6:38 am on Monday. The Dude, my almost seven-year-old early riser, is out of bed, dressed, and clunking distractedly through his morning routine. The Superhero Princess, four-and-a-half, is still sleeping in her room and I will not dare wake her until about one minute before we have to leave to take her brother to school. Not a morning person myself (The Dude gets that from his father), I groggily set a piece of toast and a banana on the kitchen island in front of The Dude and shuffle on slipper-clad feet back into the living room.
On the way, I try not to trip over the shoes, coats, and backpacks randomly strewn throughout the entryway, in desperate need of some organization. I heave a deep sigh as I plod past our dining room table, piled high with the remnants of yesterday’s car clean-out, begging to be sorted. On the adjacent sectional sofa sit three piles of laundry my husband had “done” the previous day and left for me to sort and fold. The demands are calling. The expectations are pressing in. The hustle that this day, and every day, requires is beginning anew.
But before I tackle any of it, I make my way over to the aforementioned easy chair with a cup of tea and pull a blanket onto my lap. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, let it out, and then…I just sit. I breathe in, I breathe out, I whisper a word or two of prayer or scripture to help my wandering mind focus, and I just sit. I don’t pick up my devotional, I don’t open my Bible, I don’t even put words to my prayers yet, except maybe to tell God, “Good morning.” I use these very first moments I have to myself this day to cultivate stillness and make room for God.
This routine was born a few months ago at the library when I picked up a book on Christian contemplative practice. I’m not sure what I expected when I saw the term, “Christian contemplation” in the title. Maybe I thought I would learn how to meditate on passages of Scripture or the mysteries of God.
The first few chapters were about quieting the mind, focusing on breath and just a simple “prayer word” or two. I tried it out as I read. It wasn’t easy but figured I could get used to it. I then turned to the next chapter, ready for the next step. Imagine my dismay when I realized there wasn’t a Step Two. That was it. A priest with a Ph.D. wrote an entire book on thinking about nothing. About not thinking at all, actually. (Note: I would tell you what the book was, but I’m still such a novice I’m afraid I would do this man and his wonderful work a disservice by associating my clumsy musings with it).
Being the external processor I am, I reached out to a friend of mine, who is a seminary graduate and steeped in knowledge of spiritual practices. “I’m not sure I get it,” I told her. “I’m just supposed to sit there and think about NOTHING? Not even, like, Scripture or anything?” She hadn’t read the book, but she was familiar with the concept and yes, she said, that was the general idea. She confessed that she had never really “gotten it” either, but she knew many of her seminary colleagues and professors swore by the practice.
I was tempted to abandon the whole idea, return the book to the library, and move on to the next thing. But something nagged at me—a still small voice, if you will, that told me that I really should give it more of a chance. Just because it’s not my jam doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value, and it doesn’t hurt to try.
So, every morning, I’ve been trying. I would love to tell you these moments yield deep spiritual insights and all-surpassing peach each and every time. I wish I could impart wisdom born of mastery in contemplation and meditation—but in reality, my attempts thus far have been the spiritual equivalent of a newborn fawn stumbling awkwardly in circles, tripping over her own gangly, unsteady legs. But even in this early phase, awkward, unseasoned, and frequently interrupted by little people who haven’t yet learned how to wait for Mommy’s attention, this practice is changing the landscape of my life.
It’s not just the act of putting God first in my day that has been important. It goes beyond the sacrifice of time. It even goes beyond making the worldly to-do list take a backseat to the priority of time with God. What has made the biggest difference is the fact that I’m cultivating empty space in my life—unplanned, unfilled space, and offering it to God.
Life is so full, especially for a mom with young kids. There is always something to do, someone vying for our attention, and in the rare moments when we find ourselves with nothing demanding our immediate attention, we have television, computer, and phone screens to give us input. I’m not sure I ever noticed how little room there was in my life until I started trying to create it. I didn’t realize just how busy my mind is, how instinctively it looks for the next thing to keep it busy. As the hymn says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it!”
This stillness I’m cultivating has started to permeate my life beyond the boundaries of these morning moments. When my preschooler is vociferously declaring, for the third time today, that she will never do what I say ever, I find myself breathing in, breathing out, and making space for God. When I’m scrolling through social media and feel comparison come knocking, threatening to steal my joy and mire me in defeat, I breathe in, breathe out, and make space for God. When the volume of my kids’ bickering reaches an all-time high, when someone cuts me off in traffic, when dinner is going to be late yet again, when I feel like my first grader will never remember to hang up his backpack and coat, and I’ll be reminding him twice a day until he leaves for college—I breathe in, breathe out, and make room for God.
The practice of cultivating stillness and space has been a sacred practice for generations of spiritual seekers, Christian and otherwise. But in this modern era with its constant noise and input, and in this mom-life with its perpetual demands and busyness, it takes on an importance and an urgency like never before. Its power to change and transform is perhaps greater now than it has ever been. And it’s changing and transforming me.
Featured image by Hill Smiley Photography
Tori Rask is a writer, wife, and mom living in the Pacific Northwest. She loves Jesus, music, reading, watching sports (but not playing them), drinking Jasmine tea, and connecting with other moms any chance she gets. Tori shares “Grace for the Real Stuff,” bout her faith journey and mom-life, on her blog. You can also connect with Tori on Instagram.
Our community is embarking on a challenge we hope will bring some peace to your busy-mama life! Join us for the Peaceful Home Challenge. Want in? Sign up to take the challenge here!