Making Time for What’s Important

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One of my favorite inspirational authors, Lysa Terkeurst, writes of planning things to look forward to as a way of fighting off her “ugly,” as she calls it. As a self-proclaimed Melancholy Mom, this thought has stuck with me.

Without us SAHMs getting in the driver’s seat of our schedules, the days run together, an endless barrage of domestic tasks and childcare chores. If I want to beat my blues and become a positive role model for my family, I know that more planning–of fun things–is essential.

Choosing What’s Important Over What’s Urgent

Taking time for what’s “important,” not necessarily what’s “urgent,” is how Stephen Covey described it in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Life will always keep us preoccupied with mundane details if we let it—phone calls, emails, dirty laundry, Facebook notifications, crises, deadline-driven projects, and interruptions.

Source: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Source: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

But if we want to live effective, meaningful (and non-melancholy) lives, we must focus on “non-urgent” important stuff, like relationship building, goal planning, and some recreation. We will always have to deal with some urgent stuff that can’t wait, says Covey, but as we spend more time planning and getting organized around our personal goals (he calls these “quadrant II activities”), those urgent things will shrink.

Finding My “One Thing”

Here’s a great question to ask ourselves:

What one thing could you do in your personal and professional life that, if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life? Quadrant II activities have that kind of impact. Our effectiveness takes quantum leaps when we do them (p. 154, The Seven Habits).

Six years ago, when I first read Covey’s wisdom, my “one thing” was regular prayer and Bible study. Check. Doing that one thing made a huge difference in my life. These days I may have a melancholy outlook at times, but because I believe in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and his coming again, I don’t think I could ever be suicidal again.

A few years ago, writing my memoir became my “one thing.” At first it was about personal accomplishment and fulfilling a childhood dream. But as I gained a personal testimony thanks to getting to know the Lord, that writing project became about more than myself. It became a Christian mission and ministry. From those who have read the final version or heard me speak about my “new life after attempted suicide,” I have confirmation that this is a message people need to hear.

Next, after the memoir-writing goal was underway, my “one thing” became having children. God has used Sam, and soon will use #2, to teach me so much. I needed the rounding out of my person that kids provide, and I am so glad God has provided it. (This is still very much a work in progress, of course! Stay tuned for more.)

So, what is my one thing now?

I think there are two.

  • Date nights with my hubby
  • Babysitting breaks for me

Taking stock of my life recently, I realized I wasn’t really getting either. My daily tasks were running together into one seemingly endless lump, to the point that both Buc and I would fall into bed at the end of most days too tired to really talk. It’s no wonder I felt run ragged, disconnected from (adult) humankind, and unhappy.

Just because.
Sam knows how to enjoy life. I’m trying to get better at it…

So, I have been slowly tweaking my schedule. Buc and I reserve at least one night a week to spend quality time together; if we don’t have a babysitter, we still share a bubble bath and a heart-to-heart after Sam’s bedtime (no iphones allowed). And today I dropped Sam off for the first time ever at a Parents’ Day Out program at one of the local churches. While the initial crying hurt my heart, those three hours ended up being great for both of us. Sam had fun with new toys and a new playground, and I finally had some time to browse the library alone, shop for curtains for our new house, and get a much-needed haircut.

These date nights and babysitting breaks have taken a little extra planning and intentionality, but I can’t tell you how valuable it is to have gained these little breaks from the mundane. I may not find much time for writing these days (maybe after I get the curtains up–creating a livable living space is a priority right now), but I am finding more time for myself, and more time for my marriage. I have things to look forward to now, and it is making a difference in my mood.

My husband is passionate about Corvettes...so one of our recent date nights was to this bette-themed restaurant.
A stop on one of our recent date nights.

If you’re feeling melancholy, don’t ever think you’re too busy to take care of what’s most important. It goes without saying that your kids are important, but don’t forget that you are also important, and so are your other relationships. I’m learning that as I get these things straight, everything else falls into place.

The Everyday Adventure

My life has been full of interesting twists and turns since I began trusting God. A few days ago Buc and I road tripped back to Missouri from Texas—me with Sam in the truck, Buc in his new Corvette—and as I followed my husband over those familiar highways, I had to smile at the adventure God has brought me on.

