It has been three months.
Three months since I stepped down from teaching Bible study, three months since I stepped down from ministry, three months since I took the “I am committed at home and no where else” stance.
The first few weeks I cried and moped…like my dog had run away or I’d lost something valuable. What was I if I wasn’t a Bible study teacher? I wasn’t sure.
While still moping, I was looking through some old emails from my Grandfather (he passed away last year) and buried in an email about all the ways he loved and appreciated our family’s visit I ran across these words, “Just don’t get so involved that it interferes with what other things you want to do or in your family life. We know you are both involved in the things you do but be sure to put your family first.” The words hardly made a dent on me when I first read them (nearly seven years ago), but this time they hit me.
The truth is the most important things God gave me are at home — my husband and marriage; my children, parenting and homeschool; and keeping our home. But these last few years I have found neither my identity or my “calling” in those things. I wasn’t sure I knew how to “just” be a wife and mother. And I didn’t know how much of a battle that would be….
…a battle not fought against myself but against everything else the world, the church, the organizations/clubs, the ministry, and life try make my first priorities.
So for three months I have practiced (and am kinda getting the hang of) the art of saying “no.” Just no.
“Wendy, could you…”….no.
“Wendy, we need…”….no.
“Wendy, you have kids, so…” ….no.
If it is not something do with my marriage or bringing up/homeschooling our children I reserve the right to say no. I have helped out on a few things when my committment can be very short term (were talking a few hours or one night). Beyond that, nope.
Truly this started, because we are gearing up to be a foster family and I wanted to make sure I was 100% committed here. But, in the wait God is showing me something not only in my life but around me.
(excuse me while I climb up on my soapbox)
I watch as women around me are stressed, overcomitted and buckling under guilt and fatigue. Guilt that their children and husbands aren’t getting what they need/deserve and tired from trying to make it all happen. And I know that I am…I have been that woman.
Well meaning individuals ask, cajole, beg, require, demand and offer things that just need not be my responsibility right now. It just isn’t where I need to focus. And I watch as other women afraid to say no, too “nice” (or maybe too self destructive?) to say no, take it all on. And they crumble….I crumbled, a lot, too.
This is where the church needs to step in, where women in different stages (older kids, no kids, empty nesters, grandmothers, whoever) need to stand up for each other, and we need to support each other in focusing on the most important blessings God has given each family…the church…all of us…FAMILY. If mothers are empowered, supported and not overburdened they are pouring into children who can learn abot God and His love and even serve along side mom when the time comes. If women are encouraged to spend time with their husbands, to invest in their relationships (not leave them on the shelf while they serve apart) imagine the strength that will frame these families…the love, respect, and passion that will be modeled for kids.
Now, before you get all up in arms with me — yes, your ministry, your church, your job, your organization, your whatever-you-are-committed-to is important. And if you choose to run it, volunteer or work there that is your choice and I fully support you. Just two small things: 1) make sure it isn’t more important than what God gave you at home 2) don’t expect that it will be most important to me. It isn’t.
My children participate in many things run by other mothers. And I am thankful for those mothers and respect their drive to serve/work outside the home as well as in the home. And I pray for them, that they can serve well and love well. I pray that God continues to use them mightily and helps them see His priorities for them (whatever they might be).
What would church look like if we supported families to invest at home first…we likely wouldn’t have as many ministries (what would you feel about that?)? …we likely would have parents more invested in what and how their kids are taught — from homeschool, to public school, to Sunday school (what would you feel about that?)?
There is freedom in the word “no”. One that many women…mothers…dont’ know. Our children are over committed and so are we. Childhood whizzes by at frenetic pace as we drive from here to there, serve on this committee or that one, and fit in family time like it is the icing and not the cake. It is time to allow mothers to have their cake (AND eat it too!!) without guilt or lack of support…it is time to put families first, for real.
Are you challenged in this area? What are your priorities? How do you figure them out? What advice do you have for other mothers struggling to do it all?