I thought I was finally going to have the chance to pay attention to a sermon. My husband had taken our squirming and active 13-month-old son out to the narthex to crawl around, and I relaxed as I back into the pew with a sigh of contentment. To only care for my 3-year-old during church felt like a vacation. She would quietly color, or even lean her head against my chest as we took in the Lord's words.
Somehow, I found myself minutes later carrying a disgruntled preschooler out of church as she sobbed, "I want Daddy! I want Daddy!" while employing the 'boneless' technique that children in her age category are so fond of. I sighed, this time with exasperation, wondering when the day would come that I would hear and comprehend an entire sermon.
* * *
It's 6:35 a.m., and the coffee is brewed. I had cleaned the house the night before, prepped everything for the day, and was ready to settle in with my mug of organic coffee and the Concordia Study Bible I had ordered from Amazon only a few days earlier. I was ready to dig into God's Word, and really connect with my Heavenly Father's will for my life.
It's 6:36 a.m. and somehow through the closed door and the white noise machine, the 3-year-old has heard me take a sip of coffee, and realized that life was going on without her - she must arise and seize the day!
I sighed in resignation, realizing that as happy as I was to see my daughter, give her a good morning hug, and set her up with breakfast, I would have to put my own spiritual needs on hold once again. After all, if you give a preschooler breakfast, she'll want some milk to go with it. And the dishwasher will need to be unloaded to get the correct Princess Sofia cup. And she'll want to share a shake with me, causing the baby to wake up from the noise of the blender. And thus the day will begin, with the bustle of cutting up food, wiping little faces, setting up and cleaning up toys, laundry, getting kids dressed, changing diapers, and loading kids into carseats.
* * *
Mothers of young children - really, parents of young children - as a rule don't have tons of personal time. And each phase and season is so short-lived, that as soon as you figure out a time you can fit in some Bible reading, the children's schedules completely change. It truly is a challenge to fit in the time to study scripture, pray, or even read a devotional book. But every time I start apologizing to God, thinking, 'You understand, right God? You know how tough it is for me to read peacefully for 5 minutes. You know how I'm showing my kids how to sit and listen during church, putting my spiritual life on hold for the sake of theirs? You know all this. You gave me these beautiful blessings. You understand. I'll come back...I promise..." he whispers back with his gentle admonition, "Emily, Emily. You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."
And somehow, instead of making me feel guilty for putting Him last, the reminder comforts me and pulls me closer to Him. I remember that when I am in his Word, when I am praying continually, and when the books and music I am consuming point me to Him, the job of caring for little ones is more joyful. It's easier to see that my cup is overflowing with blessings. I have his Words at the front of my mind when I need more patience, a rest, or a friend.
So where does a busy mom of young kids find that time with her Savior? It's different for each person, and it changes frequently as children grow and change. Some tricks I have found helpful:
• I figure out what time my kids wake up each day, and set my alarm for a full hour ahead of that. Factoring in hitting snooze, making coffee, splashing water on my face, etc. etc., it leaves just enough time for about 3 chapters of the Bible. Now if your kids wake up in the 5 a.m. hour, this may not be the strategy for you!
• I may find a time when one kid is napping and the other is playing quietly to sneak in some Bible time. This may not be dependable, as some days the older one plays quietly, and other days she needs more of my attention. Some days the baby naps, others not so much. Some days we have to get out of the house earlier, so I need to use that time to shower or pack bags.
• I read my Bible right before bed. This takes discipline not to fall asleep on the couch or let my other work get in the way - after all, after the kids go to bed is the only time I truly have to get work done!
• I listen to hymns or praise music during a walk or driving time.
• I listen to a devotional podcast during a walk or driving time.
• I realize that my prayers don't have to be formal or 30 minutes long. I try to keep an "open dialogue" going with God throughout the day.
• I pray right when I wake up - giving thanks for 3 things, and asking God to bless my day, for his will to be done in my life.
• Listen to the Bible on audio while you get ready for the day, or while you fold laundry or do dishes. I use the free YouVersion app.
• Read a kid's Bible story or devotion with your children. They may have no idea what you're talking about right now, but little by little they're learning! And you get a refresher on Bible stories and a reminder to be an example for them.
• Solidarity! Find other Christian mothers to have a weekly Bible study with, or simply to hold you accountable via text, Facebook, Voxer, or whatever other form of communication you choose.
So it's not always the picture-perfect Pinterest Bible Study I dream of. I don't always get to sit in a comfy chair with an adorable throw blanket draped over my lap with a steaming cup of coffee while I discover God's truths for my life. Sometimes I'm trying to hear Nehemiah's struggle to rebuild the wall over the sound of my preschooler whining or as my son shouts, "Ball. Doggie. DOGGIE." But nothing worthwhile is easy, and I know God is working through these small moments. After all, he is the one thing needed.