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Taking Care of the Me in Mommybecoming a better mom—spirit, body & soul
By Lisa Whelchel
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2006 Lisa Whelchel
All right reserved.
Chapter OneYour Spirit Breathe in God and Exhale His Spirit
From the time my children entered the adolescent years, we have shared something we call "window time." When they were really little, we called it "high/lows." Every night when I put them to bed, I asked them to tell me their high of the day and their low. This little exercise somehow made it easier for them to articulate their feelings.
As my children have grown, this bedtime ritual has expanded to include more probing questions like, "Did anyone hurt your feelings today? Do you have anything you need to confess? Are you confused about anything?" This is our special time to talk about whatever is on their minds.
It is amazing that even my sixteen-year-old son, Tucker, still looks forward to our "window times" each night. Of course, they have changed a bit now that he is a teenager. Some days he saves up questions or hurts or funny jokes, knowing he can share them with me during "window time." But lately, we mostly listen to music together. You see, Tucker is an awesome musician like his daddy, and he lives and breathes music. Every once in a while, he'll sneak in a question or a hurt still, but usually he just wants to play me the latest guitar lick he's learned, song he's written, or some amazing new band he's discovered.
A few months ago, I woke up suddenly from a great night's sleep. (Moms of small children, take heart—they really do grow up and sleep in, or at least they get old enough to turn on cartoons and pour their own bowl of cereal.) As I turned over on my pillow to see if my husband, Steve, was up making coffee yet, I noticed strange music running through my head. As I focused on the tune, I heard even stranger lyrics: "She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie—cocaine!"
What?! What had I been dreaming? Then it hit me: Tucker had played a CD by Eric Clapton for me the night before, and this was a line from one of the songs. I remember hearing that particular line and talking to Tucker about it, but I don't remember memorizing it so I could sing myself to sleep (or awake) with it later.
By comparison, yesterday I spent the drive up to the bunkhouse where I write listening to the iPod my mother bought me for my birthday. I've created several playlists of music I can listen to, depending on the situation. I have a playlist of upbeat contemporary Christian music to listen to when I run on the treadmill. I also have a collection of classical music for when I don't want the distraction of words.
When I'm feeling especially dramatic, I listen to my list of instrumental movie soundtracks and picture my life moving in slow motion. I also have a bunch of sermon CDs and audio books that I hope to listen to someday. And, of course, Tucker has put his own playlist of music on my iPod. (And, yes, we did have another talk about lyrics and the principle of "garbage in, garbage out.")
My favorite playlist is my collection of worship songs and choruses. This is what I was listening to on the long drive up to my writing retreat. I arrived late; read a few chapters from the latest Ted Dekker book; put our dog, Donut, in her crate; and drifted off to sleep. This morning I woke up singing, "Oh, Holy Spirit, You're my comfort. Strengthen me, hold my head up high. As I stand upon Your truth, bringing glory unto You, and let the peace of God, let it reign." What a great way to start the day.
As moms, it is critical that we "live and breathe" Jesus, because what we inhale is what we'll exhale. Proverbs 23:7 says that our outward actions are prompted by our inner thoughts: "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he" (NKJV).
I've found that most moms have an easier time giving than receiving. From the beginning of this book, I've attempted to convince you that it is very important for you to learn how to receive so you will have more to give. It is equally, if not more, important, to discern the right and healthy things to receive so we can give wisdom and life to our family.
Be intentionally aware of everything you allow to enter through your eyes, ears, and heart. What are you watching on television and movies? What are you reading? What kind of music are you listening to? Are you surrounded by friends that fill you up or tear you down? It isn't just about you. What you allow inside your heart and mind is what will inevitably be poured out on your family. What you receive is, most likely, what you will give.
So, what should we be receiving? Jesus told His disciples, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). In the next few chapters and Rest Stops, I will show you practical ways to fill up with the Spirit through praise, Bible study, meditation, prayer, and rest. We will learn to take care of ourselves by taking time to receive from God.
Our only hope for being good mommies is receiving the power of Jesus to parent through us. That is why we must breathe in Jesus all through the day so we may impart life to our families. One of the best ways I've found to accomplish this is through Scripture memorization.
