“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” ~ Proverbs 24:3-4
Today my kids and I went raspberry picking (yum!) with a fantastic family. I chatted away with the mom, Stephanie, while her loving husband chased all the kids around and took pictures. I really enjoyed the typical mom-conversation we had. 10 minute discussions regularly pierced by needy toddlers and infants. Somehow we moms manage to hold two conversations at once while also tending to a meltdown.
Anyway, Stephanie and her family have done an amazing thing recently: they worked hard to manage their finances so that she could stay home with the kids. I have to say, it was pretty awesome to watch the process! She was listing off the benefits of being at home and I was excitedly concurring. I asked her if she was bored yet, and she said “Not at all! Although my house is incredibly clean right now.” Total silence from my part of the berry patch, although the next beat of the conversation moved right along so I doubt it was noticeable. Just a side note as well: Stephanie is awesome and humble and please know that she was not at all bragging, but making a comment that she simply has more time for cleaning than she did before.
That said, I was still a little thrown. (Whiny voice) I can’t seem to keep my house clean! It just does not happen! I have to employ charts and checklists in order to make it passably tidy and relatively clean with a rather slow rotation of deep cleaning moving most of the time. And when I focus all my energies on getting it all done the way I want, I’m burned out and cranky and everyone else around me feels it. So, what gives?
Well, the rest of the time continued to be loads of fun and I boldly told her I’d like to spend more time with her. Of course, she had to say yes. What else would you say when confronted with that kind of request? But on the way home, I got back to thinking. Seriously, what gives?
I have a couple of ideas:
First, I rarely manage my time well. I manage my time the way I eat corn (which is an endless source of teasing for me): Instead of eating row by row, or saving the best for last, I “cherry pick” the best bits and then plod along to eat the rest. That’s just how I do things. Honestly, I used to manage my time better when I worked outside the home.
Second, I don’t cherish my time the way I should. I fail to treat it as the gift that it is and the chance it really could be for giving great honor to God. How I use my time shows what my priorities are (not just what I say they are), and shows whether they line up with God’s priorities in my life. I wrote about my personal retreat and what I learned from it a while ago. It was really amazing and focused me on the right things. My issue now is implementing daily life in light of those lessons.
So what do I do?
I may have a conclusion to this line of thinking someday, but for now, here are things I am learning for my own struggles:
1. Let God run the show. It’s not really MY time or MY resources or MY goals apart from the fact that He gave them to me as gifts! I once went to a marriage conference where a popular, long time speaker boiled down the bulk of his learning and teaching thus far in life to one idea: Get up in the morning and before a word or a step or a thought escapes, hit the floor. Genuinely humble yourself before God. Ask for more of Him and less of you. Ask that it be His day and that He guides your heart. And then tune in to His spirit throughout the day for direction and intimacy. It will change your life.
2. Take my job more seriously. Being a mom and a homemaker is a full time job. Not only that, it is an important one. I may not work outside the home making money and working with deadlines and teams and bosses. But my work significantly impacts our finances, and even more importantly, is of utmost value to each person in my family – even having an eternal impact! I am still accountable – to myself, my husband, and my Lord! Time to stop winging it and start drawing on God’s wisdom and the wealth of skills He allowed me to learn while I was still in the working world! Truly, it’s remarkable how much of what I learned working in the software industry and through school applies directly to being a stay at home mom.
3. Manage time well. Put in my full day’s work and evaluate myself. What would a review of my performance look like? A raise/promotion, or some kind of disciplinary action? For me, winging it with housework simply does not work. I really need to start using my charts and lists again and tweak them until they help me to an excellent job. I’ll post about what I use now and what does/doesn’t work in case someone else can benefit from it. But it’s more than housework. It’s making a godly and comfortable home, building family relationships, teaching my children in God’s ways, nurturing my marriage, being industrious with my resources and energy, learning new skills, and so on.
4. Enjoy my time more. While managing my time well, I need to remain cognizant of how precious this time is. I get to pour myself into the joy and memories and culture of a family! For me, enjoying my time more means being in less in a hurry, slowing down, being flexible, and savoring the wondrous moments. Enjoying the luxurious life of things like going to the gym, taking walks, talking with friends, going on road trips, building traditions, and watching childhoods unfold. I also need to know when to end the work day. I know a mom’s job is never done, but putting aside whatever remains for that day and spending time with my husband, reading a good piece of fiction, painting my nails, watching a movie… these things are very valuable too.
4. Accept my limitations and allow God to work though them anyway. I AM inadequate, so STOP focusing on that fact and just start DEPENDING on Him! Durh! I totally knew that. But I need to hear it constantly anyway. His power is made perfect in my weakness. Through HIM I can do all the things He calls me to do. He is the point of it all, not me. I will never be the super mom I see in some of my friends, and that’s really really OK!!! I have my own strengths. If I do my best and give him everything I have, turning back all the blessings He’s given my as offerings to honor Him, He’ll do some pretty amazing things.
It is so shocking and powerful when we really take God at His Word. What would happen if I made every day and every activity about Him? What if I sought out His guidance at each step? What if I gave all my resources to Him fully? You never know – my meager lunch of fish and bread could feed 5,000! Or stranger yet, I might have a chronically tidy home! 😀