Saturday, August 25, 2012

24 hour parent?

Well, the term "24 hour parent" could incite its own discussion. I'm using it in the framework of REST. You know, time for mommy away from kids or husband responsibilities. Time to be uniquely myself, with my own interests.

I've been thinking a lot lately of the spiritual discipline of Sabbath. You're familiar with it as the third commandment. Long before it was carved into stone, God invited us to rest. He gifted us with rest. He modeled how to rest.

Are you tired lately? When I run into experienced moms at the library, they sometimes take a look at my young family and comment. Usually these first involve cuteness or articulateness. Then, the experienced moms comment on their own lives, as if sleep deprivation and running exhausted between activities is normal. Is this what I have to look forward to with time and energy? Really?

Are you tired lately? My family has modest income, bordering on qualify for certain social services. We don't indulge ourselves because we have the education and money sense for the daily and support network to weather a major failure.  We'd rather support others' financial education and social liberation. We are not truly poor. Yet, when I have play dates at other families' houses in our neighborhood, even my toddler is aware that what we have is less than others. How can I teach her that less can be more? That material things require maintenance (it broke or needs an update), investment (researching which product, or simply shopping for it), and eat into time... time for rest?

So, what does wholesome rest look like?

Still loving close swaddling and a reassuring 'body' next to himself, June 2012
It looks like my 5 month old. He greets the day with no alarm clock, no agenda. Everyone is welcomed with a smile and small word. Even if we're at the most culturally and educationally stimulating activity or museum, he will take a nap because his body and mind are oriented and aligned to rest. Often. To rest when there's too much going on. So that he can keep going later. He doesn't stay up late to finish the episode or fold one more load of laundry. He doesn't produce anything. Well, ok, runny spit up and poop makes mountains of laundry. And his smiles and laughs make me do so, too. As his parent, I don't measure his output or progress daily. I don't enroll him in baby sign language or tot music camp. He is free to be himself and engage or sleep as needed. In fact, after a morning church leadership meeting, he is napping blissfully as I type this!

I want to be God's child, to rest in with my Daddy for a whole day. Often.

Of course, as a parent, I'm the one responsible for food, shelter, cleanliness, stimulation, and love. But resting invites my kids to enter it with me. Rest gifts my kids with freedom to be themselves and ample room for loving them, as they are. Resting models God's good gift, and that He acts and cares; they don't need to produce or measure up. Resting means recognizing my limits, saying "I can't" and "Will you?" to God, and realigning to natural body rhythms.

My husband gifted me with two hours yesterday to write some spiritual reflections and weekly study for others. He invites me to spend Monday afternoons out of the house, walking in the Arboretum, napping, whatever. It is gloriously rejuvenating... and it's only 2-4 hours!! I try to get cooking finished up by Thursday or Friday, so that Saturday through Monday is spent as family rest time, with room for spontaneous picnics or forest preserve walks. Leftover food allows for 'leftover' time, extra time.
Busy before her nap, June 2012
 Do you, or does your family, feel like this picture of my toddler? Yes, she's at a 'busy' stage of development, figuring out things for herself. But look closer. Do you see how she's dragging heavy things around, even into her rest space? Do you see how she went through her drawers, pulling out socks and unnecessary things for rest? Do you see how her body finally knocked her out, she had to cave to sleep, without a comfy position or blanket? Do you see how even when provided with time to rest (well, maybe I ordered her to "Nap!" that day), she chose to ignore it as a good gift? Do you or your family do this with your rest? Maybe I have been modeling a little off-center everyday, working through her naps and late into the evening. Anyway, I'm confident that as I learn better rest with God, free to simply be his child, he'll help us sort out motivations and rejuvenation.

Want more? Try reading Genesis 2 for the rhythms, Exodus 5 for what Israel was freed from and Exodus 16 for how God began reteaching rest on the way to a land of rest. Try Psalm 22 to form words for what you may be currently feeling and Psalm 23 for your longings. Also Isaiah 28:12 and Isaiah 30:15 for invitations. Someplace else you love to read about God's good rest?

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