Thursday, January 19, 2012

Busy, Dizzy and In a Tizzy: Christian Contemplation for Moms and Other Frazzled Folks


Busy, Dizzy, and In a Tizzy:
Christian Contemplation for Moms and Other Frazzled Folks

Dear friends,

 Are you “busy, dizzy, and in a tizzy”? Is your life whirling so fast that you don’t have a chance to sit and think, much less nurture your soul? I would like to offer some simple encouragement for tending your heart-life amidst the myriad demands of a busy household.

OK, I know what you are saying: “I don’t have time to sit around and think deep thoughts about God! I’ve got lessons to prepare and grade, diapers to change, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to make, bathrooms to clean…” I hear you. I have ten kids. Granted that some of them are now married, and I still have some helpful older children at home, but I  remember having five little girls ages seven and under, with a husband working long hours. And we can find time for what is really important. It just takes some juggling and adjusting. You probably know by now that I’m on a lifelong quest to find the balance between being and doing. Remembering the story of devoted Mary and busy Martha in Luke 10:38-42, I want to “choose the good portion” while not neglecting my family.

As you read this article, keep in mind that the point is not to do something for the sake of saying we did it but to make a deeper connection with the God who made and redeemed us. The goal of this time is to come out more filled with the Spirit, to see more love, peace and joy in our daily lives as a result. Do you have more passion for the Kingdom of God? Are your delights and desires more in tune with his? If not, are you holding back anything in your heart from unreserved worship? O come, let us adore him! Here are more than a dozen ways I’ve found to make time for soul nourishment through the spiritual disciplines.

Remind yourself daily of the Good News of the cross. We always need to start with this foundation. If you don’t have a living relationship with Jesus Christ (which is not just about church attendance or mental assent), none of the rest of this will make any sense at all. I would be delighted to talk with you about this if you have any questions. We don’t deserve any of the blessings we have, least of all the immense treasure of fellowship with God. But because of his mercy, we can ask him to forgive our sins! “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). The Bible promises that those who have trusted in Christ's sacrifice for their salvation can confidently enter the Lord's Throne Room to find grace and mercy.

Be ready to focus quickly on the things of God during what little time you might have. Learn to lay aside “the cares of this world” and concentrate on what the Lord has for you. Yes, there will be a time to bring before him in prayer the issues that concern you, but your focus should be on his sufficiency, not on your troubles. He is so much bigger than our circumstances! We bring our problems, our confusion, and our weakness into the Throne Room of God. As we draw near to him, we will bring out his strength and wise answers so we will be equipped to deal with them.

Designate a quiet comfortable spot in your house. Set up a personal chapel where you can go sit every few hours to regroup and refuel spiritually. Mine is an easy chair in my bedroom next to a fully stocked bookcase. I slip in there several times a day for at least a few minutes and up to a half hour or so.  When my kids were babies, toddlers, or preschoolers, I might put them down for a nap in the same room or rock them on my lap.  My "quiet spot" is not completely quiet – I often have children wander in and out. And this is also not the only place I can have “devotional time” – I think about God throughout the day, whatever I am doing, whether it is washing dishes or stuffing laundry in the dryer. Taping up little cards with Scripture verses around the house can be a great inspiration, too.

Make a habit of daily Bible study. Keep a Bible handy at your “personal chapel” spot. Use book marks to keep the places you are currently studying so you can easily sit down and read a bit without fumbling around. Make a plan for what you are going to read so you don’t just flip open and see where you land. For example, if you read a chapter of the New Testament every morning, you’ll have read the whole thing within several months. You can also finish the Old Testament at the rate of two or three chapters a day, perhaps in the evening. Make a little chart to mark off your progress as you go. You can also go to Bible Gateway Reading Plans to select a plan for reading a daily portion in one of many different Bible versions or Bible Gateway Audio Bible to listen as you are washing the dishes or folding laundry. This web site also has a really good search function for doing topical studies.

Rather than just quickly reading the verses, take the time to meditate on them. What do they mean? How can you apply them at your house? It is good to sit quietly and think, but you can also meditate on Scripture as you go about the rest of your day, pondering these things in your heart. I read from Luke 16-17 this morning, and jotted down several application phrases onto a card to put in my pocket: “Faithful in little, faithful in much. Serve one Master: God! God knows what’s inside your heart. Forgive others repeatedly. Don’t expect praise for doing your job. Thank God for what he has done in your life. Lose your life to keep it.” Just feeling the crinkle of the card in my pocket as I’m sitting or walking reminds me of what I have read, and I do take it out once in a while to remember them. Occasionally, I will even write a poem based on what I have been meditating on in my times with the Lord. You can find these on my web site.

Try to read regularly from good solid Christian books to help you walk out your faith. Several of my favorite trustworthy authors are Gary Thomas, Andrew Murray, Elisabeth Elliot, Corrie ten Boom, and Amy Carmichael. Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life has come highly recommended as a way to dig in to Scripture study, prayer, meditation, fasting, and other heart-nurturing practices -- as long as you don't make it legalistic or get overwhelmed. A good devotional book with short selections can be just right for a busy mom. My daughter found Charles Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning, Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest and Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ for me at our library’s used bookstore a while back – nicely bound hardbacks for $1.50 a piece! You can find some of these resources listed on my Books to Feed Your Spirit page or read (for free) countless Christian classics on-line at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.  I also installed the Kindle app on my iPod touch and my laptop, and download a lot of free and inexpensive Christian books.  This is really good for the times I am away from home and have a few minutes while I am waiting for an appointment or for one of my kids to finally get out to the van so we can leave.

