“The glory of God is man fully alive.”
It was the first hike we’d been on in awhile and it was fresh air to my soul. I had had a hard labor with my second born and also a very slow recovery. I was fully wrapped up in my newfound role as “Mommy” to my two precious little ones, and the days were full. But on that hike, I remember hearing a quiet whisper in my soul, like the whistling whisper in the pines: “Remember who you are.”
I snapped a picture of our chacos, my husband and I, to remember. We met leading backpacking trips for an outdoor program, but we had spent little time nurturing that part of our hearts since having kids.
Fast forward a few months…
It was “that” time of day again. You know what I’m talking about, if you have little ones. The bewitching hour, the 5 o’clock melt down. I was hurrying to get dinner on the table, while my three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son squabbled and whined around my feet. I was pregnant with our third, and it had been a long day. One of those days where you are literally counting the minutes until your husband gets home. And banking on the fact that when he walks in the door, you are beelining it to the bathroom for a quiet moment. Or twenty.
Hot steam from the oven rising in my face, waves of nausea rolling over me as my body was telling me dinner needed to be ready soon, and of course, the phone rings. My husband calling, saying he would be late again. The realization sinks in that I’ll be wrangling these two wild ones into the bath and pajamas and bed on my own again, another night. In that moment, it’s hard to hold back the tears. But I surrender to the inevitable and get back to work.
A few hours later when my husband is finally home and we’re catching up about the day, he’s asking me if he can go on a sailing trip that weekend with his dad and that’s when I sort of have a break down. Alone again with the kids? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I adore my children! But the hard thing sometimes about being a mother is your job doesn’t end at 5pm. You don’t get to leave the office and come home. You are always on-call. Even in my sleep, there’s a part of me that’s listening for anything out of the ordinary, listening for that child who might need me.
That’s when I had a break down of sorts. That’s when I realized things were just sort of out of balance. With my husband training for a marathon, he was leaving for long runs early in the morning, sometimes as early as 4 am, and then sometimes not getting home until the kids were already in bed. I felt like a single parent some days. But as soon as I felt the words, “I need a break!” rising like a scream in my soul, I felt something even stronger rise up: guilt. A break from my kids? What kind of mother says that?
I didn’t begrudge my husband for what he needed to do and for the responsibilities he was juggling. I just began to realize I needed to start protecting a little bit of time for myself to get away and turn off the constant “ON” button in my brain.
When all this began pouring out in a hot mess of tears, my sweet husband was more than happy to accommodate. He agreed, it was important for me to have some time to step away and just do what would reenergize me. We began working some things into our schedule, and he was persistent in asking me if I needed some getaway time on the weekends. At first, I continued to feel guilty taking this time, whether it was just to grocery shopping without the kids, or go out for a cup of coffee with a friend.
I couldn’t shake this sense that I really needed to be there for everything. Like it was wrong for me to not be there every night to tuck them into bed, or to not be there when they got up from their naps. I couldn’t shake the sense that I felt like I needed to “please everyone to the point of emptiness” (Fringe Hours, p. 41). But we pressed on.
With practice came more freedom. It became easier to let go, to see that my kids really enjoy having some time alone just with Daddy. It was amazing to see how a little time away refreshed and reenergized me to jump back in to my tasks at home. It felt like I was coming alive again, enjoying my family more instead of being irritated at everyone for always asking for more.
You see, I believe Jesus teaches us that we are to serve from a place of overflow, not emptiness. We are to be so filled up in Him first, and then from that place, we pour out to others what He has given to us (Luke 6:45, John 4:14). Even Jesus, in His perfection, pulled away frequently from all others to a quiet place alone with His Father for refreshment. If the Son of God needed to refresh Himself in order to best serve the world, how much more do we?
This is why I think Jessica Turner’s book, The Fringe Hours will be a wonderful help to many women who find themselves worn down, weary, never making time for themselves, and often drowning beneath the effort to please everyone to the point of emptiness.
I can’t tell you how many friends have talked with me about this particular struggle, the struggle to find time to do the things they love. Many believe that we simply have to forego those hobbies or passions during this season of motherhood, and while I agree that different seasons of life allow for different freedoms, “we must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please” (Fringe Hours, p. 45). I think sometimes we wrongly assume that Christ’s call for us to serve others means we should be haggard, depleted, always giving and never resting. I think sometimes we think the more worn out we are, the holier we must be, and we wear our exhaustion like a badge. God made us whole people, with a body, a mind, a heart, a soul. We are to tend to these aspects of our being out of reverence to Him and as part of worship to Him (Romans 12:1).
What are we teaching our daughters? I look at my now 4-year old girl and I wonder what her mother looks like in her young eyes. Does she look like an empty shell of a woman, always bedraggled, wearing yoga pants, exhausted, and slaving away over chores or running the kids around to various activities? Or does she see a woman who is enjoying life while being a momma? A woman who is still herself, still loves the things she always loved, makes time to play guitar, to hang out with girlfriends, to pursue creativity, making things with her hands? Does she see a woman who is bubbling over with life? A woman who is fully invested as her mom, but still has passions and ambitions? Or does she just see a tired, irritable woman?
Jessica Turner, the lovely lady behind the popular lifestyle blog The Mom Creative, didn’t just write this book from her own intuitions about women and how they use their time. She surveyed over 2,000 women and conducted research, and then drew from her findings to write this book. The Fringe Hours is meant to help women take back pockets of time that they already have and utilize them in order to pursue the things they love.
This book is super practical with tons of tips and ideas for how to better manage your time and also to discover creative ways to fit your passions into your day. For example, research shows that every person waits on average 45-60 minutes per day. Jessica discusses ideas like planning ahead and keeping a book with you, a needlework project you’re working on for a friend, or notecards to write encouraging words to a loved one while you wait. She discusses barriers to self-care such as guilt, comparison, and self-imposed pressures. She helps you identify some of your old passions and gives many ideas to encourage you to continue pursuing those things, even if it looks entirely different in your current season of life. She also discusses ways we can identify areas in our lives that need more attention
One of my favorite features of the book was that it was interactive with journaling sections peppered throughout each chapter, causing me to respond and record my reactions and goals as I read.
If you find yourself sort of drowning beneath the waves of busyness in your life, this book will be a great help and advocate for you to spend your time well and invest in what truly matters so that, ultimately, you can better glorify God.
Here’s a little trailer from Jessica! Also, you can find out more about the book + read the first chapter HERE.