I drove those highways over ten years ago to meet my man, sight unseen, on a whim and a prayer. Six months after I met him, I drove those highways again to move my life to Texas and to gain a new family. Now, Buc and I have started a family I never thought we would start, and God has placed us in Missouri—a situation that puts us closer to my family in Minnesota, and lets us travel back to Texas multiple times a year.

I once said that I could never see myself staying in one place for a lifetime. That was depression and despair speaking. Now, I see new experiences not as escapes, but as valuable and enriching milestones. (They also provide good fodder for writing.)

With that said, I want to address the negativity of my last post. I sounded depressed in that post, because I felt depressed. But these days, staying depressed is not an option. God has given me tools to combat those feelings, and as often as I complain about my struggles (to maintain my commitment to honesty), I want to give him glory for the little, repeated victories in my life.

Indeed, the best part of my life journey is how I keep seeing God show up—or how he keeps teaching me to do better, think better, and live better in the midst of life’s messes. Like anybody, I have reasons to complain again today—including a family diarrhea weekend, and a still unsettled house (too much traveling to unpack!)—but here are some ways I’ve felt God helping me out of my “Melancholy Mom” pit.

Antidepressants

I’ll admit it; I have started taking an antidepressant, and it seems to be helping. I want to qualify this by saying that I don’t see this as a permanent solution. I took myriad antidepressants as a teenager, and after five years they still didn’t help me avoid attempting suicide. It was only years after I stopped those antidepressants that I found my permanent solution and genuine joy: prayer and Bible study. Which, by the way, I believe is the permanent solution for most cases of depression.

But these days I am carrying a baby in my belly and my hormones are going crazy. After too many days where I couldn’t stop crying, where I couldn’t stop biting my husband’s head off, and where I generally couldn’t function, I decided to try an antidepressant (with my doctor’s consent, of course) to take the edge off. I prayed about this decision, and I sensed God assuring me it wasn’t a copout or a sin—it was just a tool he’d provided during extraordinary circumstances.

 Accentuating the Positives

Another tool is choosing to see the positives rather than the negatives. Some days this is easier to do than others, like when your hormones are balanced versus when they are unbalanced; but I believe it’s a Christian’s duty to focus on the positives. God has given us so many reasons to be thankful—most of all, salvation and a heavenly inheritance—but even while on earth, we can find positives.

As I alluded, the three of us had a yucky weekend of barf and diarrhea, which we picked up somewhere between Texas and Missouri. Then we had to come home to a house that was (and is) still strewn with boxes and belongings we haven’t had time to organize or put away in a whole month of living in this house. But you know what? It’s not a big deal. Because both situations are temporary, and we have better days ahead.

I found out I am having another baby boy!!!… and I can thank God that the three main men in my life are generally healthy (diarrhea excluded). I am also thankful that the first and worst night hit while we were in Oklahoma…which means it was hotel maids doing our barfy laundry, not me!

 Praise

Author Lysa Terkeurst brought this next tool out for me in her book Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl. It’s closely related to Accentuating the Positives, but takes it a step further by moving the focus from myself onto God.

Here is a list of powerful statements she includes that I’m thinking of posting in my home:

God, circumstances change, but I praise you because you never do.

God, I praise you for never leaving me.

God, I praise you for being trustworthy.

God, I praise you that you are with me in this moment and you stand in my tomorrow as well.

God, I praise you for being the wisdom I can lean on when I have none of my own.

God, I praise you for your love and your compassion that never fails. (p. 126)

Priorities

God is ever helping me to get my priorities straight, and having right priorities always helps my mood. I’ve struggled a lot over the years with my priorities, usually trying to do too much in my own strength (not God’s), and usually for the wrong reasons (to make myself look good, not God). But in this season of motherhood, I’ve been especially blessed by two books chock full of wisdom on my priorities as mother. They are The Adventist Home and Child Guidance by Seventh-day Adventist author and most translated female writer of all time, Ellen White.

