Sunday, November 16, 2014

Being... (and planning for it)

I smiled and told the guy behind me in line a line I say all the time..."I've got the best and the hardest job in the world.  I'm a mom. "  

And I wondered to myself as I moved away "why, if I really think motherhood is that great and that difficult, why don't I let myself just be a mom then?"  I keep our home running (and it is run through constantly) and meals on the table and clothes clean and dry (never mind the folding) and I love and serve and snuggle and tickle and teach our kids something in three languages every day.  And we live here for good purpose and we want to be reaching out to our neighbors, to love and serve them too, as much as we possibly can.  

That's a tall list of real responsibilities, just like every single person who's reading this, I'd guess.  But I almost never allow myself to simply be what I feel called first to be:  a mom.  Not for a single minute.

It's my To Do List that lurks like a heavy-weight obsession, ready to define the value of my day's output... the value of me.  Somehow, with a load of eternally worthy, challenging, difficult, and delightful responsibilities, I usually measure my worth by that darn list.  When I spell this all out and face it down, I know it's ridiculous.  But I fall into this same trap all. the. time.  

In my planning, at most 1% of what I've ever written down has been along the lines of "cuddle with John" or "heart-talk with Marian".  My list is far more tasky than most mom-stuff ever needs to be.  And so is my heart my mind:  tasky.  

Tasks, clearly, aren't wrong at all.  They're needed and I want to be diligent and faithful to take care of the urgent realities that require my attention.  It's just that I also want to keep my heart from letting 'getting my list done', undo me.  I want to learn to hem in my attention and energy and creative runaway bunnies with focus and flexibility and live in the fullest freedom of being present to the people I love and to the biggest picture of what I'm called to be.   My to-dos are simply not worthy to be played continually in my mind, distracting and wearing me down, and usually trying to accuse and condemn.  There's a time for to-dos.  There's a time for everything....  but not everything all the time.    

I love Charlotte Mason and I need her reminding me that attention is the number one habit to train in ourselves and our children.  And I like the pomodoro approach for attending to one task at a time, but I usually give up on that plan quickly, excusing myself because those pomodoros don't allow enough room for creative sparks (and sometimes a creative thought might be just the brilliance my task needs to get finished well.)   Plus, if I fill my day and my mind with pomodoros, I'm heading straight towards ugly task-obsessiveness again.   Don't get in my way while the tomato is ticking!

But I'm trying something different now and I'm liking it.  The verdict is still out if this plan will lastingly revolutionize my days but it's going well so far...  Here's the new deal:

I'm arranging my day according to my roles, not my tasks.   What I need to be in different time slots of the day, instead of only what I need to do.  Every role has it's own tasks, but we probably also know how to "be" active and responsible in those roles without checking off a box a minute.  

As a language student, I keep a running list of lessons to study, flashcards to repeat... and when I don't finish them during one "Student" block... they simply move to the next block of time when I can focus on that role again.  When I'm done with that "Student" block, I'm done needing to worry about those lessons and onto the next role to attend to.   And if my tutor goes off on a tangent in class, I can listen and learn with freedom.  

For the dear friend who told me that she all she ever does is take care of her kids and the house, perhaps slotting some time to develop a creative hobby or learn a new skill or read a good book, would be healthy... and even make her a better mom.  In the past, when I've tried to squeeze in one creative, soul-refreshing "task" just for me, it can get pushed to the bottom of the list every time and it may never gets done.   But if there's a time blocked off for it, prioritized with prayerful thoughtfulness rather than just frantic squish-in-as-much-as-you-can type carelessness, it just might happen... and happen better.  I know this friend's husband would totally support her to allow herself time each week to invest in reading or take in a sermon, restore herself creatively.

Some of my roles are Worshipper, Mom, Wife, Home-maker, Servant (reaching out beyond our home), Lover of Beauty and Words (for personal refreshment).    For me, my roles are largely relationships:  with the Lord, my husband, my children, our neighbors, and how I care for myself.  

In all of life, it's plain to see:  we need to flex.  Living things are lively and no child, no loved one, or needy one, is going to stay put in one block on a calendar page.   As a mom, I'm 24/7 on call.  I'm on call to attend to one of the few lasting treasures of this world:  my children.  Flex, for their sake, by His grace, for His glory, trusting His sovereign goodness.  And plan... plan for when I don't need to bend around something, to hold myself up with attention to my roles rather than obsession for my tasks.   I'm feeling richer and richer as learn to think and do and be like this.

And, Lord, may such focus sharpen my attention for You and my efforts to glorify you in all that I do.    Our lives are all- every moment, every role, every task, every relationship and responsibility- all for the praise of your glory and grace...