Finding Time With God
Gone are the days of an hour long quiet time first thing in the morning. My day begins with a child climbing into bed with me demanding food, drinks and play and it ends with me crawling back into bed shattered after hours upon hours of tidying, working, feeding, playing, creating, sorting, drinks-making....you get the picture. It's no wonder most Mums feel burnt out!
With my to-do list stacking up to heights the Eiffel Tower couldn't rival with, there leaves little time for precious moments spent alone with God, and the more children I've had, the less time I have for elongated sessions dedicated to my relationship with Him. It hasn't gone away though, it's merely changed to correspond with the season that I am in and guess what, it's just as good and just as fruitful as the times I used to have spending hours in His presence. Mothers, God knows us. He knows the stage of life that we are in. He sees the struggle of juggling plates, of prioritising time and of trying to fit it all in and he's here for it. He's not one for restricting His voice because we haven't managed to fit Him into more than a 5 minute gap between errands - in fact He does the complete opposite and He meets us in those moments in full force ready to bring fresh peace and joy to our days. I promise He will meet you in the little as much as He will in the bountiful - so press into those precious minutes you get each day and come expectant for Him to speak.
With all this being said, here are some of the things I have learnt to do to remind myself to take time to listen and just BE with Him. I hope some of these you find helpful and as always, please share with me what you do too!
1. Go Mrs Owen
Wesley Owen was a great bible scholar and his mother was an avid pray-er. There are countless stories of her strength in prayer and Wesley recalls being told by her that if she had a towel on her head she wasn't to be disturbed. She had LOTS of children, but prayer was important to her, so she created a system in her home that allowed her to pray interrupted. It's okay to set those boundaries with our children. I think society likes to tell us that to be a good Mother we have to be at our children's every beck and call, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Setting good boundaries is healthy, and sets them up for a future where not everybody is going to jump at their demands.
I'm not suggesting we all pray with towels on our heads (I've tried it and my kids all thought I was playing a game of peek a boo), but I am suggesting we look at what system might work for us. I've simply begun by saying, "Mummy's just praying right now, I need you to wait", but it may be that having something visual is helpful too. Could there be a special chair you sit in? An area of your home you move to? Or simply that when you are doing a certain activity (cooking, driving, cleaning) that those moments are spent praying and undisturbed. It doesn't need to be a hard and fast rule, because looking after little ones means sometimes they DO need our attention right then, but having something that's fairly regular will be hugely beneficial to your prayer life.
2. Background noise
I'm a music listener. First thing in the morning I come downstairs to make my coffee and switch on my google home to be playing the days music and it only recently dawned on me that I could be more proactive with what I'm choosing to listen to in those moments and switch on something uplifting that gives me space to spend time with Him. Podcasts, worship music, daily devotionals - it's amazing what's on Spotify nowadays! - and it's another moment to take time out for Him. What's great about this one is that there are so many areas where our background noise can be tweaked to reflect Him. I've switched the music over in my car to play a popular worship set, I play YouTube worship music in the background when at my desk, and if I'm cleaning I play a preach or a podcast (though this one is mainly to distract me from the endless amount of dusting I seem to have to be doing recently). Have a play and see what works!
3. Learn through your children
Jesus didn't come just for the adults and there are some brilliant people out there who have created endless amounts of children's resources. Designed to help engage your children and teach them about God, I've lost count of the amount of times that I have learnt something myself. Children's bibles put so simply some of the stories which are difficult for us to wrap our heads around and things like family devotionals mean that everyone can get involved - plus you're topping up your tank at the same time.
4. Arrow Prayers
God hears our hearts - which thankfully means we don't need to be praying in poetic form and vocalising a novel in order to get our point across. It also means we can literally speak from anywhere. Short, simple prayers in the middle of the mess are what God loves to hear - He wants a real relationship with us, not just the beautifully framed moments. Thinking about a friend who's going through something as you clear up the table? Shoot up an arrow prayer. Reflecting on the beauty of a flower as you're on the school run? Shoot up an arrow prayer. Angry and confused about your children's behaviour? Shoot up an arrow prayer. God doesn't need our prayer life to look like the 'hands together and eyes closed' model we were taught in school, He's much more interested in the 'covered in baby snot whilst scrubbing the carpet' style.
5. Find your tribe
The power of a friendship group who ask the difficult questions and do community with you like Jesus did with the disciples is powerful stuff. People who will pray with you. People who will give you space to pray. A friendship group centred around pursuing Jesus is like gold so seek it out and the benefit to your life will be immense. Where to start? Join a bible study group, a playgroup run by Christians or a small group hosted by a church.
6. Get to church
Here's the great thing about church - they run children's groups where your kids are looked after by other amazing adults and you can throw yourself into an hour of quality time with God and your church family. I'm always torn as a children's worker when I ask parents to view us like this, but I'm also a mother to 3 (almost 4!) young children and get it. Finding time with God is hard, and sometimes the season that you are in calls for it.
7. Prioritise your time
This comes with a challenge, so if you're not in the mood for this then move ahead to the next point - no judgement from me today!
I think if we're honest with ourselves, we all know of things that we fill our time with that we could change/tweak/cut out if we really had the desire to. "You make time for what is important" is a saying I think about whenever I analyse my time management, and the same is true for this. Is it important to us? This is NOT about cancelling out all of our 'rest' time in replacement of more spiritual practices - you are still allowed and encouraged to do those mindless things that you enjoy! - but is there something that you could do less of? You don't need to be carving out hours of time - 5 minutes still counts! See #no4.
8. Buddy Up
Similar to finding your tribe, buddying up is a great way of getting some regular spiritual goodness into your life. Find a close friend who you can be honest and open with and dedicate yourselves to each other by randomly encouraging each other throughout the days/weeks/months. Send each other random bible verses. Share preaches and podcasts that have encouraged you. Pray for each other regularly and tell each other that you are doing it. Getting a random text in the middle of the day with something encouraging is such booster.
9. Get your partner on board
This one might seem really obvious, but when you start to ask Christian couples what their spiritual life is as a couple you realise that a LOT of us don't sit down regularly with our husbands to study the bible or pray. Myself and Lee don't regularly - it's something we always say that we want to do but we never really organise ourselves to do it - but the times when we HAVE done it, I've noticed a significant improvement in our spiritual wellbeing. A quick 5 minute devotional, or prayer before bed makes the world of difference.
10. Grace, Grace and more Grace!
Hey, good news! God doesn't actually require you to do anything! God is a wonderful, powerful God and is totally able to speak to us whatever season of life we are in. God asks for our hearts to be turned to Him, and that looks totally different for every individual - don't compare yourself to others and don't feel shame for not looking how they do. Your outworking of prioritising your spiritual health is your walk, and nobody else's. You've got this.
So there we have it! 10 ways to find time with God as a busy parent! What ways have you found that enable you to spend time with God? What has been helpful and what doesn't work for you at all? Share it in the comments - I'd love to chat to you about it!
Until next time...