Friday, January 23, 2015

A Mother's Feast :: Beginning with the Heart

I am linking up today with Lizzie from Strong Haven for A Mother's Feast. This linkup is to encourage mothers to take the time to pursue their interests and nourish their minds as they raise their families. I hope to write every so often about the things I do and the books I read to feed my mind and to enrich myself. But since I want all things that I do to have their foundation in Christ, I thought it would be appropriate to begin at the beginning - with the heart.

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I have a very clear memory of walking through my college campus, the year I graduated, and regretting the fact that my time in school was about to come to a close. On the one hand I was glad that I wouldn't have to take any more tests and make any more grades. On the other hand I looked forward to all of my classes and was sad that I would have to get a job instead of spending my time learning new things.

What I didn't realize at the time was that it was really only the beginning of my education. These years after graduation have been more fruitful than I could ever have imagined. I have grown and changed and learned so much.

I have begun to partake of the feast that can exist for the mind. The feast of Ideas. The mind must be fed as well as the body, and it especially behooves a mother who has taken on the responsibility of educating her children to feed her own mind in order that she might have some idea of how to feed theirs.

I think though, that if a mother wants to nourish her mind, she must first start with her heart. God must be first and the relationship with Him ought to take priority over every other pursuit that might catch her interest. Without that living relationship, the other things become meaningless and empty.

First must come prayer. A mother can get so bogged down in the day to day responsibilities of raising a family that days can pass by without a thought of God, let alone time spent with Him. Therefore the time for prayer must be set aside and protected so that the days don't run away without the sustenance that comes from daily interaction with God.

The prayers don't have to be long and drawn out, but they should be regular. Including the children is a wonderful thing, and family prayer is important, but I think the private prayers need to be prioritized as well.

But there are some days (at least there are in my house) where life doesn't allow for the quiet morning or evening time to spend alone with God. There are days where the punches start right from the moment my eyes open and I have to roll along with them until my eyes close at night. Sometimes it's only one day, other times it turns out that many days in a row are like this. And so I think that it's also important for a mother to be sure that she not only sets aside time for prayer, but also learns to pray throughout the day. Sometimes I have time to say a short version of the hours, other times all I can do is pray the Jesus prayer.
Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner
Another important part of prayer for a mother is praying for her children. It can often become discouraging when we cannot see the big picture because of the immediacy of the problems before us. Sometimes I become so overwhelmed with the difficult side of raising children that I feel like perhaps I am ruining them forever. But at those times, I need to remember that all I can do is my very best in the moment I'm living and the rest is up to God.

Of course, it always helps to have others praying for me as well. And who better to ask for prayers, as a mother, than the Mother of God? Who else could understand the joys and the sorrows that come with motherhood as well as she? And so I call on her to help me and to pray for my children as they grow. I beseech her with all my heart to pray for my children, and to hold them up where I let them down.

The last thing I'll mention here, in relation to the nourishment of a mother's soul, is the reading of spiritual books. First and foremost of course, is the Bible. Even if I only read a little bit every day, it is another way for me to be nourished and sustained as I go through the day. It's not easy to find the time to read for long periods of time, but I find that the lectionary readings are short enough that I can read them every day without trouble.

Reading about the lives of the saints, and reading the words of the holy fathers of the Church are true spiritual refreshment that should not be underestimated. The lives and words of the holy ones who have gone before are inspiring and bring hope and encouragement when the day to day grind begins to wear one down.

It's not always easy to take the time for oneself when there's a passel of kids to keep up with. But neither is it necessary to try to carve out hours of time in which to do it. I've written before about how God provides so abundantly when I think that I need more time to myself. All these things that I've written about here can be fit into the little moments of quiet that show up unexpectedly throughout the day. And sometimes, even if all I can do is cry out to God, minute by minute, He still sustains me and gives me the strength to push through and make it until the next resting time. And if I have put Him first, then I have a foundation on which to build, and the feast spread before me is no longer out of reach, but is real and present and truly nourishing.


3 comments:

  1. Thank you, Amanda! Very encouraging and wise words. Through prayer God can give us understanding and wisdom, and without His help and grace, our minds can easily be just a swirl or information and chaos. Bless you!

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  2. I'm so sorry that I somehow got mixed up when I commented on this post and called you Amanda. :-/ I don't suppose you can mend that. Anyway, I just read your post again because it is so good, and this time I knew who wrote it!

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    1. It's ok. I was going to edit it, but couldn't. I figured you know who I am so I just didn't say anything. :)

      Anyway, I'm glad you like the post.

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