I ventured into new territory this week. For the first time in nine years, I'm working outside our home. While I've done some freelance work from home nearly the entire time I've been a stay-at-home mom, this is the first time I've taken an assignment that requires me to go into an office every day. The change in routine has been a challenge, and my hat is off to you moms who work full time. It's a whole lot harder than I thought it would be.
In this first week of work, I've enjoyed being a part of an adult group of people where I'm not defined simply by whose mom I am, and I've had a chance to use some of those skills that have gotten rusty in the past nine years. I've discovered I don't really like getting up at 5:30 in the morning to be at work by 7, and juggling school, work, soccer, hockey, Girl Scouts and church is a huge challenge. But the thing I think I like the least about working in an office is the fact that I have to wear shoes all day, every day.
It's funny that with all the changes, I would pinpoint something so small to be the thing I dislike the most. But when I thought about it, this one thing throws my whole attitude out of kilter. I can't remember the last time I had to wear shoes for eight hours a day for four days in a row. I don't much care for shoes in general. I have hard-to-fit feet, and most of the time my shoes just don't fit exactly right. Add to that the fact that I have rheumatoid arthritis, which manifests itself the worst in the balls of my feet, and you can understand why shoes are not my favorite item of clothing.
When my feet hurt, much of my focus is in figuring out how to make that pain go away. Can I sit down? Can I take my shoes off without anyone noticing? Should I wear a different pair of shoes tomorrow? If I'm expending so much mental energy dealing with this one issue, I'm not able to focus on the other things that probably need my attention more than my poor feet. Small things have the ability to pull our focus away from the more important things.
There's a perfect example of this in the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus goes to visit Mary and Martha. Mary is so excited to be able to spend time with Jesus, but Martha is distracted by all the things that need to be done. In her desire to be the perfect hostess, Martha misses out on the important thing -- spending time with Jesus. Too often, our lives are so focused on the little issues -- carpools, activities, making lunches -- that we miss out on the important things -- taking time to listen, sharing Jesus with our kids, playing a silly game.
We want to teach our kids how to choose the important things in life and how not to get hung up in the little things -- the things that make their feet hurt.
- Have your kids slip on a pair of shoes that are too small. Talk about how uncomfortable the shoes feel. Point out that sometimes there are things in our lives that can make us uncomfortable and will distract us from the things that God wants us to do. We need to keep our focus on Jesus and not allow the small things that make us a little uncomfortable keep us from doing the things that God has told us to do. For example, a disagreement with your friends shouldn't keep you from treating them with love and respect. The disagreement may make things a little uncomfortable for you, but it doesn't give you the right to be mean to your friends. God still asks you to love them.
- Ask your kids what they think their three most important possessions are. These are the things that you would take with you to a deserted island. Talk with them about why these things are important to them. Go get the three things and lay them out on the table or on the floor. Ask them if they can think of anything that is more important to them than those three items. Talk about how things can be important to us, but relationships mean more. Ask them if they think things could ever be an issue in their relationship with their friends or their siblings. Talk about ways to avoid placing too much value on the things that we have.
- Turn on some background noise -- a radio or TV or both. Tell your child that you're going to tell her something important, then whisper an important message to her. See if she can pick out the message over all the noise around her. Turn off all the noise and repeat the message. Ask your child how hard it was to focus on the message with all the extra noise around her. Point out that there are lots of things competing for her attention in the world -- friends, TV, school, activities -- but the most important things are relationships with God and family and friends. If we allow the noise from all the other things in our lives to drown out the important things that God has to share with us, then we will miss out on the exciting things that God has in store for us.
As I slip my feet into my shoes and head out to work today, I'll be reminded to keep my focus on Jesus. I hope the same is true for you and your kids.