broke every emotional barrier in my body, but I never left her side. 

In her suffering, she found comfort in knowing I would always be there for her. In my stillness, I had no other choice than to rest in the assurance of God’s love for her and to believe the story he was writing for her would be better than any I could have written.

The act of stillness is woven throughout the text of the Bible. Each time, it is God’s attempt to draw us closer to him so he can act on our behalf, and so we can attune our hearts and minds to his voice. No person was better at the act and obedience of stillness than Jesus. 

Repeatedly throughout his time on earth, Jesus paused and rested in the stillness of God. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus calls us to rest in the stillness we can find in him: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus knew his time on earth was short, yet he spent so much of that time in the stillness of the relationships around him. He found the simplest way to be present in our lives. 

In our attempts to be present for our children and families we often overcomplicate how we connect and the ways we bond with each other. But in reality, we—like Jesus—need to be present and provide stillness in a world so full of hurriedness. You will find the gift of connectivity and the sincerity of being present when you set all things aside and remember it is the simplests of acts that have the most profound effects.

Be still.

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Natalie Washington

Natalie Washington is a wife and mother of three who spent the first part of her kid’s lives as a stay-at-home mom. When she returned to the workforce, she fulfilled a years-long dream of acquiring a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy. Shortly thereafter, she was commissioned as a pastor at Friends Church in Yorba Linda, where she now directs the early childhood and elementary ministries for kids ages birth to 5th Grade. She is passionate about equipping parents to be leaders in their households and empowering them to raise kids who have authentic relationships with God and people. She encourages families to cultivate a culture of safety, where forgiveness of self and others abounds. She’s seen difficult situations turned around by the power of grace and believes that it is at the heart of every true human connection. In her free time, she enjoys writing, running, watching her children thrive in the sports they love and seeking God in solitude and reflection.

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