Recently I was asked to collaborate on another book project that would help spread the gospel. And it was a tempting offer. Not because I would be paid much, if anything, but because it would help boost my sense of self-worth in a season of life where my strongest talents are lying dormant. I took some time to pray about this decision, but the answer throbbed in the back of my mind from the start: not right now.

 Because I had been filling my mind with Bible wisdom via Ellen White, I could easily see that this project would take critical time and energy away from my most important task as a wife and mother—and based on my exhaustion and volatile emotions lately, not to mention a glaring lack of babysitters, I knew this was not time or energy I could spare. And look at these words from Mrs. White. These are the words that kept coming back to me as I prayed over this decision.

Writing to a woman faced with choosing missionary work over her household, Mrs. White said:

The Lord has not called you to neglect your home and your husband and children. He never works in this way, and He never will. . . . Never for a moment suppose that God has given you a work that will necessitate a separation from your precious little flock (Lt. 28, 1890; p. 246 of Adventist Home).

You may be urged to attend mothers’ meetings and sewing circles, that you may do missionary work; but unless there is a faithful, understanding instructor to be left with your children, it is your duty to answer that the Lord has committed to you another work which you can in no wise neglect. You cannot overwork in any line without becoming disqualified for the work of training your little ones and making them what God would have them be. As Christ’s co-worker you must bring them to Him disciplined and trained (MS 32, 1899; p. 246 of Adventist Home).

So that is the adventure right now. Learning to be happy and content where God has placed me—even in ever-changing, ever-unsettled circumstances. I certainly haven’t mastered this to the point where I can say, with the Apostle Paul, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11), but I am getting there. I see hope lighting the path everywhere I look; and for a girl who once tried to take her life, that seems like a significant stride.

For My Thirtieth…an Attitude Adjustment

IMG_1580For my thirtieth birthday, I got a makeover…of my attitude. I haven’t blogged for two months because I took time off, intending, in fact, to come back a “new woman.” But when I said “Goodbye for July” (and August, as it turns out), I only intended to revamp my website and my writer persona—not my whole person. God had other ideas.

The makeover God wanted to give me was not primarily professional. It was more, shall we say, domestic? He wanted to make me into a loving, attentive mother. Self-sacrificing, patient, and wise, like Jesus was as he dealt with his children. This is not the woman I was focused on becoming as I signed off for July—at least, not the woman I wanted to be full-time.

I wanted to have this separate space in my life for the writer persona that has emerged through this blog and my other projects in the past two years.

On my new (but hardly dazzling) website, I have branded myself thus: “Lindsey Gendke: Writing True Stories for His Glory.” I wrote that tagline for potential memoir publishers, and maybe even clients one day (and because it describes my recently published works). I also wrote a lovely bio to characterize this blog and direct my future writings: “I am a happy writer, wife, teacher, and mom who doesn’t mind sharing that she used to be depressed,” et cetera, et cetera.

But after I signed off for my break in July (and after life got really busy, and Sam got really mobile), I couldn’t find time to write. I became unhappy, and I didn’t  want to share that with this audience. Ironic, huh?

It didn’t even matter that my first book, The Hidden Half of the Gospel, was published during those weeks (more in my next post). I still felt rotten.

Suddenly I became hard to live with because all I could do was complain about the lack of time I had to write. I found myself repeatedly apologizing to my husband for my nagging and hurtful words, and vowing to do better the next day. But the next day I only repeated my word crimes again.

Confession: sometimes when I’m stressed, I swear, and these negative months were no exception. Buc told me I better get my sporadic swearing outbursts under control before Sam was old enough to know what I was saying. But I knew I needed to get more than my words under control. I looked around at my life—beautiful baby, loving husband, nice house, good friends, PUBLISHED BOOK!—and I could not understand all the negative words flying out of my mouth.

