Tuesday, October 13, 2009

'Devotions' for the Sleep-Deprived

 This note is a compilation of an email conversation with several of my mommy friends. It's a little long, but I found the conversation a real encouragement, and thought other moms might also benefit. I tried to edit out some of the non-essentials.
It began with an email from my friend:

"All day long I have been thinking and praying about how to spend time with the Lord alone in the morning. As all of you know before you have kids, and even with just one, its fairly easy to set aside that time undistracted. Honestly, I have struggled lately with making it a priority. So since you all have little ones here is my question to you: How do you do it? Do you set your alarm and get up in the morning before the kids wake? Do you give them something to do while you are studying in a different room? Are you doing it during their nap, or after bedtime? I would really appreciate any help you could offer. The baby is finally on a much better schedule that is somewhat predictable. Thank you in advance. Oh and yes I know that things will be changing with her still under a year, and don't want to pressure myself into anything unrealistic. Just need some advice."

Another friend replied:

"I think I'm in the same boat you are: I don't have a set devotion time anymore and it is frustrating. I've tried having my quiet time while the girls are at the table having breakfast, but that ends with a huge mess for me to clean up and having to wait to have my breakfast till it's almost lunch. I was also unsuccessful at waking up early, or staying up later to get it done due to extreme sleep deprivation. The one thing I've found that somewhat works is sitting down with them and reading them a story from their children's Bible and then putting them at the table with crayons and having them draw a picture about the story. So far they haven't drawn anything about the story, but it will usually buy me about 15 minutes to sit and read something on my own. I've been trying to take whatever story is in their Bible and then reading it in my own Bible after. I wish I could say this works for us everyday, but realistically I'd say it happens about once a week. I also signed up for devotionals that come right to my email, so whenever I have a few minutes to check my email I can get a little boost throughout the day.

I'm really looking forward to everyone else's responses!"

I butted in:

"I haven't had a chance to read all the previous posts yet, but I wanted to say something anyway. I have found that the first year after having a baby, a schedule is unrealistic. If you have a baby that is up often at night, the baby creates exhaustion in Mom and Dad. You get what sleep you can, you feed everyone in the house, and you read a verse here and there. When they were tiny, some of them tolerated me reading my Bible while I nursed them. One didn't. I don't personally believe having a scheduled life is necessarily a spiritual life (although it certainly can be). I like to be scheduled, but every baby I have had has wrecked our schedule.

"Once my babies are about a year old, our life seems to fall back into place. We get regular sleep, we wake up at consistent hours, and do our dishes. For us, my husband gets up first, showers, and heads downstairs to do breakfast. He reads in the kitchen, and listens to teachings while I shower, and read my Bible up in our room. We get the kids up, eat together, and Daddy leaves. Bible is right after breakfast, followed by schooling. We're normally done by noon at the latest. If there's time left, they play. If not, lunch is right away. I put them down for naps (the youngest two at this point) at 1 or 1:30. The older two do something quiet for two hours. Dinner's usually by five. However, Sundays and Wednesdays are different. And Thursdays and Saturdays are different, because Jeff's usually home. I like a fairly consistent pace, but I think the main scheduled events for kids ought to be: getting up, eating regular meals, hearing God's Word, and healthy sleeping hours. And they need to play. One thing: our kids have to stay in their rooms till we're up. It gives us a little time and space for the Word.

"Don't forget that God loves you, He loves children, and He invented a family -- not to turn us into well-oiled machines, but well-fed children of God. Children are messy, slow people who still know how to stare at ants."

My sister said:

"My kids always wake up when I wake up, no matter how early I get up. Within minutes they are up, and with our schedule changing so often in the last year, I have not had a set time either, so what I would advise is for you to be ready. If they are watching a movie or playing quietly, sneak to a corner and open the Word. The dishes CAN wait. If the kids are quiet, take advantage of it. If you can't handle looking at a mess, get under a blanket, or face your chair to a wall. I have done this many times because I was too tempted to clean first, but by the time I am done, the kids are at my feet. But then when you are doing dishes or folding laundry, pray. Ask the LORD to speak to you in those times, and look for moments. Write out verses and place them on the fridge, over the sink, in the bathroom, and meditate on them as you work. I have been so amazed too, as I go through our children's Bible with the kids, how much the LORD speaks to me as I am trying to simply explain it to them. Do what you can to limit distractions: turn off the computer, turn the phone off. But be flexible. Sometimes I am not able to get into the Word alone until nap time, but at the point I am so tired I take a nap myself, so it is not until bedtime. So read with the kids, and ask the LORD to show you things. He is faithful.
"I read about some famous pastor's mother who would pull her apron up over her head and taught her kids when she did that not to talk to her because that was her prayer closet!
"I hope something from that helps."

I joined in again:

"I thought about how to answer this. I never want to discourage anyone from getting into the Word. We need it. But at the same time, I know we are often driven by the enemy to be discouraged because we are, in fact, mothers and not hermits. The scripture plainly says that the unmarried are the ones able to serve without distraction, and the married women have to worry about other things. Every house is different in how it functions due to job and child situations. Every time I have had a baby, the entire first year has been up in the air as far as a schedule goes. Some of my babies have been angels about lying in my lap nursing, and I've actually been able to read my Bible while I nursed. That was great. Others have been thrashers, jealous of every look I gave to anything besides them. I do not get up extra early. It wakes my household, and I'm such a night owl that I can't stay awake. Personally, a year after a baby has been born in our home, we find our feet again, and figure out how to do it. We have the baby in our room for months, and so it eliminates our room as a place of quiet to retreat to. A small house leaves few options.

