"Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food — you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves." -- Acts 27:33-36
Paul certainly had his share of crazy adventures. Arrested, on a boat that was clearly sailing in the wrong time of the year to be doing so, headed off to face Caesar and spread the Gospel throughout Rome. This passage of Scripture indicates a time on the ship when it was being flung around the Mediterranean, hurling through harbors and bouncing off islands, and everyone was on high alert. They knew death could be right in the middle of the next wave of the nor'easter.
Adrenaline was pumping.
There was no time to sit and chew the fat, much less food. There was no time to think about the ramifications of what they were doing or that the Roman government didn't understand proper timing of marine travels. The frenzied nature of their lives had every sailor and soldier on board calling for his mama. Peace? Please...no time for peace, let alone trips to the bathroom.
So Paul called a time-out.
"For the last fourteen days," he said, "you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food -- you haven't eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive."
Sometimes I read a passage and think, "Now that'll teach."
As a stay-at-home mom of four, we have our share of frenzy. Our oldest is 20, has autism, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, ADHD, spinal stenosis -- Lord have mercy, when I write about Sam's difficulties and opportunities for God's grace, I get tired just reading about it. Then, Jacob, 17, has ADHD and is a senior in high school, preparing to graduate and go off to Western Carolina University. Lord have mercy. Then, my beautiful step-daughter Ellison, 16, diagnosed 12 years ago with diabetes. Growing up way faster than her daddy likes. Then, there's Laura -- a four year old ball of energy. My elderly mother lives with us along with two 9 month old kittens. Lord have mercy!
This passage from Acts reminds me that I cannot be the person God intends for me to be -- wife, mother, writer, Sunday School teacher, daughter, sister, friend -- without calling a time-out in the midst of the frenzy and taking nourishment. Nourishment could be in the form of a healthy but filling lunch, not skipping breakfast, or having a dinner-date with my husband -- or it could mean not neglecting time with God.
I struggle with this last one. So many Christians have the discipline to have an early-morning quiet time with the Father. I have a confession: this stresses me out. I cannot compare myself with other Christians with their morning devotions. I have tried. But the moment some child (and I include teens and young adults in that description) smells the coffee brewing or toast toasting, that means one thing: Mom is Up. One cannot have quiet time when another has declared Mom is Up. If I don't brew coffee, their sharp albeit selective hearing can hear the pop of a new orange juice container lid -- and morning devotions are out the window.
But nourishment from the Father in His Word is what I seek. I have bedtime devotions. I read the Bible at night, in bed, before lights out. I write when I can but often its late at night when all are asleep, and my fingers can type ever so quietly. Before I get up in the morning, I pray, and most days I pray this simple but heartfelt prayer: "Lord, let me be a blessing to someone today, in Your Name." I pray in the shower. I pray while driving my herd to wherever it is we're going.
I remind myself though, that Jesus had to get away from the crowds too. He had to have communion via prayer with the Father. If it is good for Jesus, it is good for us. It is necessary to the Christian life to have time with Christ. In fact, it is also good for kids to see their parents exercise their faith by having quiet and not-so-quiet times with God.
So, how do we gain nourishment? How do we put ourselves in time-out so we won't go Nebuchadnezzar-crazy in the frenzy of life itself? Because sometimes life just hits all at once and piles it on. We don't even think about stopping to use the bathroom let alone eat correctly. When we do go to the bathroom, there's always some little kid in there with you. When we can sit down to enjoy a meal, there's always some little kid who won't eat the food on their plate but wants to share yours -- despite it being the same food. How do we balance the needs of the whole when we have one who requires so much more?
As a mom of four kids and one senior citizen with various special needs, living in a cramped 1,200 square feet home where there are no good hiding spaces (particularly when Mom has squirreled away a piece of chocolate she has no intention of sharing), I have some experience and ideas on how to carve out time so you can indeed be the Follower of Christ and the person Father calls you to be.
We are called by Christ to serve Him by serving others. But when our cup is empty, we risk burnout...more than that, we risk having heart attacks, strokes, or saying something we do not mean. Psalm 23:5 states, "You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." The Lord can only overflow our cups with blessings when the cups are empty of chaos. When Paul broke the bread, and began to eat it, all the others on the ship were encouraged, and ate bread themselves. When we are nourished and fed, the cup overflows to our whole family, and everyone is nourished.
In the Trenches with Jesus,
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