Ah, the life of a mom. Nothing ever goes quite as expected or planned. Add in a husband who loves to “live life on the edge”. Check. Add in ministry. Check. Add in pastoring a church. Check again. And you’ve got yourself a recipe for constant interruptions.
When we first got married, I was so unorganized and free spirited that the interruptions and unexpected things of life didn’t affect me the way they do now. Now that I’ve read a few organization blogs, use a planner, and generally try to keep some semblance of order in our household, my stress levels just don’t hold the same as I try to desperately hold onto the tenuous grasp I have on routine and order.
Ministry and especially pastoring a church brings a whole new level of interruptions. You can guarantee that if your church is budding and vibrant (as a church hopefully should be), there will be plenty of needs that constantly pull on you (particularly if you are a stay at home or work from home mom- people just seem to think that if you’re home, you are basically doing nothing anyways and should therefore be available to answer every beck and call…not true in the slightest as all my SAHM’s said AMEN, but I digress). The reality is however, that if you are going to have the heart of Christ, you sometimes must abandon your self-preservation and fully give yourselves to others.
It’s interesting in the book of Philippians, that Paul points out and commends the work of Epaphroditus saying “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem, because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.” (Philippians 2:29-30 NKJV) This man came close to death in order to pursue the work of Christ. Paul doesn’t rebuke him for this and say “Now, now… time to slow down Epaphy! Don’t overdo it!”Not at all, he commends him for his acts and attitude. Nowhere really in the Bible does it tell us to protect our precious schedules and routines and slow it down with helping others. In New Testament Christianity, nothing was more important than loving and helping one another. Now, we hit the nitty gritty of this. How exactly do we make ourselves available to help others while maintaining our own routines, homes and sanity? How do we function as God has called us; in excellence in our jobs, as mothers, wives, etc. and yet still be able to respond to the interruptions that loving others inevitably brings? How do we keep our cool when life doesn’t go as expected or planned? Here’s a few points to consider that I have learned over the years:
I have found that in my craziest seasons of interruptions….driving people to unexpected appointments, watching a single mom’s sick child, rushing to a hospital to visit someone in need, unexpected house guests, etc…that the only thing that keeps me sane and at peace is prayer. Abiding in Christ is not just a nice catchphrase, and even though it sounds simple enough, it is one of the hardest things to do in actuality. Truly learning to abide in Christ comes through a life of prayer and simply learning to walk with Christ. Daily prayer time is vital, and learning to constantly talk to Jesus throughout the day will give you the peace that can sustain you when you feel completely overwhelmed. As a pastor’s daughter, I always grew up knowing this well but it wasn’t until recently, when I faced a seriously interruptive season that I finally understood that this really is the answer. On a particular overwhelming day, I highlighted these passages from Anne Ortlund’s Disciplines of the Heart as she quotes Oswald Chambers, “Think of the things that take you out of abiding in Christ – Yes, Lord, just a minute, I have got this to do; yes, I will abide when once this is finished; when this week is over… Begin to abide now. In the initial stages it is a continual effort until it becomes so much the law of life that you abide in Him unconsciously. Determine to abide in Jesus wherever you are placed.” True peace and rest in the midst of the storms and chaos of life can only truly come from Christ.
2. Have a routine
Kind of sounds counter productive…having a routine just to interrupt it, but hear me out. I have to reference again myself when I first got married. I cannot describe how unbelievably unorganized I was. Constantly losing keys, forgetting appointments, feeling unsure all the time..it was not a nice feeling at all. So of course, when interruptions came, I was less stressed than I would be now because my mentality was more or less “Why not? Add some more madness to the pile!” When the interruptions were over however, it took me even more time to recover from them because I had no plans of any kind in place. I will reference Anne Ortlund again (her Disciplines series are some of my favourite books). She states in her book Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman referencing the importance of planning and goal setting “Yet, if at any stage of life you feel like you’re ‘flying by the seat of your pants’, taking each day as it comes without having anticipated it, planned for it, shaped it, and prayed over it, then take time off and get back to poring over your goals. Then you will control your days, instead of letting them control you.” If you have plans, an active to-do list, and a routine; when the interruptions come, you can then quickly figure out “What exactly am I not going to get done because of this interruption? When is the next best time slot for me to accomplish this task/these tasks?” Then write it in your calendar/planner and move on with a sense of peace knowing that although something didn’t get done, you have a plan in place to recover.
3. Learn when to say no/Learn HOW to say no
Sometimes we do have to say no. For this concept however, take a moment to consider your personality. I have a girl in my church who is the polar opposite of me. She’s fun, always down for a good time, always on the go, loves to be out with people, and is always willing to drop everything and anything to go help anyone. Me, on the other hand…to me, fun is just an F word. I like books, quiet, studying theology and doctrine, being home, and being alone. (What a charmer, I know). Taking this into account, I can then pretty much quickly surmise that out of the two of us, she is the one who probably needs to learn to say no more often, whereas I need to more often embrace the call of saying yes to helping others in need. What about you? Do you naturally love to be out and about, helping and being with others? Do you maybe need to take some time to quiet down and invest in your walk with God, your own home and family? Then read on. The rest of us whose natural inclination is to be introverted and inwardly directed, it is probable (although depending on your specific situations) that we must take a little time to turn outwards. An excellent book I would recommend for this specific topic is Lysa Terkeurst’s “The Best Yes”. A great read on understanding the difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God. Understanding priorities will also give you direction when choosing when to say yes to interruptions and the needs of people. If at any time, your relationship with God, your church attendance, or your home and family are being neglected, it might be time to consider saying an occasional no. Those things must be a priority, it wouldn’t be right if a woman was to throw herself into all kinds of charitable work while forgetting to spend time with God or her own family.
Another important factor that goes along with routine, is that you can choose how to say no. The other day, someone asked if they could come over one morning to talk to me and get some encouragement. She was flustered and stated she needed to come over “immediately”. I was already feeling at max capacity, but felt that I needed to spend time with this girl. Instead of saying no, I sat and looked at my routine and schedule and figured out how to best plan this “interruption”. Mornings are for housework, doing homeschooling with my eldest son, exercise and prayer/reading. I asked if she could work with my schedule and instead come during the boys nap/quiet time. She could, and it worked out great! Some occasions don’t lend themselves to being so easy to reschedule, but when you can, try to keep control over when your interruptions fall. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to work with your schedule and routine.
4. Learn when to say yes
Ultimately, this is where the rubber meets the road. There have been many times where someone has had a need and my immediate thought is “How can I get out of helping in this situation?” Christ often reminds me though that “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17 KJV). Yes, often helping others in need will interrupt your schedule but are we so caught up in ourselves that we can no longer feel the burden of someone in need? Can I still be interrupted for the cause of Christ or have I become so inwardly directed that my precious house, routine, and family time can’t be bothered?
In conclusion, interruptions will always be an inevitable part of life. What will you do when they come? I hope and pray that we can firstly, find a constant oasis of peace and tranquility through abiding in Christ. Next, may we show diligence in planning our own time and schedules so that we can respond to needs without flipping out and feeling overwhelmed. A simple pencil crossing out and rescheduling a task can make all the difference in the world. May we also know when to say no with grace, kindness and confidence if we genuinely cannot meet a need. But may we also make ourselves available for the cause and burden of Christ, allowing ourselves to “gladly spend and be spent” for others.