"So: what has been working for us for some time is that my husband gets up first, showers, wakes me, and heads downstairs. He starts coffee and reads in the kitchen (or if he's able, out on the porch) while I shower. In the winter, I read up in my room while he makes breakfast. Lately, I've been reading out on my porch. The kids are not usually allowed out of their rooms, and have to play quietly (unless I'm on the porch, because they don't really disturb me). But see, I feel guilty admitting this arrangement, because my husband handles food in the morning. Most men don't. Jeff told me that he sees that as his way of washing me with the water of the Word -- providing that for me. But he starts work a little later than many men, and doesn't have much of a commute. And you can't tell a hungry baby to wait quietly. And I do my dishes at night, while he puts the kids to bed.

"Lani's reply was great. It was Susannah Wesley who did that, I think -- John's mother. She had something like eighteen kids. But I can't quiet my mind in a room full of noise. I feel utterly bewildered. Here's what I really want to say about all of it, though -- I keep coming back to this: The man asked Jesus, 'What must I do to work the works of God?'
And Jesus said, 'Believe on the One whom He sent.'
I can do that. I can do that in noise. I can do that in quiet. I can do that with a crying baby in my room. Because He didn't say, 'Spend an hour of quiet time in My Word every day.' He said to believe in Him. He made it possible for the busiest, most harassed, stupidest, smartest, most uneducated in the things of God to be filled with His Spirit, and accepted in the Beloved -- and that gives me devotion.

"'It is not by works of righteousness that I have done, but according to His mercy He has saved me.' The mothers in the early church did not own copies of God's Word. And they were righteous. They heard the Word corporately, as did the rest of the believers. Probably if anyone wanted to read the Old Testament scriptures, they had to go down to the local synagogue, and they might not have been too welcome. You think about it, you talk about it, you read it when you can, and you rest in the finished work that Jesus did, which leaves us with 100% free access to the throne of God. I write it on a chalkboard on my bathroom wall. I tape it to windows where the kids can read it, I put it by my sink and in the laundry room. There are four scriptures taped to my computer monitor. And my hope is in Him. I do not believe that abiding in Christ is reading a certain amount of scripture. It's existing in Him by faith. It's drawing my strength from Him. It's having my heart open to hear Him -- and sometimes He speaks through these distractions.

"He's spoken to me while I homeschooled the kids, while I changed peed-on sheets at midnight, while I was coaching a child through pooping on the toilet. He's answered my prayers for wisdom in what to make for dinner because there was almost nothing in the house. And it's that fellowship that feeds me, even more than a designated hour at a specific time. But when I notice that I need time in the Word that I'm not getting, I ask the Lord for help. And He shows me how to do it."

I added afterward:

"I read a great quote this morning I wanted to add, too: "The wholehearted believer lives consciously hidden in the secret of God's presence." (Andrew Murray; The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer)

"I want to grow in that. I know God is more interested in the position of my heart toward Him than the location of my 'devotions'. I can't remember if it was Elijah or Elisha (why did their names have to be so alike?) -- but one of them called Him 'The God before Whom I live' and I've thought about it a lot. Living in the presence of God makes all the difference in us. But we don't realize it. We're like that widow giving her last two coins -- she didn't even know He was watching her. And He was watching her with approval. Or (is it in Micah?) where the people of God spoke together about Him, and there He was listening in and having it recorded. I want to be aware of His presence, because that results in paying attention to Him. Moses 'endured as seeing Him who is invisible'. Enoch 'walked with God'. I love when I'm paying attention, and don't miss the little lessons His Spirit gives me even in the chaos.

"'And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness." (From Romans 8) We don't know how to pray, so He prays for us. I LOVE that."

My sister added:

"I had another thought also after reading Laura's note. For several years I was going through the One Year Bible, and the first several I enjoyed it a lot, going through all the different parts at a time, but I think my third year, I had just had a baby, and it became a work that I was doing. My attitude was such that I wasn't going to the Word to hear from the LORD, but I was putting in my time, and when I recognized that in myself I realized that I was feeling driven by that time line and I wasn't actually even thinking about or praying about the scripture I was reading. So I stopped going through that. I started just going through one book of the Bible and thinking about it and praying about it, sometimes only reading a couple verses at a time, over and over. So for me, I really have to be careful about my attitude. I seem to get caught up in doing works, but we are called to a relationship with Jesus, and He wants to have us attentive our whole day, not just during 'devotions'."

I added:

"George Muller was asked once how much he read every day. (I think it was him). He said he read until the Lord spoke to him. If it was one verse, it was one verse. If it took ten chapters, it was ten chapters.

"I have a very old book called "Daily Food". For each day, it has two verses and a four or six line hymn selection. I love this book. Some days, it's all I get."

The first friend replied:

"I am always surprised (though I shouldn't be) how the enemy finds new and creative ways to distract me from what is important. The Lord is doing such a work in teaching me right now about having patience, showing love to my husband and the kids, and really seeking Him in everything I do. I find so often that my mind is filled with to-do lists and projects, conversations and the what-ifs of life."

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