There are probably as many different ways to have what I was taught to call a “quiet time” with the Lord as there are people on the planet. I know for me, my quiet time routine has varied over the years as life circumstances varied. It took me a while to learn that the exact when, where and how of quiet time did not matter to Jesus as much as it seemed to matter to me. Realizing that what was important was me actually engaging in time with Him was so freeing. However, that realization has also been at times very fleeting. The key to consistency continues to be the attitude of my heart. Morning works best for my quiet time with the Lord, and I am seldom called upon to be flexible about this. Perhaps next year, next month or even next week, I will have to make a change. Right now, morning works.
When I had little babies, that time after the first morning feeding was the perfect opportunity to meet with Jesus from my rocking chair. As the babies became toddlers, I found I was frustrated by morning quiet times. I had one toddler that was always awake early. She never wanted to miss anything. Whatever was going on with me was supposed to include her. The minute she heard me stirring, she was up. I soon switched to evening quiet time.
When my second baby grew into a toddler, she loved staying up late. She always needed another drink or to sing and play a while in bed before she could settle down to a long sleep. I did not know to add those sounds to my quiet time and consider them a special layer of blessing. I just wanted her to go to sleep! In my quiet time, I wanted QUIET! I can remember inwardly claiming that it was supposed to be MY TIME. I think my “inward fist” might have been extended heavenward more than once about this issue! My demanding spirit got in the way of a meaningful time of communion with Jesus, and routine quiet times diminished just when I needed them most.
A wise family friend suggested I switch my quiet time to just after lunch rather than using the children’s nap time for completion of chores or watching my soap opera. She knew from experience there would grow a difference in my attitude about everything if I spent more time with the Lord. So it started that, during much anticipated nap time, I would gather my Bible, current study book, notebook and something special to drink. In the warm months I often had sweet iced tea with fresh lemon slices, and in the cooler months of the year, I savored a hot cup of Constant Comment tea. I would meet with Jesus while the little ones rested. Some days though, I was just plain tired. I was the one that needed the nap! I learned that it was ok to fall asleep praying as I lay curled up beside my youngest in her bed while Sesame Street curtains blew in the breeze from the open windows. The Lord was right there with us in that kind of quiet time too.
I remember reading once that Susanna Wesley’s children, of whom there were at least seven living at home, learned that when their mother pulled her long apron over her face and head, she was talking to Jesus. She might do this without a moment’s notice standing in the middle of their kitchen! I slowly, slowly learned that the house did not have to be totally quiet for me to have time with the Lord. Really, when is a home with little ones totally quiet for any length of time anyway! The Lord used this true story to teach me that I could have a “quiet time” with Him in the middle of the kitchen when I needed it! My mother often told me she would met with Jesus while she ironed!
When school-age years arrived for both girls, quiet time was much easier. I had the privilege of being an at-home mom so my quiet time moved back to mornings just after the little munchkins left the house. By then I was enjoying General Food's International Coffees as my special treat! In later years, starting my own home cleaning business required quiet time had to change yet again. I was able to have prayer and listen to sermons on the radio as I worked. I learned a lot listening to great preaching while scrubbing other people’s toilets and mopping their kitchen floors! Bible reading time was right before bed back then. I often drifted to sleep looking at the words on the page. Rather than allowing me to feel guilty about this, the Lord used my husband’s wise comment to help me understand this was an excellent method for entering into peaceful slumber after a long day, and God was not offended.
Another change in my quiet time came about because of summers. I imagine that for many years children have thought they were much too old for naps long before parents thought naptime should end! A dear, “older woman”— probably younger than I am now, who mentored many of us young moms, suggested I teach my children how to partake in quiet time. My friend told me I should agree with the children that they were now too old for naps, but continue insisting on a restful period where everyone was quietly reading.
At about the same time I remember seeing in a magazine (I think it was Christianity Today) about F.O.B. time! F.O.B. stands for “Flat on Back.” If you asked my girls, they would tell you that F.O.B. lasted in the Runyon household almost until they had jobs outside the home. Along with the wonderful summer sound of box fans running, the girls had Bibles, study books, and other reading material to enjoy. The oldest became a voracious reader, and the youngest usually read a little and ended the time doing what her uniquely created little body had always seemed to need-a bit of extra sleep. Later, as the girls were older, head phones and music like DC Talk, instrumental tapes, Michael W. Smith (he was brand new back then), and soundtracks from musicals (Amanda can still sing every song to OKLAHOMA) were added to their F.O.B. time.
Because we had a swimming pool in the backyard (a beautiful answer to prayer given to me from the Lord after a faith study I did), the girls spent most summer mornings in the pool until lunch. By this time, I had absorbed the concept that quiet time did not have to be conducted in total silence, all at once, with me hidden away all alone. Some of my sweetest memories are when I had my quiet time under the big umbrella at the picnic table on the deck with the fan blowing over me and my books while the girls enjoyed swimming. I’d jump in the pool to play and cool off and then go back to the devotional or Bible study book I was reading. When 12:30 or 1:00 came, it was time to get out of the sun for a few hours. It was lunchtime with a little television down in the cool of the family room, and then they were off to their bedrooms for F.O.B. I could be alone with Jesus for a while if needed.
The funny thing is, as I became more flexible about “my” quiet time, the Lord’s graciousness became more evident to me. I started seeing opportunities and ways in which to meet with Him that I’d missed when demanding my rights to a private quiet time. There were days when F.O.B. even took place on the living room floor with all three of us together on soft pallets, the box fan blowing cool air over us as we read. Jesus was there. Sometimes, I was so aware of that as I looked at my daughters that it would take my breath away. Other times, I was too tired to remember or really care, but He was still there. No matter where, no matter when, no matter how, I believe Jesus was pleased when I turned my face to Him. I think perhaps He was even more pleased during those times when I brought my children along with me into my quiet time.
My prayer now is that as I continue to age, I will continue to turn my face to Him for quiet time. No doubt, I will need to learn new ways to be flexible. Soon I may need to “bring along” one of my parents as I have my quiet time because they will have become dependent on me much as my children were in the past. Someday, I may not be able to see the words on the pages of the Bible, hold a pen to write notes in the margins of a devotional book, or hear the sweet sounds of gospel music. One day I may even need to pull my nursing home sheet up over my head in a shared room while I spend time with my Jesus.
Lord, please help me to remember that you are with me no matter where I am and no matter how I reach out to you. No matter the time of day or the day of the week, you are with me. Even if I become unable to reach out in any way at all, you are with me. Help me now; while I am still so physically and mentally free, to spend time with you. More importantly, dear Jesus, please help me to be willing to bring along anyone else that may be around who might need to spend time with you too. Help me, Lord, to be unselfish even with “my” quiet time. I know you will bless me for it.