It was a crazy day. I was sidetracked to my last scheduled veterinary call by a dying sheep! By the time I arrived to do fair papers on 18 show goats and dehorn a bunch of kids, one of the family’s daughters was leaving with their aunt for a dance recital, and the other daughter was being picked up by her grandmother for soccer practice (thank goodness for extended family!). The mom was left to help me with the goats, the son was at work, the dad got back late from work and had to run to pick up both girls from soccer and the recital, and on top of all this, it was the oldest daughter’s birthday. As I was finishing up around 7:30 pm with the goats, the family was rushing around to go to the birthday party down the road at a neighbor’s house.
While driving home, I thought to myself, “Boy, I don't want my family to be that busy,” but then reality hit me- my family is that busy! In fact, during that vet call, I was missing my own daughter's first T-ball game. The following two weeks had one or two little league or T-ball games scheduled per night, and during the weekend in between we fit in taking our boys’ pigs to a show! My life has been so busy that the only time I could find to record these events was while driving between vet calls using voice dictation to e-mail on my cell phone!
I recorded the events of that evening a year ago. I was frequently feeling overwhelmed, and too often I had been finding myself getting frustrated and losing patience; not the life that God wants for his children! Not the example I want to set for my children! My hope was that we could limit some of the kid’s activities in 2022, and that the veterinary practice that I work for would hire a couple more veterinarians.
A year later, however, finds our kids in even more activities, our veterinary practice still down two doctors, several other practices sending clients our way, and most of my days ending in exhaustion! The reality is that there is no guarantee that the life or schedule changes that we propose can actually be made or that they will actually be effective in slowing down the crazy pace of our lives. I believe that God chooses to place us in the midst of crazy for a purpose (Romans 8:28). That purpose is often to teach us to rely on Him.
God has a lot that He wants to teach us through the crazy parenting years, things like learning to find our rest in Christ, rather than in sleep, and learning to keep peace within our hearts despite the craziness all around us; below are some other things God has been teaching me:
1. It is going to increasingly be more challenging to keep right priorities as we go through the parenting years. This is a fact of life no family can get around. Parents need to take the time to closely look at our family’s schedule, and ask God for wisdom to identify the best activities (eternally significant) and say no to some good activities that have to be set aside during this season of life.
2. I can’t wait for the busyness to end to enjoy life or serve God. I have spoken to numerous empty nest parents who really miss the crazy days of kids sports and activities, for there are a lot of precious moments and memories to be made in this busy season. In each day God gives us opportunities for joy if we look for them, instead of being frustrated about our day not going as we planned (ultimately, we are not in control, it’s God’s plan which will prevail, we just need to trust Him and remember that He is Good- James 413-17; Romans:28).
If you wait for a season in which you are not busy to serve the Lord, the Devil will always keep you busy! When God called the prophet Elisa, he was busy operating a large farm and in the midst of spring planting. Instead of waiting for planting to be over, he said goodbye to his family, left the work in the hands of the hired men, sacrificed the team of oxen he was plowing with and used the plow as wood for the sacrifice! (1Kings 19:19-21)
3. I need to look at each day, each moment through the lens of God’s priorities. We need to separate out the eternally significant from the urgent, and, as much as possible, strongly pursue that which is important in God’s eyes.
To stand a chance of doing any of the above three things we need to apply two important principals:
1. Schedule regular times of rest. God knows that we need rest to functions well, that is why he put the command to keep the Sabbath in the ten commandments- it is for our own good; we can’t make good decisions if want can’t keep our eyes open!. Make sure that you don’t schedule your Sundays and vacations days too full of activities that leaves you even more exhausted! (As an active person I have to be careful of this).
2. Do what is most important first each day. If we run out of day to finish our to do list (which is always the case for me), we will have accomplished what really matters if we do what is most important first. We typically jump to doing what is most urgent, but the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) clearly shows what is really most important to God. Martha was very busy with the urgent; supper needed to be made, there were 13 hungry men visiting, but Mary chose what was clearly most important- spending time with Jesus.
THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY FOR OUR LIVES EVERY SINGLE DAY SHOULD BE SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS IN PRAYER AND IN GOD’S WORD, the Bible. When we give the first part of our day to the Lord, we give our best to the Lord, when we are brightest and freshest in contrast to the end of the day when we are falling asleep trying to pray. We need the wisdom and insight from our morning time with the Lord to know what to say yes to and what to say no to throughout the rest of our day.
It was Jesus’s practice to rise “very early in the morning, while it was still dark,” and go to a desolate place and pray. Mark 1:35 Jesus was exceedingly busy during his earthly ministry. Though He was fully God, he also was fully human and had the same constraints of time and energy that we have. Jesus got tired and hungry! But after a long and exhausting day what did Jesus do? He went to be alone and prayed to our Heavenly Father! Mark 6:30-48 records how Jesus and the disciples were so busy that they did not even have time to eat (vs31). Jesus took the disciples to a “desolate place” to be alone for some badly needed rest, but the crowds still found them and Jesus ended up teaching all day and then when it was getting late Jesus and the disciples fed all 5,000 of them. You would think that after that long day Jesus would sleep, but instead he prayed until the fourth watch of the night! (Mark 6:46-48) Jeus did some incredible things that day and night like feeding 5,000 and walking on water, but that day was bathed in prayer.
Our first and most important priority each day must be time with God, but the second most important priority “is like it, [to] Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mathew 22:37-40). That is why Jesus had compassion (Mark 6:34) on the crowds and taught and fed them even on the day that he and his disciples were trying to rest. Our kids are going to interrupt our days a lot, but we need to likewise have compassion on them. Our families are our closest “neighbors,” and when we are deciding what is most important to do first each day, time with our spouse and kids need to be priorities. Family devotions, praying with your spouse, and a date night are often pushed aside by the urgent demands of each day, but these ought to be a priority like our own prayer time with the Lord. Likewise, we need to make sure that in our busyness, we do not neglect meeting together with our church family for we need them and they need us to give the encouragement we find in Christian fellowship (Hebrews 10:24-25) to help us navigate the maze of priorities and to persevere in the challenging years of parenting.
I still struggle with my priorities, and sometimes I just need to take a nap before I can think clearly enough to pray well. But I know whom to turn to for direction, for strength, and for rest- it is our Lord Jesus Christ who is so full of grace toward us when we fall short as parents and as people. He is the one who promised “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthe 11:28-30). I hope you too find rest in Jesus when your life becomes too busy.