Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Solitude

My husband says that he knew he was going to marry me within a month or so of us meeting and hanging out together. I had no idea. I just thought he was cute. Way cute.

Pretty soon after we were "dating" (our dates consisted of taking my oldest daughter to the zoo, movies, park, etc.) he, without mincing words, told me that he wanted me as his wife. So then I suppose we were "courting".

This was a shock to me, for this was not in my "plan". I did not think I was going to be married, or a mother. But despite the fact that I could see he would make an excellent father, (for it was right there for me to see) that he would make a fine Christian husband, that he had an unbelieveably cute daughter, I needed some solitude to confirm it with God.

I took those times of solitude, asking the Lord for wisdom, asking Him to show me the way, praying over the situation.

Once, I took one weekend of solitude. I drove a few hours to a campsite, camped in my car, ate cold beans from a can, and sought the Lord on the matter. In the end, He brought me to a verse I have referred to many times on this blog:

And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
Luke 9:23-25


It has been a verse that has sustained me, in many different circumstances in my life. I aim to deny myself in all things if need be, to follow Him.

Fast forward 10 years. I am thinking to myself, is it possible for a busy mother of four children to carve out those times of solitude, perhaps even taking a weekend off once a year for solitude? Can I make time for that? Is it what is needed? For me, for my family, most importantly, for the Lord.

Devouring Gift From The Sea all in one day confirmed a little of that for me.

So, I'm thinking, praying and planning about taking a weekend off in the near future to have solitude with the Lord. Just God and I.

A lot of times as mothers we try to cut ourselves some slack in "having a quiet time", becaue of our erratic or busy schedules. But I'm starting to think...are we cutting ourselves too much slack? I don't know, just thoughts.

What do you think? Have any of you done this? Do you carve out times of solitude in your daily life? Is this a priority for you?

21 comments:

Kendra said...

I've been thinking about this very same thing. In some of my CM reading I've come across the notion that mothers need to give their children their best.
How do I give them my best when I never have time to 'recharge?'
How do I balance this notion with my propensity toward selfishness?
How is 'me time' different from 'solitude'?
My husband really doesn't like for me to leave. He isn't used to caring for the children and the home on his own. I imagine that I would be pretty overwhelmed if he asked me to go wire houses for him for a weekend, too.
So, I just don't know. I know that the life of a young mother is a busy season, and that God gives us grace for each season that we're in.
I'll be checking back to hear what everyone else has to say.
Thanks Andrea, for this thoughtful post.

Christine said...

Not nearly enough. I've begun getting up early a few mornings a week (this tired pregnant body does need a bit of extra sleep sometimes!) and am enjoying the time with the Lord, but I've never taken a weekend, or even a day. A friend of mine always asks for 24 hours to herself for Mother's Day. She goes to a hotel, reads, orders room service and enjoys her solitude. That sounds like an awesome idea!

Janel said...

You know, I was just in the van praying about this very same thing! I love it how God moves in his people...

I definately need to get some time away to pray. That might just mean sticking the kids in front of a DVD for 2 hours and locking myself in my room to pray. I'm at a pivotal point in my life and I'm in need of some guidance. I won't get it unless I do something like this.

Hugs for the journey! :)

Mama Monk said...

My husband and I have started a tradition we call "mother sabbath" and "father sabbath." One Saturday a month, I have the day to myself and one saturday a month, he has the day to himself. We stay out most of the day and then reconvene in the evening for a family outing or picnic or something all together.

We have loved it! The spouse at home or with the kids (they can do an outing TOO!) enjoys the focused, unstructured/saturday time with the kids and the spouse out gets rejuvenated in a different way.

We have freed eachother up for one weekend away each year. My husband usually goes camping and I usually get together with a dear friend for two nights somewhere quiet. This year, we are going to a monastery in Arizona. I would also like to incorporate a weekend away, just me. I really like the "mother's Day idea above. Sounds delightful.

I have really seen the fruit in our life from scheduled time away.

Go for it! And let us know how it goes.

Ginnie said...

