I went for many years without hardly enriching my own soul. They were years full of babies and sleep deprivation, endless meals and therefore dishes, exhaustion upon exhaustion. In my old blog of 10 years ago, I vividly recall a post entitled “The Mush of Motherhood” where I related the story of reading Hop on Pop to my kids and suddenly realized to my horror that I no longer recalled what or where Constantinople was. The waves of mothering had completely drowned me into a single identity. Mommy. Which is, don’t get me wrong, a wonderful and beautiful thing. But drowning isn’t normally a healthy activity and as I got older and had less babies crawling around, I finally remembered how to tread water and slowly got my nose up into the relieving air.
At first it felt weird to sit down and read a book again. It felt strange to cook something out of my comfort zone. It seemed selfish to say: go play, this is my quiet time. It also seemed wrong to spend my time on enrichment when there were people to visit, literature to distribute, christians to help.
But as I watched my sourdough bread successfully rise and as I remembered more and more about Constantinople and as I fell in love again with knowledge and growth and learning, there was a satisfaction, a peace, a wonderful stretching I realized I had been longing for.
I recently purchased Mother Culture by Karen Andreola. It is an incredibly beautiful and helpful book. If you are a female between the ages of 12 and 80, I highly, highly recommend it. My daughter is reading it simultaneously with me and it has been a blessing to both our lives. Learning to take those moments to refill and refresh to later pour out in service to those around you is truly an art. It has been a humbling but such a wonderful journey to this place of need and hope.
So after about 20 years, I am taking up embroidery again. I’ve finally gotten on to Podcasts which is like getting to have coffee with a bunch of smart people every single day. I’m back to reading books longer than 200 words. Back to language study. To the study of education. To writing things outside of my league and outside of this blog.
I’d like to encourage you, especially the mothers and fathers in the trenches. A dear friend shared this Amy Carmichael quote with me quite awhile ago. It’s in my Commonplace journal and now in my heart permanently.
Now you are deep in what seems to me a peculiarly selfless service. The spiritual training of children must be that. You work for the years you will not see. You work for the Invisible all the time, but you work for the Eternal, so it is all worthwhile.Amy Carmichael
The question is, can I fulfill that selfless service if I am empty, void and dry? If my own soul is wandering though a lonely desert, how will I be able to to quench the thirst of my children, or of the people in my neighborhood?
This quote is not just about teaching them to memorize scripture, though that is a vital part of our job. This is about living before them, discipling them into the paths of righteousness, of wisdom, of the ways illuminated with the glory of God.
So is my taking time to relearn embroidery and reading large volumes valid?
Is it valid for my children’s spiritual growth to see their mother try and try again? Is it valid to share life lessons from either literature or nonfiction with their yearning hearts? It is helpful for them to see they are not the only students, the only ones learning, but rather to understand we will all eternally seat ourselves, like Mary, at the feet of the omniscient Savior?
Aside from those (and many other) points, these things teach me patience as well. They give me time to settle and reflect. They are a chance to come back to my children an hour later with fresh love and joy to see their dear little faces.
So, take the time to enrich your own soul. Read some poetry, learn a skill, stretch your brain. It will, guaranteed, enrich your family as well.
I took the kids to a museum the other day. For years we’ve taken our kids to museums. Mainly because we love museums. It was a soul enriching experience for the both of us. But…there was always a screaming toddler in a stroller trying to topple stelas and we’d fly through shouting random facts at the kids while furtively pulling out the cheerios. This time, there was still a screaming toddler trying to topple stelas, but the difference was that it was the older kids telling me the information, and it was me gently pulling them along as they lingered and lingered….and lingered. Truly we work for the years we don’t see. Truly we work to make them see the spiritual in everything. For them to grieve other peoples who did not fear the true God, for them to be rightly horrified by certain aspects of history, to watch them discern and make personal connections….it was, without exaggerating, one of the most fulfilling, full-circle hours I have ever experienced as a mother.
So, keep on. Keep working for the invisible, starting with your own soul.
(I feel compelled to edit to add that this type of enrichment does not, of course, in any way replace the most necessary type of soul growth found only in the presence of God and His Word, as well as supplements like hymns and explanatory teaching books. No enrichment can feed us as His Word feeds; any other merely points us on to Him.