So, it's the year of Renew.
I had big aspirations.
I can't believe it's June. I can't believe I still have so far to go. Just as I committed to renewal, the pace in this household sped up to where I can barely keep up. But I am keeping up. I'm just not quite sure if that's a good thing.
I think, at heart, I'm the slow type. Slow food. Slow web. Long, slow reads. Slow. I'm definitely the slow type. And I'm the quiet type. I love my time alone with my thoughts. I'm fed by quiet. I know that about myself. I always envisioned myself on three acres or so in a rural town with a sweet library. I even know the town. The librarian there is a dear friend.
Every once in awhile, when Mike and I both feel like we've reached maximum household pressure, we stop and reevaluate. We ask ourselves the same questions. Why are we here (not the existensial why, but the why do we live in this particular place why)? What are we doing? What are they doing (our children)?
We are blessed that he has a good job. In this economy, when jobs are precious, he has a creative job with a strong company. He has a lot of mouths to feed and he keeps them well fed. True, his job requires him to be here and to be 1000 miles away at the same time. True, it often feels as if he's working two jobs. Still, we are grateful for his work. And we are grateful for mine. Though not nearly the wage earner that he is, I am blessed with work that contributes. It doesn't take me from my home, but it does require my time and attention within my home. It's got its space in the predetermined allocated hours of the day. The hours over which, increasingly, I feel like I have no control.
We live where we do because it makes the most sense when we consider employment, travel, and children. It just does. And as much as I might love to read the blogs of women on parcels of land, as much as I idealize that kind of slow, that's not my life. I don't really believe it's the life He intended for me. My life is here, with the man I love and the children God gave us.
So, how to nurture slow here in suburbia? We've long limited our children to just one thing. They can choose whatever they want (within reason), but in addition to school and church, they can only do just one thing. That means if they play soccer, there are no scouts. If they dance, there's no horseback riding. If they want to play basketball, they have to limit it to rec league when there's a soccer lull. Just one thing.
They have just one thing and we have all their things together. Plus a traveling Dad.
The arithmetic is overwhelming me. I see the good in their one things. I really do. These are children educated at home who have deep, deep ties to community. Mike and I have dear friends who are parents and teachers and coaches who have shared those one things. I am grateful for the connections I've made because of my children's one things. I am grateful for the lessons they have learned, the friends they have made, the examples they have encountered. Grateful. Grateful. Grateful.
And on the brink of burnout.
Yesterday morning, I snapped an iPhone shot of my just-bloomed daylilies, for Instagram. For some strange reason, when I went to caption it, this verse came rushing to my mind:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
I am certain it was this whisper of the Holy Spirit on a cool morning breeze.
I have had no plans lately. My days of chore charts and lesson plans and meal plans all but evaporated about five years ago. I've tried to revive them now and again, to no avail. I'm fairly certain I know why I stopped. I'm also certain it was stupid. It matters not now why I stopped. What matters is that yesterday morning, I recognized that God Himself had plans. And just because it feels like nothing is up to me to decide and everything is dictated by the demands of employment and kid commitments, by golly, I need to make some plans.
June Renew Task #1: revive the planning notebooks.
As I pondered planning, and I particularly thought about how to create more time alone to think and to pray and to write, I thought about Michele's guest post from about a month ago. I decided to lock myself in the bathroom long enough to get some quiet and re-read it. These words struck me:
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.
Self care. It's the cornerstone of renewal. I know that it is. But I struggle to get there. I need to pray. I need to get to the gym. I need to write. I need to be in my garden (even if it's not on three rural acres; it's where I can bloom). I need to sew. I need big chunks of time with my husband. I need conversation with my children. These are ways I care for myself. These are the places where I feel most in balance and most aware of the person God created me to be.
I've been tagging along on Heather's 30 Day Vegan journey. (As an aside, I do admit I'm hungry. Being a gluten- and corn-free vegan isn't a walk in the park, at least not my park.) Yesterday, she posed this challenge (at least it was a challenge to me):
In the midst of raising families, meeting work obligations, and taking care of lifeʼs often mundane tasks (taxes, insurance forms, etc.), we all would benefit greatly from setting aside five minutes here, ten minutes there, for healing practices and personal care.
There it was again. Self care.
Yesterday, right after the daylilies, I had a conversation with Sarah. I needed to spill how overwhelmed I'm feeling and she was the safe place. We didn't get far into the conversation before she said, "That's just not gonna work. You need to figure out how to feed yourself or you won't be of any use to anyone.There's gotta be a way."
There it was again. Self care.
If I have any hope of skewing the arithmetic in favor of my own wellbeing, I think it lies in the formula
Planning + self care = physical/emotional balance+ wellbeing
I need to commit this all to prayer. Immediately after the text to Sarah, this graphic appeared in my inbox with a sweet note from Ann. Just out of the blue. Just like that. Because Ann has a knack for whispering Truth to me at just the right time. (Turns out she had a few things to say yesterday about being overwhelmed.)
Yesterday was a bad day. It just felt like a bad day. In recounting though, it's easy to see God's fingerprints all over it. Rarely is He so obvious to me.
I need to commit this season of overwhelm to prayer and then I need to listen and take action.
It's time to pull out the planning tools, time to commit to taking care of myself so that I have the best version of me to invest in my family and my friends. Honestly, I have no idea where this journey is headed.
About the picture:
Yesterday, in my sorry-for-myself-because-I-don't-live-in-the-country mood, I gathered up a load of freshly washed, handmade clothes and hung them on the soccer goal. It was (for me) an act of grumpy defiance. Our neighborhood doesn't allow clotheslines. Sometimes I feel a bit suffocated by suburban rules. I really wanted my mean neighbor to know that I'm the girl next door who makes clothes for her little girls and hangs them to dry. Because I'm slow like that. I'm a country girl at heart.
But, in the end, I'm very much a soccer mom, too.