It’s the long days (and nights) of being a parent where I often wonder how God is working in my life.

Like right now. I’m exhausted, lying in bed.

I drearily open one eye, sighing.

Not now.

I had finally fallen asleep. How could she possibly be up again?

I don’t even want to look at my phone to see what time it is. My husband’s already up, leaning over the bassinet, getting ready to scoop up our four month old so we can start the shushing, swaying, rocking routine all over again. Lying still I pray she gets tired, that the Lord will help her finally sleep, and, if nothing else, that morning will come quickly.

When the sun eventually peeks through the curtains (or maybe even before) I’m awoken by my way too energetic three-year-old bounding into the room and jumping up the bed excited to see me, ending those precious few moments of rest all too soon. 

This has been my nightly regime for the past few months.

And of course days are filled with an incredibly sweet and happy baby who, as long as mommy or daddy is holding her, is perfectly content as she dozes off in our arms, and a passionate toddler who’s next melt down is always around the corner.

Yes, I am exhausted.

And many times I find myself wishing time to hurry up so we can move on to the next stage.

Let it come fast.

When the baby is six months and sitting up, then it will be easier.

Or when she sleeps through the night, then I’ll finally have this whole mom thing mastered.

I did the same thing with my oldest, eagerly waiting until I could give her solid foods or anticipating her first steps from the moment she first rolled over. And then of course, once one milestone was hit I was again wishing them away and ready to move on to the next as I wiped mashed avocado off my face and the floor and as I scrambled to put up the baby gate to keep our ten-month-old walker at bay. 

As parents we say we want the time to slow down. Our kids grow up too fast, and it’s true. But when I’m in the trenches it’s easy to wish this time away. When I have to chase my screaming toddler around the house and carry her to the “time-out” chair kicking and screaming, I admit sometimes I’m not wanting these moments to slow down.

I’m ready for this phase to pass.

I wonder how God could possibly be using me in these mundane, albeit crazy, hours of my day. The hours spent wiping bottoms and sticky fingers or scouring the house, tracking down stuffies and pacifiers all in an attempt to buy myself a second to rest. I wonder how my exhaustion day in and day – no matter what new phase we are in – is doing anything to further His kingdom.

Usually it’s through my kids that God reminds me that even in the most routine tasks of my day, He is working.

When my daughter falls down, I have the opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to her by wiping away her tears and holding her. When she makes a mistake, I can be gracious in my discipline and in extending my forgiveness. When my baby wakes up in the middle of the night, my being there to gently rock her back to sleep is just the beginning of her understanding what it means to be loved.My actions now will become part of the foundation for how my children will eventually understand grace and mercy and sacrifice.

Wow. As if being a parent didn’t already have enough pressure!

1 Peter 1:6 says “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while…you have been grieved by trials of all kinds” (NIV). Trials of all kinds, yes including the kicking and screaming toddler and the sleepless nights! These trials and my responses to them refine my faith and my character in Christ.

Yes, these days are long but so full of opportunity to grow and teach my kids without even needing words. Wishing away the spit up and the temper tantrums means not only taking in all these precious moments as my kids grow too quickly, but also maybe missing out on God’s nudging and chances to help make me more like Him. 

And the good news God doesn’t leave me to do it alone.

In fact, I can’t do it at all without His help. Every day (or hour..or…or minute) there’s a slip up when I again get caught in the dreariness of making sandwiches and wiping up spilled juice. And I want to speed time up to get past this phase. I get frustrated or lose my temper or say something I immediately regret, and I see those two pairs of eyes watching me, taking it all in.

Yes, thank goodness God’s there to pick up after my mistakes too. He’s there to lend me His strength, to lean on Him when I’m exhausted, so I can continue to press on and let His light shine through me each time I listen before getting angry at the crayon drawings on the wall, or laugh instead of cry at the next diaper blowout that leaks out onto my new carpet.

So be encouraged mama! Always looking ahead is an easy trap to fall into as parents. In the hardest moments with my children, it’s easy to ask God to speed it all up to move on to the next phase. But God is using this time to shape you into the person He designed you to be.