The alarm still goes off around 5:45 a.m. I learned early on that the first fifteen minutes after this sound are the hardest, so daily I jump out of bed and into the shower rubbing off sleep forcing myself into another new day. With make-up applied and wet hair wrapped in a towel, I walk through routines that have become the non-negotiables of my life for years.
Darkness invaded my life as a storm when I was widowed at the age of 38 with eight children under the age of ten. There were diapers to change, people to feed, education that must continue, business to tend to, questions inside and out, problems to solve, grieving little ones and, not to mention, a very sad mommy. Numb physically and emotionally, deep inside I knew I could not allow myself to grow numb spiritually. Have you ever been there? Are you there right now? It’s in those moments, we need God more than ever before. For me, chaos threatened order every single minute of the day, except for the protected time set aside to spend with the Lord. Only God knew clearly what was happening with my life in this season. He was the potter, I was just clay.
“But now, O LORD, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8
As soft clay easily takes on the imprint of an object pressed into it, our hearts are similar in receiving impressions. Because of this, we must protect our hearts against the temptation to take on the impression of the world, especially in our grief and chaos. In my desperation, time had to be guarded to seek God. Wet hair? Oh yes, because my children knew that the day didn’t start until they heard the whir of the blow dryer.
So what does it look like to find rest in this storm? For me, rest comes through routine. Not regimented rules and regulations led by the drill sergeant of the heavenlies, but spiritual disciplines or habits that allow for me to experience God’s filling of grace (His divine inspiration upon the heart and its reflection in life).
Three admonitions stuck with me through the busy years of raising children and now in the season of leading a ministry. It is my hope that these disciplines won’t be another “to-do” on your list, but rather you will find that seeking time-out prevents burn-out adding vibrancy and meaning to your life. I pray that one day you will be able to look back, like I do, and see how these grace-filled habits are still shaping you each day.
Disciplines of a grace-filled widow:
Let grief simplify not complicate your life:
1. Divert Daily
A. Morning quiet time: Make the Bible your first read. The Word of God speaks, and there is no replacement for the Bible. Avoid the temptation to read words of men before the Word of God.
“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace…” Isaiah 55:11-12
Suggested resources: One Year Bible, Audio Bible app, or a Bible Verse for the day. Do not go numb spiritually. God’s Word will not return void.
B. Prayer: Cry out to God. Talk to God before you talk to others.
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” Jeremiah 33:3
- Pray for and with your children by name every single day. If you don’t, who will? “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry…” Exodus 22:22
- Listen for God to speak. Give yourself the gift of a few minutes in silence after reading and praying. Allow for the still, small voice of God to be heard in your heart.
C. Routine: Develop a schedule for babies and toddlers. Routine brings security. Maintain a reasonable schedule of pace and rest for yourself knowing your limitations. Less is best in the first two years. When the load is heavy, consider two questions that have helped me to navigate my way when my next step was unclear:
- What brings you the greatest joy?
- What gives an atmosphere of peace? Peace is the umpire of God. If we do not have peace in a decision or direction we are headed that should be our red flag of caution to re-think our path. “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15
2. Withdraw Weekly
A. Sabbath Rest: Make time to do something you enjoy as a gift to yourself. Turn off the world.
B. Sunday Worship: Find community in the house of God with believers in Jesus Christ. We were created for relationships. We need to surround ourselves with others for support and accountability.
3. Abandon Annually
A. Retreat: Once a year alone. From the start many people suggested that I get away, but to take off alone . . . really alone was a scary thought to me. After a few years and on the verge of parental burn-out, I finally asked my parents if they would trade houses with me. They willingly agreed to come to my home for one week each summer to care for my children, while I spent time at their home away from the routine. This was a great gift. I relished in the time to sleep, stare, study, shop or just be.
B. Vacation: Once a year with family. This doesn’t have to be a luxury experience, just intentional time away with your children