Here are my thoughts ladies as a single mom:

We see in Scripture many times when Jesus sought time alone with God alone and in solitude. We also see in Scripture where Martha is upset because Mary is not helping out and she expresses this displeasure to Jesus. His reply is "Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:42). My point is this, Scripture shows us that we each need times of solitude spent with God. It may be different for each of us and the opportunities for how we find that solitude will be different for each of us. If your husbands don't feel comfortable with keeping the kids for the weekend maybe a friend can keep them for you and then you can return the favor by doing so for her or a grandparent. But don't keep making excuses for where there is a will there is a way. Praying that as moms, wives, and women that influence those around us that we find these moments to strength, grow and nuture us.

L.L. Barkat said...

I have been longing for this so much that it hurts. But... no room it seems... and not the right time financially.

So (and I think you know this), I've been trying to get "room" in a tight spot. That's why I go outside every day for a cup of tea under the pine. I read one Psalm while I am there. I always want to stay longer, but even this unwinds me.

The kids manage to keep themselves occupied for the 15-20 minutes it takes. (Today I came back in to find they had set the table for a Passover ceremony we're going to do tonight. And they had put some eggs in a pot, waiting to boil. No, I hadn't been planning eggs, but... the small cost of little solitude! :)

Laura said...

I've started taking nap time as my time. The kids lay down and I relax. I don't do chores, I don't make calls, I don't take calls. I just sit in the silence and pray or read or zone out or sleep. It is sometimes as little as 20 minutes or as much as 2 hours. It's nothing like getting out of the house alone for a little while, but I like the freedom to just do something I enjoy during nap time. (It helps that my kids basically need absolute silence to sleep. They hear the slightest sound and they are up like a shot. I haven't figured out a way around this yet, but I figured if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.)

The NON-Superwoman said...

I love this idea and would love to incorporate a solitude day into my schedule! I'm feeling the need to do this lately since carving out time has been a major challenge.

Kelly said...

This is interesting that you brought this up. I've been thinking and wishing for something like this for the past few months. I really need more than just a few moments in the day. An entire day would be a good start. Thanks for showing this is OK to do for our relationship with God.

dorothy said...

It's amazing that you mention this today, for this very thing has been on my mind for a couple of weeks. I'm asking myself similar questions - Is it was is really needed? Would one day and no overnight do? How can I get some solitude into my day every day, for that's important, also? It's really tricky with little ones, but can you imagine that amount and quality of time with the Lord?! I'm reading a book right now called The Holy Way, Practices for a Simple Life (thank you, Aimee) and there is an entire chapter on solitude, and how the author took this time when she had children at home. It's has really made me long for this kind of solitude with the Lord! Great discussion, Andrea.

Susanne said...

Wow, I so need this. Mine ends up being more weekly than daily. That book keeps coming up. I think I'll have to check into it.

Miriam said...

Andrea, oh yes... I find I definitely need periods of solitude to be able to keep functioning. I've always favored this definition of and introvert: one who is energized by having time alone (as opposed to those who are energized by being around people). I relate. But some alone time is good and needed for everyone, I'm sure. I'd love to do a yearly personal reteat, as you suggested!

I've also been trying to become more disciplined in doing daily Bible reading - rising early enough to do that for the first time in along time. Before I'd been doing it erratically in the evenings or afternoon. I think that I was indeed cutting myself too much slack in that area... there's something so life-giving about having time in the Word first thing in the morning! It helps that my church just handed out a suggested daily reading plan.

Loved reading more about you and your husband's story. :)

My Side Of The Bed said...

I'm a newly wed and a lot of my friends are already starting to have kids (we'll be the last to have them, I'm sure). But they tend to talk about the days before they had kids. Not that one or the other is better. Just different. I can't wait to have kids, but I still enjoy those quiet moments, where it is just me and my wife. I enjoyed this post.

Blake

Jennifer said...

I can tell that you have really been thinking about this issue. Yes, as moms, I think we do have to cut ourselves a bit of slack, but I agree--not too much. We make time to attend to our children's needs, to personal needs (sleep, food, showering), and usually even personal relaxation, but to "not have time" for regular meetings with the Lord is just an excuse, I think.

I try to wake before the kids (my husband is out of the house before I would even wake up). They sleep late, which is good, so if I can be up and dressed by 6:30, I can have an hour to myself. It helps me start the day in a good frame of mind.

