Today we are going to examine two related topics: How motherhood impacts a mom’s devotional time and what practical tools are helpful for facilitating time with God. Be encouraged and challenged as you read!
In what ways has being a mom changed how you go about having a devotional time/quiet time?
Michele: Ironically, it was motherhood – a season of life when so many disciplines go out the window because of time pressure — that brought into focus how important it was for me to meet with God daily. I realized that I was in over my head and needed wisdom from outside myself. By the time baby number four joined the family, I had learned the delightful truth that God is not limited in His ability to meet with me — anywhere. He is no more present when I’m seated quietly in my peaceful and private rocking chair than He is when I’m in the Adirondack chair on the hill near my bee-buzzing garden, in a school parking lot, or when I’m at the dining room table, Command Central where all points of the house and yard are at least marginally visible.
When school begins in the fall, we will have only one son at home full time. Obviously, that should open up some opportunities for a different kind of life – although we will be welcoming a second grandchild this fall as well…
And so life keeps on changing, but my key priorities can stay solidly fixed as long as I’m willing to let go of my strangle-hold on perfection and embrace the freedom that lies in knowing that there is no “right way” to structure my devotional life. Some days there will be time to read, pray, journal, ponder words from a hymnal, and even read a chapter from an inspiring book. When that happens for you, rejoice! Then, realize that the next day may find you praying at the clothesline while eyeing a toddler’s curious examination of a garden slug, reading your Bible at the kitchen counter, or journaling in a physician’s waiting room.
Elizabeth: Since becoming a mom (and this has continued even as my girls have gotten older and theoretically “don’t need me anymore” and I supposedly have “all this time to myself”–because if you are a mom, you are busy), I have had to get creative with what spending time with God looks like…and where it happens…and when it happens. And I cannot look at these somewhat scattered moments as “inferior” or not the real thing. God is the God of time and scheduling! So I try to spend time with God all throughout the day.
Shannon: Being a mom has made me rethink what a “quiet time” should look like. During my childless years, I had lots of time to spend in devotional activities. Now, with two young kids, I can barely find time to go to the bathroom by myself, much less engage in a lengthy devotional time each day. The funny thing is that I need this time now more than ever! I’m a person who loves order, lists, and routine, so it has been difficult for me to relax and change how I do things. The reality is, though, that the Bible doesn’t indicate that we have to follow some formula or spend a particular amount of time reading the Bible each day. I’ve learned that it’s okay if some days I only have 15 minutes for a quiet time. It’s okay if a lot of my prayer time happens in the middle of the night when I’m nursing my baby. Also, what worked today might not work tomorrow. Motherhood means I have to be flexible and creative.
What tools help you spend time with the Lord consistently?
Michele: I meet weekly with a group of women who vary in age from young mums in their twenties up to an octogenarian great grandmother, and when I asked them for their input about what helped them to stay faithful in spending time with the Lord, they all (without exception) mentioned the accountability of meeting with a group and doing homework for our Bible study.
My own experience with this has been one-on-one: for over ten years, I’ve had an accountability partner who reads the Bible on the same schedule with me. We’ve traveled through a lot of Scripture together, and even though she and her husband relocated in retirement, we’ve maintained our friendship and our commitment to reading in tandem. A few times we have used a prepared schedule for reading through the entire Bible, but usually, we have chosen a book or section of Scripture that we want to read together and have made up a schedule that allows for repetitive reading and keeps us anchored in context.
Another helpful practice has been the habit of reading through the Bible each year with my husband – together and out loud. We frequently get behind and have to catch up in marathon reading sessions, but it gives us something hugely in common during this season of the empty-ing nest. Even more important, it keeps me grounded in the overall scope of Scripture’s narrative arc, reminding me that God is at work in a larger story that is massively redemptive and globally significant.
What I am discovering (very imperfectly) is that change is a given, and I can fight it, or I can roll with it. Once upon a time, early mornings were quiet and solitary. Then, for a season, there were toddlers and babies in rapid succession, and I hoped, planned, and prayed for synchronized naps that would afford a few minutes of quiet and solitude. Eventually, though, we established a routine in which, right after breakfast my husband would leave for the day, and my four homeschooled boys would settle into independent work. During that time, I was able to settle into the quiet until it was time for me to meet with them for their lessons…or, some days, until I had to break up a fight or clean toothpaste out of someone’s hair.
