Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Editing Life

Multi-tasking isn’t healthy.

Not only have I read that in articles, but I’m living its ill effects. The question is, as a self-employed home educator of six children, ages 4 to 24, what do I do to edit my life?

As I have learned to do as a parent, I open the Bible. I found biblical examples of Jesus editing his life. I figure, if he did; then I must. One phrase pops out from my memory: Jesus went to the mountain.
For me, a mountain can be a place, a time of day, or a healthy outlet. A mountain can be a long awaited date night or a quick nap. The point is to take time for personal replenishment.
If we are to follow Jesus’ example, mountain visits need to happen regularly. Years ago, I learned the phrase “the gift of limits”. The gift of limits involves knowing when to say "no".

I was once a stay at home mom with four children under age seven and guardianship over my niece and nephew who were 2 1/2 and 14 months old. At the time we lived in a 3 bedroom apartment. Taking time for myself never even entered my mind. Seventeen years later, I still struggle to take time for myself without feeling guilty.

I love family time. But as an introvert in a large family, I thrive best when I’ve had my alone time. When Jesus left for the mountain he was momentarily saying no to the crowds, the needs, the pace of his ministry. Saying no during these times was always saying yes to his Father in heaven. 

Jesus’ capacity for earthly ministry as a man required him to be filled to the fullness of God. This could only happen when he went away to the mountain. Similarly, in order to be better parents, better spouses, friends and co-workers, we need to sometimes say no and get away to be filled with God’s fullness. Some of you are workaholics. Say no to your daily goal and spend time with your spouse and kids instead. Others of you are loners in employment or relationship. Say no to your comfort zone and spend time with friends. Moms need spa days or a morning to sleep in. The soul needs nurturing as much as our feet and toes need prepping for summer sandals! I recommend a variety of practical outlets for replenishment but the one we all need, no matter what our role or vocation, is to spend time with God.

Time is sometimes hard to manage.  Maintaining friendships is important, so these days, I try to schedule a coffee date with a friend at least once a month while my youngest boys are at Awana. Playdates can be good, but I wouldn’t consider them mountain times even though women are bonding through conversation. How many moms can have uninterrupted conversation with another mom on a playdate? Dads, many of you work during the week and feel the obligation to designation the entire weekend for your family. I applaud you but I also say that you need friends too. Get tickets to a sporting event or go to the monthly men’s bible study. The souls of men are often overlooked. Mountain times can involve others as long as they don’t pull on you, vie for your attention, are emotionally needy, or exhaust you mentally. That last statement is worth re-reading.

After having each baby, I often didn’t get a mountain time until I was finished nursing. By the time baby #5 was born, I’d learned to plan well months in advance so that I could store milk and teach the baby to take a bottle from someone other than me.

During the years when child rearing was most demanding my mountain times were my prayer times. I taught my 3 and 5 year old how to have quiet times for two hours without interrupting me. The baby slept. And I talked to God. I stared at the ceiling and piles of clothes and just let His presence come over me like a warm blanket. He knew I needed stillness and silence. Sometimes I would fall asleep, lulled into dream zone while my lips murmured prayers that no one else would understand.

Look ahead to the coming weeks. Try to schedule a time to go to the mountain.

“God, you are the ultimate caregiver. You are the most faithful parent of all. Guide us and lead us every day and every month to set aside time away from the busyness of life. Help us value the quiet moments when we tune our ears to your still, small voice. Our lives need balance and you are the one who can show us what that looks like individually. Thank you Lord. We pray this in Jesus’ name.”