This post is part of a series on spiritual disciplines called Merely Beloved. Sara is a lovely colleague in ministry that I met through the Twitter-sphere, for which I am super glad. For more information about this series click here.
I was both excited and intimidated to write a post for Mihee’s series. Mihee and I magically began following each other on Twitter and I’m convinced that it was for no other reason than God’s providence. I was in such a state of no-sleep with my newborn daughter that I honestly don’t remember any more details on how we began to be a part of each other’s lives. There were many times when Mihee’s blog posts were exactly what my heart needed to hear that very day, especially with her motherhood mantra series. It’s my hope that God can use this post to speak to your heart as we try to follow Jesus in this world.
Shortly after my daughter was born I looked exasperated at my husband who was playing a video game. “How do you even have time to yourself?” I asked the question both angrily and jealously. Angry because he could be helping me make bottles. Jealous because I secretly wished that I could be on the couch relaxing, too. You see, having a daughter rocked my world. No longer were my free hours used to watch Grey’s Anatomy and sew on my sewing machine. I was running on empty as we got into yet another conversation argument about balance and trying to “do it all.”
Finally, my husband had an idea. He said, “I want you to spend 30 minutes a day reading for fun. I don’t care about the laundry and the dishes and Lylah and everything else on your plate. In order to be a good wife and mom and pastor, you have to take care of yourself first.” His words were so true. Why had it taken 4 months to figure this out? Why didn’t I think of this?
I did what he said. I began sitting down and pleasure reading for 30 minutes a day. I subscribe to a host of blogs including this one, 1 weekly magazine, and 2 monthly magazines. I peruse them all from my iPad. It is an amazing 30 minutes of my day. Taking time to pleasure read has helped me to live into the grace that God has given me. As a recovering perfectionist it is often hard to stop and sit because there is so much to do around the house. My husband reminds me that there will always be so much to do around the house. I’ve got to stop and take time for me anyway.
Austin was right: to be the best wife, mom, and pastor I can be, I absolutely need to take care of myself first. Only the cup that is full can overflow to fill up others. I make sure I make room for this practice every day.
In the past 12 months God has also opened my eyes to how important prayer is as a daily, grounding ritual. To speak to God throughout the day is wonderful, but my favorite thing is when I pray on my way to work. I serve a congregation 28 miles away from my house. I’m a ¾ time pastor, so 3 days a week, I make the 35-minute drive through some of the richest farming soil in the world (really!). I just pray and pray and pray. God and I have awesome conversations. God’s calmed my heart and inspired sermon series on our drives. I miss it on the days when I don’t drive to church. I make sure to make room for this practice of prolonged prayer time as many days a week as I can. Taking time to pray for an extended period of time has helped me to see God’s activity in my life.
Finally, I have my “before I go to bed” ritual. As a minister I’ve received some very “ministery” gifts. I used to not get excited about devotional books. 365-day books and the like. They’re growing on me now, though. Currently I’m making my way (again) through My Utmost for His Highest. I read one or two before bed and ponder how to put Chambers’ words into practice the following day. I am also using a plan on my Bible app that is taking me through the Bible in a year. I enjoy reading from the OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs each day. Lastly, I write a few entries into my joy journal. Yesterday’s entries were “Lylah’s laugh,” “A day spent doing absolutely nothing,” and “crisp fall days.” I can’t wait until my joy journal can be our entire family’s joy journal. What sweet things will my daughter be thankful for? (Sesame Street? Her favorite babysitter?)
I find that these 3 practices keep me grounded. They keep me aware of God throughout the day. Even short car trips across town are now times to check in with God. Chambers’ words and the passages of Scripture are sometimes so appropriate for what the following day holds.
Grace. Grace. Grace. It’s my mantra lately. Grace with unfolded laundry. Grace when the pastoral visit didn’t happen. Grace when my temper gets the best of me. Grace when my sermon isn’t a home run, or even a solid double. Grace. Grace. Grace. For me, reminding myself to live into God’s abundant grace is the very best practice of all.
Sara C R Hill and her husband Austin are both ministers in the PCUSA. They serve different churches in the North Central Iowa presbytery. They are also both trying to figure out how best to parent their adorable 9-month-old daughter Lylah Joy. When Sara’s not serving her congregation, she is teaching her daughter how to crawl or cooking up a new paleo recipe in the kitchen. You can find her on facebook or follow her on twitter: scrhill. Or say hi at scrhill at gmail dot com.