Thursday, April 05, 2007

More on Solitude

I have really enjoyed the dialogue in response to Solitude. It seems it is on a lot of our minds. And I like that it is an ongoing discussion. It should be. For it is not "black and white" as Aimee said in the comments. And some wonderful comments by the way.

Kendra asked many great questions, including this one:

"How is 'me time' different from solitude?"

I want to address this because I believe that "me time" and "solitude" are two different things. "Me time" is the time that perhaps you go away and do something for yourself--like read, sleep, get coffee, whatever it is that you enjoy doing. Solitude is a spiritual discipline. Both are neccesary, I believe, but to the extent of when, how long, etc., is a personal thing and probably depends on many factors.

As Betty said, the "need" for solitude and "me time" can easily become an idol in our lives. I mentioned in this post that the "me time" does not fully satisfy. When you don't get that time you "think" you deserve, then "react negatively and demand the time" (as Betty said), then we know it is an idol and we know we are not turning to true refreshment: Christ.

We can look in Scriptures many times where Jesus took time alone in Solitude. I think, instinctively, we know this is important. In many ways, Solitude is like silence--we need it to hear His voice.

As Richard Foster says in his book Celebration of Discipline:

"There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times."

Knowing this, as a mother, I think we are relieved. Believe me, I know it's hard to get up and have that quiet time or to take a night away by myself and not feel guilty. I know. But as Foster also says,

"We must seek out the recreating stillness of solitude if we want to be with others meaningfully."

As the Christian life is the Great Paradox, taking that time away from my children, husband and family, can really help me be with my children, my husband, my family.

Now, the big question is--what does that look like for the busy mother? We want a formula, as with many things in life, but as Aimee pointed out, there is no formula, only relationship. It's harder that way, isn't it?

Everyone will have a unique experience. It may depend on how much time you have, how much money you have (to get away), if you husband is willing to let you do that, how disciplined you are. After reading the chapter on "Solitude" in Foster's book, I am beginning to see there are many "levels" of solitude--depending on the circumstance, depending on the person.

Here is how he breaks it down: (these are all from Foster's book, I have merely organized them.)

1. "Little Solitudes"-- Little mommens of rest and reflection, when nature catches our eye, beauty in the details.

-Perhaps a momment of silence before dinner instead of saying grace.

-Meaning in the walk to you mailbox to get the mail.

-Enjoying the silent night outside for a momment just before bed.

These are momments that orient us, that help us feel genuinely present in the momment.

2. "A Quiet Place"
L.L. from Seedlings in Stone has been going to a "Secret Place" in her yard every day. It is one spot, the same spot she goes to for solitude. She mentioned it briefly in the comments and I love how she took the small space and is making it so much bigger in more ways than one.

A quiet place could be:

-a special chair

-a place in your house

-a spot outside as L.L. has done

Outside the home:

-a church sanctuary

-a spot in the park

3. A "mini-retreat". Foster suggests withdrawing four times a year for 3-4 hours in solitude to reorient your life goals and objectives in life. What do you want to have accomplished one year from now? 10 years from now? This is doable for moms. A night at the library, on a Saturday, late at night.

4. And lastly, the overnight retreat once a year for solitude. I don't know if it is "neccesary" but if you see that doors are being opened for it, (as Aimee pointed out in the comments to me) then I think it is a worthy endeavor.

I realize that I quoted extensively Richard Foster, and it really was not my intent for you to go out and read his book (for I disagree with some of it), but I think his points are valid in the discussion of solitude. He does not mention having a "quiet time" in this chapter. I think it's a valid point in solitude and a form of it. When I talk about not cutting myself too much slack in this area, that is mainly what I am talking about: my quiet time with the Lord.

Where does that leave me? Where does that leave us? My husband asked me the other night if I was going to the homeschool conference that I had been talking and planning about. I told him jokingly that regardless he could count on me being away a night that weekend. He told me he was glad to hear me say that. Another door.


Elise said...

Wow. I read your last post, and decided to just come up here and comment!
I really really drank in what you were saying about solitude. But I struggled with what that means for me as a Mama and wife.
But here, I find clarity. Andrea, such wisdom here. I think perhaps what I do already in the morning could be part of solitude, but the quietness...that's where I'm lacking.
Will ponder, and come back.
But thank you, friend.

