Most people view the New Year as a fresh beginning: a time to make a conscious effort for a healthier lifestyle, or to commit to more time with HaShem. For me, this time of year conjures, rather than a list of resolutions, a desire to reflect on the past and get a glimpse of what is ahead. When I was asked a couple months ago to write this blog my initial thought was, “Ha! I’m a terrible writer and so not a New Year’s resolution kind-of gal.” My second thought was that HaShem has a way of putting opportunities in my path that I don’t think are my strength, challenging me to agree to the task.
As I began to reflect, I realized that for once, this past year has been filled with new habits and the start of a journey into regular study of the scriptures.
In the new year, we tend to quickly fall away from our best-laid plans for study of scripture. Living is a busy business! As women, wives, and/or mothers, our lives can be a wild and unpredictable ride every day. The last thing I want to do is tell you that it is easy to study the scriptures regularly.
During the early years of toddlers (four children in six years), working part-time, and learning about my faith and marriage, it could be both hard and easy to “find time”. The kids had mostly predictable schedules, so nap and bed times were when I’d crack open the Bible. I even did audio for a while so I could do laundry and listen at the same time.
By the time my youngest reached age four it seemed as if my life had been taken over, juggling soccer, music lessons, ballet, congregational, and family life. It started to feel as if I lived in our car. These were the hardest years for me personally.
The beauty of the Jewish faith is that we have an easy plan to follow that can help keep us from drowning. The weekly Torah schedule is what kept me in the Word somewhat regularly. Prayer and friendships with women that were just a little ahead of me in life provided the support I needed to survive.
Then, my family began to grow and morph. My children grew up one by one and started to have their own children. Though busy, I suddenly had more freedom to direct my time, and the additional challenge of trying to discover who I was without all the work of managing a family of six.
Having young children provided a lot of structure in my life. There was a bed time, wake time, a time to leave for school, dinner time, etc. Once I lost the structure, I found it hard to fit in time to read the scriptures because I always filled it with “me” time. I can’t say I have it all figured out, but I am on the journey to find what will work for me during this season.
I am far from scholarly and my faith is a simple one. It has transformed me, brought me peace, and taken me on a journey I wouldn’t have missed for anything. There are different strategies for every season in our lives, but each strategy does require discipline.
Today’s world has the same demands as in the past, but today we have more possible distractions in Facebook, Instagram, snapchat, texting, etc. I understand, because I face these same distractions.
A little tough love here…those things are not actually necessary and why most of us don’t have time. The Bible is available via apps on our phones, so why not open that app instead of another? Even if you open it up 10 times a day and only read for a couple of minutes, you are getting 20 minutes of the Word into your mind and spirit. The benefit of that is much greater than anything you might find on social media.
Consider reading out loud to your kids or have them read out loud to you while you are folding laundry, cooking dinner, driving the car. Get creative! Your children don’t need a Mommy & Me group, they need to grow up watching mom model Godly behavior and reading the Word even when she is tired or busy.
I can’t emphasize strongly enough that your children need you to become the adults you desire. Too often, we look outward to provide our children with what they need to be well rounded. I can strongly confirm that it isn’t the activities and groups your kids participate in that impacts their identity and faith. It is you modeling faithfulness, marriage, and service in your community that will make a lasting impact.
You may have to make some tough decisions about all the “stuff” in your life. We did. We limited our children to one activity each and they mostly didn’t have any paid activities before the age of three. My husband and I went out regularly on dates when the kids were little. They had quiet time at the same time mommy did. I exercised at home with them, and they learned to enjoy it and give me space. My husband and I served in the congregation with our children alongside, we didn’t wait to find a good or easier time in our life to serve the community.
This New Year, I encourage you to find something that works, anything. Start small and be faithful. We are given abundant grace, but grace isn’t an excuse for us to stop doing hard things. It isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card. Scripture reading does require time and focus. Like exercise, diet, and budgets, regular devotion to the Word does not offer an instant pay-off. It’s a discipline with rewards reaped over the long-haul.
Janet was born and raised in South Florida where she has spent that last twenty four years raising four children and now watching her grandchildren grow. She is a birth doula and Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional. Janet has been serving alongside her husband Rabbi Jesse at Ayts Chayim Messianic Synagogue in Boca Raton, Florida for the past 15 years. She has served as a small group leader, youth & young adult leader and in many other areas within the community. Her greatest joy has been raising her kids and watching them start their own lives, marriages & families. She spends most of her time serving the synagogue, working part-time for the UMJC and caring for her grandchildren.