Faith, Life, Motherhood

Sacred Space

Sacred space by barnyz on flickr

Mow the lawn.  Pay the bills. Feed the dog.  Change the oil.  Check the homework.  Supervise the music practice.  Tame the toddler.  Ferry kids from place to place; take a meal to a needy neighbour; make a plan for the next school holidays; fold the laundry before ‘Mount Washmore’ erupts…

Life is busy.

We’re one month into 2016 and already the pace has picked up.  Here in New Zealand we’re launching ourselves into the merry-go-round of a new school year.  Already the spaces in the calendar are starting to darken with activities; our schedule’s filling up.  We have to think ahead and squeeze the things we want to do into the available time each week.  But while all that’s happening, I’m trying to create space for what’s important.

How do we do that?

How do we create space for what’s important when life crowds in so insistently?

In a cold stone kitchen in England, a pot of stew bubbles above the fire, sending savoury-scented steam up into the rafters.  A small child crouches by the hearth, dandling a cloth doll on her knee as she chirps out a lullaby; her next-older brother tosses wooden pegs into a tin bucket – it clangs and rings out as the pegs find their mark.  Six older siblings sit at the worn dining table, books open, chanting their lessons.  A cradle in the corner sits empty; another baby gone to heaven.  Susanna stirs the dinner as she calls out corrections to the children’s Latin recitation. 

As she removes the pot to the windowsill to cool, Susanna reminds Hetty that it’s her turn for Mama time this evening; she’ll test her daughter on her memorised scriptures and they’ll spend time talking away from the others.  And then, in the midst of the younger children’s clamour for their meal and the older children’s scholarly disagreement, Susanna throws her apron over her head. In this strange but sacred space, she begins to pray.

Susanna Wesley (mother of Charles and John) knew a little something about busyness.  She also knew a bit about creating space for what’s important.  She bore 19 children and raised about half of them (the others sadly died in infancy), schooling them in the Christian faith, teaching them the classics, and nurturing them into rich and productive lives.

Susanna served her family wholeheartedly and mindfully; but she also recognized the importance of maintaining her own spiritual walk.  Life, death, grief, separation, struggle, work – all competed for attention in Susanna’s life.  But her children all noticed how she found a way to make space for holiness in the midst of the mundane – how she spent time with God even while remaining physically present with them.

We all need to take time regularly to ensure that our hearts and minds are aligned with God’s will for our lives; and the trick is that we need to figure out how to do that while we’re in the midst of living those lives.

I’m still figuring that out.  I keep falling short and losing my balance in the busyness.  I’ve got a few little ideas of how I’d like to create sacred space this year, though, and now seems as good a time as any to make a start:

  • Short Bible reading/devotional/prayer to start the day, before I even get out of bed (praises due to West, who does breakfast for the boys) – to create space for this I’m going to need to be disciplined about getting lunches made the night before, and possibly setting the alarm for an earlier wake-up (eek!)
  • Praying instead of yelling – Yep, I still get caught in that awful habit of raising my voice when I’m at my wit’s end, but I’m determined to focus that energy on something that will bring change instead of negativity; I’ll create space in frustration for a clear-headed and calm response to challenges
  • Loving notes for the boys – in the midst of the task of raising these precious children, I need to create space to just breathe life into them. I’ve started a love project – each of the boys has a ‘Things I Love about You’ poster, and from now until Valentine’s Day I’m putting a heart on with a word or phrase of something I love about them (so far they love it!).  From there I’ll need to find a new way of affirming their unique places in my heart – but the goal is to ensure that each day I take time to build them up, instead of simply being caught up in getting them to do their chores and homework and improving their behaviour…
  • Worship/meditation music on in the house – it’s amazing how certain music creates space for peaceful interactions and a calmer approach to life

How about you?  How do you create space for what’s important in your life?  Does it happen easily or do you have to be intentional about it, as I do?  I pray that we’d all find ways to create space in our lives for peace and time with God in the year ahead.

 

Thanks for reading!

-Trix

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Family Harmony, Parenting

Juggling

juggling by gabriel rojas hruska on flickr

I’ve often heard Mums complaining about ‘the juggle’ – trying to stay on top of a thousand weekly activities for their kids, meeting the demands of work and/or household, and being there physically and emotionally for everyone in the family.

