Just What You Need: Finding Time For God
- Stephanie Gerken
- 2003 20 Jun
"There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven," we are assured in Ecclesiastes. But as a homeschooling mother of five (one of whom is currently being "knit together" in my womb), this seems to be my season for every activity - all at the same time.
What I'm finding is that setting aside quiet moments for the Lord seems like the challenge of all challenges.
As I write this, my 18-month-old is beginning to cry in his crib, which is discouraging since I put him there just three minutes ago. Between caring for our rambunctious toddler, trying to convince our precocious 3-year-old that she does not have to "do school" every hour of every day with Mom right beside her, and homeschooling our 8-year-old energetic twin boys, there are precious few minutes left in each day for simple things like putting hot meals on the table and keeping up with the laundry.
Not long ago, I was in a much different place. It was a time for planting (Ecc. 3:2). With the help of Bible study, Sunday school, daily devotions, and the fellowship of other believers, I felt as if I was sowing seeds of faithfulness and reveled in watching them blossom into a deeper relationship with God.
Today, I can relate to David, who was literally in a desert with King Saul hot on his trail, when he wrote, "O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water." (Ps. 63:1)
It's as if I'm drowning in the sea of the realities of life and my relationship with the Lord is stagnating. It is a horrible, empty feeling. But, thankfully, I know God can help me and other busy parents. We need vision. Without one, the Bible tells us, "the people perish." And that's not a promising prospect, is it?
First, I've had to realize that no matter how much I've read my Bible in the past or how much I hope to read it in the future, if I'm not in the Word now - today - my very faith is in danger. For faith comes "from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17)
Without feasting on the Word of God, I have trouble even communicating with Him. When I know what He says in his Message to us - and what He is saying directly to me through the Holy Spirit as I read the Bible - I find it much easier to talk with Him.
Knowing this, I have strategically placed Bibles in places where I just might have the opportunity to read them - the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room and our bedroom.
Of course, the one in the kitchen is now stained with red apple-cranberry juice, which was accidentally spilled by a quick-moving 8-year-old. That incident in itself was valuable as it tapped into my self-control, while giving me the opportunity to try to muster up Christ-like mercy and forgiveness.
Second, I knew I had to have a plan. I haven't found the randomly-open-your-Bible-and-point method to be very effective for meaningful study. But, thankfully, there are other simple options.
The One-Year Bible, which takes the place of a Bible reading chart, can be helpful. Instead of experiencing the delay - however brief - of turning from chapter to chapter, the text is presented in sequence. The first day has readings from Genesis, Matthew, Psalms, and Proverbs - all together on the first four pages. Each day is supposed to take about 15 minutes.
As a homeschool parent, you can also incorporate the Word into your curriculum. When the boys were younger, I began using a Bible curriculum which systematically takes children through the Bible. My younger children color a picture related to the story each day, while we read directly from the Bible. Then we talk about what we've learned. At first, I dismissed this as "real" Bible study and decided it didn't count. But it's amazing what nuggets I can mine during this time which can carry me through a whirlwind day.
Another option is to use a devotional plan with short readings provided. I recently picked up a pamphlet with 30 days of Scripture readings and thought-provoking questions based on Bill Hybel's book "Too Busy Not to Pray."
It immediately attracted my attention, but lots of publications do, and therein lies another problem. I've always been a voracious reader and as a former news reporter, I'm a news junkie, too.
But when I pick up a good book - even a Christian one - or spend too much time reading the newspaper, surfing the Internet, or watching Fox News, I fall prey to a habit that takes me out of the Word of God and careening into this fallen world. It might be fine to do those things if I was also spending enough time immersed in Scripture and prayer, but clearly I'm not.
For me, it's more about being disciplined and making the choice to pick up the Bible rather than picking up a good book - no matter how filled with faith-building ideas it may be.
Prayer is the same way. I know the only opportunities to pray may arise at odd times in weird places. So I have to be ready. But who says you can't praise the Lord while you're singing in the shower? Or why not spend time in prayer during the baby's 1 a.m. feeding? And then again at 3 a.m. and 5 a.m ...
After all, we're commanded to "pray continually," in 1 Thess. 5:17. I'm encouraged by the example of Susannah Wesley, the 18th Century homeschooling mother of 19 (10 of whom survived, including the remarkable John and Charles Wesley). I've read that Susannah, in the midst of what certainly must have been a bustling household, would simply lift her apron over her face to have some personal time with the Lord. Although I don't wear aprons, I believe that any old dishtowel or receiving blanket will do.
Jesus himself "would often slip away to the wilderness and pray" (Luke 5:16). Perhaps you can find your own wilderness in your backyard, in a walk around the neighborhood, or simply retreating into the quietest corner of the house - the laundry room, maybe? No one except me generally shows up there.
However and wherever we find time to be with the Lord, the Scripture promises that we will be blessed with "hope and encouragement." (Rom. 15:4) And if homeschool moms need anything, it is the kind of hope and encouragement that only comes from the One who inspired us to start this great adventure in the first place.