Saturday, 5 September 2009

Parenting Hour #2

Since Jeff and I agreed that Monday's we would have a regular "Parenting Hour" and had our first one, we have missed two Mondays before we sat down for our second. In part, this was because we have had visitors and our weeks have been disrupted. But another major reason was that we have been quite disorganised and haphazard, and our priorities have not aligned well with what has actually been happening in our lives. There's something in the discipline of Physics called Chaos Theory, and we've been seeing it at work in our days a lot lately! So this week, our Parenting Hour was devoted to a conversation about the way we use - and waste - the time God has given us.

I talked *at* Jeff for a while, then he responded, while I interjected. From this, you can probably gather that I thought he had a problem. Well, being honest - and after a week listening to the Holy Spirit convicting me - I am as much to blame for our time mis-management as Jeff is.

You might have noticed I haven't posted much this week. Well, our Parenting Hour was to blame. Having talked the problem through together, Jeff went to work on Tuesday and developed a general weekly Schedule for his pastoral duties (Bible reading, prayer, sermon prep, admin, pastoral visits, meetings, leading Bible studies, etc) which he will be taking to the elder with oversight for him to confirm. This Schedule will see Jeff home around 5pm most evenings, and also home for one or two afternoons as well to offset his evening responsibilities. Jeff gave me a To Do list of the things he wants me to prioritise in my day-to-day life, and surprise, surprise, blogging doesn't make the top five. My To Do list also includes a Routine for the evenings, a sort of loose, micro-Schedule.

Here's my To Do List:
1) Keep on top of the washing (clothes, towels, sheets, etc)
2) Have dinner ready to eat by 6pm each night
3) Do a weekly shop Thursday night
4) Host playdates or dinners about once a week (this requires the house to be reasonably tidy and clean)
5) Evening Routine:
5:30pm play room tidied, kids into pjs / cook dinner (one of us sorts out kids, the other sorts out food)
6:00pm dinner
6:30pm Read Aloud Story / Dishes (one of us reads, the other washes up)
7:00pm kids into bed

You know, Jeff isn't asking me to do much at all. But I really do have to be honest and admit that I struggle with doing the necessary tasks involved in home making for our family of six.

The BSF lesson this week was on the Korahite rebellion (Numbers 16-17). Korah already had a very important job. He was a Levite from the clan of Kohath, so he was responsible for the care and transport of the items from the Tablernacle, such as the altar. But this vitally important duty wasn't enough for Korah. He went to Moses and Aaron and declared that since all the Israelites were holy (set apart as God's people), he wanted to be able to act as priest as well. The problem was, God had chosen Aaron to be his High Priest, not Korah, as He made clear when the earth opened up and swallowed Korah and his fellow insurrectionists. It is God's decision of what good works we should do, and who should do them. We need to follow His will for us. I need to follow God's will for me!

I have realised this week, since we first talked on Monday evening, that I am a bit like Korah. I don't want to be! But I do tend to look at the jobs God has for me - washing, cooking, cleaning, reading story after story to the kids - as mundane. They don't seem as interesting as other tasks, mainly outside the home, where I get to think and talk and teach and be publicly known. It isn't that I want to compete with someone else's God-given ministry, but rather that I am not content with my own. Jeff and I had a "Conversation on the Couch" yesterday afternoon about this tendency of mine. He said that we both can suffer the same problem. We see a need, or an opportunity, and we begin to serve... but then, once things are going steadily, we often become discontent and start to look for new needs, new opportunities. I am struggling with the allure of The Next Good Thing. Now that we have recognised the problem, however, how do I go about solving it, before I turn into an open insurrectionist like Korah? I really do not want to follow in Korah's footsteps, right down to the earthy grave of an enthusiastic but wasted life.

I need to focus my energies and attention on the Right Here Right Now Good Thing. But how do I do that? Jeff suggested I take the Nike approach: Just Do It. As with so many elements of the Christian Life, when I know the right thing to do and do it, even if I don't want to do it, I will find that my obedience brings God's blessing of a contented heart.

I think I have been seeing that blessing already this week. Yesterday morning, while I hung up the washing, Samuel chattered to me about all the things he was imagining (mostly he likes to play being a fireman), and when they heard our voices, the back fence neighbours popped their heads over for a chat, which was lovely. We compared pea plants (theirs are several metres tall: Sandra says its the sheep manure) and Bob told me about his latest efforts to penetrate the Kokoda-like jungle of a certain corner of their back yard, which is otherwise very well maintained.

