Worth My Time

For as long as I can remember, writing has just been something I do. It’s like I wake up in the morning and have something to say…sometimes I don’t even know what it is yet. But I know it’s in there, and it’s important. Sometimes it’s a certain topic, other times it’s a feeling…. a deep almost inexpressible feeling.

It’s like a challenge awaits me. The challenge is to share that feeling, to put it into the right words so that others can feel it too.  For some, a challenge like that seems overwhelming. For me, it brings about a sense of relief, as if finally others can understand another piece of what is in my heart, another thought that makes me who I am.  This is why I’m unconcerned with whether or not people agree with me, because I know that one of the things that makes me, me, are my individual thoughts.

My thoughts today?

I like being alone. A lot.

The silly part though, is that I also like being with people a lot. This results in a funny little thing, for what brings me the most stress, in the end also brings me the most joy. I’m like an introverted-extrovert. If that’s even a thing.

Maybe you are one who understands this, but for those who don’t know the feeling, let me give you a little bit of an example:

Picture this…I’m reading in my room and I do not want to be disturbed by anyone…but what do you know, my child comes in, begging to play with me. Reluctantly, (and somewhat begrudgingly) I put down the book and I follow the child out of the room. To my surprise and delight, my child has planned something great and out of the ordinary for me.

A Game. But not just any game, something so sweet… a made up game! He thought it up for me. Just for me!

My heart warms.

I follow the arrows he made…first down the hall, then up the stairs, around corners, into rooms, through the bathroom and finally into my walk-through closet. I stop at the door that is labelled in my son’s messy, grade 3 writing. It says, “Open to find yor surpize”…. I slowly open, curious as to what the great surprise may be. Out jumps my shining faced boy, “Surprise!!!” I jump too, for he scared me, and we giggle together.

The thing that I really did not want to do, suddenly becomes something so much better than reading a book.

What if I had said no?

What if I would’ve told him that I was too tired for his game? Oh, my heart breaks at the very thought!!

And I realize, everything that’s worth anything seems to go this way. Like having a large family over for a meal. It’s work hosting a big group! But the hours spent in the presence of friends is priceless.

I remember, as a teen, sometimes spending an entire day watching TV. At the end of the day, you just don’t feel good, you don’t feel rested.

You feel gross.

Not necessarily guilty gross, but just physically, it doesn’t feel good. Why is that? I mean, it’s kinda like rest… and rest is good, so therefore I should feel better afterwards. Right?!?

But I never did.

Right now, I see a generation of people who are largely unhappy. I see multitudes of those who sit on their phones, spending many hours doing whatever they want. I see people rushing through the lines of the drive-through’s, getting what they want, when they want it. I see grown up “children” living in their parents basements, spending hours playing video games or sitting on Facebook, doing whatever they want to do…never stopping to reach for the next thing that will entertain, that will temporarily satisfy their craving for self, for fun, for happiness.

But if we have everything, then why aren’t we happy? How come, in a generation where we have so much, are depression and sadness so common? If all our friends are just a text message away, then why is our generation so lonely?

Lately, there’s one question I’ve been asking myself a lot. I ask myself this question every time I’m about to add another thing to my list of things to do and the question is this: Is this worth my time?

On the heels of that question come harder questions to wrestle with…just what do I want to accomplish in my life? What am I going to add to my life that is going to fulfill a greater purpose?

Sometimes, in the busy seasons of life, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important. Especially this Christmas, I’ve felt the tug of this. For every group and activity we’re a part of, it seems like there’s another Christmas party to go to. And sometimes it’s great! But often I come home grumpy and exhausted. And I feel stuck.

Did you know that it is possible to just say no sometimes? Yeah, really! Who knew?!? I don’t have to go to every single party! 

It just so hard to say no to things though, isn’t it? Because what if I’m missing out on something really good?

But it’s so, SO good for us. We can’t do everything and we can’t give everything. This doesn’t mean that we should say no to everything, but if one day you wake up, like me, and realize that in the next 10 days you don’t even have one single evening or day at home to yourself, then something has to change.