Betty said...

I had the chance to spend some extra time with the Lord this morning 1 1/2 hours of quiet with Him. It has been wonderful. And yet...I don't know that my heart and mind have really absorbed it. My nerves have and it's been healing in that sense.

When I do come across an opportunity for solitude with the Lord, I don't know what to do, believe it or not. I feel like I need some plan or something to read or in the Bible, what to read. Does that make sense?
I don't know what to do with myself. Many times I'm drawn to the computer and spend the moment of quiet reading inspirational blogs, but I wonder if that is counter-productive at times? Other times I just sit there and listen, but then the children find me or my dh finds me doing "nothing" and calls me back.

The only way to have true quiet and solitude is to not be in my home! But then I don't know where to go (I live in the city, small yard). Even Starbucks can be distracting. I feel uncomfortable and unsafe in the public by myself.

I don't mean to put up all these obstacles to finding true solitude, but I would like to know what you do with solitude and quiet when you get it. THe Lord seems to be putting this desire in alot of us. I appreciate this discussion very much. I'll continue to ponder and glean from it.

Blessings, Betty

bluemountainmama said...

i agree, andrea.....great discussion. i really like aimmee's comments about how it's not black/white. each of us have different personalities, temperaments, and needs, and what renews and refreshes one person might not another.

one striking example in my life, where a little "peace" and solitude was a must was when i was a houseparent at a children's home. we had 8 children in our home, many with severe emotional and behavioral issues. i rose early and took 2 of the teenage girls to their summer jobs at a state park, and on the way home would stop at a beautiful mountain overlook and drink coffee/pray for about 15 minutes before i headed back to the chaos. that time helped tremendously knowing i was in a spiritual battle each and every day for these kids hearts and souls.

and as far as being a mom now and having both solitude and "me-time" husband is wonderful in that regard and actually encourages it. he enjoys that "daddy and son" time if i go out with my girlfriends, or for a walk, or to my yoga class. and about once every other month, he takes my son for the whole day, so they can have a special day together. he did this last weekend and i spent the day spring cleaning. i think it is sad that a mother feels guilty for taking time for herself, whether that is quiet time with God or time to nurture her "whole" being. we are complex beings and i, personally, feel the effects if i neglect part of myself, whether it's my spiritual, emotional, physical, or creative side. and i am a much better mommy when i am not on overload.....

like aimmee said, i don't feel we are called to be "mommy martyrs"...

AIMEE said...

I really like what Blue Mountain mama just "aha!" moment for that we are WHOLE beings with varying needs at every level. We can view our spirits as the only valid part of needing time/renewal...that our spirits are the only thing God cares about. Y'all He made us to be physical, emotional, creative, mental and spiritual His image. He cares about all aspects of ourselves coming into connection with Him. We can connect with Him in exercise, in our creativity, in reading/thinking/pondering...
what FREEDOM that He wants to renew and speak to us on every level and loves us wholly.
And I find "solitude" in the midst of Panera surrounded by others with beautiful music in my ears and hot coffee on my lips. I hear the Lord's voice loud and clear even when there is lots of outside "noise"...and sometimes I need a "quiet" rose garden...solitude comes in so many's an attitude more than a destination.
These are great dialogues we are having and I am learning a lot!
And "desiring" more of time with the Lord or for renewal isn't's an ache that we live with that we choose waiting and hoping and trusting...and not moving towards demanding or resentment. I don't believe in deadening our desire for more with moves me to greater dependence and honesty with Him....a delicate balance with be content and yet still desirous...what an interesting tension.

Betty said...

Oh a kindred spirit! Panera is a place that I have enjoyed visiting to just sit and think.

This discussion goes so well with the book Stepping Heavenward. Her consuming passion was to have More Love to Christ. The desire "looked" different in her different stages of life. That desire drove her to seek the Lord often, but also intensified the disatisfaction or emptiness of substitutes for the intimate fellowship. This really resonates with me. Setting up several times of day for quiet reflection and prayer is something I am trying to do. I would also like to plan for myself a spiritual retreat of a few hours once a month, but could use some ideas.

