“How do you do it all?” asked one of my good friends during a recent visit. It’s a question nearly every mother hears, especially those of us who are labeled “uber busy.” The reality of balancing domestic duties, caring for young children, and maintaining a healthy marriage—all in one twenty-four-hour time period—is even more difficult for those of us who have kids with special needs.
“Everything I do, I accomplish on God’s time,” I usually reply. It sounds cliched, but it’s true. My spiritual director explained it to me a few years ago.
I was feeling overwhelmed at all the care my daughter, Sarah, required with her rare disease: near-daily appointments to physical or occupational therapists, physicians, educators, or other specialists. Like most moms, however, I felt guilty for saying anything about it, because I knew that everyone was busy beyond belief. Still, the burnout from caregiving is real, and I was feeling it.
During that time, I spoke with my spiritual director about it. “How am I going to do everything that needs to be done, plus the writing God has called me to do?” I asked her plainly. “You are living on God’s time,” she replied. “Most people think we operate in what the Greeks termed kronos time. This is where we get the English derivative ‘chronological.’ It means we do things in a certain order, within a designated twenty-four hours. Everyone has the same amount of kronos time.”
Not sure I understood her point, I probed further. “But it’s almost impossible to keep up with daily chores and all of the ‘extras’ involved in Sarah’s care.” I was feeling discouraged, doubtful—somewhat about my ability to be a good mother but mostly about God’s provision. Without extra hands around the house, the daily duties of motherhood can be draining and exhausting.
She paused. “God’s time is kairos time. It literally translates to mean ‘the right or opportune moment.’ God’s time is outside of our concept of time. If He wants you to do something—even if it’s seemingly impossible—He will provide a way.”
It sounded oversimplified, but my heart felt a twinge of hope, truth even. Most days, it seemed like I was swimming against the tide or barely able to breathe. Life felt suffocating, noxious even. How could I see the possibility in “an opportune moment?” Like most moms, my moments were consumed with wiping faces and noses; changing diapers; feeding hungry mouths; making sure all the ducklings are clean, safe, and happy; mediating fights between siblings; and shuffling kids to various educational or social activities.
After mulling over the concept of “kronos versus kairos time” for a few days, I realized that every moment presents invitation and opportunity from God, however miniscule or magnificent. Every second that ticks by, He is present and speaking and operating in and through my life—my messy, chaotic, unchronological life. I just needed to insert a heartfelt prayer of petition, to ask Him for the grace of His time, and it would be given to me.
Sometimes the right moment meant pausing for reflection before an image of the Sacred Heart in my home to get my bearings when the older two girls were bickering and the baby was teething and feverish. At other times it meant spontaneous singing and dancing in the kitchen with the family. Still other times, it meant answering the dreaded phone call to truly listen to that person I’d been avoiding—to listen with the heart.
Even more, at the end of one ordinary day, I realized something monumental: I’d finished three loads of laundry, fed and clothed my daughters, homeschooled our oldest, prepared a homemade dinner, drove Sarah to her therapy appointment, and completed two writing projects—all without the least semblance of overwhelm or anxiety. How did it happen? I was stunned. Most of the time, it seemed as if I was merely trying to survive, to remember to take time to breathe slowly and deeply.
I was living on God’s time. It was His grace that carried me through that day to fulfill every mundane aspect of daily life, as well as to find solace in the solitude of writing. Humbled, I thanked Him for supplying me with every need and detail, and I found greater confidence in the truth that all things are possible with God.
When I rely upon my own ability and energy, my days are scattered and restless. I feel as if I’ve accomplished nothing. But when I surrender my day to God, even in a quiet and simple prayer, He takes my mustard seed and moves mountains. I am finite, but God is limitless. It’s truth that resonates in the most difficult and harried of times, one that all mothers need to remember: we can’t do it all, not without God’s intervention.
The grace of motherhood is found within the vocation itself. All of the minor irritations, daily surprises, and grueling tasks add up to this beautiful gift full of those “opportune moments.” They are often disguised as frustrations and disappointments, but they are, indeed, the right time for us to lift our desperate eyes to heaven and beg God, again and again, that we might live and operate and subsist on His time, not ours.
Text © Jeannie Ewing 2018, all rights reserved.