Hello dear readers. If, in fact, I still have any readers. Are you out there? I have ignored my poor little blog in the same way I deny the existence of massive dog-hair clumps under the couches and dust-mounds on the baseboards. We’ve been in survival-mode around here, folks, and I must say, I’m not a fan of just surviving. I want to thrive. I want to breathe deeply of this life and find time to soak in the small moments.
But we don’t always get what we want, do we. And in those times, we have to put on our big girl panties, stop waxing poetic, and just push through, y’all. Right??
So here are some of the things keeping me busy lately. This little accounting is more for my benefit than yours. Ten years from now, maybe I’ll want to look back and see how I spent my thirties.
1. Grad School
I decided to start taking on-line graduate classes this fall in a move to earn a M.S. with a SLIS (School Library Information Specialist) endorsement. For so many reasons, I think that when I rejoin the working world at some point, I’d prefer to do it as a librarian rather than a traditional classroom teacher. I could write a whole other post about that, but moving on….So over the past week, I spent about 12 hours completing my second assignment for a course. It’s not hard work, necessarily, but a lack of clear directions led to an overly tedious process. I may or may not have stalker-texted, e-mailed, and finally called the professor. Whatever.
2. The Horton Community Center
The physical, in-person commitment is only one night a week for a few hours, but I generally spend several hours on Tuesdays shopping for materials, updating on-line learning assignments, organizing student folders, etc. And every month or so, one of the kids passes along the latest virus, and since I’m such an amazingly nice person, I always share the germs with everyone else in my house so that we can progress through other responsibilities with snotty abandon.
3. Updating Our Adoption Homestudy
I’ve written before about how Charlie and I decided to take PATH classes in preparation for adopting a child from foster care. While the update process shouldn’t be as time-consuming as the original study, it’s definitely got its share of challenges now that Herdest and Ian are under our roof. They also must have background checks and complete health reports (including TB test, HIV, full blood panels, etc.). The boys don’t have health insurance. In case you didn’t know, when one doesn’t have insurance, obtaining a physical and specialized testing can be costly and time-consuming. There are some other challenges we weren’t anticipating that I can’t discuss here, but let’s just say, we definitely feel we’re in the “hoop-jumping” mode.
4. Building a House
Maybe one day, I’ll write something explaining the conversations that finally brought Charlie and I to a “sort-of” agreement about this endeavor, but the bottom line is, we bought some land, and we’re building a house there. Over the past year, we worked with Charlie’s brother, an architect, to design a home. We’re interviewing contractors now and hope to start building soon. For anyone who has ever been through this process, I know I don’t need to write another word. For anyone else, you probably think I’m horribly selfish and ungrateful to bring up this decidedly first-world problem with even the slightest indication of unrest. You would be right, but nonetheless, I’d be lying if I said it was all peace and joy.
5. Working Retreats
I’ve written HERE and HERE about my experiences with the Chrysalis and Emmaus communities. Working is an amazing blessing and opportunity to serve, but it also takes a lot of time away from my family. As always, I struggle to hear God’s voice and direction while trying to find balance.
6. The Stomach Virus from Hell
Oh, and I pretty much lost an entire week or so when I woke up at 3 a.m. Friday morning and deposited everything I’d had to eat that day into the trash can beside my bed. By 9:30 p.m., Ellie had joined the party. After changing her sheets twice, we finally just moved her onto a pile of old towels in her Pack N’ Play so we could just strip a layer every time she got sick. Charlie seemed like he’d escaped the fun until late Sunday night. Ian succumbed on Monday. (Don’t worry, I won’t blame you if you don’t want to come within a 10-mile radius of my house until next year.)
Thus far, a week later, Herdest remains victorious in avoiding the plague. Punk. All I know, is that holding a vomiting toddler while dehydrated and struggling to maintain control of your own bowels is not my idea of a good time. It was brutal, ya’ll.
But Does Busy Equal Full?
Anyway, these are, of course, just the big things. There are also the little things that we all do on a daily basis—the grocery shopping, meal-planning, laundry-washing, child-hauling, birthday-attending, party-hosting, friend-calling, house-cleaning, Bible-studying, church-going, junk-sorting, fridge-cleaning, bill-paying, teenager-wrangling, general hustle-bustle that fills every day.
I’m in that fall crunch when all activities leap from the starting gate and responsibilities/deadlines/demands rain from the heavens in an unmerciful torrent. I don’t “work,” so I know….life is supposed to be one peaceful cup of coffee after another, but that’s not how I roll, y’all. I overcommit. I rarely say no. I stretch and pack and jam the minutes and have to-do lists with sub-sub-categories.
But if I’m honest, I don’t want to be that person anymore. I don’t want a busy life so much as I want a full life, and I’m struggling to define and live the difference. I want to be the Christ-follower who makes more than a hurried and irregular effort in prayer and study. The woman who has time to make exercise and healthy-eating a priority. The mom who builds tent cities in the kitchen on a rainy afternoon. The wife who leaves secret love notes hiding around the house to make her husband feel cherished.
After surviving the gastro-pocolypse, Charlie and I fell into the bed last week, exhausted, and our conversation eventually went to the busy. It’s not that I think any one of the things in my life are bad; in fact, many are necessary pathways to building a family, a career, etc. Many are service-oriented. Some, unfortunately, cannot be avoided. But the big things and the little things often combine in ways that make me feel that perhaps I’m missing something. The bigger picture?
When I’m forty, and I look back at this decade, what do I want to remember?
Moments like this, I think.
Ellie’s first trip apple-picking at Jones’ Orchard: October, 2012.
Moments where we, as a family, just soak up the sun and laugh under this great big sky.
This. I want more of this. More simplicity and less of the chest-tightening that comes from all the busyness. I thought when I quit my job and decided to stay home with Ellie, that simplicity would magically follow. It did not. I’m beginning to understand that I will have to fight for the kind of life I want. I will have to make hard decisions. I will have to cut out my priorities with a sharp knife, and there will likely be blood and bruises in the wake. I know what I want, I’m just not sure how to get there.
Today, at least, while my mother ridiculously spoils my child, I’m allowing myself the gift of quiet. The gift of several hours sitting under a warm blanket with a mug of coffee, my thoughts, and this blog to catch my ramblings. And for this moment, while able to breath a moment and give thanks for my blessings, I feel full.
How do you distinguish between a busy life and a full life? How do you set priorities in your family? I’m open to suggestions shared with kindness. (Unless of course your suggestion is to start getting up at 4 a.m. to do crunches while reading scripture and simultaneously cooking organic lunches for the entire family. Keep that one to yourself, thanks.)