Rest and peace--ahhhhhhhh!

Jessie Wilcox Smith  one of my favorite artists of children! Go make yourself a treat and monkey around a bit!

Galatians 5:1 "It was for freedom that Christ set us free. Therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject to a yoke of slavery." (especially stand firm in your ideals before God without letting someone else's yoke slip around your neck unnecessarily.)

"And the work of righteousness will be peace and the service of righteousness quietness and confidence forever." Isaiah 32: 17

I have seen some books and articles going around that suggest that moms don't really need a break from their children and that it is possible to be around them all the time without going crazy. Now, I love my children and I am very committed to family, and I hope I don't step on anyone's toes, but it is statements like this that put lots of burden and law on women and make them feel guilty unnecessarily. This is a very long term calling and I think all women need the encouragement of other women at times without having to feel guilty for leaving their children.

I have come to really question truths like the one above because they come across as universal and sound wise, but in the end, I have to say, "Is this law? Is it an unshakeable truth that applies to all moms at all times?" Or is it possible that there is grace for each mom to conduct her own symphony, so to speak, with her family, circumstances and children in mind. "It is for freedom that Christ set us free, therefore, keep standing firm that you may not be subject to a yoke of slavery."

I wrote a chapter in Seasons of a Mother's Heart about legalism imposed upon us by others that produces burdens God never intended us to carry. I find it interesting that God purposely left many areas in scripture very vague. No lists about just how to discipline a child, how long to spank, at what age, and for how long, for instance. Or no rule book about what a mom should cook if she was really bringing health to her family or what exact music was acceptable and what music would indeed lead a child astray. Or what it really looks like to submit to a husband-(they are all different and have different preferences!) Not ever a verse that says, "Every mother should stay with her children all the time every hour or else they are not spiritual and their children will go astray." Or, or, or. There is so much in scripture about living by faith, trusting God and Paul and Jesus were so very clear about not having the heart of a Pharisee and putting heavy loads on people.

Now, I find that we are to use wisdom principles and have quiet times and grow in maturity and of course, I  came to the conclusion that if I wanted to pass on my life and beliefs and vision to my children, I needed to be the one who invested time in them and won their hearts, out of the integrity of my heart. But, seeing my children do well in life and love the Lord and us and continue growing is not as a result of a list of rules that I followed, but as a result of following the Lord, praying, obeying Him and seeking His wisdom and then living by faith and watching His grace. God is in charge and will work in and through the personality and circumstances of my life uniquely, If I walk it with Him.

There are so many wonderful teachers and speakers who have such a good heart and love the Lord and want to encourage. But the bottom line is the word of God is to be our ideal and not just "wisdom" from others that is extra-Biblical and not scripture--and I find God to be a better task master than most humans I have ever known.

I find that so many young moms lacked good families and they want to "do it right" with their own children, and so they are willing to believe anything in print or that they heard a speaker say and then put themselves under great burdens, in the name of Christian ideals, and then eventually find themselves wanting to give up ideals because they are very depressed or overwhelmed.

I find that the longer I walk with the Lord, the more freedom I feel to be who I am. I don't have to live by anyone else's laws. Clay and I just have to answer to God and scripture,  not to an arbitrary list of someone else's standards. I think that living overseas and traveling a lot has helped in this area a little. Every culture I see and national that I meet has a different tradition of worshiping God and a different set of circumstances to deal with coming from a different culture in applying the word of God. When I meet people from all over the world, I realize that God is so much bigger and beyond my own box. And yet, he allows all of us, from so many different points of view, to enter into His rest and redemption and forgiveness because of His wonderful, gracious love.

My real desire in writing this article, though, is to give moms permission to be themselves. There is no "one right way". Each of you has a different puzzle to solve--different children's personalities, husbands and even a different personality yourself. Some of you are introverts and some extroverts. But the bottom line is, that as a wise woman, you need to figure out how you can best make it in the long run--loving God and loving your family. 

I am a bit adhd and in order for me to make it as a mom of 4 children, who homeschooled and had very few support systems, I personally had to have variety in my life. If life got too stale, I would go under, so I would create adventure for me and for my children. I am also a bit introverted in some ways and if I am around people all the time for days and months at a time, I will indeed explode! Clay and I figured out that I could go to a coffee shop early a couple of days a week at 6 a.m. and have coffee and a quiet time and write in my journal and then come home by 7:45 a.m. and then he could go to work--and I felt like a different person and he was happy to take care of the kids during that time.  (Especially during the years Joy had nocturnal asthma every night for a year and a half--I needed a break just to keep sane!) I can't live without my quiet time, to think and plan and get perspective. Now there were plenty of times when the kids were sick or Clay was out of town or things just fell apart--and I didn't get time alone for weeks on end. But, I learned that for me to last well for a long time, I had to figure out how to find time in my schedule to have some alone time. 

