Faith, Parenting, Personal Growth, Reflection

The First Pour

coffee pour by mark on flickr

We have this little ritual, West and I, of making coffee for one another.  Sometimes he makes it (usually after lunch), and sometimes I do (our morning cuppa, following the school run); but the process is the same for each of us:  rinse out our little Bialetti espresso maker, fill with fresh water, spoon the coffee grounds over the metal filter, screw the top back on, and place it on the stovetop to heat up while we microwave the two cups of milk for our lattes.  Mmmmm.  Rich, delicious, and – most importantly – caffeinated!

The coffee-preparation process is the same, but there’s one slight variation in the finished product each of us receives: whoever gets the second cup also gets a bit of ‘sludge’ from the coffee grounds.  It’s a very slightly finer cup for whomever gets the first pour.  Knowing this is the case, I make sure that West gets the first pour.

Oh, I know I could make it even.  I could do a little pour into each cup, back and forth and back again, to make sure that neither of us gets the dregs on our own.  I could.  But then neither of us would get the pure ‘first pour’, either.   And, in truth, I don’t really mind the dregs.  I know, too, that when West makes the coffee, he reserves the second pour for himself and gives me the finer cup.  It balances out.

When you think about it, it’s not just with coffee that there’s a ‘first pour’ and ‘the dregs’; our time, our energy, our families – with each of these things we have a choice to make, whether we realise it or not, about where we’re going to bestow this superior ‘first pour’.

If I’m working on an article or some other writing, it’s easy to be consumed by it; so focused on the words and ideas swirling around in my head that every other bit of input is a frustrating distraction.  In truth, it’s like that anytime I’m wrestling with ideas – even if I’m internally trying to figure out how to better nurture my children and be more patient with them, I’ll be swatting them away and growling at them while I’m trying to think it through.  How’s that for irony?!  There are definitely times that I need to lock myself away to sort out the ideas, set down the phrases, and complete a writing task; but at other times I really have to train myself to view the thoughts (and worries) as a distraction, rather than seeing my kids that way.  Sometimes, at the very least, my kids should get the ‘first pour’ of my energy, focus, and attention; my children as individuals and my family as a group – not just concepts, ideas, theories and debates about the concept of ‘parenting’.

Likewise, when life and lists crowd in and there doesn’t seem to be time for anything, let alone a sacred, quiet space in time to read the Bible, pray, or meditate, where does my ‘first pour’ go?  Likely, every little thing gets a drip of my best; the dregs, if anything, are what’s left for the pursuit of spiritual growth and nurture.

And although when I make a coffee I put myself second – with little to no detriment – I can see that it’s not healthy for us to always leave ourselves just the dregs of our time and energy.  Sometimes we need to make sure that we get the sustaining, superior, beneficial ‘first pour’ as well – not to short-change those we love, but to ensure that we function as healthy, fulfilled, and functional human beings.  When I start to feel like I’m pouring into too many cups, I know that the result will be unsatisfying – and unsatisfactory – for all of them.  I need to give myself the first pour – step back from things, renew my energy, regain my perspective, and then I’m fresh to make a new batch.

This isn’t a new idea.  In the Bible, one of God’s requirements of the Jews was that they would bring Him their ‘first fruits’ as an offering.  He also required them to sacrifice their best before Him; an unblemished lamb (sound familiar?), amongst other things.  Sure, these are Old Testament practices, but they’re ones whose essence remains useful to observe today:  what we do for God should be what we do first; and what we bring to God should be our best.  It shouldn’t be that church is what we fit in if we haven’t got anything better to do on a Sunday.  It shouldn’t be that sleep, activities, and TV crowd in and replace our time praying and reading the Bible. (It shouldn’t be the case, but I’ll raise my hand first – I find time to vege in front of Netflix almost every night, and yet I can’t seem to establish a regular quiet time routine for reading the Bible and meditating on God’s word…).

I think it’s worth considering, from time to time.  Who’s getting the first pour in your life?  Do you need to change the order of cups?

