Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sandy Cooper, She Speaks Conference Graduate wrote the following for the Proverbs 31 devotional. I wanted to share it with you because it speaks straight from my heart.

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” I Thessalonians 4:11&12 (NIV)

“Mom, will you please tell me a story?“ my eight-year-old daughter asked me recently. It had been one of those insanely packed days, full of errands, chores and activities… and it wasn’t over yet. My mind strained to keep everything in order for the remaining events we had planned for the evening. I was coordinating our homeless outreach followed by plans to attend my husband’s softball game. Kids had to be fed, pottied, properly clothed, and in the right places at the right times. I had to remember to bring supplies, snacks, drinks and driving directions to our various destinations. There was no brain reserve left for creative stories.

“I’m sorry, honey. I can’t tell you a story right now. I just have too much on my mind.”

“That’s okay,” she said. “I’ll tell you a story. Once upon a time,” she began, “there was a very busy mom.”

Uh oh. This ought to be interesting…

“She woke up every day and she was tired. She made a big pot of coffee and went into her room to pray. She prayed and prayed and prayed…but nothing happened. She did the laundry and went to Target and to the grocery store where she spent lots of money. She made dinner and cleaned the house. She went to help the homeless children. At the end of the day, she was still tired so she went to bed. The end.”

Wow. I’m like a twisted version of the Proverbs 31 woman, only much less effective.

I managed to fake a smile and kiss my precious daughter on the head as I blinked back tears. Is that really how she sees me? As a tired woman with a futile prayer life? Overwhelmed and overscheduled? I had always taken pride in the fact that I wasn’t busy. Years ago I learned to say “no” to activities that ate into our family time. I value simplicity and solitude. I had even taught Bible studies about it! Yet, somehow in the midst of my un-busy life, I managed to get very busy. And now the children were taking notice. This was something I promised myself would never happen.

That night I couldn’t sleep (a very rare thing for me...being as “tired” as I am and all). So at 1:00 am I got up and began journaling. For two hours, I poured out my anxious thoughts to God as I sifted through my schedule to identify where and when things had gone wrong. I listed every activity in which I am currently involved, as well as every household responsibility that was taking up my time. The process was very revealing. I discovered that it wasn’t one nasty “culprit” I could quickly cast out of my life, but a series of little culprits to address:

o Mismanaged time—like checking and responding to e-mails over ten times a day.
o Commitments which were longer than anticipated—like the freelance job that was supposed
to be completed two months ago.
o Time management systems I previously put in place, but failed to maintain—like my mail
filing system and my “write-everything-on-a-master-list” system.
o Piles of clutter in my home—which often left me feeling exasperated because they
represented areas of my life that were out of control.

That night God helped me identify a few key areas I could immediately cut in order to be less busy. He helped me draw up and prioritize a master list of projects to tackle, as well as new chores to delegate to my children. But mostly that night, He reminded me - for what seems like the millionth time - that my children would only be little for a season. And in comparison to the pages of other tasks and responsibilities I had just written in my journal, my commitment to be a Godly wife and mother stood far above them all.

And then He reminded me that He doesn’t view me as some kind of “ministry production machine.” Nor does He value me because of what I can accomplish in a day. He cherishes me because I am His daughter. When I remember this, I’m much less inclined to add many things to my plate. Instead, I rest in the peace of knowing who I am in Christ and what He has purposed for me to do and be.

Dear Lord, I offer my schedule today to You. Help me remove from my schedule things not in Your perfect will for me. Help me add anything to my schedule that I may have overlooked but is important to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Oh, how I have been that woman. I have been a woman who neglected everything else in her life for the sake of "ministry". I found myself in the midst of losing all the relationships that I so deeply cared about, because I was so focused on what I thought I should be doing. It took a great awakening and alot of hardship, but God reminded me that He needs to be #1 (not church - not ministry, but Him), my husband should come next, then my children and finally, others. It was very painful and lonely at first, but eventually, I was able to begin to live as the above mentioned verse instructs.

Now, don't get me wrong - I still fall to busyness at times, but I can easily remember the lesson I have learned and soon be back on track.

Just one more time in my life that God has changed my heart through hardship. Although hardship is something we would all like to avoid, I am thankful for what it teaches me in the end.

Have a great day
Living fearlessly in Christ