Sunday, September 21, 2014

Harried, Hurried and Hungry for God

Devotion Time.

Do these two words bring up a sense of longing?  Do they feel like one more unattainable "to do" on your long list of daunting tasks?  Do you feel like your time with the Lord is just out of reach in this season of motherhood?

You are not alone.

My boys are age five and twelve now, but I distinctly remember what the season was like when they were infants and toddlers.  In that season where you learn to cook with one hand while holding a child in the other arm, where the word "shower" can send you into a stream of tears just wondering if you will ever take one again (and if it will be in a bathroom unoccupied by other members of your family), when you never get enough sleep, but somehow can't sleep at naptime, when you spend the day putting Tupperware back in the drawer just to turn around and see it strewn across your kitchen floor again -- it is near impossible to sit quietly with God.

Life can feel like a blur.

God isn't far from us in this season of child rearing.  It can feel that He is as we are so frazzled and we are more emotional from hormones and sleep-deprivation and all the change going on around and in us.  But, truly God treasures us in these early years of raising children.  He says of Himself:

He tends His flock like a Shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads
those that have young.
~Is 40:11

Hear this if you hear nothing else:  God has such a heart for you in this stage of your life.  You are not alone in this journey of motherhood with all the highs and lows and the wonder and the flops.  He gathers your sweet babies in His arms and carries them close to His heart.  And you - He gently leads those who have young.  He knows you are functioning on half steam and a cup of coffee.  He knows when you are dragging and you long for more.  He will gently lead you.  He IS gently leading you. 

At the stage of life when we have little ones we are withdrawing from our account much of what we have deposited up until now.  I wasn't spending time memorizing chapters (or even verses) of God's Word, studying the Greek and Hebrew meanings of words or practicing new Spiritual Disciplines when my boys were under age three.  I was drawing from what I had put into my relationship with God before these years.  As I rocked my sons to sleep I would hear the Holy Spirit whisper a verse to me.  I reaped from what I had sown.  I would sit, rocking my child, singing worship, praying over this amazing, draining miracle of life in my arms -- and that was almost all the devotional life I could muster.

And even now, as my boys are older, we home educate, so time alone is still something I rarely have.  You hear me.  I know you know.  We want time to ourselves or just some adult conversation with someone who doesn't say, "Why?" when we ask them to do something.   Being devoted to God has taken new shapes and meaning in my motherhood.  I have had to seek Him in different ways and to be creative about how I live in an abiding relationship. 

Here are some ways God has met me and things I have done which have helped me connect with God in the midst of the long days of motherhood.  Maybe one of them will be for you too:

The Bible on the Cookbook Stand ... So, yep, I just put the Bible out, open, on my cookbook stand in the kitchen and as I would cruise through the kitchen chasing my toddler or grabbing something I could eat with one hand, I would read a verse.  And then I would chew on it.  I would let God work that snippet of His good and powerful Word into my heart.  In certain stages of life it is all we can do to just get a snack - both physically and spiritually, but He uses it as nourishment we need.  He is the God of the mustard seed and the loaves and fish.  He spoke the universe from nothing.  He can take our snack of Scripture and make much of it as we let it marinate in us - even as we change diapers, clean up spills and keep small people from climbing up furniture.

If the kitchen isn't the sanctuary you need, there is the classic retreat for all moms: the bathroom.  Now, I'm not saying someone won't be in there with you or banging on the door while you are grabbing a moment of solitude, but nonetheless, you can set up a place of solace.  I had a little basket of devotionals including Elisa Morgan's book, Meditations for Mothers: Moments with God Amidst a Busy Nest.  I would grab a minute, read a page and let the truth and the questions and the leading there minister to me in the midst of my mothering moments.