I tried to write this post a few times…but found the words coming out so negative that I just couldn’t publish them, not in their totality. Here is one paragraph of clarity that slapped me in the face, though:

“I am disturbed sometimes by my lack of patience for Sam, my annoyance at how he disrupts my plans. I hate the wrong attitude I see in myself. Where is that love that conquers all? The love that doesn’t mind beginning the day at 4:20 because your sick baby is ready to get up? The love that is happy to put someone else’s needs before your wants? Sometimes I hate what motherhood shows me about myself. I hate how selfish it tells me I am.”

Yikes.

There it was, in plain black and white: I needed an attitude adjustment. That’s when I started doing everything I could think of to redirect, and correct, my thinking, flooding my mind with positive influences such as Christian radio programs, Scripture, books on mothering, and encouragement from my mommy friends.

I did not feel an instant change. Over a period of weeks, I had good moments and bad. But little by little, God spoke to me, until finally one day, He gave me a breakthrough.

As I tried to write this blog post one last time, and as I looked at the negative words I had previously penned, a switch tripped in my brain.

Wow, I thought to myself. Why am I complaining so much?

Suddenly, God brought to mind all the prayers he had recently answered.

  • I asked him for a book published by age thirty—he gave me one.
  • I asked for a baby—he gave me one.
  • I asked for a calling to touch hearts—and I believe he gave me one through the writing of my memoir.

With the realization of these answered prayers came instant repentance, a prayer of thanks, and my much-needed attitude change. Really, just like that.

I suddenly understood that it was time to rest from writing—at least in the professional sense. I understood now that writing more books might happen during later seasons of life, but right now is not one of those seasons.

I also suddenly remembered telling Buc, before we conceived, that I wanted my thirties to be a decade of relaxing from work and enjoying family. Now, I felt absolutely convicted that my first duty was to my family, and I regretted that I’d brought so much negativity and resentment to that sphere, treating my home duties as burdens rather than my calling. I understood that I had entered a new season of life—family, motherhood—and while I might find a moment here or there to write, writing could not be my primary focus right now. Not when my baby needed me, and not when my husband needed me.

It felt so freeing to hear God speak to me that way, and I’ve felt peaceful ever since. Over a week has gone by, in which time I didn’t do any writing, but I was okay with that, because I was taking care of my family—my primary job.

So, now that I have undergone my attitude adjustment, what happens with this blog?

I have decided to keep the “Writing True Stories for His Glory” tagline, because it describes the professional work I have completed, and one purpose of this site is to promote that work.

IMG_1647But as far as future posts? Right now I am a mother at home with my baby, trying to work out my faith through the trials of everyday life, and hoping to find a little writing time on the side. In a way, I guess my blogging counts as a story for His glory, because humans need to see faith worked out in the mundaneness of everyday life—otherwise, what good is faith?

God is doing something beautiful in my life, and it doesn’t exclude writing. It just means writing is not the end goal of my days right now—not for this season. That said, I hope this blog will be a witness to God’s continuing transformation in my heart and my mind. Specifically, I want to become more Christlike through my role as a mother, and I think that’s a story worth telling.

 

 

A Writer in Retreat

My Pen by Lusi
My Pen by Lusi

I go through periods of retreat, often linked to times when I am deep in my writing. In another post, I blogged about how a writer’s retreat can be both a place (a noun) and an action (a verb). The verb sense especially resonates with me.

Right now I am in an active work state with my manuscript: the fingers are active at typing when baby naps, and the mind is active at work most other times during the day. I notice I have let other things slide, such as housework, friends, and Facebook. But right now, those things don’t seem top priority.

Having a baby hit home this truth anew: I can’t have it all, all at the same time. When I notice I need to take care of something— for instance, when I have an idea I just have to write down, or like now, when I feel God telling me I need to work on my book proposal—the rest of life slides into the background. After awhile, the fact that I’m neglecting relationships will bother me, and those will again slide to the front. So my priorities shift all the time.

Life is less stressful when I admit that I can’t do everything all at once, and accept that all areas of life (except, hopefully, close family and God) must go through periods of neglect.

