Friday Introduction: Learning to Be Still (Allison French)

It’s not quite 9 AM and the dishwasher is going, the laundry machine whirring in ritualistic harmony. I’ve worked out, written three emails, balanced the budget, changed two dirty diapers, held an attitude adjustment session, conducted a short phonics lesson, fed three hungry little birdie mouths, started dinner, written a few paragraphs of this blog post and yet still not made a much of a dent in my to-do list. My educated guess is that those reading this blog have had a similar morning. Such is the life of a mother. blog6

There are times in the day where I achieve a thrill, a “high” if you will, off of back-to-back accomplishments, seamless multi-tasking, that moment when my juggling act reaches its peak with balls suspended mid-air, and I am super-woman, super-mom soaring untouched on my own strength, my goals, my ambitions, my vision. This flight may last seconds, minutes, hours, or, if I am stubborn enough, maybe even days.

Regardless of the length of the flight, however, the crash is inevitable. The balls drop, reality hits, the tremble of an anxious heart breaks through. My nerves are frazzled, my patience thin, and, once again, I am not enough for all who want me, need me. You’d think I’d learn, time after time after time. And yet, too frequently, this is what it takes to bring me back to the deep longing I have for “the gentle and quiet spirit which is so precious to God.” (1 Peter 3:4).

As the shepherd of my children, I believe it is not only my responsibility to shelter, nourish and grow their little bodies and sweet minds, but their tender souls as well.

blog7

Just as my Shepherd “makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside quiet water refreshing my soul” (Psalm 23), I’ve increasingly so felt the weight of the calling of modeling and making this same rest for my children. With three children under four, my personality, the roles I play and the dynamics of these factors combined, it’s not an easy thing. We all have our challenges to practicing this peace. The practicalities of motherhood are very important, deadlines don’t disappear, tasks must be checked off. And yet, a wise older woman once impressed upon me to, one: prioritize this peaceful practice and two: to start young.

blog1

Beginning in small but frequent increments, setting aside “quiet times” for our children and ourselves to sit is imperative to calming busy hands and flighty minds. It’s a certainly a discipline, and specific personalities take more readily to this practice, but the rewards are perhaps more impactful than any other life skill we can teach. Academically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, the ability to be still is not only rewarding but necessary.

blog5 In our home, this quiet time is spent in separate chairs at several points in time throughout the day. Starting at a little over a year-old, I’ve invested hours upon hours helping my children learn to sit in one place with no other toys or stimulus than their small selection of books. In the beginning, a few minutes was an accomplishment worth a lavish celebration. Now, a timer can be set for a half-hour at a time.

blog4

I’ve watched my little ones blossom in this ability as the whining and complaining we inevitably worked through in the beginning has developed into something beautiful; my 3-year-old can be heard whispering rhyming words to herself, humming quiet preschool songs, my 20-month-old can be seen turning the pages of a book, pausing to contemplate the pictures. As a former teacher, I can appreciate the fact that my children will be required to do this someday in the classroom and are strengthening their imagination and independence now in preparation.

blog2

As we all know, this quiet, still time is not only coveted but many times necessary. There have been many times where I’ve called upon my children to use this skill when we are out and about; recently my youngest required an x-ray and my 18-month-old had to sit by himself on a chair outside the room until we finished. It was an amazingly freeing feeling to know I could trust him to stay quiet and safe in one spot for an extended amount of time. At home, many times I can catch up on a phone call, a counter clean, a meal prep, but often the greater reward is when I find my own seat with just my journal and Bible, joining them in silence.

blog3

This all being said, this morning’s rate of activity will most likely be repeated tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. I know full well that life can not be paused.

blog8

There is a season for everything. However, I’m writing today to share the joy of this revelation. 1 Kings 19 recounts the prophet Elijah’s encounter with the Lord. A series of loud, tumultuous events takes place, but it is after that, in the stillness that the Lord whispers to him gently. Setting aside time to “Be still, and know that (He is) God.” (Psalm 46:10) has been one of the most beautiful, rewarding, sanity-saving practices I have been introduced to, and it’s been a privilege to impart this joy to my children.

blog9

Allison French lives and photographs in Kansas City with her college sweetheart hubby and three children. She loves her babes (all four of them), Pippy Longstockings, her dog, all the lovely members of her constantly-in-contact family, her camera, writing and a good long run. She blogs about the daily life of motherhood and tries to get as much of her own beautiful everyday chaos from behind the lens as she does for others.