Monday, September 29, 2014

Seeking a Day of Rest

Ministry Mama, when is your day of rest?

Haha! Hoo-hoo! What a joke, you're probably thinking. DAY? Did you say DAY of rest?

The other day I read another missionary lady's Facebook post sharing her great discouragement in the ministry and desire to quit. In typical Facebook mode, I quickly shot back a response something like this: "Take some time to rest and refresh yourself in the Lord. Everything will look better after you've rested from ___ ministry."

Then I wondered at myself. I was giving advice that I rarely have applied personally.

I happen to be married to a turbo-charged Energizer Bunny. He loves to work and constantly introspects about laziness (this is a good thing! Laziness is a common sin of missionaries.) We have often had disagreements discussions in our married life about taking a "day off," what a "day off" constitutes, etc., until we got to the point where he has a generally scheduled self-appointed "day off" which he may use for "work" around the home or just to read a book or write or whatever. But he can't do "ministry" (if possible) on that day.

Our teammate is very similar to my husband (another good thing!) So after years of their wives asking them to slow down one day per week, our teammate asked me recently, "So when do you take a day off?"

That stumped me. How does a missionary housewife and mom take time off? Not even a day, but just a chunk of time?

We are busy with caring for our children, cooking, and housework.

We are doing that in foreign countries where everything takes more time.

On top of that, most of us homeschool our children. That deserves its own line.
Homeschooling is a full-time job.

We are doing all of the above + interruptions of nationals (depending on the culture you are serving).

We can't count shopping or running errands as time off. Often those days can be more stressful than staying home to homeschool the kids on a day with meltdowns (the kids', that is) and a head cold.

And Sunday does not count as a day off. For many missionary women, Sunday can be the most draining work day of the week. You have to think and teach the most important Book in the world in another language. There is no nursery, so you still have to care for your children, (fish those pacifiers out of the dirt, take the toddlers to the outhouse--don't TOUCH anything!, is my 7-year old climbing that fig tree??), and on top of that you are usually the children's Sunday School teacher, "bus ministry" helper for all those kids whose parents don't attend, choir director, cook, sweeper, whatever. After church, you may host church members or visitors for a meal at your house.

Compound all of the above with a personality that tends towards being introverted or spiritual gifting that may not be service or teaching.

Add on a slow spiritual drain because:
  • you don't fully hear sermons for years on end because it's in another language or you are busy keeping little ones quietly occupied
  • you are not having meaningful quiet time at home (because of distractions)
  • and you are constantly giving spiritually--you are sharpening, but no one is sharpening you; you are probably the strongest example of Christianity around. now, anyone who is not a missionary mama of many (MMM) is officially categorizing this post as a complaining rant. That's not my point. Up till now I've just been answering potential objections by other MMMs who may smirk at me for bringing up the "day off" topic. I know that there's really no time for a day off. I myself haven't figured out what exactly to do about it.
The Creation of the Sun by Michelangelo
The Creation of the Sun by Michelangelo
But God took a day off. Jesus went off by Himself to pray and be with His heavenly Father. Whatever your view of the "sabbath" or the Lord's Day, we can still appeal to God's example from the beginning of creation that we were made to rest once in a while. So we need to figure out how we can find time to rest and refresh ourselves in the Lord.

If you've ever been put on bedrest, especially with other small children already under foot, you know that when forced to, an amazing amount of important work or ministries can be put on hold. God does not need a frantic, frazzled Martha counting the half-hour slots in her day to see where she could possibly fit in that new ministry that needs to be done. God prizes the meek and quiet spirit that Mary showed, taking time to sit at Jesus' feet and learn of Him who is meek and lowly in heart. His burden is light.

I have read several blog posts by homeschooling mothers who speak of scheduling breaks or rest times for mama so that she doesn't get burned out. How much more should those thoughts apply to missionary mamas?
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
So missionary mama, please share your thoughts. How have you made time to rest? Do you take a chunk of time daily--maybe two hours each afternoon to nap, read a book, or read your Bible? My friend listens to sermons in her spare time, especially while working in the kitchen. When do you find time to hear another preacher's thoughts in English? Do you take a day off or two afternoons per week, maybe Saturday and Sunday? I realize you still have to cook and maybe do a load of laundry or two, but when do you find time to re-energize personally?

I do think it's important for our longevity in homeschooling and ministry. And if something is important, we prioritize it. So back to my question: how have YOU done this?


Joyful said...

Some great thoughts about the need to take time off as a missionary momma. I look forward to hearing from more in this situation. I'm not a missionary momma but I still find it very difficult to take time off. I'm always working on it and try to take little breaks through the day or week whenever I can. xx

Lou Ann Keiser said...

Two hours! Never did that, BUT as a missionary mother, homeschooler, and music lesson taxi driver, there were several things I did. One was to establish a quiet time. I did it after midday meal dishes were washed, around 3:30 p.m. (Spain), and I just went to our bedroom, shut the door and poured my heart out to my Lord, read His Word, and sometimes even nodded off. Rarely did I have more than 30 minutes, but it refreshed my soul. Another thing we did as a family was "family day." We didn't do it every week, but we did try to make it fairly regular, maybe once a month when they were in school. We'd take sandwiches and do something fun not too far from home. We also took our family vacations (after our youngest was 8) in September each year. I believe those times were important to recharging and resting our minds. I'm not sure they actually rested our bodies, but it was great to "get away" if even for a few hours. We did these things together as a family.

MrsJohn said...

In the midst of weaning baby I realized that if I could take the time to feed baby, I could still make sure to take time to feed myself when baby didn't need my food anymore. Unless there is an absolute REAL emergency {not the kind that come with 4 kiddos!}, I do not leave my room in the morning until I've read my Bible and prayed.