Another factor making it easier to put writing first (during naptimes, of course; Sam is still first most of the rest of the time) is that my husband and I haven’t seen each other much lately. For various reasons—he works late, he has meetings at church, I have meetings at church, I’m trying to exercise in the evenings to lose the baby weight—we keep missing each other. The one relationship I long for at the moment (besides my relationship with God) is with my hubby. But I can’t do anything about our lack of time together, so it’s best for me to keep busy with my own work. I’m waiting on this holiday weekend, when he will have Monday and Tuesday off, to reconnect with him. I’ve even asked him to read some of my manuscript, and he said he would! A little slice of heaven, to have the most important person in my life take interest in my passion. So maybe there are moments when we can have it all. Maybe. We’ll see how Sam’s naptimes go this weekend!

Happy to Be a Mother

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I was married seven years before I decided I wanted kids. Don’t mistake me. I was not married seven years before I got pregnant by accident, or before we could financially support a child. I mean I was married seven years before God, one day, gave me a talking to, and utterly changed my plans.

One October day in 2012, I was simultaneously poring over my career options and getting flustered, as I did so often in those days. I was two months from finishing my master’s degree, after which I planned to get a doctorate and teach college…but I wasn’t happy. I hated graduate school, and the thought of four to eight more years of it constricted my heart like a vise grip.

“Okay, Lord,”I prayed, sitting at my desk, I need your help. Before me sat my list of possible graduate schools, and a blank notebook. These items represented the choice that had dogged me for months: grad school, or writing? Farther back in my mind was a third option, but I had never really been able to voice it. Deadlines were approaching. If was going to get my doctorate, I had to apply soon.

“Lord,”I muttered through clenched teeth, “This indecision has gone on long enough, and I can’t take it anymore. I’m asking you to please, make clear, once and for all, what you want me to do.”

Even as I spoke the words, I felt the answer thudding in my chest.

You know what to do, God said.

And as the tears started, I realized I had known for months.

“God!”I cried out. “This has been so excruciating! Why has it taken so long to decide?”

Fear, came the instant answer. You fear that Buc will die, or abandon you someday. You fear that one day you will be alone again, without support, without resources, and without a clear path.

“Oh, Lord!” I sobbed. “You know me so well. You know that my constant motion for the past few years had to do with protecting myself in case of future abandonment—it wasn’t just about being organized and ‘highly effective.’ You know that I’ve overextended myself at work and church to keep from feeling what was really underneath my skin. You know I struggled over the PhD because it led to a safe and predictable place.”

I stopped talking aloud then, and just sat, letting it all sink in. I was finally admitting to myself: my desire for the PhD was all for fear. It was never what I wanted.

I slipped to my knees and bowed at my desk. With tears still trickling down my face, I acknowledged and embraced my fear, and I prayed: “God, you’ve gotten me this far. It’s time to let you lead, fully. I can’t ignore my desires anymore. And it doesn’t make sense to try to keep forcing a shoe that doesn’t fit. I don’t want a PhD. Teaching I could take or leave. But writing? I can’t leave it anymore. It’s got to come out.

I slumped on the floor for several minutes more, as if held there by God’s hand, because I knew there was more to this prayer. There was something else God wanted to bring out of me, another fear he wanted to replace with his truth. And I knew I was finally about to articulate it.

After composing myself, I called Buc at work and urged him to come home early, saying, “We need to talk about our future.”

When he arrived home, I said, “Let’s drive to the state park and talk while we walk.”

I didn’t have a speech prepared, but when we started our nature walk, words started tumbling out of my mouth. I admitted to Buc that I was not going to find a PhD that would suit me, because a PhD—and the isolation that must come with it—was not the life I wanted.

Voice quavering, I told him, “Honey, I keep looking at my life in the last few years—how I’ve been running around, keeping so busy, trying so hard—and I just don’t know what I’m striving for anymore. I’ve lost sight of what I’m doing. I mean,” I added, voice climbing to hysteria, “I just don’t know who I’m trying to please anymore. Why am I trying so hard?”

Scenes of recent years flashed in my mind. My nose-to-the-grindstone approach, my endless lists of to-dos. My shuffling from here to there. My busyness. My endless pursuit of the next rung in my career ladder, my continual motion. The mere thought of it so exhausted me that I had to stop and catch my breath. Again, these realizations had hit me hard. But the one that next burst from my mouth almost knocked me over.

