When I look at my life as a stay-at-home mother for eighteen years, I would quickly say that my overarching priorities have been my relationship with the Lord, my marriage to Mike, raising six children and making a home. At the end of my years on earth, I want to say that I invested my life in the most important relationships.
It’s been easy for me to believe that because I have been present in body with my family and home for many years, that they have always been my top priority. I’m always shocked at how easily I can deceive myself.
I listened to a Facebook Live video by Edie Wadsworth, and she taught that the #1 key to effective time management is to KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES.
When I heard that, my initial response was “yes, Edie, mine are like yours: husband, children, home!”
But then she said something that settled and marinated in my soul. It was this: your priorities are not just what is in your head, but what is actually on your calendar.
I thought about this. What if I tracked my dailiness for the past several years? What actually fills the time slots in my day? What would be the reality of my calendar vs. the idealistic image I assume that I am living?
This has been something I have pondered all summer. The misalignment of my priorities.
When you get around the age of 40, you question your identity, calling, purpose. You try new things, you sift through the choices you have made for your life, and you wonder if you are living the giftings placed inside of you. You feel restless and angsty. Am I living my best life? Am I spending my time in the most fruitful ways?
Getting past 40 for me meant more freedom and margin in my schedule. My kids can stay at home without me for longer stretches. I can grocery shop alone and have date nights with Mike. I have been able to get more sleep, build better lifestyle habits, and find consistent spaces to breathe. These are sweet gifts that I am thankful for after many many years of being pregnant, nursing, diapers, babies and toddlers.
The same freedom that brought health also brought beautiful distractions. Because my kids don’t physically need me as much and I can make choices to step away, I was able to spend more time connecting with friends through my phone through messaging, text and Vox. I was able to begin serving more outside my home to other women through gifts, meals, conversations, book studies, and leading IF:Gathering locally. I had visions of building community and living on mission. On the outside, this seemed like a better, balanced life than I had ever lived. I thought that my life was more connected and “fruitful” than ever.
I slowly made women + ministry my #1 daily priority. That’s the thing I wanted to do more than anything. I was finding my worth in those spaces and believed that I am loved for what I give to others. If I am not giving my time, attention, insight, and gifts without boundaries, then I am unlovable to the Lord and to people. This lie has had a stranglehold on me for so long, and I didn’t even know it. Burnout exposed this in me. When I hit a wall and couldn’t give anymore, all those deep fears rose to the surface. My husband, a few books, a spiritual director, and wise friends helped me untangle these things. I am learning what it means to be loved by the Lord without doing a thing.
This current season is one of reclaiming my priorities and living my priorities.
I want the very best parts of me to be given away to Mike, Sam, Katie, John, Will, Luke, and Henry first. My generosity with time and attention is for them. My thoughtful gift-giving is for them. My bits of wisdom and insight on life and faith is for them. My offerings of pretty + meaningful events are for them. Friendship and hospitality start with the people in my home.
It’s not that I won’t ever give of myself to those outside of my four walls again. It’s that my daily, minute-by-minute choices were skewed, and the only way I know to get back to living my priorities well is to make them the main thing and the almost only thing.
Sally Clarkson often talks about living with integrity in our own homes. We have to be living the messages that we say we believe in and preach to others. I have not been living in integrity, and I repent of those choices. My children have gotten the distracted me. The “stop interrupting” me. The tired leftovers of my mind and heart. This is where shame can practically break and shatter a mother’s heart. It’s awful to face the ways in which we inflict pain on those we love.
This is where we mothers must preach the Gospel of grace to ourselves again and again.
I am loved. I am forgiven. I am complete in Christ. I am totally accepted. God is pleased with me through the cross of Christ. He embraces me. He runs to me. He calls me beloved daughter. We cling to our identity in Christ as mothers. We need not choose to walk in self-justification for our choices, but freely admit our wrongdoing and receive the forgiveness that was already given. And then we repent. We choose to turn toward Love and walk in His priorities for us. And we do that again and again and again.
Repentance for me means putting my family on my calendar. They need to get the best parts of me during these intense parenting years. My priority is on living well so that I can love them well.
And it starts with how I order my days.