Beyond these snacks which carry us through moments and give us a gasp of air when we are suffocating in the day-to-day demands, we need longer moments.  The time does exist, but we have to be a bit more creative and intentional to make it happen.  For one thing there is that magic hour or two or three called "nap time" {hearing angels sing} and in our home, my boys still have "quiet room time" where they rest and read or play quietly for about an hour a day.  So what do we do with this gift of time?  Clean the kitchen?  No ma'am.  Say it isn't so!  We take this gift and we unwrap it.  As the sweet and wise Dallas Willard said, "If you go to pray and you fall asleep, you may need the ancient discipline of rest."  Rest.  Don't delve into some spiritual "project."  Just find rest in Jesus - and if that means grabbing some sleep, then do that.  You need this down time as much as your children.  Dishes can wait.

Besides naptime, we can swap time with a friend.  Of course this includes us taking care of other children another time in the week or two, so be prepared to offer that exchange.  The beauty is, if the kids are good with your children, you will have almost a built in break while they are with you as children entertain one another.  If you can't swap with a friend look for a teen girl with great character (they exist) and have her come once a week.  You can pay her (this is worth dipping into the budget for) or you can swap lessons of some sort with her - teach her to knit or tutor her in a foreign language).  We  used to have a darling sitter who became like a daughter to us who would come every other Friday just so I could get away for three hours.  I would go to a local bakery/sandwich shop and get in the comfy corner chair and have time to myself - uninterrupted.

One of the biggest drains on our time - which keeps us from real abiding devotion is our perfectionism and the need to have everything looking like a model home.  I want to let you in on a little secret: Two-year-olds don't live in model homes.  In fact, no one does.  That's why the home is empty of people when you tour it.  No one lives there.  But, in your home there are real, people - mess making, creative, exploring, real people.  We have to stop trying to hold it together for the outside world when our children are little ... and then just keep letting go.  I'm not saying we can't vacuum and dust or do a DYI project here and there, but if our standards are too high we will miss the moments with God and with these precious children entrusted to us 
Sweet Mama, you have to 
let people see you sweat. 
Say "no" to perfectionistic performing for those who really don't matter and say "yes" to letting yourself be real and imperfect.  The more you let go of these unrealistic standards and let yourself be human, the more you can abide with God in this season of motherhood.

So, here's my latest devotional practice ... and I've got a lot more downtime than I did in those early years ... I am present in the moment.  I stop when my child asks me to do something and I go participate with no distractions.  And all the while I'm thanking Jesus for the gift of this boy and the joy I have in our relationship - mine with my son and mine with God.  I stop throughout the day and I sit for a moment and I listen to my boys being silly together or I hear what my five-year-old is saying as he plays with his toys and his imagination.  I savor the blessing of that very instant, letting it melt in my heart like chocolate on my tongue.  Sweet goodness.  Not every moment sweeps me up like that, but I am practicing noticing God's gifts in the moments - and cherishing these two boys as they are.  That's devotion.

I pray you find time and space for devotion in this sacred season of motherhood.  Let me know how I can pray for you in this - or if something here sparked hope for you ... I love hearing from you. 

Today I am giving away Jaimie Bowman's book,  
Breathe: 31 Moments with God for Moms.

Enter below or on my Facebook Page at HeartsHomeward Giveaway

Photo of blur and of bathroom courtesy of Bing Images

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Barbie said...

My kids are older. You would think I would have gotten this whole "being present in the moment" thing. Well, I'm not sure I can win another prize, but if I do, that would be fabulous!

HeartsHomeward said...

Oh, Barbie! It is such a life lesson - to be learned again and again. There were times when I foolishly thought I had gotten the "being present" thing down pat and then I find my kids saying, "Mom, your phone!" (because I'm on instagram or FB instead of being with them) ... it's tempting to connect with moms by internet instead of being with the family sometimes - especially after a long day of already being with them. I feel like I am starting from scratch on this sometimes, even though I have truly grown over time. It's never to late to be in the present. We can start any day and claim that day as a day for being present. That's grace. Love you.

HeartsHomeward said...

Thanks, Rachel! It's a reminder to me as well :) And I'm so glad you came to Hearts Homeward. You are welcome here anytime.