“I want to have kids!” I blurted.

Like a crashing wave this realization came. In all the years we’d been married, I had never been able to say that I wanted kids. The closest I’d ever come was to speak of it as a distant hypothetical.

“Is it possible,” I marveled aloud to Buc, “that all I’ve ever really wanted was to get back to having a family? To have kids? Is it possible that the one thing I’ve been so scared to embrace all these years is the one thing I’ve really just wanted to get back to?”

I was flabbergasted by the thought. As I talked about our future—a new future—I felt a weight lifting. Was it possible I was really letting go? Just letting the debris of my broken past settle, and finally settling myself? The thought was comforting, even as it brought new fear. To follow this impulse was to completely shift gears, to suddenly grind to a halt plans we’d been setting in motion for years.

I cringed as I looked up at Buc. Would he approve of this change of plans?

“Honey? What do you think?” I shifted my eyes down, as if to deflect a coming glare. “What would you think if I decided to stay home and write, and maybe have some kids?”

His eyes were soft. He clasped my hand. “Honey, I think that sounds nice. I like the idea.” And that was all.

Whoosh. My breath escaped in one glorious release.

“I just have one question,” Buc said, swinging my arm as we trounced through the brush. “Why now? Why after all these years are you finally ready to have kids?”

I thought for a moment before answering, letting the happiness of the moment sink in. Then I realized: happiness was the answer.

“I think I finally understand something.” I let my free arm drift across the tree leaves, feeling like a little girl again. “The best parents—I mean, the people who should be having kids—have them because they are already happy. They have them not to make themselves happy, but to share their happiness. To invite someone else into their special, intimate joy. They don’t ask their kids to bring their lives meaning, they ask to be able to share meaning with their kids.”

“Well said,” Buc beamed at me. “I think I’ve got a wise wife.”

“Not that wise,” I smiled back. “I’m just learning to take God’s lead.”

And that, I thought to myself, is something worth passing on to my kids!

 

Epilogue: A year and a half has passed since that day in the woods, and I thank God every day that he redirected my plans and gave me my (almost) four-month-old blessing, Sam Michael. Happy Mothers Day, Moms!

 

*This post was adapted from a chapter in my memoir manuscript.

When Writing Is Unhealthy

Since Sam’s birth fifteen weeks ago, a constant dilemma has been finding time to write. Last week I found an unprecedented ten hours, postpartum, to work on my memoir. Yippee! I felt fulfilled and accomplished; I was finally balancing writing and motherhood. Finally, I thought, this memoir is again making progress toward publication. But then…I realized there is a price to this progress.

"Tired Mom" at http://scienceinspiration.blogspot.com/2012/12/we-get-tired.html
“Tired Mom” at http://scienceinspiration.blogspot.com/2012/12/we-get-tired.html

How did I get so much writing done? I let Sam nap for almost three hours in a row on several days (good boy!). You can imagine how excited I was—Sam was getting rest, I was getting writing—until I realized that those long-nap days resulted in broken nights of sleep for Sam—and me. Sigh.

On other days when Sam is out of routine (his mom’s routine)—say, when he spends the day with his aunt, or on weekends—he takes shorter naps and sleeps a good nine to eleven hours at night, usually from 7 p.m. to 5 or 6 a.m. Yay again! But boo for my writing.

So, my current dilemma is whether to write or to sleep—in other words, do I let baby Sam take a nice long nap in the afternoon and use the time to write, or do I keep him awake during the day so we’ll both sleep through the night?

What a dilemma, huh? I feel bad for mentioning it, because I have a great baby, and I could have both writing and sleep if I wanted them badly enough. I could write from 7 p.m. until my bedtime, between 9 or 10—but that would also mean resorting to microwave dinners or takeout and giving up the fight with my leftover pregnancy weight.

That’s the tough thing about parenting, and really adulthood. You must make tough choices with your time.