These days, I have an almost-grown-up son with an early morning commute to his summer job. He’ll be leaving for college in the fall, so there’s no way that I’m going to miss this opportunity to chat with him while he eats his breakfast and to say goodbye as I hand him his lunch. I’m still figuring out this “new normal,” but David’s words in Psalm 119:18 keep me pressing into the process of seeing and savoring truth: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.” If I’m convinced that this is true – that Scripture is the means God uses to reveal His glory and His ways — then I will joyfully arrange my life around the priority of receiving its truth.
Elizabeth: Some of the tools I use to consistently spend time with God include
- Revealing Jesus: A 365-Day Devotional by Darlene Zschech.
- Notes feature on my cell phone: I keep an ongoing list of Scriptures relevant to the season of life I’m in, plus those I’m trying to memorize, on my phone in the “notes” section. I can refer to these throughout the day, wherever I’m at, to refresh my memory or just to direct my mind towards God. I also have my phone accessible while I walk every morning so I can reference what I’m trying to memorize.
- Weekly women’s Bible study: for the last 12 years, I’ve had the honor and privilege of facilitating a weekly women’s Bible study at our church. This has BY FAR had the biggest impact on my relationship with God of anything else I’ve done in my entire life. It has changed me from the inside out. It has saved me. It has caused me to fall in love with God’s Word. If He grants me the privilege, I hope to be still facilitating when I’m on my dying breath. The personal homework from these studies is the most formal, directed, scheduled way I spend time regularly with God. The accountability of knowing I’m part of a group effort on this keeps me from letting this slide. I know from personal experience that I would not do in-depth Bible study with homework and teaching video sessions just in my own. (Here are links to two posts with many more details about this tool: So You Want to Start a Women’s Bible Study and 7 Lessons from Reluctant Women’s Bible Study Leader.)
- P.R.O.M.P.T.: For me, one of the main challenges to spending time with God is getting my mind off other life “stuff.” One day while I was on my morning prayer/workout walk, God gave me this acrostic mnemonic. When I’m tempted to let my mind get stuck on something it does no good to think about, I try to PROMPT myself to think about one of these instead:
- P = praise God.
- R= remember what God has done in the past.
- O = offend the enemy. The Sword of the Spirit–God’s Word–is the only offensive weapon in our spiritual armor. So I try to offend the enemy by speaking Scripture out loud.
- M= meditate on God’s Word. Here is where I just turn a particular Scripture over and over in my mind. This is also where that phone notes feature comes in handy!
- P= petition God on behalf of myself and others.
- T= thank God.
- Worship music in the car: current favorite source is any of Elevation Worship’s albums (they have about 20).
- Prayer throughout the day. (See “teenagers” on last week’s post.)
Shannon: The biggest thing that has helped me have successful quiet times is having a game plan. The activities of my day aren’t going to part like the Red Sea to make room for my quiet time; I have to intentionally carve out time for it. For me, this means planning ahead so I can get up early (the first time my alarm sounds) so I have time to read and pray before my girls wake. Once I’m up, here are some other tools that help me.
- A journal. A journal is useful for noting prayer requests, copying Bible verses I want to remember, and writing out prayers. It’s also very helpful for taking note of any distracting thoughts that enter my mind when I’m trying to focus on God, such as thoughts of things I need to add to the grocery list or put on my to-do list. Once I write these things down, I can stop thinking about them and return my focus to God.
- A Bible reading plan. During some seasons I use a Bible reading plan and during others I don’t. Right now I’m using a chronological one and I’m finding it helps me read longer portions each day than I would if I wasn’t using it. My goal isn’t to read longer portions for the sake of crossing them off of a list; however, I do want to be reading all of the Bible on a regular basis. The plan has helped me stay on track during this busy time of life.
- Scripture memory cards. I like to review the Bible verses I’ve memorized using notecards. I described how I use these here.
- Devotional audiobooks. The library system in my county has apps for smartphones and tablets that allow patrons to check out ebooks and audiobooks on their mobile devices. I use a couple of these to check out audio versions of devotionals. As I work to pack my husband’s lunch first thing in the morning, I can get a head start on my quiet time by listening to one of these. I also listen to these as I pull weeds in the garden while my kiddos nap.
- Bible verses posted throughout the house. I like to post throughout the house little notecards with Bible verses written on them. This helps me remember key promises from Scripture as I go about my daily tasks.
- Children’s Bible stories and Bible songs. I read a Bible story to my girls and we sing songs about God each day. I’ve learned not to overlook these stories and songs as opportunities to connect with God. The simple truths they communicate often have as much impact on me as a longer amount of time spent reading my Bible.
What about you? Do you have any questions for the three of us or any ideas that you would like to share? How has motherhood impacted your time with God? What tools help you have consistent devotional time with Him?