There once was a sweet mom with children,Who worked day and night just to serve them, She cleaned and she cooked and she taught and she booked, Till she died of exhaustion and left them.
Here is a post from 2008, but I have had several moms ask me to reprint it. I will be adding my new thoughts about rest when I get beyond my tasks the next couple of days. Have a day of grace and make time for 15 minutes of total rest today!
Ok, ok--it's not great poetry, but I did think there should be a short dedication to all the moms who have given and given and given with nary a one to appreciate them. I got tickled the other day. I had written the blog about taking Nathan to dedicate him to the Lord after taking him out to lunch and then the little story about taking Joy out for her 13th birthday. A sweet mom who read the blog was probably sending a comment to a friend and accidentally pushed the reply button and sent her email to me which said, "She makes me tired!" (I have done this before much to my horror--meaning to send a comment to Clay and instead sending it to the person who wrote it! Grace and peace--don't worry!)
But, I do think this task of ideal mothering is such a tiring calling and we all put ourselves under so much pressure to be perfect when we have too many sinful children, no support systems, no breaks, no full time maids, and they all want to eat and wear reasonably clean clothes every day ! And we are responsible for their character, manners, education and spiritual outcome, sense of well-being and happiness! A lot to ask.
In light of this, I also received another letter from a sweet mom. She asked if I ever blew it and yelled at my children! Yes, I have sinned often in the presence of my less than perfect children. I have had to accept myself as God does--it says in Psalm 103, "He is mindful that we are but dust!" Oh well, God says, Sally is just dust anyway, what can you expect from her?" As Joel my son once well said when I was in a tizzy over the messy house. "Mom, we will clean the house and it will just get messy again. But when you are sad, we feel guitly, like we have done something wrong. But when you are happy, we feel happy and like we are the greatest family in the world. So, Mom, lighten up and we will all be ok!"
We moms are giving out at a much faster rate than we are taking in and so depletion and exhaustion and consequences thereof are normal. So blowing a top once in a while is very normal. I love the verse in Proverbs that says, "Where there are no oxen, the stalls are clean." I have at least six oxen in my stalls all the time, so my stall is always in different degrees of clean-ness!
I just want to affirm all of you who are hard on yourselves. You are making a difference in this world-your work is eternal and extremely important. Don't give up what you are doing--ever, ever, ever. But, take a break. What will it take to fill your cup emotionally? Going out with a friend to an adult lunch where no one tastes of your food? Or being by yourself alone? Or sleeping? Take time this summer to put beauty and life and joy and fun and pleasure in your life.
Another mom sent me a letter asking if my children were ever overworked in ministry or if we just had fun all the time. Probably, because my life has been so hard (children with illnesses and difficult issues; moving 17 times--6 times internationally; having little support or encouragement from family and almost never having anyone take my children as many grandparents do; and oh so many other difficulties), it is the very reason I seek to create life and beauty and fun--because I don't want to die in the process, and I don't want to live a life of constant depression and weariness, knowing it is not good for me! I want to keep going and live and keep being gracious, because life and light and beauty give strength--to me and to my children!
One summer, we had 62 nights of overnight guests. That meant weeks on end of kids giving up their beds, washing stacks and stacks of dishes, and loads of sheets and towels, babysitting other children--so that one day when one of my children looked out of the window and saw a strange car drive up, he said, "Quick, everyone hide and maybe no one will see us and want to come in!" I realized at this point, my kids needed a rest, fun, replenishing and a break from so much work.
So, knowing it is God's will for me to last, I have had to conduct my own symphony of beauty and joy, so to speak. I have had to take responsibility of planning grace, rest (I never do housework or ministry or tasks on Sunday--it is a sabbath rest for this girl!). I make my family and husband a priority above writing and ministry--which is why I am so slow at getting projects and books out.
Just this morning, was a perfect example of potentially getting tired over so many little things. I got up at 6 to have a quiet time and planning to go on a 30 minute walk and then write this short blog! Nate called up to me and said, "Hey, you wanta have eggs with me--then we can talk--you make them I will eat them--before he went to his landscaping job. By then, I had to awaken Joy and make her breakfast as she is helping with the 3-5 year olds at VBS. Then Joel came in and said, "I will do shopping for you if you make a list." Afterwhich as I got Joel and Joy out the door. (Joel is leaving for a summer project in 3 days and needed input on shopping.) Clay came in and said, "We really need to make a decision about some ministry stuff." Forty minutes later, he left for work, so I took a hot walk instead of a cool one because it was so late. The moment I stepped in the door from taking the dog out, Sarah came in and said, "Can I just have a few moments of your time. It is about my future and a job that came up and what I should do." So now, it is almost 11 and my day has been taken up by everyone else, having gotten none of my own plans accomplished, but did what I am supposed to do. It as been that way since they were toddlers!
So, after years and years of 24/7, I have learned that I have to force things into my schedule that give me rest, provide a break, fill my cup. I am not talking about the cultural expectation that we deserve to have our own time--as my life has never regularly allowed this. But I am talking about being a good steward of yourself. Women must take time to read the word and pray--it is a foundation for fitting in to a schedule. I found that for my health and adrenalin, I had to build walking into my life almost everyday--Health and eating the right foods makes me last longer. It is also Biblical to have friends who can encourage us in the Lord--Lone Ranger mommies are more prone to give up, give in to depression and quit their ideals. Ecclesiastes tells us to find a companion to lift us up. As an introvert , I have to have some alone time in order to keep centered--it is why I developed the habit of getting up early to have a quiet time an to drink a cup of tea all alone. It doesn't always work, but I worked to let the kids stay up later so that they would sleep a little longer.
It is also why we started to do the Whole Hearted Moms conferences--to give moms a break, spiritually encouraging input, fun, encouragement, chocolate and a nice luncheon! So, as you are planning your summer, be sure to make time for yourself. You and your attitude are at the center of all things working well.
Remember, "A Joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones." Take good medicine, and even in the midst of draining circumstances or difficult times, plan on lighting a candle in the darkness, playing music through the pain, dancing in the midst of the mess, and smiling often as it is truly good for the heart! And above all, give yourself sweet grace!