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in rightousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
Let's pull over to the next Rest Stop and learn how we can have "God breath" all day long by memorizing scriptures from the Old and New "Testamints." (I know, I know. My children are rolling their eyes with you.)
Your Spirit—Rest Stop Filling Up with the Word of Life
Keep the Word in Sight
Index cards are useful tools for all kinds of organizational processes and very effective as Scripture reminders too. This is one of the simplest ways I have used to hide scriptures in my heart and a method that worked no matter what age my children were or what season of life I was navigating.
Always keep blank index cards in your Bibles, particularly the Bible you use for your daily devotions. When scriptures come to life off the page, you have the tool immediately available to capture that verse and what the Lord is speaking to your heart. You can then place the index card somewhere in the house where you will be reminded of the Lord's voice.
Currently, I keep cards with memory verses next to my computer screen. These days, the computer seems to be the center of all my activities! But at different times of my life, I have used a variety of locations where I could readily view God's Word several times during my busy days. It is amazing how, without even consciously trying, these verses become committed to memory. Try some of these favorite spots:
* Bedside table or wall
* Medicine cabinet or dressing mirror
* Car visor
* Kitchen sink
* TV screen
* Exercise equipment
* Next to wall clock
One of the biggest challenges for me has been not making Scripture memorization another thing on my already overloaded to-do list. I have tried, instead, to find ways to incorporate scriptures into my daily routine. One of my favorite ideas is "Scripture primping."
Write out scriptures that coordinate with your primping tasks, and stick them to the mirror where you put on your makeup each morning. Read aloud and meditate on those verses, and you'll discover that soon many of them are committed to memory. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
* Foundation—1 Corinthians 3:11 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ" (NIV; emphasis added).
* Eyebrows—Mark 9:47 "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell" (NIV; emphasis added).
* Eye makeup—Proverbs 16:2 "All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit" (emphasis added).
* Mascara—Proverbs 17:10 "A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool" (NIV; emphasis added).
* Finishing powder—James 1:4 "Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (NIV; emphasis added).
* Blush—Luke 6:29 "To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also" (emphasis added).
* Lipstick—Proverbs 12:19 "Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment" (emphasis added).
Your Spirit Rest Stop—Filling Up with the Word of Life You can take this idea and expand it for other routine things you do in your day. Getting dressed could include scriptures about feet (while putting on your socks and shoes), scriptures about keeping your mind focused on the Lord (while brushing your hair), more scriptures about our mouths and words (while brushing your teeth), and scriptures about ears (while putting on your earrings).
Group Scriptures Together
You can purchase spiral-bound index cards at Wal-Mart or office supply stores. You could use them as "flip cards," placing individual verses on each card for a chapter you are trying to commit to memory. After you have achieved that goal, you can keep the cards as refreshers or as a record of what you have committed to memory.
* You can even color-coordinate your cards. Blue could be scriptures on peace, red could be scriptures on anger, and so on. When you are struggling in a particular area, you can grab all the ones from that color and allow God's Word to minister His truth. * I've heard Beth Moore talk about using index cards for grouping together scriptures that speak to a particular season or difficulty in your life.
Other Scripture Memorization Helps
* I have a friend who put up a chalkboard in her kitchen and wrote a scripture every week to learn with her kids. Every time they passed by, they read it. The whole family ended up memorizing it without even trying. * Write out a memory verse and place it on the front of the fridge or just above the water dispenser. Every time you reach for an icecold drink, say the verse aloud and fill your spirit with the refreshing living water from Jesus. * There are also two resources I would highly recommend for Scripture memorization. The first one, MemLok, is a program that uses pictures as association points for the first word of a verse. Their Web site is www.memlok.com. * The second program is AWANA Clubs. I have learned more scriptures than ever before by helping my kids with the weekly memory verses that are a part of this interdenominational kids' club. Check them out at www.AWANA.org.
I hope you realize that as much as I believe in the power of memorizing scripture, I also understand the season of life you are in as a mother. Sometimes, even the good things we know to do—and want to do—feel like one more thing on our to-do list. That is why many of the ideas in this Rest Stop have been ways to incorporate scripture in our lives without intentionally memorizing it. Thankfully, every time we even read the Word, aloud whenever possible, we automatically hide another nugget in our hearts.
