Play with Me, Mama: A Lesson in God-with-us

Luke playing bI’m at the sink doing dishes when my three year-old pleads, “Play with me, mama.” I know it sounds horrible, and I feel like a horrible mother just for saying it, but truth be told, right at that instant, I don’t want to play. I want to muscle through my to-do list. I want the sink tidied up and the food put away. I want to see my face reflecting in the clean counter-top. And I want to be able to step without my feet sticking in the residue of the apple juice my toddler joyously sprinkled from his sippy-cup all over my wood floors. The truth is: I don’t feel like playing.

Later that morning, I’m trying to get the mound of clothes I’ve just dumped on the bed from the dryer folded and put away, when the three year-old comes to ask for my hand in play again. I know there are four more loads to wash, and dry, and fold before the day is done. I know how my pregnant back is already aching. And once again, I find myself shooing him away. I’ll get my work done and play later, I think to myself.

The next time the request comes I’m in the middle of a Bible story. I’m reading to him and the toddler about how God passed over all the bigger, stronger, better looking sons of Jesse. Instead, God chose tiny little David to be the king of Israel. I’m telling him how this king would be the great, great, great…. Grandfather of the King who would come one day to be with us, the One who would be our Emmanuel, moving among us, living among us, in our midst, and at our level–when He interrupts again. “Mama, play with me!”

Finally, I realize it’s not my three year-old interrupting me. It’s God interrupting me through my three year-old. How can I expect this little one to listen, to obey, or even want to hear my instructions unless I’ve first gotten down on his level and entered into his world? He wants my presence amidst blocks, trains, and construction trucks. He wants me hiding in his fort, building a tunnel, busting out the finger-paints and getting my own hands into the glorious mess with him. He doesn’t want a mom who cares for his needs and stands far off (at the kitchen sink or washer). He wants a mom who draws near to him, who finds herself on all fours, lion-growling and staring eye-to-eye in the cave made of blankets.

And the funny thing is, that’s what I want in my God too. I need a God who stoops low. I need a God-with-me. I need a God who crawls into the tight places of my tiny world and makes his home with me.

And when I stop to think about why that God has my heart, about why I bother to listen, or want to obey his commands, it’s because this God came down to my earth and walked these dusty roads we tread. It’s because He carried sorrows like mine, and felt the heaviness of the loads I carry. And it’s because He bothered to pause all of the important work of heaven to be with His people face to face. This is why I listen, love, and obey.

The funny thing is I find a direct relationship between my spiritual health and how ready I am to get down on the floor and play with my little ones. When I’m allowing worry and stress to live heavy in my heart, I don’t feel the lightness of heart of a mother who is ready to play, and tickle and tease. When I’m not trusting God with my tomorrow or even my to-do list, when I’m clenching it so tight in my fist because if I don’t get it done—who will?—that’s when there’s not joy enough in my heart to make them giggle with peak-a-boo or turn the music up and dance with them. A heart that can play is a heart that can rest in Jesus for all that needs to be done.

And so I pray that 51st psalm of David, the one whose descendant would be Emmanuel. Oh Lord, help me put a higher value on a clean heart than on clean clothes and dishes. Oh Lord, renew in me a right spirit—one of trust, and peace, and hope. Cast me not away from your presence, but instead let me revel in the joy of your nearness, of your with-me-ness. And in that joy of your presence, restore to me the joy of my salvation, that very same joy that spills over from this mama’s heart into the lives of her little ones. The joy that comes down to crawl on the carpet with them, vrooming trucks and tickling toes. The joy that lets them know they do not walk this world alone.


Like what you’re reading? Make sure to subscribe to this blog and also check out my devotional for expectant moms, a great gift for an expecting mother you know: Waiting in Wonder: Growing in Faith While You’re Expecting.

When All I Have to Give Seems So Small, Part II

There are seasons of life where it feels like all we have to give is so small. Early motherhood is definitely one of those seasons. Today, I continue my post from yesterday, with a few more historic examples of how God took the “little” his servants had to give and multiplied it to feed the masses.

When all I have to give is my friendship:
Often in this journey of motherhood, when the day is through and I’ve cared for my household about the only thing I have time left to do is connect with the handful of close friends God has blessed me with the privilege of knowing. The friendships re-charge and encourage me spiritually, and I can only hope I do the same for these dear ones. But I’m reminded often that friendship is no meager offering, it too can change the world.

Most people know John Newton only as the author of the beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Perhaps some people know about this former slave trader’s own conversion which led him to pen those famous words. But though Newton was a great preacher, author, and reformer as biographer Jonathan Aitken points out perhaps one of his most profound legacies was in the fruit of his spiritual friendships. Newton’s friendship with the beloved English poet William Cowper helped spur on the writing of some of the most beautiful hymns the church has today, not to mention some of the best poems of the English language. Newton helped his friend fight bravely against depression and because he was such a good friend we have works of William Cowper that may never have come to fruition otherwise.

