Hi, I’m Sara.
My life used to be quiet–or at least quieter. In my 20s and early 30s, I lived in the land of sheep and castles (England) as a missionary. My days were filled with counseling teenagers over cups of tea, hiking in the beautiful green hills, weekend trips to neighboring European countries (hurrah for discount airlines!), and more cups of tea accompanied by slices of assorted toffee and walnut cake. Peaceful, self-paced, and often quiet. At age 32, I became a mother for the first time to a beautiful baby boy, who was cuddly and colicky (that term doctors and midwives assign to babies who mysteriously cry all the time.) Truly, he cried and cried for his first 2 years of life. We’d go on “playdates,” and he’d cry. The playdate friend would say, “Is he tired? Does he need a snack?” I’d say, “No, he just cries a lot.”
With each baby we added, I realized more and more how much my spirit craved quiet. I loved mothering but missed the days of endless cups of tea. My hobby of walking in the English countryside seemed a mere dream now. Instead, I jetted from one child to the next to the next defining “verb,” teaching the “ch” sound, skipcounting by 10s, breaking up squabbles, and making a zillion plates of food (I homeschool.) My fourth baby is fostered. He is the most precious bundle on earth: 20lbs of smiles, simple joy, and sweetness. And yet, with him comes a myriad of foster care extras, which result in more jetting. And then life’s demands: emails to return, car inspections, home repairs, dishes, kid activities. Mothering or not, our fast-paced American culture does not prioritize quiet. Facebook videos, Spotify music, talk radio, audio alerts on our devices…we are pulled in the direction of busy bustle. Everything screams for its place as top priority.
In my 10 years of mothering, I have learned that quiet must have a place at my table. If it isn’t welcomed, an unsettledness becomes my default, which produces an unsettled spirit, frustration, and impatience. These flow onto my children and husband, for sure, and sometimes others as well. That Proverb is true: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
So, as a homeschooling mom with four children, how do I tend to my heart and prioritize a place of quiet so it can be filled? For me, it starts by being nudged awake by my husband every morning at 4.55 a.m. as he leaves for work. No, I am not a morning person. Yes, it takes every fiber in my being to rise out of my cozy, pillow-adorned bed. But it is worth it. In the quietness before the chaos, I bring each burden to my faithful journal: my son’s chronic pain issues, my brother’s advanced cancer, the hope of adopting our sweet foster son, that bill that needs paying, that relationship that is strained. Each is listed or silently voiced as a prayer; my tank for the day (or at least half the day) is filled. But as the day progresses, I try to snag precious morsels of quiet as time allows. Sometimes in the car, I turn off the radio and challenge my kids to complete silence for 5 minutes. In these minutes, I glance at the sky. We have been given such a glorious sky – host to cottony, guess-the-shape clouds, care-free, captivating birds and maybe even a bat now and then. Viewing the vastness of the sky gives me perspective on my problems. Try it! Another opportunity for sky viewing is at the park. My kids will run ahead while I lag behind pushing the stroller, and instead of putting on a podcast or calling a friend, I watch my children in the quiet of the moment. I smile at their joy and at that nearby scurrying squirrel.
The simplicity of such an intentional act calms me and makes me a better mom.
Finally, quiet in our communication is an aspiring goal. When that child is tantruming or you and your husband are arguing, let your words be few. Such wisdom in this verse: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19). I, as much as anyone, want to control and diffuse the situation, but our words and efforts usually fuel the fire. Asking gentle questions gives us better results. Questions like, “Are you upset because you can’t have that cookie? Can I help in some way? You seem angry; what has upset you?” And then be quiet, listen, and proceed.
In our world of busy bustle, power and quiet aren’t usually paired together. But I’ve discovered that quiet IS powerful. It is like the stream in which emotions can be properly sifted and channeled. I’m a chatty extrovert who loves my to-do list, but I also love quiet. Motherhood helped me realize just what a powerhouse it is.
***Sara is a former public school English teacher who loves hot drinks, mentoring teenagers, and enjoying all things British. After nearly 11 years living in England, she and her British husband moved to Texas (her birthplace) and began homeschooling, something she never thought she’d do. They have 3 biological children and a foster baby whom they hope to adopt. Stay tuned for more guest bloggers this month, as I highlight wonderful women navigating authentic, self-compassionate motherhood***