On Wednesday, knowing that I was hosting the BSF Fellowship in the afternoon, I had the girls do their penmanship before BSF, setting them part of a verse related to the week's lesson, which they then gave to their BSF Children's Leaders. It turned out that I had chosen the very verse that was the children's verse for that day: Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority." Abigail in particular was very pleased to be able to give Mrs Anna and Mrs Bonnie her work, and the surprise on Mrs Anna's face when she saw what verse they had written made me feel nice inside as well.
Abigail's tracework and illustration:Anna's copywork (straight from her Bible, not from a hand written example):
On Tuesday, we had chicken spring rolls (Delicious! Thanks Janine) with chips, peas and carrot for dinner, and I read a long chapter from Anne of Green Gables. Actually, I've read nine chapters from that book this week. It was quite remarkable to see how even Joshua, who is a very typical six-year-old boy, given to finding amusement in burps, calmed down and listened quietly when Anne was being read. Jeff and I have enjoyed the reading almost as much as the kids; the chapter "A new departure in flavouring" had some amusing and instructional quotations regarding the arrival of a new minister and his wife to Avonlea. The following quote shall perhaps provide an appropriate ending to this post:
"Mrs Lynde says that sound doctrine in the man and good housekeeping in the woman make an ideal combination for a minister's family."


Meredith said...

It has been a busy week in your home and your heart. Thank you for this beautiful testimony. I found myself thanking God for the way you and Jeff submitted to each other. Your humbling of yourselves before God, your leaders and one another is a wonderful witness and encouragement. Store this story up - it is one to share with other women beyond the readership of your blog.

The stuff of "keeping house" sometimes seems such a small life. But I am reminded of your own motto..."As I am equipping my children for the life God planned for them, God is equipping me for the life He planned for me."

It has been a great encouragement to me to discover as many blogs as I care to read of women who are conducting a small but significant cultural revolution that says that it is OK to stay at home and look after house and home - and look after all who dwell there in!

When I feel discontent and think my own life is very small (especially when I see others achieving in areas in which I too used to shine) I need to remind my heart to listen to my head - where I know that launching my kids into life the best I can and loving my husband the best I can is the best work in the world.

I don't do it perfectly. The weed collection outside and my dust collection inside, the baskets of washing laying around and the number of times Domino Pizza cooks for us in a month will tell you that.

But it is good to be reminded of the goal and if we can be of encouragement to one another to press on then that is good. Thank you for encouraging me. And many others too I am sure.

Have a great week.

Sharon said...

Thank you Meredith.

Mrs. Edwards said...

Yes, good reminders to keep the right things at the top of the priority list. I'm reassessing some of these things as well. Speaking of which---Saturday morning chores beckon!

Alison Lacey said...

Great to read that we are not the only one's having these sort of conversations. After having a minor melt down (in-laws arrived a day early for a visit, the house was okay but just not where I would have liked it) Pete and I have developed a schedule for the house work as I was beginning to feel very overwhelmed. One suggestion if you are not already doing it is a meal plan for the week (ours is still relatively flexible)we go through our calendar for the week; so simple meal (less than 30 minutes) are on those days we are getting home late or only one of us is at home. Its also made shopping easier none of that buying food just in case we cook that.

Sharon said...

Hi Ali,

Yes, I do shop from a weekly menu plan. I have done for ages because I am not the type of cook who can just look at a fridge or pantry full of food and think, "Ah ha! I have the makings of Cuisine XYZ in here!"

Dinner-wise, our week is really quite predictable. We know well ahead of time that Mondays we will not eat together (that is Brigades' Night) and Sundays the adults will eat after church, but the kids will eat at church (altho' that is possibly set to change). We also know that Wed, Thur and Fri we have something on that means that the kids must go to bed on time, so dinner cannot be put off. I have learnt that frozen chicken nuggets, frozen vegetables (peas, corn and carrots) and frozen seasoned chips is a meal that takes less that five minutes of my time, provided I actually get everything in the oven in time to get it out in time to eat it! So we always keep these things in the fridge-freezer, with a back up bag of each in the chest freezer. We have other meals that seem to work well on specific days but not on others. Maybe I should post a sample menu.

Regarding scheduling chores, that is a great idea, and it is even better that Pete and you worked it out together! That way you both know where you stand. But don't be afraid to re-visit the schedule in a month and say, "this works well but that doesn't and needs to change". A schedule only keeps working if you keep tweaking it as circumstances change. With Spring finally here, we might see some better wash-drying weather, and possibly more BBQ or salad-style meals, which will require different timing.

~ Sharon

argsmommy said...

I think this a common struggle for many Christian women, but I think you are approaching it with grace and wisdom. It is especially difficult when you are a willing and capable servant (in your case, I think, extremely capable), and you see a definite need. But how wonderful your obedience resulted in such fruit from your children!