As moms, and particularly as mothers with preschoolers at home, this can sound like such an overwhelming task. Those checklists glare at us, reminding us how behind we are, so why bother? Others seem to be able to handle it. Why can't I seem to get it together?
Boy do I hear ya. It can be so discouraging. But not impossible. I thought I'd share a thought that has helped me over the years:
What did our great-great grandmas of the faith do?
When I get discouraged that I'm behind on my Bible reading or my Beth Moore or Kay Arthur homework (both of whom I LOVE!), I remind myself that formal Bible studies with written homework are a fairly recent invention. In the early centuries of the church, few copies of the scriptures were available, and I would hazard to guess that the literacy rate among women was pretty low. Our great-great (great-great) grandma of the faith was not marking her personal copy of the Bible with colored pens - triangles for this, circles for that, and octagons for the others.
No, she probably opened the Bible - most likely only book in the whole household - and read from it, or she listened carefully as portions of scripture were read to her. Then, she mulled them over and over as she went about her day's work until she memorized them. She let its words soothe her soul, give her hope, and renew her mind. She took the stories of the Bible literally and with awe. She accepted God at His Word, and even in her limited understanding, she taught the Good Book to her children.
So what does this mean for me?
For one thing, I will tell you that when I had three preschoolers (the Dark Years and Facing the Preschool Years) I stopped agonizing over the charts and lists. I can count on two or three fingers the number of studies I actually completed (many more started, but unfinished). Instead, I spent literally YEARS reading Psalms and Proverbs over and over again. Why?
Besides the fact that I had no idea what I was doing as a mother and totally identified with David when I looked at my children ("Why do the heathen rage?"), here's the main reason: The chapters are (for the most part) SHORT.
Very dumb sounding reason, but in those years I was so overwhelmed by motherhood that the thought of doing more than opening the Bible and finding something - anything - that met my need for the moment was utterly discouraging to me.
I started putting my Bible on the counter next to my bathroom sink, because getting a shower was a huge goal to accomplish, and most days, it was my only time to get a moment alone. As I dried my hair and put on my makeup, I opened it and began to read a Psalm or two a day or a chapter of Proverbs.
Somehow during those times - with the hair dryer going and all - God met me. I saw His faithfulness, His greatness, His sovereignty. Amazingly, through the constant repetition in short, often-interrupted, and sometimes haphazard spurts, I was able to memorize whole passages - words of beauty and comfort and hope and praise that still come to me in the night hours when my mind wants to wander to dark places.
When I'm tempted to quit because I'm not doing a perfect job, I'm behind, or my kids are sick again so I missed church, I remind myself that ALL scripture is inspired by God. Whether it's whole books, whole chapters, whole verses - or one phrase (such as "I AM"), His word will not return void.
As the kids have gotten older and my schedule has morphed along with them, I've stuck with my repetition habit. My Bible still stays by my sink in the bathroom (which I CAN'T WAIT to update!):
Nowadays, even once my hair is dry, I just keep reading. I try to read through the Old Testament every one or two years (with frequent stops in Psalms and Proverbs, because I love them so).
But my New Testament reading is much like my Dark Years days: I like to read the short books over and over until I get a feel for the flow of the book. Edited to add: Here is a simple study "system" similar to what I do. I use a good study Bible and underline with whatever color pen I can find that day. I keep notecards on hand so I can write down verses I want to memorize. I listen for God to speak to me through what I'm reading, again and again - What is Your word for me - just for today, Lord?
My mom tells about sitting by her own mother, reading scripture to her in her last days. As Mom read to her, she marveled as Grandma began to recite whole chapters along with her. Grandma never went to seminary. Compared to what's available today, her Bible study resources were minimal. But Grandma - by constant repetition over a lifetime of loving Him - had stored God's Word in her heart.
When she faced death, she didn't want someone to tell her what a great job she did on her Bible study that week. She really didn't even want to hear a sermon or an exegesis of the scriptures.
She just wanted to hear the the comforting, everlasting, redeeming WORD of God.
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Receive with meekness the implanted word,
which is able to save your souls.