If you are a mom, leftovers have a special place in your heart.
You might hate them because if they are left over, that might mean no one wanted to eat them in the first place. [I always get a huge kick out of the chefs on Chopped who get leftovers baskets and are like “Yea, I don’t eat leftovers. Why would I?” Well, because it’s what people do. But we’re not here to talk about Chopped no matter how much I love it.]
You might love leftovers. It means you successfully made more food than your brood can eat. [That’s how I feel at least. I liken it to climbing Everest.] It also means I have hassle-free lunches and, if I did a really good job, a night of no cooking coming my way. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS. [Think Helen Parr in The Incredibles for her love of leftover night. Ahhhh.]
But I’ll be honest that when I saw the title for this week’s dare, I didn’t think of dinner.
I thought of how many times my family gets my leftovers.
How many times I give everything I have to give to someone or something else and with my husband and kids, I’m just spent? Exhausted? At the end of my rope? Snappy? Distant?
It happens more than I’d care to admit.
I get distracted. I get busy. I get tired to a point of not wanting to communicate. I yell. I snap. I get on my computer and shut out the world around me.
One of my favorite ways that I’ve seen this put is by Dr. Rienow of Visionary Family Ministries. In his book Visionary Parenting he says that before God started shifting his thinking, he could tell you the “right answer” to the question “If your boss called you on one phone with an emergency and your wife called you at the same time with an emergency, where would you go?”. The “right” answer would be to go to his wife. But he realized that in every day life, the same wasn’t holding true. He knew his actions needed to reflect the priorities of God, marriage, children, job, etc if they were to impactful priorities.
This shift changed how he interacted with his family. Instead of leftovers going to his kids and crumbs going to his wife, his actions showed them as his priorities.
What does this look like for us?
Well, first I think we have to get our priorities straight.
I have been at more than one moms’ group, full of Christian women who freely admit that their husband falls somewhere down their priority list after their kids, their moms and/or sisters, or possibly a best friend. Husband who have heard it from their wife’s own mouth and now “know their place”. *Sigh*
When I was in college, I worked in the business office. And one of the VP’s of the university kept a paper hanging above his desk of his priority relationships. In really large type at the top of the page it said “God” then in smaller type was his wife’s name, then in smaller type and all on the same line were his children’s names, and then in decreasing type size with decreasing importance were other things on his priority list. I read this every time I was in his office. I thought “What a cool reminder to see every minute of the day.”
Then I read in Visionary Parenting that Dr. Rienow has a similar approach. He tells his children that he loves God the most, then their mother, then them. And if they ask why he explains that he can’t really love them best unless he has God and their mother in the right place.
It’s really easy – too easy in fact – to forget where our priorities lie. Who is the most important person. Which is the most important relationship.
So many moms believe that their kids need to be first. What I’ve seen of moms who do this is that they hold on to their children in unhealthy ways as they get older and then once the kids are out of the house, no longer remember how to be anything but this child’s mother making their marriage very difficult.
On the other hand, it’s easy, especially if you’re married to a good guy, to make him your first priority. It seems so close to in line with what God has for us that it seems ok. That is until we let them down in some way, which by the way, we will. Then all of the sudden, our source of love and identity is not longer seeing us in the best light and we feel like crud. And it can get more and more difficult to bounce back from that.
First, and foremost our relationship with God has to be the top priority. I am confident that figuring out to get some “quiet time” in your day when you can’t remember what quiet sounds like seems like an impossible task. I made some suggestions in this post but I read recently in Jesus Calling a quote that I think all of us could really take to heart.
Stillness of soul is increasingly rare in this world addicted to noise and speed. I am pleased with your desire to create a quiet space where you and I can meet. Don’t be discouraged by the difficulty of achieving this goal. I monitor all of your efforts and am blessed by each of your attempts to seek My Face. (Jesus Calling, Sarah Young, p99)
Try something. Just your efforts are a blessing.
Before your feet hit the floor, start with a prayer dedicating the day to the Lord, asking for His guidance and provision.
Use your phone or online calendar to send you a verse or a reminder.
Put a book like Jesus Calling in your bathroom.
Get a one year bible reading plan (there’s usually one in the front of your bible). Even if it takes you three years to complete you have something to look to for ideas of what to read.
Get your kids involved. Memory verses. Bible story quiet books. Reading along with you. It’ll be fun.
But do something.
And also know that God sees and He knows.
Then your marriage needs to be your priority.
I know that time and money are tight. Going out may not be an option on your budget.
So two suggestions are to ask for gift cards for birthdays and Christmases so you can have date nights out. I think getting out of the house together and without kiddos is important.
But you can also set up weekly date nights at home. There are TONS of posts on pinterest for at home date nights. At our house, we just take turns planning. It could mean a board game, a movie, a show we’re both into, talking, planning, making dessert together, back rubs … it’s amazing really what we’ve come up with. And we’re not doing anything exciting – just spending time together. And we have it set up once a week on a night that we really try to guard as all family time and just spend time together after the kids go to bed.
And then it’s your kids. You may work or you may be home with them but because their needs are so immediate and everything seems big to them, we sometimes forget that we are having an adult conversation as we run to their aid. Unless they are hurt – and I know you KNOW that cry – there’s nothing wrong with having them wait a minute or five while you finish something. They can play in their rooms while you clean up the kitchen.
You can also teach them that you value them by spending time with them in ways that are fun for them and actually being there – limit phones and computers. But also teach them to play alone or with each other so you can have a chat with your husband.
After kids, it’s whatever God has placed on your heart.
It could be any number of things. Volunteering at school or church. Play groups. Bible study. Working. Blogging. Cooking whole foods. Couponing. Gardening. Crafts.
What is really important to remember is that at the beginning of a day you are given a certain number of M&M’s to get through the day. And as you pour into people and activities, you lose M&M’s. To have M&M’s left for who really needs them from you, you may need to ration and say “no” to protect your M&M’s. You can’t get to the end of the day with NO M&M’s but your child needs 3 and your husband needs 5 and you have none. (I borrowed this analogy from a dear friend of mine.)
Then they aren’t even getting leftovers.
They are getting nothing.
We need to really think about how we are letting go of our M&M’s through the day. While leftovers might be great in the fridge, they aren’t great for our families when they get our attention and emotional leftovers.
Knowing our priorities will help us maintain the M&M’s we need.
As we work on this, I have no doubt that God will place on our hearts the things that are for us to do and the things that we could let go of. (A book that I’ve read on this and thought had a lot of good examples is called Making Room for God in Your Hectic Life.)
“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
The dishes might not be done (seen) but you took time to be with God and your husband and your kids? It’s a good day. A great day.
I dare you today to make a list of your priorities and hang it up to look at it and help you remember throughout the busy days. Look at it often. Sometimes the actions look the same (taking the kids to the park, surprising husband at work with a treat, chatting with a friend on the phone) but it’s the heart and the motivation that need to be kept in check.
Be sure to check out The Respect Dare blogging team – Nina, author of The Respect Dare: 40 Days to a Deeper Connection with God and Your Husband and Debbie, especially for parents of teens, tweens, and twenty-somethings, and you can subscribe to me in the sidebar. And connect with me on twitter @LeahHeffner and on faceboook on The Respect Dare community page.
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