These days are moving so fast that I struggle to capture them. I'm finding that this season of life is more active than the previous one. And all my moving is mostly happening outside my home. No more am I turning circles within my own four walls, wee ones tugging on the hem of my shirt and babies neslted into front pack carriers. Now, I'm strategizing about how to most efficiently take my show on the road and be where I need to be to meet their needs: orthodontist, dance, soccer, doctor, gym, tutor, park. The list is long and varied. They are mostly moving targets and my days of coming up with a standard schedule for a whole season or even for a year at a time are long past. Every day is new.
I have been challenged to move through these days with peace and to pursue my plan to renew my body, soul, and spirit. I thought renewal would be mostly about snuggling under quilts with knitting and copious amounts of tea. Not so much. There is tea. It's not caffeinated any more. I gave up caffeine (in pursuit of genuine renewal) back in January. I'm drinking lots of hibiscus tea these days. Did you know that hibiscus tea can lower one's blood pressure? Mine's down 14 points. Might be the tea. Might be the exercise. Might be the diet. Might be the essential oils. Or maybe it's just renewal kicking in. Since I don't know, I guess I'll have to keep doing all of the above.
I am challenged to see in these days the opportunities for renewal even in the midst of moving. For an introvert, this has been a challenge. Intentional self care is new to me. It's not the way I was raised and honestly, it's not the way I mothered in the first couple of decades. I'm good at giving and sacrifice. I'm just learning about loving onself so as to better love one's neighbor.
Michele put it well last week:
Mothers in particular can struggle with this. It feels selfish to take that time alone with God but taking time to nourish your relationship with God isn't selfishness, it's self-care and there a very big difference. By nature we are self-focused beings and that isn't an accident. While it has been distorted by sin, it is actually intended for our good and properly focused can be a path to growing in holiness. "Love your neighbor as yourself" assumes that we will love ourselves.
Not in an egotistical way but in the way that God does. Desiring the highest and best good for us, that of union with Him and eternal life. That is self-care. ~Michele Quigley, In God's Time
Aha! In order to truly love well, we need to learn to care for ourselves. Particularly if we come from homes where nurturing was in short supply, we need to learn to nurture ourselves--to be good mothers to ourselves so that we can be good mothers to our children.
So, these days I'm finding pockets of nurture in the midst of crazy. My husband is my biggest help in this endeavor. Last week, despite a ridiculous four day stretch of non-negotiables crowding our schedules, he insisted on a Friday night date. It was a lovely excuse to wear pretty new shoes and sit for spell in the tasting room of our favorite winery and just catch up with one another (and our friends at Rapphannock).
Sure, that meant that plans for Kristin's birthday dinner morphed into takeout instead of home-cooked because I couldn't pull off the planned dinner. But Mike knows how to craft a pretty awesome takeout menu and we definitely rocked the chocolate cake (recipe below;-). And there is something to be said about giving someone a great pair of running shoes along with the richest chocolate cake on the planet.
Looking for pockets of renewal means recognizing blessings where they are unexpected. My sewing room is mostly untouched these days (except for the messes little girls keep making while rummaging to find scraps to craft doll clothes), but that doesn't mean I haven't fed my creative spirit. I'm spending hours at a table at the dance studio, tacking petals of lace to layers of netting or gluing rhinestones to wide brimmed hats. I'm brainstorming ways to make too-small costumes fit or to find other ones that do and to change gears at the last moment. True, these aren't quiet hours in my light-filled home studio. Instead, they are hours in the company of sweet women whose daughters dance with mine and who feed my creative spirit with their own. It's the closest I've ever come to a sewing circle or crafting co-op. Gift. Truly.
Often--always?--when time starts spinning and I want more control (or to comfort myself with the illusion of control), I look to my my internet usage. I think that I just need to curtail it all. Um. No. Not this time. As a matter of fact, this time I saw a meme floating around Instagram. It was picture of guy who said something like, "I had no internet on my phone for a day and look what I accomplished: finally graduated, got married, gave the dog a bath, etc, etc." And of course, that got me thinking. What would happen if didn't have internet on my phone for a day? And the next day? I had answers.
Nothing happened. It was pretty much business as usual. So, yeah, it's not the internet this time. On a related note, though, I have adjusted my "Do Not Disturb" time on my phone. With the exception of immediate family, my phone knows not to ding, ring, or ping me from 9:00 PM to 9:00 AM. And I promised my phone not to bother it either. Just don't touch it between those hours. We're both good with it.
Michele has lots of good thoughts in her post. Here's where I admit that I didn't read it before I posted it and I didn't read the whole thing until several days later. I'm sure there's some irony in not having time to read a time management post. I'm finding lately that I don't have very many decisions to make regarding time management. Most decisions are made for me and I just do the next thing. The greatest decision I make is to be flexible, to bend in the direction I'm being called--to recognize that my plan might not be the best plan and that I best plan to hear His plan.
There are dust bunnies under my couch. This state of affairs is so not me. Yesterday, sitting on a black floor at the dance studio while Katie and Karoline rehearsed their solos, I was overcome with needing to grab a broom. I swept that floor clean. There are still dust bunnies at home, but the dance floor is cleaner. Productivity? Not so much. Instead, I'm being called to being where my children are and often to being still there. I makes me a little crazy. Apparently, though, renewal for me means learning not to equate that checked off to-do list [::clean house ::homecooked meals ::laundry all caught up ::bathrooms sparkling] with personal worth. That doesn't mean I don't still think homemaking is very much worth the bother. It just means that I'm coming to recognize more clearly that the value isn't in the productivity, but in the love behind it. And when we love well, we love ourselves enough to recognize that we can't do it all. We can't check off everything on the list all the time. And we are not failures if we choose the better over the good.
Productivity is not a virtue --which isn't to say that it can't be virtuous but sanctity doesn't consist in the works we do but in how we respond to God's invitations in our soul. We have a duty to God and to our families and justice demands that we fulfill that duty, but LOVE must hold primacy of place and productivity can only be at the service of love. ~ In God's Time
These days are full. They have a cadence that is very new to me. But they are good. And if I am alert and aware to His plan, they are full of opportunities to renew.
Michael's favorite Kahlua cake
1 package devil's food cake mix (without pudding in the mix)
1 package (5.9 ounces) instant chocolate pudding
1 cup of Kahlua
1 cup sour cream
1 stick of butter, melted
4 large eggs
6 ounces mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 and place the rack in the center. Coat a tube pan with oil and flour. Combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips and mix on low for a minute. Scrape down the sides and mix on medium for 2 minutes more. Fold in chocolate chips. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Test with a toothpick, but know that if you hit a chocolate chip, it's not going to come out clean. Just use common sense. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes. Invert. Remove the pan. Cool completely and dust with powdered sugar or go for it and make it super decadent:
We topped the cake with vanilla bean ice cream and spooned this over top. It just sort of happened, using leftovers from cake ingredients.
1 stick of butter
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup Kahlua
1 cup of sour cream
Melt the butter and then stir the chocolate chips in to melt them. When they are completely melted, stir the Kahlua into the chocolate until thoroughly mixed. Carefully, fold the sour cream into the mixture. Spoon over cake or ice cream. Or just eat it by the spoonful!