I’m finding myself going longer and longer in between posts, and friends, I promise it isn’t because I’m losing interest or because the blog phase is passing from my affections. And it’s also not because I’ve been moving our brood cross-country and re-establishing our lives in an entirely new place. Instead, I’ve been spending some time making space for myself and my family, and the computer just hasn’t been on very much.
One of the greatest gifts my husband has ever given me came last summer, in the form of visits to an amazing therapist who specializes in helping moms. It’s really no wonder any mom, working or stay-at-home or somewhere in between, needs a therapist. My work every day, while the most rewarding of anything I’ve ever done, is met by a crew of adorable expert critics. “I don’t like crust!” “But where’s the Stormtrooper shirt?!” “I did brush my teeth!” “You never let us do anything fun.” “This looks perfectly clean to me.” And my personal favorite, “I want Grandma!!!!!” Ahhhh yes. If you’re seeking constant validation that you are great at what you do, I don’t recommend parenting.
So the therapist. My amazing therapist took me down an uncomfortable, challenging journey that has led me to what I’ve discovered is a vital part of parenthood: self-care. There’s a bizarre standard (self-imposed maybe? I don’t know) in motherhood that in order to be effective we must be martyrs for the cause of parenthood- I’m only a good mother if I’m living off 3 hours of sleep and the scraps left over from my children’s Lunchables. I’ve done that, friends, and from the depths of postpartum depression (and beyond) I can tell you that martyrdom just leaves kids without a mom. The journey into self-care has been a tough but necessary one for me, and a huge part of it has been our family’s embrace of minimalism.
For us, minimalism has been less about the number of shirts hanging in our closets and more about making space for what matters. One of the biggest steps in self-care for me was reducing the amount of time in my car driving kids from one place to the next. If I look back on our time in Atlanta, the greatest source of stress for me was the amount of time spent in traffic, constantly running late or rushing out the door trying to make it to competing activities for one of our four children. We’ve addressed that here in our new hometown- buying a home close to the things that matter to us, and getting plugged in to our immediate community. And the next step is my tie-in to Lent: what do we do with all that extra time?
In the spirit of minimalism, the last thing I want to do is fill that time with superfluous activities, regardless of their locale. No, the entire point is to make room. This Sunday in church I heard a message that genuinely spoke to me- the idea that we often are seeking God’s glory, but in ways that we expect, and more often than not God reveals Himself to us in the unexpected. That His glory is astounding and beautiful when we are open to His presence, and that it covers us and frees us and seals His covenant with us, if only we recognize it and cry out to Him for it. As I heard this message, I could see for myself how in the throes of day-to-day motherhood (I literally just said to my husband that my finance degree is really not helping me wash poop out of socks), it’s hard to see the bright light of hope that comes with faith in Jesus. I realized that while I’ve cut out the number of toys, pieces of furniture, extracurricular activities, and irrelevant commitments, I still haven’t made space for what matters. And truthfully, there is still a God-shaped void that seeks to be filled.
So here goes: my Lenten goal for 2017 is small and simple, but also deep and intentional, and if you can, I challenge you to join me.
- I’m waking up 30 minutes earlier to make time for individual study and prayer by myself. Ta-da! That’s it. Literally, all that I’m doing. But because I grapple with commitment to martyrdom, I have to set some limits for myself:
- I’m protecting that time. For me, this means taking care of other things ahead of time, like taking my shower and washing my hair the night before instead of every morning. It also means setting boundaries for my little people- they know now that even though Mommy’s awake, they have to entertain themselves. It’s 30 minutes. If nothing else, Curious George can handle my wild beasts for 30 minutes every morning.
- I’m following a plan. I’m the absolute worst when it comes to free styling. If I wake up with a generic “Bible study” intention, I will read 2-3 verses (and not every single morning) and then get into my agenda for the day. So I’m increasing my structure here and following the simple guide from my church bulletin on Sunday, which includes an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, and a Psalm for each of the 40 days of Lent. Even better: I input those verses into my iCalendar so I have absolutely no excuse to miss out.
- I’m opening my mind. As a recovering (ahem) know-it-all, I tend to shy away from directed quiet time in favor of waiting for God’s revelation in my day-to-day life. What that really means is that I typically scoff at whatever anyone has to tell me about faith and just trust that He and I are cool, and that my understanding of Him allows me to see Him in ways that more than enough for me. And while this may sometimes be true, I can also honestly attest to the fact that I am not great at relentlessly pursuing “God-moments,” and I could absolutely afford to spend more time reading my Bible. I’m opening my mind to the fact that perhaps I don’t have all the answers (don’t tell my mother), and that perhaps some guidance from others will open new doors for me where my faith is concerned.
- I’m already planning to continue this beyond Lent. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I need time to pursue my faith every day, but, if given the opportunity, I will choose instead to pursue worldly achievements again and again. The only way for me to find the peace that passes understanding is to intentionally seek it, and the only way for me to do that is with a solid, well-planned routine. It is my hope that this Lenten intention helps condition my heart and my physical being to a new personal standard. One that starts each day with an open heart and open mind, rather than one that rushes from planned activity A to planned activity B.
One of the beauties of being a homeschool mom is that I’m not constantly rushing from one carpool line to the next. I don’t have to pack snacks or lunches; I don’t have to participate in Teacher Appreciation week; there are no crazy sock days or lunch with a grandparent days for me to remember. But in the mundaneness of wake-up, coffee, laundry, school, lunch, naps, laundry, chores, dinner, baths, bedtime…there is a void that still seeks to be filled. And for me, it’s not girls’ nights, pedicures, movies, or even a coffeehouse retreat for one that will do the filling (although those are all fabulous options for some self-care, lemme just say). As I continue to work towards making time for self-care, I’m shifting my focus and moving my faith to the forefront, for surely from that place fulfillment will follow. Blessings to you, friends, in this Lenten season.