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Marthas and Marys

Picture taken by A McTaggart

I just finished reading this book called When Mother's Pray: Bringing God's Power and Blessing to Your Children's Lives by Cheri Fuller. Wow. Inspirational book that I highly recommend to every mother, grandmother, godparent, aunt... anyone who has a child in their life that they pray for.What I loved about the book is how it helped me go from random, all over the board prayers, "Please help my babies to sleep tonight" or "Please help my son grow in your word," to focused prayers with a purpose. She gave specific prayers for young children, school age children, grown children... I just loved this book. It lit a fire in my prayer life and has led to even deeper prayers in other areas of my life. For instance, a friend of mine asked me to pray for her as she makes a big decision. I have been exercising the four steps of prayer for her: praise, confession, thanksgiving, and intercession. As for these Moms In Touch groups Cheri talked about throughout the book, I am so interested in finding other mothers to pray with. The chapter titled "Sending Your Child to School" on page 67 says, "One of the most remarkable things about praying with other moms is that you think you know what your child needs-- until another mother prays for something you've never thought of. Then a third mom prays for you child's needs from a different angle, and you being to sense the Spirit covering your child." As a praying mother, it gives me chills to think about other people's prayers wrapping around my children and sensing the Spirit covering my child. I have women who pray for my family and friends who I see frequently that I will give our prayer requests, but, with our family schedule and young children (and friends who also have multiple young children), we have not attended a Bible Study since I was pregnant, over a year ago. I've gone to a couple mom Bible studies in the evening when my hubby is home to watch the kids. I just haven't attended a long-term, week to week, really get-to-know-ya study.

And that family schedule (really, family logistics-- to bring the preschooler and two 16-month olds or to find a sitter that we can't afford?) is talked about in this book. Cheri Fuller calls it the "Martha Syndrome." Remember Martha? Luke 10:38-41:
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 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 only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
With two younger sisters, I always related to Martha's feelings. Why does my sister get to cuddle up with my dad while I carry laundry upstairs? But Jesus isn't talking about comparing what you are doing with what others are doing. He's talking about making time to spend with the Lord. Psalm 127:1-2:
 Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat--
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
God wants me to make time for him! Every mother knows, every mother of twins knows, every mother of three children knows, every military wife knows-- heck-- every woman knows that the to-do list is never ending. As soon as you finish laundry, its time for the kids to get ready for bed and suddenly an entire laundry hamper is full again! Or your husband comes home from an underway and you have a seabag worth of laundry to catch up on. Or your husband calls and says, "Hey, this guy from my division needs to stop by and give me some things. Would you mind if he stays for dinner?" as you are standing in the middle of chaos: sink full of dirty dishes, fridge empty, children still in pajamas, yourself in dire need of a shower (okay, dire might be a little dramatic). How on earth can you find time to sit at Jesus' feet as Mary did, which Jesus clearly feels is the better option?

Yesterday I was hanging out in the backyard with the boys. Well, the toddlers were hanging off the side of the deck and my preschooler was driving his John Deer Gator around the backyard while I kept hollering, "Watch out for your brothers! Watch out for the dog!" I noticed that my husband had draped our outdoor mat on the side of the deck instead of putting it away, this big tarp-like thing with weights in the corners that we use underneath their splash pool. I was trying to fold that thing up while keeping the toddlers safe (why, oh, why is hurling yourself off the deck a fun game?). I heard D saying something as he drove by and I kept saying, "Yup! Good job, bud!"

Finally he stopped the tractor and hollered, "Momma! Look at me!"

I immediately replied, "Just give me one second, bud. I almost have this thing folded."

He persisted, "Momma, I want you to cheer for me!"

His request touched my heart. While I had been folding this over-sized outdoor mat and chasing two 16-month olds, he had been doing something he found difficult. There is a slope in our backyard. He figured out dropping to a lower gear, he could climb the slide of the slope. He practiced this until he had mastered the slope. To a four-year old, this was a big achievement. Instead of getting praise, he had a mom who was distracted and brothers who weren't even watching. He didn't care that the blue outdoor mat was an eye-sore on the side of the deck or understand how dangerous wooden stairs are for adventurous toddlers. He just wanted to know that I was cheering for him.

Picture taken by A McTaggart

Prayer is that cheer squad. Knowing how important this is for my children, how can I not find time for this? And so, with renewed resolve, I am praying for my children. Yes, I'm still doing the minute-by-minute "dart prayers" Cheri talks about in the book. But I'm going to make sure that I'm spending time at Jesus' feet, as Mary did.