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Faith, Life, Motherhood

The Trouble with ‘Me’ Time

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As a busy Mamma, everyone tells you the value – no, the necessity – of taking time out for yourself.  It would be impossible to manage the amount of giving, doing, looking after and caring for others that motherhood requires of us without having the opportunity to refuel at times.

If you read any popular magazines, particularly those aimed at women (and especially those directed at mothers), you’re bound to find articles about making time for ‘me’.  Many of them will offer advice about how to find the time, and the necessity of doing so, as well as what to do when you have given yourself that time.  Spas feature heavily in this type of article, and no wonder; what could be more appealing to someone whose life revolves around caring for other people than to go somewhere or do something that involves pampering for herself.  And I’m not trying to persuade you that there’s anything particularly wrong with that – I’m even hoping for a spa gift certificate for Mother’s Day (that’s a hint, West!) – but what I wonder is, with all the marketing of this practice, does it really live up to the hype?

Taking time away from your regular life to re-set, re-focus, refuel, restore, and relax is a valuable practice.  God thought so, anyway, which is why he created the Sabbath – and since I’ve thrown my lot in with him I’m inclined to agree about setting aside some space in my life for this purpose.

But here’s the trouble with ‘me’ time, as it is defined by the world of advertising and ‘common’ sense:

It’s all about taking away.

‘Me’ time, by definition, is time taken away from your regular commitments – a ‘get-away’ from the ordinary routine – to focus on yourself.

I am for this – I, too, am inundated in my day-to-day life by the demands of a household, extra-curricular pursuits, and the voices, noises, and needs of other people.  Somanyotherpeople. So ‘getting away’ from all of this for a temporary reprieve definitely seems to me to be a sanity-saver, and thus I am on board.

However

It’s not enough.

It’s finite.

‘Me’ time is about stripping away the stresses of life; and as soon as you step back into position, you have as much on your plate as you had before.  Any serenity you may have gained from being in a peaceful place or enjoying some pampering is fleeting once you re-join normal life.

I’ve done this calculation before, when I’ve had a gift certificate in my hot little hand and I’m working out when to go for this long-awaited pampering massage – I look at my calendar and I try to figure out when would be the best time to go so that I’d get the most relaxation out of it.  Having a massage the day before one of my sons’ birthday parties, for instance, would be ludicrous.  The very next day I’d be running around like a headless chicken, stressing out over the details and the cake…  Similarly, I’d want to avoid going for my spa session just after a late night – what a waste it would be to fall asleep on the massage table and miss it altogether!  A lot of decision-making goes into maximizing the relaxing effect of this ‘me’ time.

But then, no matter how hard I try to make that peace last, and no matter how carefully I have planned to keep that blissful feeling as long as possible – it’s over.  The tension creeps back into my shoulders, something or someone is loud, irritating, or demanding – and I’m back where I started.

The trouble with ‘me’ time is that its effects are only temporary.  It is only a temporary stripping away of those things that will inevitably catch up with us and overwhelm us yet again.

So what, then, can we do?  What could possibly be more, and lastingly, restorative and refreshing?

We can have ‘God’ time.

We can spend time in prayer.  We can read the Bible, a devotional, or an inspirational website; or we can attend a church service.  We can retreat to a quiet corner of the house (or the car!) and turn up some worship tunes.  We can get out for a walk alone and talk to God as we go.

The difference between ‘God’ time and ‘me’ time is that when we spend time with God and when we devote space in our lives to seeking his heart, we are truly restored; we are filled up, fortified and prepared to return to the demands of our everyday lives.  We are given peace, contentment, hope and joy that don’t just evaporate with the first challenge that comes our way; instead, this ‘filling up’ continues as we return to our regular routines.  When we spend ‘me’ time, we return to the fray with momentarily less; we’ve enjoyed a short and temporary shedding of our cares – but when we spend ‘God’ time, we step back into our lives with more.

‘God’ time doesn’t just take away our cares; it also furnishes us with the means of dealing with those burdens that sap our energy and increase our stress.  We return from our quiet time restored, refreshed and equipped.  Connecting with God charges us up so that our spiritual and emotional batteries don’t run on empty.

So the next time you’re craving some ‘me’ time – try some ‘God’ time, instead.

 

photo by holly on flickr.  License here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode

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