Ahhh, fall is here! With it comes cooler days (well, cooler mornings and and evenings; I live TEXAS after all). Falls holds wonderful breezy afternoons that make me want to lie on the porch and sip lemonade. Then there are the earlier sunsets, which, for many of us, mean less time to get things accomplished while the kids play outdoors. Sigh.
Summer seemed to have undending hours that were sometimes challenging to fill for this stay at home Mom (although we did do something different at least once a week), so when fall arrives I breathe a sigh of relief as the boys go back to school, only to find, a month or so later, that it is very easy to get ovewhelmed with all the extra things to do: homework challenges, dinner routines, and the endless housework. Not to mention evening Bible studies and church events. (Our family has yet to get involved in sports, due to health issues, although we are considering Boy Scouts.)
At a recent bible study group, one mom of three young children (five and under) lamented, "I used to be such a fun person! I don't know where that happy girl is anymore."
"Hidden under the laundry and the dishes, " sighed another. (Me.)
Today is Monday, one of our busier days. There are the dishes from the weekend (I try to rest on Sundays and not do housework). There are the work hours and doctor appointments I squeeze in. There are Homework Challenges, which I've mentioned before. On Mondays, this includes a bit of extra studying for the Tuesday Math test, and then the boys and I must all three be fed, dressed (again) and ready in time for evening Bible study. (Those of you whose kids strip when they get home from school are nodding your heads vehemently at the moment!)
With all the obligations that pull me in various directions all at once, I truly appreciated a little bit of perspective in my morning Bible study. The Lord drew my notice to Hebrews 6:10-12 (New International Version) which says,
"God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped his people" (your children and your family members and any others you work with) "and continue to help them."
Moms help by tying shoes and mashing peas, and wiping little bottoms. We help with bandaids, and cleaning wounds, and "customer appreciation" and zeroxing. (At home, at school, and at work!) We help with phone calls and helpful hints. Or with the cleaning of toilets... not to mention the dishes and the laundry. (And, for some of us, all of the special needs cooking!) With taking a moment to encourage someone who is down, or simply BE with someone who needs companionship. We help by teaching life lessons and showing our kids we don't have to be perfect, or always get things "right" to be loved.
The Lord sees every little (and big) task we undertake, and, as a mentor once reminded me, the menial or repetitive chores are one of the ways we show love to our families. I know my husband deeply appreciates the nights when I have a warm meal ready for him, when he comes home, exhausted from ministering all day to cancer patients and their families.
My boys do appreciate that I make sure they each have clean socks for the next morning. (Though they may not always say so.) Tyler knows that I make him check his blood glucose even when he does not want to slow down and take the time to do it, because I love him. And Blaine appreciates when I pick the shrimp out of his shrimp fried rice (we had take out this weekend because I was exhausted). While I do get weary of doing the same monotonous chores over and over, I must not lose sight of why I am doing them. Not "because they are there," as the saying goes. Not because they must be done, or they'll be hanging over my head. But the attitude I most want to connect with is that I do these tasks because I love my family and this is part of how I care for thier needs. This is ministry, indeed. We Moms are all ministers. We women are all ministers,whether in the workplace or at home. Each of us have a special ministry in the places God has chosen to put us.
Occasionally I am am given moments where I really see how much my family appreciates what I do. Recently I was sick with a tummy bug, and Roger took over with the boys for me. (What a sweet husband I have!) When dinnertime came Blaine had a meltdown because he wanted "Mommmmmmmy!!!!!" Sob!
I asked Roger to send Blaine in to my room, so I could talk with him. What he said struck a chord. "I need YOU to do it Mommy." He said. "You love me so much when you cook my food!" Oh, the insight of a seven year old. "Love Languages" aside, his wisdom was touching. Yes, my family does appreciate what I do. I need to hear that sometimes. We all do! Know that even if those around you do not seem to appreciate all that you do, the Lord does. He sees, He knows, He understands. And He really does care.
Hebrews 6:11 continues,
"We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."
Now this does not mean to turn into work-a-holic who doesn't know when it is time to go to the back porch and sip some lemonade. But it does mean that we should find the balance between "not growing weary in doing good" (i.e. an attitude of ministry) and self-care. This scripture speaks of diligence, holding to the task when we want to give up. Inheriting what was promised- i.e. eternity in the presence of the Lord. Which you can enjoy now, if you'll seek Him.
Now, most of the women I know have trouble allowing themselves the time to go to that place of rest. But the Lord never intended us to work our spiritual knuckes to the bone. And He did not create us for fellowship with Him so that we would work and serve so incessantly that we lose our joy.
There is a time to step back and renew. Jesus Himself understood the power of rest, and seeking the quiet places to draw into the presence of His Father. And when we see Him in scripture seeking out moments of stillnes before God, Jesus is settting the precedent for going somewhere quiet, and even scenic. A well outside a city, a garden, a mountaintop. A place where nature speaks to us the very presence of the Lord. A place where we can tune our hearts to His.
Even Jesus made a point to have His times of getting away and being refreshed.
Now, not all of us live next to a mountain that we can climb to get away and find God's presence. But there are places of beauty all around; a neighborhood park, even a porch with pretty flowers will do.
It strikes me that I must take TIME to find that "Happy girl", to re-fill, and re-capture joy. And I am beginning to think she's not under the pile of laundry. I think she's under the trees in my morning walks, waiting to be discovered.
Autumn is a time of harvesting, a time of gathering, of enjoying the fruits of our labor. It should also be a time of restoration. Oh, I do love fall. Something about trees brings to life a joy deep within that I will miss if I do not take time out to connect with my creator... with the fruits of HIS labor, and my own joyful spirit.
Whether early in the morning or in the evening when the sun is going down, I love to get out and walk, and enjoy the beauty that surrounds me. I love to listen to the wind blowing through the trees. I love the changing leaves, the myriad of colors that are beginning to show on some of the neighborhood trees. And I absolutely revel in walking under the branches that line the streets, especially in the quietness as I take my daily walk. Here the trees have grown tall, and branches from both sides arch over the pavement, meeting each other, forming a complete arc, connecting.
Sometimes, early in the morning, I walk down the middle of street, taking time to look up at the leafy arches which reach across the street and meet above. Seeing the trees on either side of the divide, reaching towards each other, reminds me of how the Lord reaches out to me. He too, seeks to connect. I raise my arms up above my head and praise the Lord for His beautiful creation. I allow the coolness of His breath of life to lift my spritits, fill me, complete me.
There is a peace that comes when I get out in nature and breathe deeply of the Lord's handiwork. It is true that when we drink in His spirit, we find refreshment, renewal, and wholeness.
So I encourage each of you to MAKE time to take a walk, this week. Find a time that you can step away from the chores that beckon, and take some time to enjoy the beauty of the Lord. Maybe even walk down the middle of a street and raise your arms to praise Him.
If you won't tell the kids you were out in the middle in the street, I won't either! It is my prayer that you will seek the Lord with all your heart, and find rest, renewal, and joy in Him today.