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!