The blog Sacred Everyday has also discussed this topic. The Lord seems to be calling us, simple homeschool moms, to a much deeper, real, vital, living relationship with Him. Praise God!

Aimee, your blog entry about Simple Sanctuaries is exactly what the Lord has put on my heart (I thought your name sounded familiar). We all need a place, like Jacob, where we especially visit with God. I also want to learn to MAKE everyday places in my home a sanctuary (like the kitchen sink, the shower). Somebody else's blog (I forget) has made that place outdoors. This has been very inspiring.

Sorry to comment twice.

AIMEE said...

another interesting "mini-retreat" is instituting a monthly "day with the Lord" husband and I were strongly encouraged when we were in college ministry to to each take a "day with the Lord" each month. I would start off with some time at a coffee shop, go for a nature walk, drive around listening to great music, resting, journaling, drawing. This was so great b/c like Betty said...when we have a short amount of time, we are restless and it's hard to relax with the Lord b/c we are so often keyed up/busy/distracted. I was able to focus more, relax, and enjoy b/c I didn't watch the clock or pressure myself when i had a day (and a "day" for me was about 4 or so hours). I haven't done this in years and it would be wonderful to do on a lovely Sunday afternoon.
Just another idea!

Katherine@Raising Five said...

"Taking that time away from my children, husband and family, can really help me be with my children, my husband, my family."

So true. I think especially for those of us who are "thinkers." I need time periodically to make sense of my world and come back to center in light of His Word. A heart attitude of solitude is what has gotten me through many years of not having it physically.

Andrea said...

Elise--I know. It's the silence thing. I can have solitude in my heart many times throughout the day, but I feel I have to make time for the silence/solutide.

Betty--I am so glad about your one hour and half this morning!! I think it is a process as you do it more and more, your heart and mind will catch up. Obedience, I think.
As far as practical things, I hear you. I am all about practical. what about your public library at night? A time outside in the early morning or late night? A place in your home--a closet? :) Usually, my "quiet time" conisists closed up in my bedroom. It definitely has to be early morning, late night or naptime. I am pondering going to the library sometimes. I understand, a coffee shop seems too distracting--for me, anyway.
I loved your comparison with Stepping Heavenward. You are so right. I think one of the keys as moms is finding that time throughout the day, like you said. However, I do know that there also needs to be extended times of solitude and silence, whether is is 3-4 hours one day or an overnight thing. I think you can get something out of either of those scenerios.

Aimee--thank you so much for all your encouragement in this area. I love that you take Monday nights off to do different things. What a wondeful plan. You have had so many wonderful comments here and I have really enjoyed your perspective--you've made me think and understand all this better.

Blue Mountian--yes it helps to have a husband who encourages you to take time away. I am very blessed that my husband does that. He also is very comfortable with taking care of the children and the children's needs. It has been a huge blessing to me!
You are so right, we can go into overload if we are not nurturing ourselves in the areas you mentioned. Thank you so much for commenting.

Katherine--you hit the nail on the head for us "thinkers". Taking time to make sense of the world, to listen to God, for Him to filter it all out. That is what I am yearning for, I think.
Taking solitude would be hard for my husband--he is just not wired that way. He processes things rather quickly, unlike me who sits on them for awhile. :)

Jennifer said...

I especially enjoyed Foster's chapter on Solitude as well (and some of the others as well). One way that I find solitude in the midst of raising children and a busy life is to make time for quiet any time I can. My kids like music in the car, but if they don't ask for it, we drive in silence (well, there's usually chatter, but no background music). If I'm alone in the car (that's a big if), at least half of the time, it's in silence.

My daughter's at school all day, so when my toddler naps, I enjoy silence.

Those little pockets really help.

Miriam said...

Hmm... maybe this is part of what's needed so we mamas can find more of that elusive solitude:

Ha-ha! My hubby and I had a good chuckle over this blog entry. (Sorry I don't know how to hyper-link it in the comment box.)

I know... I digress. Sorry.

L.L. Barkat said...

Hey there. I've been off-line for a few days. Did you want this linked to one of my posts, or was it just a special mention? If you'd like it linked, let me know which one it was supposed to be paired with.

I think we moms need solitude even more than when we were without-child. It's good to be alone and hear oneself think sometimes... and hear God's voice intersecting with that too.