This Christmas season, as you reflect on your past year, ask yourself: Was I too busy? Was I selfish with my time? Did my schedule look too chaotic? Am I complaining about the things I’m doing instead of enjoying them? Am I making time for the most important people in my life? And as you ponder these questions, seek God on what HE wants you to spend your time on for the year ahead.

For some of us, we don’t need to change our schedules, we just need to change our attitudes. Sometimes, like my son’s big surprise, those things we don’t feel like doing are actually exactly what we need to be doing. On the flip side, if we are just dragging ourselves to event after event, completely worn down…maybe it’s time to ask God, “Is this something you want me to continue with in my life? Is it worth my time?” 

Then, don’t just listen, ACT.

 

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I Just Don’t Have Time!!!

I miss summer today.

Not because of the weather or the season, for I LOVE fall, it’s my favourite season! But today I miss summer because it’s my slow season. All of the other seasons are filled with busy days packed full of events and activities from morning until night, but not summer.

I know that many do not feel as I do, as summers are full for some people: full of holidays, of travel, of camping, and other planned activities…

However, for a homeschooling mom who does very little travelling, summers are like taking a long, deep breath. In summer I move slower. My mornings are relatively quieter and unhurried. My “to do” lists are also shorter and with my mornings free, there is actually a possibility that I may complete them! There are free days too…days to go to the park, play with the children, and enjoy the warmth of the sun.

But come fall, my time is gone.

Homeschool begins, and in comes CHAOS!! There’s always some work for me to do or some place for me to be. My outdoor time is limited to frantically picking the last of the tomatoes before the frost hits, gathering fallen branches and debris thrown about by the wind, picking up jackets and toys left lying around the yard and other work-like activities.

Gone are the heartwarming childhood memories of fall… of raking leaves and jumping in piles, I don’t have time for THAT when there’s canning to do, school to finish and cleaning to attempt to catch up on.

But…Autumn! Autumn with its stunning beauty is still there. The freshly fallen leaves carry the same sweet smell. The air holds the same crisp, coolness. The harvest moon is just as big and golden as always, but the beauty of the colours around me are noticed in short glimpses, always with a hint of sadness in my heart: I wish that I could just enjoy these days.

 

