Too Busy to Play

A dear friend of mine named Joyce teaches 1st grade at a Christian school in a large city. She was telling me recently how busy these 6 and 7 years olds are with activities such as sports, dance, piano, drama lessons, gymnastics, and the list could go on. “These students and their parents tell me they don’t have time to read together or memorize their Bible verses because they are too busy,” said Joyce.

This is a common situation in our current culture. Well-meaning parents don’t want their children to “miss out” so they sign them up for every opportunity possible. They pick children up from school only to run them to the next lesson or practice, leaving little, if any, down time for the child to process their day, play outside, or…imagine this…have quiet time to think.

Children learn from play. They learn how to move their bodies, make things like forts or “play houses” out of leaves. They learn to negotiate with siblings or playmates – “May I have the next turn on the swing?”. Children also learn to problem solve when things don’t go as planned while they play. Play allows creativity as children create “meals” from hickory nuts, leaves, and pieces of gravel. Boys will make play weapons out of sticks, dried plant stalks, or pieces of bark and carry on battles with imaginary foes. I am constantly amazed to see the way our grandchildren “make-believe” with found objects collected all around our yard. This type of experiential learning does not take place riding in the car from one practice to another.

I fell victim to this malady as a mother of young children. I had visions of a string quartet practicing daily in our den and then playing for worship on Sundays. What if one of our children was a musical prodigy but never had the chance to play an instrument? Additionally, research shows that children who are musical do better in math! So I proceeded to offer (force?) each child a chance to play a stringed instrument. One by one, each quit to pursue other interests of their own choosing. Hannah was my one hold out and played the violin from six years old until she was thirteen. Then she begged to quit. My husband finally said to me, “Gayle, is Hannah taking lessons for you or herself?”  In all honesty I had to admit it was for me.

If a child has a strong interest and desire to become involved in music, sports, drama, etc. and shows a willingness to practice then this may be an important involvement for that child. But, it is essential as a parent to limit a child’s commitment of time and energy so that important things like family, fellowship, school, and PLAY don’t become neglected because of a schedule that is too busy. One of our children was a joiner – we teased that she would have joined the Communist Party if there had been one in Sylva. We had to say “no” several times until she learned to say “no” for herself.

Psalm 46:10

 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

This verse illustrates a part of our nature as human beings. We must be quiet in order to hear God, to distinguish His voice over all that goes on around us. We are created for God’s pleasure, to worship and honor Him. Our children need to learn to be comfortable with quiet time, to learn to be still. As they mature they will be able to recognize God’s voice even when He chooses to speak in a still small voice.

Full Time Ministry

This past Saturday a memorial service was held in honor of the life of Karen Minor, the aunt of our son-in-law Matt. Our daughter shared with me that the sanctuary was filled to overflowing and that it was the most meaningful celebration of life she had ever witnessed. Karen was a wife and mother who put her ministry to her family first. The exceptional aspect is that she made everyone feel like family!

When our daughter moved out to the Seattle area, Karen and her husband took our daughter’s family in their home for three months while waiting for their household goods to arrive from Hawaii. Once, when my husband and I visited, we were included in a family gathering which involved folks from three continents. She loved cooking foods from various countries, but food from India was especially enjoyed since she grew up in India with her missionary parents and sisters.

Karen’s life impressed me because she elevated the calling of being a wife and mother by her love and devotion to her family. One had the sense that she felt her work was a high calling which she embraced with joy. One of her sons shared at the service how blessed each of the four children has been by having Karen as their mother. I was reminded of Proverbs 31: 28a “Her children arise and call her blessed.” Karen had been a nurse and with her husband had served in sort term missions, most recently in Haiti, yet our daughter shared with me that the part of her life most evident at the service was her love for God which she shared so freely with family and friends. Karen lived as one serving in full-time ministry to her family and all those around her.

As mothers of young children, you will be pulled in many directions. Sometimes the pull comes from within – “am I doing all I should to serve God?” Sometimes it may come from well-intentioned people you fellowship with who want you to “teach this class” or “sponsor the youth group”. These may all be important and valuable opportunities to serve, but are they more important then serving your husband and children?” You may be tempted to feel guilty about saying “no” yet you shouldn’t.  I am saying that your full time ministry as a wife and mother is just as meaningful and valuable to our Heavenly Father as being a children’s Bible club leader, teacher, or nurse in a  foreign country.  There may be times that you are called to lead a Bible study etc. but there are two questions you need to ask yourself first:

1) Am I where God wants me to be?

2) Am I doing what God wants me to do?

These are questions we each must ask from time to time. Sometimes the answers are very obvious. If I am married and have children, I must be a wife and mother. If those conditions no longer apply, then I must ask God what His will for me is currently.

Matthew 25:21 says

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

God is calling each of us to faithfulness. In this verse Jesus is teaching His followers that we are to be faithful with what the Master (God) gives us. As mothers of young children – you have a high calling and a full time ministry!