Take time to pray, to ask God to lead you in your own life, and to intercede for others. It may be helpful to write out a prayer list of various requests for family members, your pastors, friends, missionaries, current events, etc. You can the list in the back of your Bible or your journal so it is handy. Prayers don’t have to be clever or even original. Christians throughout history have prayed The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This does not have to be a rote formula, as some have made it, but a way to acknowledge our humble dependence on him throughout the day. I often shorten it to “Sweet Jesus have mercy!” I also use prayers from Scripture, such as Colossians 1:9-14.  ("For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.")  Using Scripture helps me keep the focus on praying according to God’s will, rather than my petty desires. Sometimes I pray just sitting there quietly, other times while I am on my knees, and other times as I’m working around the house. “Pray continually…” He is always listening! Or, as Alfred Lord Tennyson notes, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Oh, please remember that prayer is not just talking – it is listening for God’s still small voice speaking into your heart.

Start a journal and use it!  I write my own observations and questions about life, some of my prayers, and plenty of Scripture verses and quotes from whatever books I am reading. This has been such a lifeline to me in the past year as I’ve been so acutely aware of my need for God’s mercy. I think of so many Christians through the ages who whose lives have been enriched by journaling. This may be a short paragraph, but I don’t want to underestimate the importance of this vital spiritual discipline.

Be appropriately aware of your emotions, especially as they can indicate your spiritual health. We are not robots! God made our emotions to help us respond to him and to life around us. You don’t have to be ruled by your feelings, but if you are anxious or irritable or depressed, find the spiritual remedy for that, rather than ignoring or suppressing these sensations. Ask God for wisdom in dealing with your emotions. It’s not a one shot deal, but continually offering up to him what is roiling around in our hearts. “Lord, I’m feeling so overwhelmed… Help me to see you as my strong tower, and please show me why this situation bothering me so much and what I can practically do about it.” God is not afraid of our emotions. With him at our side, we don’t need to be afraid either.

Play and sing worship music throughout the day. If you move from room to room a lot or spend a lot of time away from your house, load an iPod or inexpensive MP3 player with your favorite songs or other audio downloads, such as your pastor’s Sunday sermon if your church posts those on-line.  Set up specific playlists of music for worship or comfort or challenge.  Listening while you do other things is a great way to redeem the time. I listen to worship music with headphones while I work out on at the YMCA. Even if you don’t have music playing, you can always sing in your heart.

Establish a regular devotional time with your children. Read the Bible, sing, and pray with them sometime during the day, which is a fantastic extension of your own time with God. This will not just be an academic exercise, but an opportunity for you connect again with your Heavenly Father as you bring your children to him for a blessing. (See Mark 10:13-16.)

Use your daily duties as object lessons of God’s truth and grace. When you are making dinner, think of the feast he is preparing for us in heaven. When you are washing dishes, be thankful for the abundant food you ate off of them, and pray for those who are less fortunate. When you are cleaning up your kids’ muddy toes, think of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. A yucky toilet, stubborn laundry stain, or dirty diaper can remind us of how he washes our foulest sins away: “white as snow.” This attitude not only inspires our souls with the holy character of God, but makes our work meaningful and less irksome. I find that, like Brother Lawrence, I can “practice the presence of God” no matter what I am doing, even if I am not kneeling in prayer or reading my Bible.

Think about God “in the watches of the night.” At times in my life, I have been a chronic insomniac, usually waking for an hour or more in the middle of the night. During these times, I would remind myself of the mercies of the Lord, pray for others, and think of Bible verses I had memorized. I also do this as I am falling asleep at night, and sometimes as I lie in bed trying to wake up in the morning. This is also a good practice for mommies who are night nursing their babies, as I did off and on for nearly two decades. “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” Psalm 63:5-7

Enjoy your Sabbath! This is a time when I don’t have to feel guilty about laying aside many of my regular daily duties. I like to use Sunday afternoon as a time for leisurely reading and contemplation, as well as rest. What a precious gift from God! Summer is also somewhat of a Sabbath (or sabbatical) for home school moms since we aren’t so busy with lessons. Use some of this time for refueling your own heart for the year to come!

I hope these simple suggestions have been helpful to you. I don’t present them as a formula, but as a means to help our hearts be captivated by our Awesome God.

I close this post with a poem.  You can find more of my thoughts about this by clicking 
Invitation to Stillness to go to the original blog post...

Invitation to Stillness
Advent Poem 2010
by Virginia Knowles

Quiet your soul to ponder, wonder, 
   and worship the Amazing One.
In these still and focused moments, 
  embrace his everlasting love for you.
Savor his sacrifice: Heaven to Earth, 
  an infinite journey of grace
When he came to rescue, release, and renew you.

In sacred response, draw near with a whole heart, 
  a deepening communion.
Be still in his presence, be filled with his presence
Father, Son, Holy Spirit: God with us.
Day after day, time with him is your most precious treasure.

Be the fruitful branch abiding in the Vine.
Be the little lamb in the Good Shepherd’s tender care.
Be the beautiful Beloved in the Lover’s embrace.
Ask, and he will surely show you how.

1 comment:

  1. This is excellent advice and I need to heed much of what you have written here. Entering my 24th year of homeschooling in 2 weeks, working two part-time jobs to make up for my husband having no job and not even being with us right now, there is never enough time to nurture my soul and that should be the first thing each day. This season is very hard, but with God it is possible. Thank you for this, Virginia.

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