On Sunday, I made a trip to my local paper crafting store. I have not done this in a very long time (honest!). While I was there, I overheard a conversation between the cashier and one of the customers, who was obviously a mom. It seems like they had just had a class in the store and she said something like this: "I am available for my kids every other moment in the day, but it sure is nice to be able to do something for myself. Now I can go back and do it again." Indeed. And so when I began to set goals this year (for everyone else, of course!), the Lord invited me to set some goals for myself for fun, some time to do something different than my normal duties at home. My first thought was, "Who would take care of the kids and all the responsibilities?" Then my next thought was one of guilt. "What good mother would feel like she needed a break from her kids?" (Are you laughing yet?)
Over the years, I have encouraged moms to pull away for extended retreats with the Lord and this was often the response I would get. As moms, we believe the lie that we are indispensable or we believe the lie that good mothers can do everything without taking a break. Both are not true. God is able to take care of our children, and He can do so better than we can. Not only that, He has made us with limits (whether we choose to accept it or not). We need to rest, refuel and refresh ourselves if we want to be in top condition.
Stephen Covey makes a similar analogy, which he calls "sharpening the saw." When we take time for ourselves, he says, "It's preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have---you." In fact, it is Habit #7 from his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. To be highly effective, you need to take time to nurture yourself, not for myself, but so I can offer the best version of me to those I love.
This seems like a contradiction when we compare it to what Jesus says about dying to ourselves or being the servant of all. And maybe it is if we are spending all our time pursuing our own selfish pursuits to the detriment of our homes and families. But I believe there is some wisdom in investing a little time to recharge our batteries so that we can go back and "do it again." If we do not, we will eventually be useless.
This is an act of faith on my part, faith in the grace of God that allows mothers to take a break every now and then. It is also an act of humility, both in acknowledging that I am not in supreme control and in admitting that I have limits (no supermoms here!).
For me, the best way to do this is to spend extended time with God once a month. Besides that, He showed me several other ways: 1. Get enough rest. (Are you laughing again?) My goal is 7 hours a night. I have noticed I do much better when I regularly get enough sleep. This doesn't mean I get that amount every night, but my goal is more often than not.
2. Get regular exercise, so I can keep up with the kids, serve my husband and have the stamina it takes to run a home and ministry.
3. Stimulate my mind. This helps me to enlarge my thinking and understanding. I do this by reading one book a month and listening to godly teaching as I exercise. (Multitasking works here!)
4. Exercise my right brain. I tend to be very left-brained. (Can you tell?) This is why I was in the scrapbook store in the first place. My goal is to take time each week to create on Saturday evenings. I made one for Anah this month!
5. Cultivate friendships with other women. I need time to fellowship and just hang out with others. I have set a goal to arrange a time to get together with other women once a month, for coffee, shopping or just for fun. Being with others who are positive and life-giving really helps so much.
My opinion is if the goal of these activities is to serve myself, then I should not be doing them. But for me (and I suspect this is true for the larger number of you) the problem is giving myself permission to rest and refresh---not just for myself, but for the sake of those I seek to serve, whether in my home or elsewhere. These are probably the hardest goals for me to keep this year. It is so easy to neglect myself because other things are usually more pressing and urgent. But if I do not, I know that my effectiveness as a mother is dulled.
So, if you are in the same boat and you are reading this, I challenge you to find one thing that you can do to sharpen your saw. It could be something as simple as taking a bubble bath or lighting a candle and sitting in silence for a few moments. Consider it a gift to yourself, not from me, but from the One who longs to help you become the mother you desire to be.