Juggling, it seems, is a ‘must do’ activity for mothers everywhere.  There even seems to be a sense of competition between parents when it comes to how many activities we can squeeze into each week; some mothers seem to derive great satisfaction from being up with the crows to get their sons to hockey and being on the go, with multiple demands and diverse directions for all of their activities, until Girl Guides/soccer/baseball finishes last thing at night.  But here’s the thing:  Juggling is a circus act.  And I’m not in the circus (the zoo, maybe, but definitely not the circus).  I can admire juggling and those who are capable of managing it, as I would any spectator sport – but I’m not jumping into the ring to try my hand at it.  I’m out.

My reasons for not being willing to engage in this most stressful of feats are many.  For starters, my grip on sanity is tenuous at best – add a whole lot of ‘where/when/how’ factors and a rowdy bunch of little boys to ferry hither and thither, and I’m likely to end up in a padded room with one way doors (tempting, at times, if they’d offer room service and some good reads…).  I get crazy – and I mean certifiably, jabberingly, jitteringly loonie – when I have to rush and dash from place to place.  Yeah, it’s going to be a smooth transition to senility for me; but I’m not about to engage in something that’ll accelerate the whole process.

Here’s one of the great benefits of having ‘too many kids’:  it’s just impossible, financially and practically, to give them ‘every opportunity’ that comes along.  This means that, each term, we figure out what’s most important to the boys and we try to do those things.  Sometimes we have to miss out on stuff – if it’s a parent-participation thing and I’ve got the baby and the other boys and it clashes with my Mum’s schedule (as she’s my gracious and willing helper many weekdays), then we just can’t make it happen.  If we can’t fit at least a couple of the boys into any particular activity, in general, we don’t do it.

Of course, where possible, we do create opportunities for our guys to have experiences that they are especially keen on: B. is really interested in art, so he got to go to a studio for some drawing sessions one term; C. loves swimming, so we found him an evening class one semester when the others were desperate for a break from their lessons (swimming’s a life skill in my book, so that’s one thing that is usually on the agenda – not that it does much good, because A. has been doing lessons since he was in nappies and he is still only about one level above drowning).

I do enjoy the break from being in the house when we have things on in the afternoons, though, particularly if the weather is cold or wet – and I’ll admit that it lends a certain rhythm to the week to have some things on the agenda.  So I’m not trying to set myself up as some sort of poster child for Activity-Free Parenting or something.  It’s just that I really value our home-time, as masochistic as that may sound for any of you who have actually seen me at home with my kids.

As you’ll have deduced from my last post, it’s not as if I’m anxious for time at home in order to accomplish all my housework.  But there are benefits to being at home, even for us.  When we’re at home, I have the chance to observe the interactions between my boys and thus to offer helpful pointers towards better socialization, such as ‘Hug more, bite less,’ ‘Ask, don’t grab,’ and my personal favourite, ‘Keep your tongue to yourself.’  It’s only by being at home that we really get to work on the interpersonal stuff between family members.  And if we find ourselves with a yawning void between 3 pm and 5:30 (when Westley makes the long commute upstairs from work), I am forced to come up with some boredom-busters or encourage the boys to get creative – which, although I am reluctant to admit it, is another plus to not being a juggler.

By having some time at home, we can just manage to stay on top of A.’s meagre homework requirements and the recommended reading time for B. (and C.).  And the baby gets to nap when he needs to nap – a miracle considering the cacophony of background noises that is the usual soundtrack to his day-sleeps!  I get to have the odd cup of tea (nuked once or twice in the microwave between gulps, because it’s only a treat if it’s hot), the boys get to play with their toys and each other – in short, all is right with the world.

Life is a balance – and parenting young kids involves a constant balancing act.  I’m not saying I’ve got it right yet – I do admire people who find the energy to get out and ferry their kids to all sorts of fun activities (especially if those activities bring them joy and balance in their own family lives). I’d love to be better at just getting the boys outside more and being more willing to organize on-the-fly playdates (I have a rule that they can’t ask on the day they want the playdate – but realistically it usually takes me a good week to sort myself out to acquiesce, even if I’m not hosting)…  But balance can be achieved, and of course I believe it to be more likely that I’ll periodically find and maintain balance if I’m not also trying to keep a whole lot of balls in the air.  Juggling, you see, is a circus act.

And I’m just not interested in joining the circus.

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The irony, of course, is that in order to find some time and create some headspace to finish this post, I had to grab West by the collar and order him to Just. Take. Them. Out. this afternoon.  Consider this full-disclosure.

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