Jani Ortlund: Hello, everyone, welcome back to He Restores My Soul. I’m so glad you’re with us.
Our Question for Today
I’ve been receiving several questions from listeners regarding how to have a quiet time when you have little ones. What can it look like? They’ve been asking for help. You’ve been asking for help. And I want you to know that I understand. I remember. And I want to encourage you today.
I got this “Ask Jani” question from a young mom:
“Hi, Jani. You have mentioned your visit to Krista and being impressed with how she has trained her children to rise and be quiet until she has had time to meet with God. You mentioned that you were even able to have your quiet time honored while you were staying with Krista and her children. I’m a young mom with a little boy who just turned 2 and a five-month old daughter. I would love to hear from Krista, or some ideas you have for how to go about making this a reality in my home. Can you help? Thank you.”
Well, Victoria, thank you for writing in and asking this question. Let’s take today’s podcast and answer it, talk about it, think about it, pray over it. And then you can get back to your discipleship series with a little bit more eagerness to get back into the Word and your quiet times.
Quiet + Caffeine
I did speak with Krista about it. Because she lives so far away we we could not figure out an easy way for both of us to podcast together, but we we’ve had some good conversations about it. I’d like to start by sharing some of the things she said.
She told me,
“Mom, in all reality when my kids were little, I can’t remember exactly how I did this. I just knew in my own soul it was a non-negotiable for me. I needed to enter my day with quiet and with caffeine.”
She said the caffeine sometimes was just as important to me as being with the Lord, so, young moms, you understand that, don’t you?
She said that oftentimes bearing children and raising them through those early months and years is like a death, and I really agree with that. Dear young mom, you go into death to bear a child. And then you die to yourself, to nurse that child, to care for that child. And when you are at a near-death experience, you need life from somewhere else! You need sustenance. Krista was saying it was a necessity for her. I agree.
She also had this point that,
“Children absorb the environment into which they’re born.”
What are the norms in that household? What are the priorities that they see? What are the values of the home environment? Your children will absorb what they see you doing. What are your priorities?
Finally, she said, please encourage the mom that, “This is just a season.” When you’re in it, you feel like you will never have a full night’s sleep again, or at least you won’t be able to live until you do—this is nearly killing you. There will never be 10 minutes where you can take a shower and get your hair washed and blown dry. You’ll never have a half an hour to sit down and read. Well, it’s a season. Krista wanted me to remind you, “It had a beginning and it will have an end sooner than you think.”
“This is just a season. It had a beginning and it will have an end sooner than you think.”
I want to encourage you, young moms, that especially if you’re nursing, as your baby is taking milk in, then give yourself permission to take in the milk of the Word—the Psalms, the Proverbs, the gospels—some of the parts of Scripture that are a little bit easier to read a little more familiar to you. Drink from that milk, and then as your baby matures and grows older, and starts on solid food and starts taking in some meat, then it will be time for you to feast on more meaty parts of Scripture. Don’t be too hard on yourself. But don’t give up and give in; don’t let Satan win the battle for your soul during these months. The Lord wants to meet with you, and you will find satisfaction and fulfillment as you meet with Him even as you sip some milk from his Word.
5 Practical Hints
Now let me go to some practical hints that I tried with our kids and I’ve seen work with other children as well. Let me give you five things that you could try. Maybe one would work for you, maybe three would work for you. Maybe some just sound like they’re more of a hindrance than a help. But let’s start with this.
There are ways to train children, even young children. I’ve even heard of a sleeping coach for babies. Have you ever heard of that? That’s amazing. Heidi was telling me when she was here last week that you can hire a sleep coach to help you with your baby to teach your baby how to sleep. Well, we can train our children, we can train them to rise and have some quiet time before they enter into their day.
HINT #1: Have their drinks prepared
First of all, I would suggest this: if your children are old enough to get out of bed themselves—I’m thinking two and a half-ish, maybe two—then you can teach them to come into the kitchen, and they’ll find a drink (if they’re starving, I don’t know if their last meal was at five, they might need a little cracker or granola bars, something that they can eat to keep their tummies quiet) that you have prepared. Maybe have some fresh fruit, that safe for them to eat on their own. Tell them that they can take their drinks and maybe that little snack and get a book and read quietly while you read your book. That’s the first thing: have their drinks prepared.
HINT #2: Use a sign or a signal
Secondly, I would encourage you to think about a sign or a signal that even a young child can learn to recognize. Maybe it’s a picture of something or a little church that you have on your table where you have your quiet time. Or I don’t know if you know of Willow Tree (they have these beautiful figurines), and I have one of a woman kneeling, you could use something like that. Susanna Wesley, you might know of her, was said to put an apron over her head. She had several children. When she was meeting with God, she put her apron over her head and her children were told that they could not bother mom during that time. Or maybe the signal would be that you’re on your knees. When you’re on your knees, you’re talking with God and reading His Word, and you do not want your children to interrupt you. So you can train them to have a visual of that. When you use that visual, Mommy is talking with God and listening to God, communing with Him, having fellowship. You can start teaching them new words and expanding their vocabulary a little bit. But think of a sign or a signal that might work in your family. Be creative. Let me know what you use, and I can share it on the podcast.