Newton was also a friend to noted reformer William Wilberforce. It was at Newton’s insistence that the newly converted Wilberforce did not abandon his political post, but instead used his passion for God to change the laws of England and ultimately abolish the slave-trade. And it was Newton’s words which helped Wilberforce persevere in a dark hour where it seemed all hope was gone.

Newton’s friendship with a young woman named Hannah More was what led her to faith. She would go on to become the mother of the Sunday School movement, as well as a noted writer, and philanthropist. Newton also met regularly for breakfast with a young man by the name of William Carey, the man we know now as the father of modern missions.

When all I have to give is the fire in my belly that won’t go out:
I love reading the story of Harriet Beecher Stowe that devoted Christian wife and mother of 6, whose writing career really began because she needed to put bread on the table in a time when her husband’s earnings were not enough. And despite the necessity of earning money from her writing, there was a fire in her belly that would not go out. Profoundly disturbed by the injustices she had glimpsed, her writings returned again and again to the themes of abolition. After the death of her infant son, sympathy at the loss of slaves torn from their children took her writing to a new level of emotional power. Uncle Tom’s Cabin changed the course of American History and was the reason, Stowe became known as the little lady that started the big war.

She writes:

“I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother, I was oppressed and broken-hearted with the sorrows and injustice I saw, because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity – because as a lover of my country, I trembled at the coming day of wrath.”

Stowe had given God her affections, and He had made her lover of the things that He loved and reviler of the things He despised. She gave Him control of her heart and He turned her heart for the oppressed. God gave her a way to care for the needs of her household AND speak out for the oppressed. What began as a simple story published periodically in a magazine became a way God changed the lives of untold numbers.

What’s your all I have to give?
While our worlds, especially as mothers of young children may seem small and shrunken in, it doesn’t necessarily mean our influence is likewise small. Putting a priority on our husbands and our children is certainly no small thing. When between nap-schedules and potty-training, we find it’s hard to even get out of the house our prayers can still reach the edges of the earth and help eternity to break into the hearts of those for whom God burdens us to pray. When all we have time for is nurturing a handful of friendships, let us not despise how God can use that spiritual life-on-life sharpening. When all we have is a fire in our bellies for the oppressed and downtrodden that won’t leave us alone when the children are napping and the dishes pile up in the sink, sometimes even in our “shrunken in” world God makes a way for us to snap the chains of the oppressed.

Don’t let the “accomplishments” of these men and women of the faith make you feel small. Many of them didn’t think they had much to give either. Their reach didn’t seem to go much farther than our own. And yet, God used them in profound ways.

So what’s your “all I have to give”? Give it to Him in faith. And let Him multiply it to feed the masses.


Have you enjoyed this post? Make sure you check out Part I and if you aren’t subscribed to receive these posts to your inbox, consider signing up here. You’ll also want to check out my latest book, Waiting in Wonder: Growing in Faith While You’re Expecting. It would make a fabulous gift to any expecting mom you know. As you can see, God has burdened my heart to encourage young moms. Won’t you help spread the encouragement by sharing this post or giving a copy of my book to a young mom you know.

Waiting in Wonder - Catherine Claire Larson

The Interrupted Life

baby portrait

It’s almost 9 pm by the time I get my three-year old to bed. I come downstairs wash a few dishes and sit down to face a blank page, praying for some words to encourage you and the fortitude for a finished thought. Finally, some quiet. Finally, some time alone. But almost as soon as I sit down, my 16 month old starts crying. His bed-time is earlier and for some reason he’s woken up.

I give him a few minutes to see if he won’t settle down and go back to sleep, but he doesn’t. And somehow creative thoughts aren’t flowing freely while I hear my baby’s cries grow more insistent. I check on him, which only upsets him more. I try to rock him and he flails. I opt to put him back in his crib and rub his tummy to see if he won’t settle down. He does and I quietly tip-toe out of the room. But as soon as the door shuts, he’s wailing again. I give him a little while to see if he won’t calm down and go to sleep on his own. But he doesn’t and because this is unusual for him and he’s just recently had an ear infection, I decide to err on the side of some Advil and a bottle. Finally, an hour after it began, he quietly puts himself back to sleep.

By now, it’s 10 pm and I’m running on fumes. The night before, my older son had a night terror. “Stay with me a little while, Mommy” turned into me sleeping on the floor by his bed until he fell back asleep. I woke up cold and stiff around 4 am and snuck back to my own bed only to have the little one wake up before 6 am, ready to go for the day.

So as I settle in to write, somewhere north of 10 pm, after a long day, and the interrupted sleep of the night before, somehow I can’t help but think about interruptions.

