As a mother, I spend a lot of time working to set my children up for success. Time is spent on education, preparation, and spiritual training so that when they are older they will be fully prepared to enter into the world. So much time is spent on these things that I often forget to set my own self up for success. Whether it is a lack of time, energy, or an abundance of shame for taking time to tend my own garden, it seems that mom is always last on the list. These things must change, however, because a burned out mom is just no good to anyone. It is impossible for a mom who has spent little to no time on caring for herself to have the energy to properly care for her family. The ministry of the family needs to have leaders who are in tip top working order.
As I meditated on the word “joy” in the context of ministry, I realized that it is not exhaustion that steals my joy. It seems that this would be the most obvious “joy-stealer”, but in all reality exhaustion in and of itself is not a thief that steals joy. Exhaustion can bring joy when it comes at the end of a well-lived day. It is an exhaustion coupled with disappointment, frustration, sadness, and, quite frankly, mistrust that holds my joy captive. Happiness and joy are not indications of success, therefore it is important to hold fast to the joy we find when our eyes are firmly fixed on the Cross so that regardless of our circumstances we can still experience unhindered joy.
Without joy, the garden withers. The garden is tended to so that the Gardener may allow for growth. “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:7). The planter and the waterer are of equal importance, yet God is the utmost of importance. Without him, growth is not possible. He is our joy which makes all things flourish. A mom, or dad, who remembers to tend their own garden, focusing on the One who gives growth, is a joyful leader and even when exhaustion creeps in, their joy cannot be robbed from them.
There are many ways to keep joy in your life. For me, it is important to spend time with others who have common goals; fellowship of believers. “For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor 3:9). Working together, serving together, and being united in faith allows me to stay focused on the Cross before me and keeps the world firmly behind me. It safeguards me against those forces that work to steal my joy. Lately, I have seen the difference in my own ability to remain joy-filled when I take the time to allow God full reign to work in my garden. Not only do I see amazing growth, but I begin to see new plantings. Spending time with others who are willing to invest in your life and come alongside you as you walk your path acts as an alarm system keeping yourself safe from harm. Harm may creep in, but it can never steal the joy you have in the Lord. Spending time with others in service, worship, or casual fellowship is a great way to build, or rebuild, your joy.
“He is the Creator – the One without limits. We are the created – the ones with limits” (Swenson: 180 Kindle). It is when we fail to respect that we are limited creatures that we begin to really notice a decline in health. We may do everything right, eat all the right foods, exercise properly, and practice as stress-free of a life as one could possibly practice, but we may still experience poor health. It is good to do all we can to protect ourselves from undue stress. It is better if we couple that with the understanding that sometimes we need to sit back and allow God to do on our behalf. Both activity and rest are important to God. It seems most of us, however, have the activity part down and need to understand that it is in the times of rest that growth can happen.
Health, for me, is a difficult one. As a mom, I tend to make sure my girls are always taken good care of, then I forget to take good care of myself. I often go without eating, or drinking water, or I forget to exercise because I have school and house work to accomplish. I will say no to social times because I feel shame that I am not working on something in order to go spend frivolous times in fellowship. Then I become surprised when I hit a wall and feel that I can no longer function. I become upset that in between classes I feel an overwhelming desire to remain in bed longer than should be legally allowed. It is those wall-hitting moments, though, when I realize that I have been doing too much. I have limits and that is not a bad thing. It is good for the soul to have times of fellowship and times of work. It is good for the body to have proper nourishment and necessary activity. There is no shame in limits. We are created with limits so that we could fully understand just how amazing and limitless is our Creator God.
It is noble and good for a mother, or a father, to spend time setting their children up for success. It is also noble and good to spend time tending to your own needs and wants. There should be no shame attached to the understanding of our limited nature. Instead, there should be joy and celebration in God’s limitless nature. We are not required to do all of the things; we are simply asked to sit at our King’s feet. The ministry of the family begins and ends at his feet and that is where your children should always find you.
Swenson, Richard A., M.D. 1998. “The Overload Syndrome: Learning to Live Within Your
Limits.” Colorado Springs: NavPress
In Hebrew, this means "our dance". It is through our dance that healing in found. Come before the throne and dance for your King!