HINT #3: Set a Timer
Perhaps it would help your children, as it did mine, to set a timer. We had an egg timer. And when ever I was training our children to do something that was hard for them, I would start with a very small increment of time, maybe five minutes. So we’d get our drink, I’d get my cup of tea and my Bible, they would get their drinks and their piece of fruit or their cracker or whatever it was and a book. I would set the timer for five minutes, and when the timer was done, we were all done, and then we could talk. The next week I would try to set it for six minutes and work up to 10 minutes. You know, perhaps for a two year old, maybe 15 minutes for two and a half year old. You’ll you’ll have to figure out How best to train your children what they’re capable of doing.
HINT #4: Have Fun Practicing It
Now along that line of setting a timer, is this practical hint: I would have fun teaching them about how to do this. I would have fun practicing it. Do it in the afternoon when they’re awake with, let’s pretend it’s tomorrow morning. “Now, here’s your juice drink. Alright, you’re coming down out of bed, you’re really tired and you see mommy, she’s over there with her Bible. What are you supposed to do?” Have their drinks ready, they go get their drinks, go through it for three or four days, practice, and then praise them when they do it.
BONUS: Teach them what an emergency is!
Also during this fourth hint of teaching them and practicing, teach them what an emergency is. Because you want them to know that you are available for emergencies. I used to tell my children that, “Blood and bathroom needs are emergencies.” If they needed help cleaning themselves in the bathroom, or if they felt like they were going to throw up, or if they were bleeding, those were emergencies. They could come, pat mommy on the shoulder and say, “Mommy, I have an emergency.” Or if they needed to shout it from the bathroom, “Emergency, mommy!” Well, practice with those as well! Get some red food coloring and put it on one of the children’s fingers and have the other child come and get you, “Mommy, Johnny’s bleeding, we’ve got an emergency!” Okay, here I come! Or have one of them go into the bathroom while the others are drinking and shout, “Mommy, emergency, I need help!” Practice, go through it, praise them, make it fun. Remind them that you want to be the best mommy you can be because you’re the only mom they have, and God is asking you to be a good mommy to them. So this is how you can be a good mommy. Work through it, you’ll you’ll know how to do it with your own children. God has especially equipped you as their mom to teach them, but work with them, especially from 18 months on up. Teach them about these kinds of things for the younger children. Hopefully, they can still be in their crib for a little bit while you have your quiet time.
HINT #5: Reward your children
Finally, I would say reward your children. Now, for some of you even to figure out a reward might feel more of a “burden” than it does a “help” this might be a hindrance. So this might be one of the teaching strategies you would say, “Jani, that certainly won’t work in our family; doesn’t work for me.” That’s fine, but maybe there is a mom out there for whom it’ll work. I taught second grade for years, as you know, and I used the reward system because I found that it worked.
So I would encourage you with your children. After you’ve trained them to come get their drinks, after you’ve practiced they’re recognizing your signal or your sign that you have out for them, after you’ve set a timer for a while and taught them about emergencies and practiced, well, as you’re practicing, give them stickers when they do it. Maybe you could put each of their names on a sticker sheet and make it short, like, for five days or a week. Don’t make it a whole month. When you’re starting, you might just want to make it three to five days, and every time they’re successful, let them get a sticker. And at the end of their goal, whether it be three to five stickers, you choose what the treat would be. Maybe it’s a Skittle for each of their stickers or an M&M. Maybe it’s a cookie—you can see where I go, I’m a sugar fiend. I’m sorry, Moms. I’m so bad with that! But I love sugar myself, so it works for me. You can figure something out—maybe they’re saving up for something and they can earn 50 cents or $1 to put in their piggy bank after a certain number of stickers or stars or however you want to do it.
Make it fun for you and for them. Don’t let it be a hindrance. This is supposed to be a joy. The Lord tells us to rejoice always, to be thankful in all things. He is our joy. And we want our children to see this that this isn’t. We have to, but it’s, oh, we get to, you will be able to train your children through the years. Now I’m not saying this will take two or three weeks. This will take some time and every new baby that comes, there will be new training, but the older children will help, I can assure you. It will take time, but oh, it will be worth it. Please don’t disregard the Lord’s invitation to you because you’re too tired, or because you have young children. Don’t skip these years. Do what you can. Offer that to him as a sweet-smelling sacrifice, and He will receive it as beautiful and He will restore your souls. God bless you, young mom, as you train your children.