Prayer is another wonderful opportunity to connect our hearts with the Lord in the middle of our very busy days. I discovered the privilege of personal communication with my Abba Father during my teenage years on The Facts of Life. As I share my story, I pray you will become even more excited about the prospects of an intimate, practical relationship with the Lord as you stick close to Him all day long.
Chapter TwoPrayer Keep in Touch with the Father
While I was on The Facts of Life, "Blair" gained a lot of weight. (I'm going to blame it on her, since she was the one bursting out of her school uniform, not me.) In my autobiography, I write in length about how I learned to fill up with Jesus rather than attempting to fill my emptiness with food, so I'll spare you the details here.
To make a long story short, one of the key turning points for me was the way I approached prayer. Up until that point, my prayer life closely resembled a trip to the department store at Christmas time to sit on Santa's knee. "Dear God, I need this and that, and please bless him and her, and thank You for all these gifts. Amen."
Not that God doesn't want to hear and answer our needs and bless our loved ones and give us gifts, but that is such a tiny sliver of the relationship He longs to have with us. He offers us friendship and guidance and revelation and peace and so much more. I determined that I was not going to pray to the giant Saint Nick in the sky anymore. I was going to enter into fellowship with the almighty God.
Now, what I'm about to write may sound a bit sacrilegious, and I sincerely don't want to offend anyone. But this really did help me and, hopefully, it may help some of you. I started by deciding not to close my eyes when I prayed. At the same time, I ruled out bowing my head or looking up to the heavens. At this point in my life, the way I wanted to approach prayer was more like a conversation than a spiritual discipline that I needed to do every day so I could check it off my "good little Christian" list.
With that in mind, I got up every morning, walked down the hall to the bathroom (which is where I had my daily devotions), sat down on the toilet (the lid was down!), and imagined that Jesus was sitting right across from me ... on the rim of the bathtub. (I guess we should have traded places, considering I was sitting on the throne, but I didn't think about that at the time.) From this point of view I could look straight into Jesus' eyes and pour my heart out to Him.
We talked about everything from my guilt over gaining so much weight, to the loneliness I felt with my family so far away in Texas, to the really cute boy I had my eye on. (Remember, I was a teenager at the time.) This new perspective on prayer transformed my morning quiet time from religious routine to heart-to-heart conversations with my Abba Father.
As I cited in the Introduction, Jesus says, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me" (John 15:4). The bottom line is, we cannot be the mothers we want to be without the power of Jesus working in us and through us. If we want to see the fruit of the Spirit grow in our children's lives, then we must first make sure we are abiding in Jesus.
We don't use the word abide anymore. What does it mean? From the context, I figured it had something to do with staying connected with Jesus. But how, specifically, do we do that? Does it mean I need to read my Bible more? Go to church more? Pray more? Not necessarily.
When I looked up the word abide in my Bible software, I discovered that in the original language it had more to do with simply spending time with Jesus, hanging out with Him. Well, it didn't exactly say that in the Greek, but that was the basic idea. And what do people do when they hang out together? Well, obviously, lots of things—but the common denominator is talk! To get to know someone, to strengthen a relationship, to connect with each other, you talk. That is what prayer is: talking with God.
I know what you're thinking. I don't have any time for my family, my home, myself, my responsibilities, and everything else as it is! How am I going to find more time to abide in Christ? Trust me, our heavenly Father understands the seasons of a mother's life. There are times when a quick "I love You, Lord" first thing in the morning, followed by a "Protect my children," on the way to school, to a few random "Bless my husband," "Give me wisdom," "Help!" and "Forgive me" prayers throughout the day are all we can manage because we are so out of breath.
God understands. I understand. So does every other mother alive. Relax, pull over to the next Rest Stop, and take a breath as you discover a few, as "Blair" would put it, "brilliant ideas." I pray you find just the idea you need to enable you to carry on a conversation in prayer with your heavenly Father during this particular season of your life as a mother.
Excerpted from Taking Care of the Me in Mommy by Lisa Whelchel Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Whelchel. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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