Sorry for the spotty posting. Life gets in the way sometimes. I’m kicking off a season of more regular writing (hopefully!) with something new.
I’ve heard it said that we moms need to take care of ourselves first or we won’t have any strength to take care of our families. You know what, it’s true. But how easy it is to give ourselves the leftovers when the urgencies of family life demand our attention! I’m starting a little series on Mama Self-Care, easy ways to help us moms take care of us so that we are able to take care of those placed under our care.
The first and most important way we need to care for ourselves is spiritually. If we aren’t filled spiritually, then all the other self-care we do won’t make that much difference.
But listen. If those first sentences gave you a stab of condemnation or guilt, don’t let them. We serve a God of grace and freedom who understands our weakness and is loving and gentle with us. I love Isaiah 40:11 from the Bible: “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.”
A friend told me not long ago about a women’s conference she attended where one of the speakers, a well-known Bible teacher, harshly judged young mothers who struggle to find time for “serious Bible study.” There are many reasons that this rubbed me the wrong way, not the least of which are that this teacher had only two children (not dissing those of you with two, but the honest truth is that logistically things were much easier when I had two than when I have five), and that her young mom days have been over for about 40 years. There is a season for everything and we should not let the drains of motherhood make us feel condemned if we cannot have the kind of quiet time or Bible study someone else—who has never walked in our shoes—says that we should. God sees our hearts. I know, I just commited Evangelical treason with those statements. I am not saying that we should not spend time with God, but simply that we should find a way to configure it to the realities of this very intense time of life.
I do have a set time for prayer early in the morning. I don’t want to set an alarm that will wake the babies, so I have asked God to wake me up on time and virtually every day, he does. I pray while I lay in bed (if I can trust myself not to go back to sleep), while I feed the baby, or while I make my bed. This is not my ideal, but it is better than nothing. If you are offended, I am sorry. I think Jesus would rather I talk to him during those times than skip it because the circumstances are not perfect.
The rest of my Jesus time requires more creativity, since my early risers are up shortly afterward. I read the Bible on my iPod touch (yes, I am behind the times, I don’t have a smart phone) while I nurse the little one, put on the audio version of Psalms or the Gospels while I am in the kitchen, pray throughout the day. I read Bible stories to the kids and pray with them. We pray in the car before we pull out of the driveway. I think about what I have read or heard as I wash dishes or fold laundry.
There are lots of other creative ways to make our relationship with God a lifestyle, not just a time set apart from the rest of my day. Leave a Bible open by the rocking chair or in the bathroom, listen to worship music and sing along, teach the kids old hymns, write scripture on a card and place it in the window sill, the mirror, or the dashboard of your car. And I encourage you, don’t neglect church. It is so easy to do when we are so very tired. I have missed more church in the past months than I have in years. When you have 5 kids, the odds of someone being sick or indisposed during the winter increase a lot. But if it is possibly in my power, I go. It might mean jeans and a ponytail, but I am always so happy that I made the effort, even if it was a struggle to get out the door. Worshiping with other Christians is essential.
All this is to say: Make the effort to feed yourself spiritually, and don’t let perfectionism keep you from your relationship with Jesus. Run to him! He hears you when you are scrubbing potties just as well as when you are kneeling at an altar. Maybe the bathroom is really what he had in mind when he talked about going to your “closet” to pray! 😉