This isn't easy for me to do. Tonight we have one of D's friends spending the night (two preschoolers + two toddlers = chaos at playtime, dinnertime, and bedtime). Before dinner, my husband wanted to check his email and I wanted him to wake the toddlers up. Immediately I was irritated, not just the roll-your-eyes-at-his-timing irritated, but irritated. In my head I had the timing worked out perfectly: he goes and gets the toddlers while I dish the meals, macaroni cools, add veggies, husband sets the table while I pour the milk, husband supervises hand washing for preschoolers, all sit at the table while I serve food. As he checked his email (a necessary task for him, I will add in his defense), my blood boiled. Instead of voicing my concerns, I started going to the toddlers' bedroom to get them up. I now pictured my husband jumping on Facebook while I brought the toddlers out, dished their meals while they fussed, the macaroni still not cool enough for them, the preschoolers coming to the table with unwashed hands, me pouring milk instead of sitting down to eat with everyone, the veggies still on the cutting board... I didn't even think through the tasks logically. I just wanted his help and didn't want to wait. Why wasn't he helping?

I dealt with my frustration the same way Martha did, "Lord, don't you care that my husband has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell him to help me!" save for one thing: she actually talked to Jesus about it and I just fumed internally. He quickly checked his email and then got up to assist me with the toddlers. He took over on the toddlers and I was able to get the food ready as I had planned. The toddlers were so groggy post-nap that they just sat and stared from their highchairs. The preschoolers cheerfully washed their hands. The macaroni had ample time to cool on the stove and was served at acceptable temperatures for our temperature-picky preschooler. And, since he checked his email then, he didn't need to jump on the computer again this evening.

It is hard for me to not let that running to-do list take over. If I sit and relax for a few minutes, I think about all of the things I'm not getting done. As I write this blog, my mind keeps moving to the pot in the sink that needs to be washed and the laundry that needs to be moved. Because my household is so active, the to-do list often takes second place to our schedule, a great source of guilt. I feel like I'm constantly dropping the ball. If I get all the kids dressed and sunscreened, our lunches packed, and head over to the park for some outdoor time, I'm not putting the piles of laundry away or unpacking from our recent trips (yes, our suitcases are still on the floor). Now, waiting and quieting myself before the Lord can feel impossible. Here is an example of my thoughts while I pray, "Lord, you are the creator of heaven and earth... ew, when is the last time I cleaned this table? Lord, focus my mind on you, let my thoughts be your thoughts.... what is D doing in there? I think he's jumping on the couch... Let me get to know your heart, God, so that my heart patterns itself after you... is that a stain on the carpet? I think I'm out of Spot Shot... I really need to run to Target... Are the toddlers still napping?" On and on. I swear, even if I was alone in the house I could find distractions.

But my sons need me to cheer for them. My husband needs me to cheer for our marriage. My friends need me to cheer for their success. If praying for those around me causes my dishwasher to sit with clean dishes an hour longer than it should, why not? Why not move the laundry later to spend some extra time with God? If I were to look back on my life a year from now, will I have a long list of answered prayers or a clean house? (And how long does a clean house stay clean?) Yes, there is much more to being a stay-at-home mom then dishes and laundry. In my schedule, I happen to have a solid amount of time where both of the toddlers are napping and I am able to find something to entertain my preschooler, either his Playmobile pirates or a Netflix. Usually I use this "free time" to get things done around the house.

I felt motivated to write this blog today, of all days, because God blessed the quiet time I had with him today. I put the toddlers down for an early nap and surveyed the disaster zone. I saw my Bible on the kitchen table and the mess that needed to be cleaned up. My heart told me to pray and my mind demanded I get to work. I followed God's lead and my devotional, coincidentally, covered the above verse in Psalms regarding constantly toiling instead of trusting God. I felt a calling to pray for my one of my sisters, yet couldn't resist glancing at the time. How much longer will the toddlers sleep? Again, I followed God and prayed. I then cleaned up and jumped in the shower, toddlers still asleep. I'm not expecting the schedule to go so smoothly everyday. My devotionals are usually here and there or I clean up while the kids are awake so I can do my devotional during naptime. The point is that today I followed God's lead and he provided the time for me to come before him. When we apply ourselves to his will, he provides.

It's time for us, as mothers, to cheer for our children.

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