Me: Ok, I need to work on my Bible study right now, can you play quietly for a little while?
Gwen (age 4): But Mommy, I want you to color with me.
Me: I just put the baby to bed and I need to do this right now. I’ll color with you in a little bit. You get started.
Gwen: Ok…(one minute and 25 seconds later) Momma. Momma. Momma.
Gwen: Can you color with me now?
Me: No, I haven’t even answered one question yet. Give me a bit longer.
Gwen: Ok. Mom, when we were at my cousin’s house the other day we got to play with her make up. Mom, look at my pretty picture. I’m coloring the big butterfly. Mom, look. Look at my butterfly.
Me: I see, hon. It’s very pretty. Give me a few minutes of quiet, ok? Can you color for just a few minutes? Quietly? Without talking? Quietly without talking and very quiet?
Gwen: Yes ma’am…(17 seconds later) Hakuna matata! What a wonderful phrase! Hakuna matata!*
Anyone who has ever heard a lecture, read a personal improvement book or listened to a sermon about growing in your prayer life will tell you that a personal quiet time is important. Take that time with God, listen to what He has to say, get to know Him better. Pray. Focus. Meditate. Shut out the distractions of this life and seek His kingdom.
For the record, I completely agree. That’s very important. Not just to your relationship with God, but for your own personal sanity. If I go a whole day without some time in my own head – a few moments where I don’t have to worry or focus on the needs of anyone else – I’m much more irritated and exhausted by the end of it. There are times where I just want to silence the phone, turn off the tv, and ask everyone who lives with me to just be quiet and not talk for five minutes. Five minutes isn’t a lot to ask, right? (In case you’re wondering, yes. Yes it is.)
So that beautiful personal quiet time that the book writers and the lecturers and the pastors tell me that I need looks very different in this season of life than they say it should. There’s no quiet garden to sit in, no pretty cup of coffee next to an open journal, no hushed silence occasionally interrupted by bird song. Between the hours of 6am and 9pm (and sometimes earlier or later), someone is talking. Someone needs something or wants to discuss something or wants me to be involved in something.
I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t have had four kids if a part of me didn’t love the chaos and challenge they bring. But when you’re outnumbered, when you have those little lives that depend on you for everything, a personal quiet time looks very different than the stuff portrayed by my favorite authors.
In this house my personal quiet time looks a little like this.
Sometimes it involves little people drawing or playing on top of my notes.
Sometimes a sick little girl crawls in my lap with her ponies while I’m trying to read.
Sometimes I have my quiet time while folding laundry. Because while it’s fun to interrupt mom when she’s reading, it’s no fun to interrupt when she’s working. If you do that you may be ordered to help.
So I’ve discovered that a personal quiet time looks different for different people in different seasons of life. One day 15 years from now it may involve actual quiet, but for me right now, it’s more about thanking God in those little moments. Thank you that I have a child who wants to spend time with me. Thank you that I am in a place where I can cuddle with my daughter when she’s sick. Thank you for the people who fill this house and wear all of these clothes (but if you want my opinion, laundry elves wouldn’t go amiss here). And even though it takes me two hours to get through a thirty minute lesson, thank you for those little hands and voices that cover me in peanut butter and fill the house with music.
*In case you’ve never met my kids, this conversation is a direct quote. I can’t make this stuff up.