AIMEE said...

I definitely don't think we should see solitude as a form of selfishness...we aren't called to be mommy martyrs. The masses of people had sooooo many needs but there were many times Jesus said "no" and got away by himself or with His disciples. I keep reading in many different books (including Gift From The Sea :) about solitude being a spiritual discipline in our lives. We can hear him more clearly, evaluate our lives, rest, renew, refocus our priorities....we need this time of listening...I would love to take an overnight at a local hotel to simply have quiet, read, reflect, and eat some food that I don't cook! But we have instituted Monday evenings as a weekly time for me to go to a coffee shop alone or to meet up with a friend. Having a set day makes it happen... otherwise it stays theoretical. PUt a date on the calendar Andrea! :) DOn't feel guilty...the Lord knows your precious heart and that you aren't seeking to rid yourself of responsibility or to be selfish. He knows that you want Him above all else and He made you with this needs. love you! Can't wait to read the blog that you write after you get away!!! :)

Betty said...

I've pondered your question for the past two days. By nature, I'm someone who needs times of solitude. I don't like loud noises or crowds (they really wear on my nerves) but the Lord chose to put me in a rambunctious home full of 4 lively children! Add to that my family is Cuban which means naturally loud!

I do get up before the children to have a special time with the Lord. But I feel like I need some other time during the day for some quiet. I started using my youngest daughter's naptime for our more involved read alouds and now I'm questioning it. Though it's a good, uninterrupted time, I'm really missing that quiet time that we used to have in the afternoon.

I am really torn over this "need". It can easily become an idol when I start reacting negatively and demanding this time. God does know our needs and He does lead His sheep to quiet pastures. There are days where it is impossible to get this quiet time. So, though I see good in trying to plan for it, I think it's something we must hold loosely. I don't know if it's a good thing to seek in and of itself on a regular basis.

If my goal is to have quiet to refresh myself then I will get very frustrated when I don't get this time. If my goal is to know God more intimately, ideally through some quiet time, this can be accomplished midst a houseful of children or at the kitchen sink if need be. I am not frustrated because God can speak to me in all these situations. He is my source of delight and refreshment, not the solitude.

So many times, I finally get a chance for some solitude, but my mind and my heart remain restless and disturbed.

I do seek serenity, a real deep kind that sinks to my bones and that maintains itself in the most chaotic surroundings. But I'm not sure how to get that. So, I will eagerly await the different thoughts and responses on this blog. I really want to learn more about this.

Blessings,
Betty

AIMEE said...

a few more thoughts :)
We need to also recognize that there is no black/white answer to this question...we just need to be led by the Spirit in this...which may be a weekend away or not! Which may be a weekly night out or not! Which may be an early morning time or not! No formula...just relationship. And life is seasonal. We may need less in some seasons and more in others. Just dependence. And ANYTHING can become an idol...TV can, but that doesn't mean I never watch it. My children can become an idol...that's doesn't mean I don't keep being with/investing/loving them. Shopping or money can be an idol..that doesn't mean I never go out anymore. Of course solitude could become an idol like anything else in our lives, but that doesn't mean it's not a good thing (like children, husbands, crafts, etc)
And we also need to know He knows we are dust and LOVES us so much. If we could just grasp His love for us an ounce we wouldn't be so hard on ourselves in these decisions.
You have written recently about "filling up", "doctor's orders" and "solitude"...sounds like Jesus is telling you through your heart to take some time to rest and renew in Him in whatever package that looks like. Feel blessed that you are hearing His care for You in this and desires your wellness even more than you do :) He cares :)
Aimee

Trina said...

I love what Aimee said about not seeing solitude as a form of selfishness, because even Jesus needed to take time away from all the “needs” that surrounded him. The “needs” that surround me daily don’t even compare with what Jesus experienced. But for me personally, my relationship with the father is seriously lacking when I don’t have a form of “quiet time.” This is a must have for me if I intend on having a good day, without yelling at the kids, feeling bitter or selfish, and not filled with pity for myself. I’ve just learned that meeting with the Lord in the morning is what starts my day on the right foot, with the right perspective, and centers my day on serving my family. I feel (speaking for myself only here) that getting up early, before my kids, is the least that I can do to grow in my relationship and show Him as a priority in my life. I’ve actually been sleeping in a little too often lately and it’s definitely showing in my attitude throughout the day. I also want to echo Aimee’s 2nd comment; that what works for one is not what works for all. God led me to this time in the morning right now because He knows that it’s best for me during this season of life. Blessings in your solitude.
Trina

Holly said...

