Fall has a way of trumping all other seasons when it comes to raking us over the coals of busyness.
I love fall. I love its feel. I love its wardrobe. I love its traditions and new beginnings.
But with new schedules come new opportunities. Fall delivers one invitation after another to say yes or to say no. Guilt and Duty show up on our front-porches with narrowed-eyes and hands on their hips. It’s hard to meet their glare and when we do, we’re prone to buckle under the pressure, say oh alright, figure out a way to make it work, and then resent the intrusion of this unwanted obligation in our lives.
Ask me how I know.
With all three kids in school and all three kids asking to do a sport and all three kids invited to the myriad enrichment opportunities pitched by school, church, friends, and family, my decision-making anxiety has reached an epic state. Because any mom out there knows that opportunities for them ride hand in hand with obligation from us.
Volunteering in their classes.
Helping with team meals and youth group meals.
Getting kids to and from practices.
Sending snacks for soccer and academic team practices.
Tournaments. Games. Field trips. Auditions.
This is parenthood. This is what we signed up for. This is simply part of life if we’re choosing to live on the grid, provide our kids with opportunities, and be part and parcel of our community and micro-communities.
But we do get to choose. And sometimes I think we forget that. I forget that.
When August rolled around, I said yes to very few “extras” that would take me beyond the agreed-upon priorities. After all, how is one to know how life is going to shake out when a new season and schedule begins?
Why is it so hard to receive the grace to simply wait and then provide an answer when we feel we can make a wise decision?
We said yes to fall soccer for one and cheerleading for another.
We said yes to winter basketball for the middle kid.
We allowed the cheerleader-percussionist to remain in band but not play in Festival Band.
We said yes to youth group and most church activities and opportunities with extended family.
I said yes to Bible Study Fellowship and the 45-minute drive.
I said yes to helping with some pre-game meals and youth group dinners.
I said yes to writing almost every day.
We’ve said yes to our small group and to community.
And there has been at least one no for each of those yeses.
Sign-up sheets for volunteering came and went. I didn’t forget. I simply chose to wait.
Now that we’re almost two months into things, we’re better able to gauge what we can do and what we cannot. For example, I’ve determined that I can give part of one morning a week to my son’s kindergarten classroom and that I really want to, not out of duty but out of desire. I just started this week and I can already tell you that this is going to be a good yes.
But I waited before I gave it. I waited two whole months between the invitation and my response. I’ve learned the hard way that I didn’t want to commit to a good thing out of obligation or wishful thinking and then watch as the good thing morphs into a bad thing because it wasn’t the right season.
I’ve found that a rushed response often gives way to resentment.
There is so much for me to learn about prioritizing and time management and opportunity cost. I won’t lie. Most of what I’ve learned is from flat-out failure. My family and I have suffered from my tendencies toward overcommitment, giving my family my leftovers, people-pleasing, discounting the concept of margin, refusing rest and stillness, and thinking I have more hours in the day than I really do.
Can I get a witness?
I’m learning not to take my cues from my crazy busy culture. I’m learning not to compare our schedule to other schedules. I’m learning to see how the calendar translates into real life and real relationships with one another and then add things in slowly if we think it’s a fruitful opportunity. And I’m learning to cut things out if it’s not.
Of course, all of this is easier in theory than it is in practice. I had a full-on crying jag Saturday afternoon about this very issue. How to prioritize family and still prioritize others? How to order the tasks of my days? How to discern priorities? How to make room for the things that everyone wants me to make room for and that I also want to make room for?
So if you think it’s wrapped up all in a neat and tidy bow around here, you’re mistaken. We’re kind of a mess.
But we’re learning. God has us in a real and raw place of struggle and fight and working this out. That’s why I’m writing this little series. I’ve talked to enough of you to know that we’re not alone in our quest for balance and wisdom and stewarding our time.
We want to be intentional about our yeses. We want to be wise and discerning. We want to make the most of these years together as a family and not spend our time running around after pursuits that are just fine but not necessarily fruitful in the long-term.
We want to be purposeful with our time. I know you do too. So let’s keep talking about this. I’ll be back later in the week to dish a bit more.
In the meantime, receive the grace to let things settle. If some opportunities are floating around in your world and you’re feeling the pressure to commit but not necessarily the permission, it’s okay to wait.
Let the shape of this season determine the shape of your schedule.
What are your thoughts about this? How do we confuse productivity with fruitfulness? How have you said no to a good thing in order to say yes to better things like margin or rest or waiting? I’d love to hear what you’ve got.