In high school and college I spent a lot of time in scripture, but as I started working, got married and had really little littles, I wasn't spending a lot of time in the Bible. I hunted and pecked here and there, did a few inductive Bible Studies – my time and depth ebbed and flowed depending on what I was involved in and who was holding me accountable.
And with the lack of time, I felt some of my passion for God dry up. If you asked me, I would have told you I wanted a more passionate relationship with the Lord, but I'd tell you that for one reason or another I was just kinda going through a dry spell. And if I were honest with you – if I were honest with myself – I would have told you that I believed God was the distant one, not me.
But really, I was feeding myself a lie. I was the one distancing myself from God – by not spending time with him. My words were not lining up with my actions. I gave lip-service to God, but was only having a quiet time a few days a week, for 15 minutes at best. I often found myself praying one line prayers for wisdom, for God to "give me the words," to be a mother that spoke truth to her children, and drew constant connections from their lives to their God's, but I wasn't putting in the right things to actually get something out. I longed to have the passion I saw in others, to have their fearless faith and their Biblical wisdom to believe and speak freely of God's redemptive story. But when you're just having your quiet time to check it off a list, not for comprehension or heart change, none of those things are going to happen.
When your well is dry, you'll always be thirsty.
So this past year I started committing to spending more time with God. I started getting up earlier and instead of blogging, surfing the web – or doing anything really – I sat down and spent time in his word. I considered it a meeting, one that I couldn't use excuses to get out of. I told myself that before I did anything else, no matter how much more pressing it was, or how much "fun" it offered, I would give the first part of my morning (even on the weekends) to God. And not just 15 minutes, but as much time as it took to come away with a truth for the day.
I don't read nearly as many blogs or books as I used to. I watch far less TV. I do less DIY. I say "no" to more new and fun opportunities that come my way.
But I have so much more love for God.
Slowly, over the past months, the Lord has transformed my heart. Where I could barely focus for 10 minutes on a passage of scripture, I now wake up in the morning, sometimes spending 30 minutes to an hour reading, praying, learning. This is something I've longed for all my life, something I've felt was both bizarre and admirable in others, and something I've felt like I could never attain, especially as a young mom. But life is about choices and I'm learning that I have to give up things – even a lot of good things – if I want to prioritize my relationship with God in my life.
For example, I don't work out. Now don't get me wrong, working out is a good thing, and something of great value, but not eternal value. When I realized I was prioritizing working out over my quiet time, I knew something had to change. For me personally, I wasn't willing to make time for both. (I'm so fighting the urge to write, "didn't have time for both." But as my mom always says, "You have time for what you want to make time for.") I have other things I want to give my time to so working out quickly came off the list when I knew something needed to go in order for me to grow spiritually.
If you're like me, you've looked at moms that have said things like this and wondered how in the world they can possibly find this much time to be in the word - even with giving up certain things. I'm not perfect of course, as moms, our lives change quickly. Rarely does one day look like the next. And even when we set aside time in the early morning hours before they typically wake up, things happen. Kids get sick, they wake early, we go on trips or spend time single parenting for a while. We have a lot of "seasons within a season of life," but we can still prioritize our relationship with Christ and spend time in scripture.
Maybe you can't give this much time right now, I know how hard the little years are! But no matter how many minutes you actually have to give, it's vital to be in the word every day. If you've been longing to reconnect with God, but have been wondering where he is, might I encourage you in having a daily, purposeful quiet time? Over time, I promise you, you will begin to feel the passion again. He promises that his word will not return void.
Here are a few things I've learned about getting in a consistent, intentional quiet time no matter the season you're in:
Try to find a consistent time.
This is huge. For many young moms I've talked to, they've found first thing in the morning before their kids get up is best. Admittedly, there are some seasons where this is simply not achievable, but once you have a little more routine, a little older kiddos, if you can swing waking up before the rest of the house, I highly recommend. But if your kids are up all night or routinely up at 5 a.m., try to find another part of the day that typically works - nap time, before bed, on the train to work, don't feel like you have to structure your day like anyone else's. You do you.
Figure out distractions and get rid of them.
I found that having my phone nearby was a big distraction. Sometimes I like to look things up on the internet as I'm studying God's word, but my phone had too many alerts and access to too many apps for me to stay focused. I try to put it in a drawer while I study and look things up on a computer if I need to. You could even just put it on airplane mode for a time. Within the first couple of days of doing an intentional quiet time you'll figure out your distractions - deal with them quickly so they don't set you off track.
Put things where you can easily access them.
I keep everything for my quiet time on a desk in my living room, so I can quickly grab them in the morning. I keep my regular bible, a journal for quiet time notes, a prayer journal, the ESV Study Bible, pens and highlighters with me on the couch while I study. In addition, I have several reference books on the shelf above the desk so they're easily accessible if I have a question come up.
Have a plan.
This. Is. Huge. I've always found that when I'm in a formal Bible study, I'm much more committed to spending time in God's word because I have a plan and accountability for what I'm actually doing. But I've also found that I like to change things up and often find myself running on tangents with questions and wanting to study other things.
Typically I do a more formal Bible Study two to three days a week using the inductive Bible Study Method (check out our resources here!) then the other five days I spend working through larger passages of scripture. (Essentially, I use the plow and trowel methods, this post is a great overview. Emily and I also shared a bit more about some studies we liked in the Ask Us Anything, Spring 2017 show, so head there to see what we've enjoyed.)
There are no rules!
Remember, there are no true rules when it comes to quiet times. It's between you and the Lord. Don't be afraid to change up what you're doing, or if the day is a little out of whack and you can't fit in your normal amount of time, don't toss in the towel. Do what you can, even just leaving the Bible open on your counter so you can look at it throughout the day is better than nothing. Don't compare what you're doing to anyone else - especially not to me. For a time I felt like I needed to learn specific things in a passage, or study some of the most popular books of the Bible, or spend a certain amount of time studying. But if I've learned anything it's to allow the Lord to direct my thoughts and my time. Some days, I really do just have 10 minutes, other days, I have an hour. I can trust that he'll guide me in the right things to study, bringing the right things to mind, and allow the truth I need to hear stand out in the time he's provided.
Telling someone else to check in on you is a surefire way for you to get your rear in gear and actually read God's word. Swap emails or Voxes about what you've read, send each other texts to let each other know you've done it, or even have a weekly playdate to discuss what you're learning. Accountability is a great way to grow with others and to motivate you on those extra tough days.
With a bit of planning, it's not so difficult - even as a young mom - to get in God's word and feel like you truly came away filled up. The hardest part is actually sitting down to start, but that's where the "duty turns to delight," returning far more rewards than anything else we could spend our time on.
*Updated from a post originally posted on Oakland Avenue. For more on bible study in motherhood, listen to Episode 63 | Jen Wilkin: Growing in God's Word As a Mom of Little Ones.