Each season was different. I have found this season of my life as one of the hardest. (as I have no control over my sweet older kids needs or schedules and there is always an interruption--always and every day and every hour!) When my children were all little, I had a group--we were a clan! and could tell them when we would do things and then I had each child have a quiet hour every afternoon--I would put books in a basket for them and fun magazines and let them have a cup of something to drink--like hot cocoa--and then they would all have to stay in their own areas for an hour. It helped my kids to become readers and to learn to enjoy time alone, un-entertained. But it also gave me time to look forward to every day, where I could have my own cup of tea that no one else could drink and a little time to regroup or rest or make a phone call. Now, it wasn't perfect and there were lots of interruptions, but in general, it worked for me. It was an anchor for all of us to look forward to in our day. But this is not a standard for you--you might want something different or have a whole different kind of preferences to work with. I also would leave the house when we were having too much stress--go to a park, or a ride in the mountains to listen to music or a book on tape with Hot Chocolate to drink--as just getting out helped them and me!

Now, when my older kids are home, I am interrupted at every point. But I want so much to be with them and spend time with them and continue building on our relationship that I make myself available as much as possible. On holidays, I never know who is going to wake up when or eat when or come or go when, as they all have their own schedules and friends and commitments. So, I have had to make a new plan for this season. But, I would have gone under long ago if I hadn't figured out my personality and my needs and how to best stay on top of emotions and needs in the midst of always giving to others. I need to stay healthy  so that everyone else can find strength from me.

The Mama is the key. If she is watching over her heart with all diligence and her heart is becoming depleted and dry, then she needs a plan. Where can I go to become spiritually encouraged? What book can I read? What would fill my cup, emotionally, spiritually, physically and still fit the puzzle of my family?

Who can I spend time with that can encourage me? If a mom's heart stay's full, she will always have the strength to give to all those who need her. However, it is one of the attributes that I admire most--the ability to manage your life, so as to keep going and going. I had to learn that the sabbath rest was God's idea. I had to figure out how to take Sunday's as a day of rest so that I didn't burn out. I had to figure out how I could refresh and regroup after so many conferences, as this is the vocation Clay and I were called to. Clay is a real visionary and architect of new ideas and there is not end to what He might dream up. We married knowing that we would be committed to ministry until we went senile or died. It has meant a different life, schedule, commitments and responsibilities than almost anyone I know. But we worked together over the years to figure out what we needed as a family to protect our inner circle with each other and to keep our hearts warm to each other, the Lord and our children. But, if we read some of the books that are out there, we would have quit what we are doing long ago--because we don't fit the mold or anyone's idea of what a perfect schedule or balance to life is. Yet, we feel such a privilege to do what we do and we want to keep working all the more until we see Jesus.

But all that to say, God is on your side. He is so well pleased that you are seeking to please Him and to love your children and husband. He no more expects perfection out of you than He did of Peter! And He is not surprised when you blow it--as a matter of fact, he would probably say to you, (or me) "Sally, I know that when the cock crows (or the children push you over the edge) you are going to blow it. But take courage, because I have prayed for you that when you get yourself together again, you will strengthen the brethern" In other words, he would say, "I am with you. I understand you. I love you and I will help you make it. Now, go get some sleep or go have fun or go be with a friend and know that it will all be fine. I am the one in control--even of your children, their future, your finances, your mental health. Don't stress. Just rest--in me."

I have to live this way--it is the only way to maintain joy in the midst--to know that He will never, never leave me or forsake me. He will always love me. He is always my helper and good shepherd and prayer warrior and redeemer and model of how to live a servant life and yet still find time alone with the Father-- he is even now, building a great home for me to live in forever in eternity, which I can't wait to go to.

Grace and peace to all of you precious ones this January time of life. Sally

PS I had so much fun Monday. One of my genius friends figured out that most of us had conference calling on our phone and so eight of us joined together for a conference call and we all prayed together for a long time and giggled and loved each other--for the community we were having over a phone call that connected all of our phones together. It was fun and so very encouraging to me and to Joy--as several prayed and prayed for her and it filled her heart, too. I am so blessed to have friends who will pray with me. You call one person and then put them on flash and then call another person. Then that person calls another person and puts them on flash and then calls another person and so on. If you find enough people who have this option on their phone (most phone agreements come with it!) you could endlessly connect with friends everywhere.