Today I read a poem called “October” by my favourite poet, Robert Frost, and my eyes filled with tears, because for me, it captured the very essence of this beauty slipping away:
October.jpg
“O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Slow the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!”
(This isn’t the full poem)
I don’t know what it is about poetry that speaks to me so deeply, but it just does. I am the type that can hardly get through a fast paced novel without skipping pages, because I get impatient to get to the “good parts”.
Poetry, on the other hand, causes me to slow down. I soak in every word, so I won’t miss the meaning of the poem. Rushing through poetry is as pointless as running through an art museum, you miss the significance of the beauty around you.
And then it hits me: Rushing through life is as pointless as rushing through poetry. The meaning is completely lost when we speed through the days.
Maybe this is why we look back on childhood with such fondness, because children just move at a slower pace than us adults. The meaning of life for my children is NOT getting school work done and…they obviously DON’T rush through it! They take their time in everything they do. Whether the job is to sort laundry, clean up the toys or to rake leaves, it seems as if I always have to get them back on task as they always seem to want to stop the work to have their fun…like when it’s time to clean up lego: suddenly they build an entire city with the pieces!!! Not very efficient, but definitely more fun than putting it into bins.
But for me, stopping to just have fun does not come so naturally anymore. I’m completely burdened by the tasks of the day and I forget that the meaning of my existence has nothing to do with having a clean house. Life will not come crashing down if my tomatoes freeze, or if I decide to not can any more pasta sauce. The meaning of life is not for my kids to be the perfect piano player, or the best readers, or the neatest writer. If I forget to bring the garbage out on time and I miss the garbage truck, if I’m late for my meeting and get annoyed stares as I enter the room, life goes on!! Very little has changed other then my stress levels and my attitude about life.
Work. Money. Careers. School. Success. The world acts as if these things are the meaning of life. But in reality, they do little else than to fill our short slot of time here on earth.
So what then? If meaning isn’t found in these things, then is everything we do a waste?
Only if we make it a waste.
Only if we speed through each of our daily tasks, without ever pausing to find the purpose in them.
Honestly, I don’t have time to write this. I don’t need to write this. I have a hundred other things that would be more useful to me right now. But I am writing anyways. Because it’s in doing things that we don’t have time for, when we realize what is important in life. Don’t know what I mean? Think of this:
I don’t really have time to snuggle my children each morning, but when they come to me, I stop, sit down and hold them in my arms. In stopping my busy activities for the morning, my children know and realize they are precious. They are important. They matter. So I can view it as a waste of time, because it’s not on my “list” or I can stop and realize that they are more important than the list.
I don’t have lots of  time to go out with friends or fit in coffee dates. And taking time to meet new people, this definitely isn’t on my “to do” list…these things MAKE work. They don’t accomplish a task, building relationships takes time, lots of time. But communication and strong friendships are signs of an emotionally healthy person. Why? Because these things have MEANING.
You know what I REALLY don’t have time for? Disciplining my children.
Because BELIEVE me, THAT is NEVER on my list of things to do. Rather, it usually interrupts my lists…which results in me yelling, or putting them in a corner, or, if I’m very exhausted, giving in.
But you know what brings meaning to discipline? When it becomes more than just trying to get correct behaviour. When bad behaviour simply becomes a tool for measuring how your child is doing and discipline becomes rather an opportunity to meet the needs and form the character of the child. It’s only when I stop just dealing with bad behaviour and begin seeing the need behind the ugly actions, where I find meaning to what discipline is all about.
How about time for devotions?
This is a difficult one for many of us! Especially in my earlier days of parenting, when a good nights sleep was getting 3 hours in a row. When my children woke up before I did. When naps were necessary for survival!!! Certainly I was exempt from this one! I didn’t even have time to shower most days!!!
A few years ago, during a conference, God got a hold of my heart in this area. I began to spend an hour or more a day in his presence. The result changed me completely. Before this, five minutes a day was my goal. Because devotions, like so many other things in my life at that time, was just another item on my checklist.
Now, I always cringe inwardly when I read devotional titles like: “Five minutes with God…for Busy Moms”. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending five minutes reading a cute devotional, it’s rather the thought behind it that bothers me.
Was Christianity meant to be a five minute time slot on our to do lists? Really? When you read the Bible, is that the feeling you get from Jesus’ disciples? Or the apostle Paul? Or King David who wrote Psalm 63:1-6:

“You God are my God, earnestly I seek you, my whole being longs for you in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live,and in your name I will lift up my hands.

I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”

These verses tell us that our walk with God was meant to be something more! Our time with God was never meant to be something shoved into a five minute slot in our day! In the Bible, NOWHERE does it talk about carving in a chunk of time for God.
Ever.
Rather, it’s his very presence that continually fills us and gives us meaning, moment by moment, day by day, for life!
It’s only in doing those things that we feel like we don’t have time for, that we realize what is important in life.
I don’t have this all figured out.
My days right now are crazy and full and hectic. Sometimes my times with God are cut short by children that need me, sometimes they feel dry because I’m distracted by everything around me. Sometimes my lists just get in the way of me being able to stop and find the enjoyment in the little things. Sometimes the clock is my enemy. Sometimes my own plans are my enemy. Sometimes the way I think things need to be done is actually just making things miserable for me and everybody else around me!
But today, I’m choosing to remember what matters, because allowing myself time to relax brings meaning to life.
Spontaneous field trips that have little educational value?!? Yes please!!
Random coffee dates?? Bring it on!
Skip another school event to soak in God’s presence? Definitely.
Paper plates and fast food? Sure, why not!
Breathing in the last few nice days of fall? Absolutely.
And if it means smashing the clock and ripping up the “lists” so be it! Life is far too short to let another beautiful autumn day pass me by.

