I know that I've mentioned in previous posts that when I take the kids out on errands places, someone somewhere always seems to say "you've got your hands full!" I usually respond with something like, "Yes, I do." Frequently, my husband or someone at church will see me piling on various bags and grabbing the baby carrier and say "let me carry some of that". This usually surprises me since I am used to doing it all myself, plus herding a four year old and a two year old. Add to this a class at church that has the purpose of causing self-examination to result in being a better servant of God (which requires change). Then I have just finished reading a book entitled "Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life," by Keri Wyatt Kent. All of these things have got me thinking a lot about how I do my life.
As a mother of three young children, life is going to be a little crazy right now just because of that. But, I've struggled with the idea that I'm not doing things that I used to do. I have also noticed that there are not enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done (at least not without sacrificing sleep and sanity). In my class at church, we have talked about looking at one's life to see what God is already doing and join him in that work. In my life, the only thing I see God doing or desiring me to do right now is to raise my children as he would have me do. Now, that is a plenty big job. However, in realizing this it has allowed me to take a deep breath and relax and let go of those feelings of discontent about letting go of past responsibilities. It also frees me from pursuing too many discontented ideas about what I want my future to look like. I can live in the present and deal with my life as I have it now.
While reading the book, I feel like I have seen clues to what my life needs. Slowing down as much as I can to enjoy each day and my time with my family is not only a desire of mine, but would be good for me. I have to watch the temptation to over schedule my time or my kids' time. Working in rest in my days and weeks is important. Keeping a close eye on priorities and how everyday choices are affected by them or drift away from them is crucial. I also need to allow myself to have time for me without guilt.
It wasn't until tonight though, that I realized that the comments people have been telling me everywhere I go may be God trying to point something out to me. I need to realize that I have a really big job being a mother to these three kids. I already knew this of course, but I was in denial in the sense that I thought that if I was good enough and learned enough tricks, I could shrink it to a more manageable size. No, being a parent is a God-sized job and I need his help to do it. I also realized that I try to do too much myself. Oh, I can do it (like carrying all the bags and herding the kids at the same time), but it would be better for me to get other people to help me when I need help, more than I currently do.
All this tells me that some things need to change in my life, and they need to be serious, major changes and well as small everyday ones. I'm not sure yet, what they all will be yet. I have some ideas floating around in my head. But slowing down is not something you do in a hurry. And, simplifying life is complex, because life and the world we live in are complex.
One thing that will continue is homeschooling. There are many valid reasons to put children in public or private schools, but for us, with our feelings of conviction about what we need to do to raise our kids, homeschooling is it. The Bible plainly teaches that the parents are responsible to God for their children's education. For us, we feel that we can best fulfill that responsibility by teaching our own kids. In fact, we started homeschooling with merely academic ideas in mind. Now, we are seeing more evidence that their spiritual education is equally important. I think we all know that children learn best by watching how the people around them live. If we live out our faith as we teach it to our children all day and every day, it will be much more effective than teaching them "knowledge" about our faith and then send them out to spend most of the day around people who do not share this faith and/or are actively trying to undermine it. Does this fit into a scenario of slowing down and simplifying? Absolutely! Each child can be taught in a tailor-made fashion exactly what they need at a pace that fits them. And we don't have to undo the problems that arise from our kids learning either the wrong things from a teacher hostile to our world-view or innappropriate things from other kids. Teaching a child (especially one that wants to learn) is actually easier than most people think (I think teaching kids in groups of 20-30 is the hard part).
Another thing that will continue is the basic church activities that we already do. Not only does our church have a good children's program and we like what we hear our children learning from the various classes they are in, it is good for them to be around kids who are different (you know... not raised by the same parents as our kids are). My husband and I also find our usual church activities rejuvenating. It also provides most of our social life.
What about the housework, remodeling, relandscaping, recreation, finances, etc.? There are things in our life that we put there because we wanted them rather than needed them. We can do some pruning out of some of the blatantly unhelpful. However, I still think that most of these other things in our lives are helpful and important. We need to learn to balance them out better. Since I have mentioned my desire for simplifying to my husband, I suspect that he fears that I'm going to go on a rampage and start tossing out everything and make drastic changes. That type of reaction is tempting to me (a friend once said that I should have been Amish because of my love of simplicity), but I know it wouldn't work any better than a crash diet works for someone who wants to lose weight and keep it off.
As I figure out what I'm doing and changing to make life more focused and simple and fulfilling, I'll keep sharing my progress.