Interruptions are a constant part of a parent’s life. We can’t finish a conversation with a spouse, a meal, a bathroom break, a phone conversation, or a night’s sleep without someone melting down, falling, snatching a toy, crying, or needing a diaper change. We can’t even remember how to finish our sentences we’re interrupted so many times. (Here, I’m not talking about the child who is the habitual sentence-interrupter. That’s certainly something we need to work on training them not to do. But rather, I’m focusing on those everyday interruptions that are just a part of having children.)

And sooner or later, we start learning that it’s not in the goal or the plan, but in the interruption where ministry and real life are happening. It’s in the hours when we rock a fussing baby or hold a boy’s hand until the bad dreams recede. It’s in the moment where we must stop everything to discipline or when dinner gets burnt because we take a few minutes to stop and share our child’s joy in the just-finished Play-doh creation.

With each of life’s interruptions, our children are learning about what we value most. Is it them or the finished task? Is it keeping schedule or cultivating closeness? Is it our own comfort or their well-being? They are learning whether we view them as precious souls or as exasperating obstacles to our goals.

I’m not there yet. Too often I sigh or groan or lose my cool when I’m interrupted. I’m a completer, by nature, and leaving things unfinished just kills me. But little by little, God is showing me that when I view the ordinary interruptions as exasperations that I’m really just viewing my children that way. These are my beautiful, prayed-for, longed-for and desired interruptions. These are precious souls whose nurture and care is the main business of my life… my calling.

So God, give us the grace to embrace these interruptions as opportunities, to see them as the moments where we have the chance to show our children how you view them when they knock, plead, or find themselves in need. May we bear with sleep-deprivation, unfinished goals, lost thoughts and conversations, with grace and perspective. And may our children never question their value in our eyes or yours.


Like what you’re reading? Consider subscribing to get these posts to your inbox and also check out my book for expectant moms: Waiting in Wonder: Growing in Faith While You’re Expecting, a perfect gift for any expecting mom you know. You can read an excerpt of the book here. And find out what writers like Ann Voskamp are saying about the book. Or if you’d like to read similar posts to “The Interrupted Life,” check out “Embrace Your Season” and “Not Enough“. Thanks for reading and sharing with your friends. WaitingWonder

Waiting in Wonder Launch Week Has Arrived and A Big Announcement!


It’s finally here! My book, Waiting in Wonder: Growing in Faith While You’re Expectingofficially releases tomorrow (April 16th) and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

This book was ironically nine months (almost to the day) in the writing.  When I began writing it, I was mid-way through pregnancy with our second son. I wrote in little snatches of time: a nap-time here, a late-night, or early morning idea there. It was a series of almost uninterrupted days of simply showing up by faith and asking God to supply the inspiration and the words. And to His glory and my surprise, each day He met me with the manna of a new idea and a few words to say it. About mid-way through the writing, my son was born, splashing joy across the bleak mid-winter days, filling the hearts of his beaming papa, his grinning brother and his melting mama with the excitement that only a new baby can bring.

And somehow, even on days when all I wanted to do was cuddle his downy-head or sleep for  a few more minutes, I felt God drawing me to set aside a little sacred space of time each day to meet Him on the blank page. And there on my own Mt. Horeb– which looked a lot like a blinking cursor on a white screen–I would find Him, burning with a word for the mamas whom He loves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Moses, and this is no holy text, but it is a book that was born in prayer, waiting, and faith. And born, rightly so, in the midst of new life.

Now as the book is finally launching nine months (almost to the day) after I turned in the first draft, I’m bursting with the joy and relief experienced by proud mamas everywhere, when they finally hold, and get to share, that treasure that was formed in hidden places and is now brought into the light.

And in God’s sweet providence, I’m launching this new book in the midst of a new season of life and waiting. Drumroll please…. I’m getting the joy of filling in the days of my own devotional journal for expectant mamas. In case, you’re wondering I’m on the tail end of week 11, and in case that still isn’t clear enough, YES, I AM EXPECTING AGAIN! Sometime around November 1st there will, Lord willing, be a gasp and cry for breath and a new day of a beaming papa, two grinning brothers, and a melting mama. And so today instead of doing all the things that authors with a book launching the next day are supposed to be doing, I was lying on an examining table listening to the flittering 160 BPM sound of new joy! Praise be to God!

So I know you’ll excuse me, if all my ducks aren’t quite in a row on this launch night eve. One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that our Shepherd is gentle with those who have young (Isaiah 40:11). He understands that the ewe with little lambs needs extra care. That’s a word of comfort for all of us mamas, who have more than we think we can handle. The Good Shepherd knows our needs. We can trust Him. I’m trusting Him tonight with all the things that aren’t quite as done or as polished as I’d like. I heard the fluttering of new life today, and that’s enough for me!


P.S. Are you subscribed to this blog yet? Don’t miss a post: we’ve got some more surprises coming out you this week! And no, it’s not twins! 🙂

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