When Children Grow Up too Soon

I have a girl who’s almost 10. That’s her in the picture at the darling age of 3. She is an excellent reader and extremely mature for her age. Now, seeing that her books were getting far too easy for her reading level, I went in search of something that would challenge her. First I tried the “Chronicles of Narnia” series. She found them boring (as I had at her age, but to be fair to the series, I only read the first couple chapters of the first book.), then I tried a series called “Heros of the Faith”, which she absolutely loved. The first books are so interesting, yet as the series goes on the books are hit and miss. So Bella lost interest after reading two in a row that weren’t as exciting. Then finally I gave in and let her read my “Mark of the Lion” series by Francine Rivers, after all, I had read them around 11 or 12 years old. She loved these books so much that she sat in her room for days reading them! She finished them in three days (I was surprised because they are REALLY thick!)

All was good until one day, I scanned through the books again since it had been years since I’ve read them…and my heart dropped. These books may have been right at her reading level, but they were far, FAR to mature for her.

I may have forgotten the content, but I realized right there and then that I had I completely failed my girl by giving her the books. It was my responsibility to scan through before giving them to her and now she had already read them. I felt terrible! If you’ve never read the series, these extremely well-written books have quite a bit of history in them and take place in the years following Christ’s death. The setting is in Rome and the Romans are more bloodthirsty than ever. Terrible persecution is happening to the Christians and the Jews. The Colosseum is at its height in entertainment. People are starving while the rich feast away watching their deaths. The tale includes ongoing wars and slavery which also comes with gladiators, rape and temple prostitution…now your probably wondering why anyone should ever read it! Great book for a nine-year old girl hey?

So I went and apologized to her, letting her know that I was wrong in taking away some of her innocence by allowing her to read those books. Her response? “Oh Mom! That’s okay, I could handle it.”

Tears welled up in my eyes, for the words were far too familiar to me. Of course she could handle it! But just because she could, doesn’t mean she should.

Throughout ancient history and in some places even now, girls have been taken to be brides at ages not much older than my little girl. They become mothers as young teens and grow up with their children. Could they handle it? Sure, most of the time, I guess they could…they were forced to! But that doesn’t mean that a 13-year-old girl should have to take on such a heavy load of managing a household!

The same goes for children who are orphaned in third world countries. Overnight the oldest child becomes a caregiver to his or her siblings. They care far too deeply about their little brothers and sisters to do otherwise. And often, given the conditions they are living in, they do a better job than I would be able to do – fetching water, gathering food, earning a few dollars a day all while carrying a baby on their back.

And we cry when we hear these stories because they shouldn’t have to bear such a heavy load! They shouldn’t have to grow up so soon! They have a whole adult life ahead of them to “handle it”, they should be able to be just kids for a little while.

My daughter Bella, she’s a beautiful young girl…but of all my children she grew up the fastest. And with a house full of babies I did not complain. She talked in full sentences before any of my other babies could even say ten words. She walked the earliest. She could read before she was in kindergarten. She’s been the first to ask the hard questions. She gives in before anyone else will. I get it! She’s always been ready to be older than she is. And being my only girl, it’s difficult for me to let go of the innocence in her, to watch her grow. But it’s one thing to let go and let her mature, it’s quite another to realize when I’ve sped up the process.

I was the same as she was, always reading things, learning things, watching things way before I should have. I enjoyed knowing. I always could handle it well (or so I thought).

But man, I wish I hadn’t.

I rushed my childhood away, my innocence away before it’s time and I missed out on friendships. My favorite teddy lay in my closet, hidden away lest my friends would see that I still liked it. I missed out on playing with my last doll who sat in the corner watching me try to be older than I was. I missed out on the Polly Pockets which I sold at a garage sale just a couple of years before I was really ready to let them go. I missed the youth events with innocent, good fun and laughter. I missed out on much of my youth and I regret it because I can’t get those years back. I had my whole life ahead of me to be strong, why did I choose to grow up so young?

Sweet little daughter, take your time. Don’t rush the process and don’t slow it down either…let your maturity run its course. Adulthood will come and you can and should take on your responsibilities when it does. I know you’ll do great, I know you’ll handle life well.

But for a little while longer, just be my little girl.