Does your home feel like a place of rest, a peaceful sanctuary where you want to spend time with those you love? As a mother of young children, it can seem near impossible to find rest. Between the practical jobs of cooking and cleaning and teaching and taxiing, and the emotional jobs like therapist, soundboard, referee and voice of reason, resting is that thing you do when you fall down flat on your bed at the end of the day, right? But that isn't very life-giving. Here are a few ways that I have found to restore rest and peace to my household, and make my house truly the home where I want to be.
Practical ways to embrace rest in your home:
1. Make it easy to spend time with God. Keep everything you need in one place so you can grab a few minutes while the kids are napping or playing. I keep my Bible, journal, a pen, pencil and ruler all in on box that can travel with me from room to room. Every day Bible reading, or quiet time is difficult for a mother of young children. A MOPS mentor once told me “God gives young mothers grace”. Embrace that. But never stop trying. And keeping all your tools together, makes a quiet time more attainable.
2. Make room for solitude. In the book Sacred Rhythms Ruth Haley Barton explains solitude as “being with what is real in my life – to celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, shed my tears, sit with the questions, feel my anger, attend to my loneliness.” This is not a time of fixing, it is simply a time of inner-stocktaking and laying that stock before God. When my second child was a baby, my solitude came with night feedings. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it was just the only time of the day where I was sitting still in a quiet room. But it was very sweet and I often lingered long after my little one had drifted off to sleep. I recently met a mom who takes a monthly day retreat. She goes off to a quiet place by herself for the day - not to run errands, but to reconnect with herself, to be mindful of her emotions and thoughts, and to set her priorities for the coming month.
3. You set the tone in your house. As mothers we have the power to dial down the noise in our children’s lives. Setting good examples and boundaries when they are young, will shape their future habits. Here are few peace thieves and ways to deal with them:
5. Bust time wasters such as Facebook or other social media. (Perhaps moms also need jars with pom-poms?) Spending too much time on social media is never refreshing. It may be helpful to designate one 20-minute miracle towards that. Can you identify other areas in your life where you waste away time that you could have spent doing something life-giving?
6. Control your schedule, don’t let it control you. If you set the pace while your children are young, that will become their normal. Dr. James Dobson from Focus on the Family advises two activities per child per year. Andy Stanly in Parental Guidance Required says, “In our culture, parents often feel pressured to give their children just the right package of experiences. As a result, many children grow up experience-rich and relationship-poor…When it matters most the quality of your relationship with your children will determine the weight of your influence.” If you don’t spend time building relationship when your children are young, you will not have influence when they are teenagers. Relationship building takes time and effort and is hard to achieve rushing from one activity to the next. Let’s be mindful to create time for rest in our children’s schedules.
7. Be prepared. For example, plan meals around the family calendar so you are sure to keep the more involved dinners for evenings when you are not running around.
8. But be flexible. Meal plans and recipes are merely suggestions. Some days our best plans get derailed. Having the capacity to take such a derailment in your stride, adds to a restful atmosphere in your house.
9. Make it a priority to rest together as a family. Having dinner together is a great time to reconnect as a family. It is easy to extend this together time with a quick board game after dinner or sharing funny or heart-warming picture books.
10. Rest with your mate. When our kids are in bed, my husband and I sit down together on the couch with a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate. We rest and unwind together. Every day. This is my favorite part of the day. Make sure some of your resting and recreation include your mate.
Healthy rhythms in your house provide time to work, rest and play. And as we do those things that nurture our souls, we gain the resilience to parent patiently with love and grace.
When I was a little girl, my mom taught me to sew. She taught me to thread the needle. She showed me to fold and pin the seams. She guided my unpracticed fingers to weave the needle in and out of the fabric to leave a neat row of tiny stitches. If I forgot to hold the short end of the thread and it slipped through the eye of the needle for the umpteenth time to lie limply on the fabric, she helped me pick up and start again. She taught me about tension. And later, sewing machines. And ripping out when those stitches were wrong, or crooked, or messy. Man, did she teach me about ripping out
While she was sewing grand outfits for her friends, or light summer dresses for me, I made little pillows from her fabric scraps. I embellished them with her cut-off pieces of ribbon and lace. I stuffed them with cotton wool from her medicine cabinet and spritzed them with perfume from her vanity. Carefully, I wrapped them in gift wrap from her closet. And then I ceremoniously gifted them to her. Small gifts from her great gift.
Creating is like that.
The talent and passion were placed in us by a loving Creator. The opportunities, education, and connections orchestrated by the One who provides according to our needs. When we mess up, or get stuck, or stumble, He is the Loving Father who helps us pick up and start again. And when we persevere, and edit, and finish, and offer Him our final product, it is a small gift to the Giver of great gifts.
Somewhere in my mother’s dresser, there is still a lopsided little pillow. The fragrance of the perfume long gone. The stitches crooked and uneven. The ribbon a touch too short and the insides creeping out where the seams were not properly tucked. She treasures that imperfect little gift. Not because she needs another pillow. But because she recognizes it as something made with love and gratitude.
And God is like that.