Take It Where You Can Find It

9c6234c6e3557be136f4e5b817f9a3f5I was honored to have the opportunity to write this devotional for Mama Knows What, an awesome blog for mothers of young children. Check out their blog to see the great things going on over there!

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As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  -Luke 10:38-42

The longer I sit with this story, the more certain I am that God knows the heart of women. More than any other passage I can think of, these five verses strike deep at my core as a woman. I identify with Martha, but I want to be Mary.

Recently, I re-read this story following the birth of our second son. My first thought was "ugh...come on Cara. Be Mary. Tell your Martha heart to take a break." But before the thought could even fully develop it was overridden by a second thought - HOW?! How can I possibly be Mary? I can't even be Martha.  Every piece of laundry we own is in a pile on the living room floor. Something has gone bad in the back of the refrigerator and is making itself known with a particularly pungent odor. When I go to bed tonight, I will wake up at least 2-3 times before the sun rises because one baby wants to nurse and the other wants to crawl into our bed. I don't have a single shirt without spit-up marks and I'm pretty sure I'm looking at an old dirty diaper on the floor behind the dresser. Yesterday my two-year-old brought me a cup of water he scooped out of the toilet. This morning we woke up to find that when he crawled into our bed in the middle of the night, his wet diaper soaked through onto our sheets. How am I supposed to be like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus in the midst of this mess?

This is a question I continue to wrestle with as a woman. I think we all do. My early college days were marked by hours of reading, journaling, and talking with friends about our spiritual journeys. So what does it look like to have "time with God" when you can barely find time to wash your hair?

I'm not going to pretend that I have any great wisdom to offer here. Instead, I want to share with you what I have gleaned from the experiences of other women that I love and respect. They are living out their faith in way that I admire, so I asked each of them the same question, "What did it look like for you? What does it look like now?" Here is what they said...

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Jean (mother of 2)

Mothering young ones was for me a melange of mundane and repetitive tasks that were at the same time intimately holy. Laundry, for example, from start to finish is pretty mindless. As is doing dishes, making beds, running the vacuum .... Even changing a diaper or making lunch or grocery shopping. In life with little ankle biters, I found that extended, uninterrupted, dedicated time with the Lord became nonexistent. For a while this was pretty lonely, and I found myself missing the Lord. I would try to set up a routine and by the time the kids cooperated our daily life had changed. 
 
Interestingly enough, but not surprising, my relationship with the Lord changed. Those boring chores became holy time because I began to use the moments when my hands were busy to engage my heart. I talked to the Lord ... yes, it was prayer, but it was much more conversational. Stroller rides were my favorite. The Lord loves walks apparently.
 
I began to understand the Lord's sovereignty in deeper ways - NOT as easy as you think. For example, I learned just how present the Lord is as I struggled to get to the preschool car line on time. He is the Lord of my schedule and knows my every step. Not one step is out of place. Those mornings running late, gathering car seats and very small socks, cleaning faces with my spit, and trying not to forget the apples I signed up to bring ... those became exercises in just how intimately the Lord knows my life. He was present in it all.... the mindless and mundane and particularly the very small socks.
 
Also, I learned that the Lord is in charge of my relationship with Him. He wants to be with me much more than the reverse. He comes to me however He chooses . My dedicated time with the Lord rarely happened in the same ways as it did when I was single or married before kids. The time with Him filtered into every moment of my day in deep and life-altering ways. He still pursued me and I leaned on him more than ever before.

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Christy (mother of 3)

I found that an early start, when I could swing it, put me in a better frame of mind for the day. Sadly, I didn't realize this until my second was born...but when I started getting up a little earlier (even just 20 minutes) the whole day went better because I'd had a quiet moment to pray/read/reflect and I was better for that. It doesn't work for everyone...nor did it work every day for me...but when I did it, it was good.

 
Another thing is definitely music and the whole "what goes in" principle. I put scripture where I could see it - on notecards in key places throughout the house - and that helped me keep a right focus. I keep it over my kitchen sink and in another key places, like maybe on a calendar or bathroom mirror...I also read little Bible stories to my kids and thought about what it meant for me. You know, just trying to be intentional about the little moments of the day.

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Anne (mother of 3)

I struggled many nights emotionally in the early stages. I had experienced a tremendous growing/struggling time a few years prior to Danny's birth and felt that those late nights were a time of slipping back into patterns of depression and despair. So I started to turn late night feeding time into my prayer time. 
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As our kids grew older, I found that my most precious moments were in the car with my kids. Sometimes it was songs on the radio, often it was questions they asked me that caused me to pause, even praying with them over something we were discussing. My nightly Bible reading with my boys is often my only time during the day that I read God's word, but it has always been a very sweet time. 
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Often I feel like we experience such saturated relational time in college and as young adults. Then we get married and we might find community as a couple, but we become more isolated. Having kids is like the final separation from our previous experiences, but we are still expecting our faith community and devotions to look the same. But they won't. Our lives are different, so our expectations should change...but that doesn't have mean it gets worse. Just different.
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On a completely side note: moms shouldn't be afraid of saying no to playing with their kids if they want to sit and read(bible, devotional, random book). We have a generation of parents who consider themselves the program directors on their family cruise ship. Let your kids get bored, because they will stretch their brains in new creative ways. Let them see you reading the Bible. They will learn from what they see. Let them see you pray. Let them watch you serve. And when they are old enough, invite them to join you in those activities.

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July was a particularly difficult month for our little family. It was also especially wonderful. On the difficult end, our 6-week-old was admitted to the hospital, money seemed to be drying up, and we experienced some painful disappointments. At the same time, God's presence and provision was truly astonishing. On one of the harder days, I remember nursing Parker while saying under my breath, "You are bigger than this. I know that You are bigger than this." That's what it looked like for me to sit at the feet of Jesus during that week.

If I tried to read or pray during middle of the night feedings, I would fall asleep immediately.  Typically, I fall asleep during night feeds anyhow and have to wake myself back up to get Parker into his bed. But for some women, that is sacred time.

Don't worry about fitting yourself into a mold that works for other women. Rest in grace and know that He loves you. He wants to be with you. And those little moments are authentic and powerful moments.