As I sat writing this post yesterday (stealing a few minutes from my shopping trip for temporary “fat” pants—dear mother-in-law watched Sam), I decided writing is usually not going to come first—at least not anytime soon, and here’s why: In order to write as much as I want, I’d have to neglect my family’s and my own health. Much as writing feels like a necessity to my mental health, some things just have to come first, like sleep, nutrition, and exercise—my physical health. So I guess I’m choosing sleep.

Being an adult is tough. Lord, help me to put first things first, and also find some moments to write when time away from it becomes too painful. And thank you, thank you, thank you, for a baby boy who sleeps through the night!

Reexamining Priorities as a New Mother

Photo Credit: "Chalkboard Numbers" by mimwickett
Photo Credit: “Chalkboard Numbers” by mimwickett

One great thing about a baby is that he forces you to reexamine your priorities. As the mother of a two-month-old, I’m reconsidering mine, and I’m ashamed. I’m talking about the fact that Bible study feels foreign to me these days.

Maybe that’s not surprising. Everything from my former life—exercise, writing my memoir—feels foreign. The exercise video that was once easy has become difficult. The memoir that seemed nearly sewn up now has gaping holes. The daily devotion that came as a joy now poses frustration. In short, my abs were not the only things left flabby by childbirth.

Feedings, Facebook, and the Today show replaced my morning devotions. Bottle washing and diaper changing ousted my daily workouts. Rocking, singing, and mad dashes to shower during naptime replaced the writing. And with all that breastfeeding, as you might remember, memoirs became my reading material of choice. Yes, I’ve had time to read, but I haven’t had the focus, a little voice inside has said.

That’s not good. In my former (pre-mother) life as a Christian, I learned where certain little voices come from. If it’s not the Holy Spirit, it’s, well, the other guy.

This is a tough truth to face. On the one hand, I want to plead, “But it’s not my fault! I wasn’t getting any sleep, and how can you expect a zombie to focus on her Bible?” Even now I feel this argument holds water…concerning at least the first few weeks. Just like one cannot be expected to function without food or water, I believe one cannot be expected to function (at least optimally) on inadequate sleep.

Concerning new parenthood, and I suppose other life upheavals (such as moves and new jobs), there has to be an adjustment period, and it’s bound to be rocky. If you don’t have someone spoon-feeding you your Bible lessons—or bottle feeding your baby, putting him to sleep at night, changing his diapers, holding him when he cries for the zillionth time (you get the picture)—it’s unlikely that even the most devout new parent will have a robust devotional life.

But then.

Then, that infant settles down a bit, so that you can expect a decent naptime each day. Then he sleeps to the extent that you are no longer a walking zombie. Then you have the time and the faculties available to reconsider your priorities. Then you are once again accountable for your actions.

So, I’ve decided I need to regroup. I need to get back to the Bible.

Being a good Christian doesn’t exclude some of the things I’ve been doing lately (perhaps with the exception of the Today show—I can’t help but notice how the worst of pop culture is always applauded, never condemned) but it means those things never take priority over Bible study or prayer.

Because I’ve had trouble hearing God’s voice lately, I decided to fast this week from secular books and TV. Until I am again comfortable with God and the Bible (although a Christian really should never get comfortable) I’m not turning on secular TV or picking up a memoir. So far this week I’ve bathed myself in the Bible, other inspirational reading, and religious programs such as those aired on Amazing Facts TV (If you want a spiritual boost, I recommend Amazing Facts; the speaker/director Doug Batchelor is a favorite of mine). Similar to my “Damascus Road year,” I’ve been convicted that I need to keep God front and center in my life. When I don’t, life is upside down, even more so than new motherhood makes it.

Listen, new motherhood throws your whole identity up in the air. It’s hard to redefine yourself, especially in relation to your work, if you were formerly career oriented. But I’ve decided that there is one aspect of my identity that need never be shaken, and that is my identity as a daughter of God. In Christ, I am called to be Christlike wherever I am in life. Maybe I don’t have the luxury of many uninterrupted minutes of Bible study. Maybe most of my prayers can’t be made with the backdrop of silence. But I can be faithful with what I have, be it five minutes of quiet time in which to read, or a whole noisy, busy day in which to converse with God.