Andrea - you are one of my "bestest" blog buddies, so I dislike even seeming to not agree 100 percent with you! :) So - I don't really disagree...just a few points on another view. :)

1) What might be possible with four children is not maybe possible with 7 children. Yes - the bigger kids get more responsible, but they need more conversation, more help in looking over choices, even more guidance sometimes.

2) So many things are dependent upon the individual family...maybe the husband's job does not allow for the wife to get away - ever! Should the wife think about it to the extent that she feels "cheated," in particular if other wives are able to do this? I don't think so...I think that God can provide solitude and those moments of quiet that refresh and renew us - even in a crazy schedule. It may take creativity..but can be done. But it might not EVER be in large blocks of time.

4) I liked Foster's book for some things, disliked it for others. It was obvious he was a man, with time to think - alone - and not a busy mother!

5) Do we cut ourselves too much slack? Maybe, maybe not. That, too...would be dependent upon the person. Only the individual can look at their lives and know this. I am troubled (a little) at the overarching thought (not your thought, but one that is sometimes perpetuated in the wide, wide world...)that spirituality has to be separated from life. What exactly is devotion? And worship? And what constitutes solitude? Must we read a certain amount of scripture...or does one verse and the perpetual meditation throughout the day serve the same purpose? Must we awaken an hour early to a quiet home - or none of our worship counts...or God can't speak to us, clearly? Or does He not necessarily give us what we "think" we need so that we will desperately cling to Him for LIFE?

When I look at the lives of the ancient women...and try to picture them living in a little stone home, a couple of rooms at best - I realize they probably slept in a room filled with relatives and children. If they rose early to have "quiet time" where would they have gone? Outside? Perhaps. I don't know...They did not have personal scriptures - but depended upon what their men taught them or they had memorized. They were not afforded solitude - they had to practice receiving from the Lord when and where He gave. I'm sure they "shooed" their children away to play - but wouldn't they have always had a mother in law or grandfather around to take care of, to talk to? They weren't isolated - ever. They lived in extended families. Only the wealthy could have had solitude.

Our American heritage is the same. The pilgrim women never were alone - the pioneer women lived in tiny sod homes...the only alone time might have been milking the cow or working in the garden. They notoriously had large families. I tend to think they learned to deal with the noise, the stresses, and didn't even think of quietness until the children were in bed. I think they worshipped as they lived - prayed as they went - and worshipped more as families.

Alone time isn't wrong - please don't anyone misunderstand me! (I love alone time...am an extreme melancholy who doesn't deal with noise well.) But God has to take me thru the tough days,the hard times, sometimes without reprieve...and I have to learn to experience Him and praise Him and receive guidance and direction from Him without much quiet time.

IF he gives you quiet time, and solitude, and even a weekend away - then by all MEANS take it. It must be his plan for you and his gift to you. Don't deny it! :) Rejoice! :)

But - IF you don't receive this - then don't feel disadvantaged. Count on Him to give you what you need. (And train your children to give you a little quiet in your day...) :)

Very, very, very lovingly submitted -

Your friend,
Holly

Andrea said...

Holly--
I agree completley with EVERYTHING you said! Honestly, I don't really feel like you disagreed with me, for I agree with all your points.I am so happy for your input here, it means so much. You clarified everything I was hoping to convey.
There may be times where I will never get solitude. It's ok. There will be times when I will. That's ok, too. We are all individuals with different circumstances. Solitude is on different levels, too, like I said in the second post. I do not expect a weekend retreat every year, but if the opportunity arises, and I feel that my husband is encouraging me (which he is), that God is calling me to it (which I feel He is), and we can afford it (which we can right now), then I think it's ok! I know that is what you were saying, anyway.
Thank you, sweet Holly!

Holly said...

Oh wonderful! I have been worried that I offended you.

Absolutely (!) you should enjoy the time! God is giving it! :)