Choosing Your Absence from Something You Love: 5 Things I’m Learning

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Five posts into writing a blog series I loved in early 2018, “The Sacred Art of Receiving Your Right-Now Life,” I found myself drowning in a sea of very normal roles and responsibilities. I’ve been living out the message of that series in real time instead of writing it down and hitting the “publish” button like I’d planned.

There was nothing crisis-like or dramatic about any of it, only that all the things conspired against my writing all at the same time. Or at least that’s how it felt.

  • Married with three children
  • I have a job, but it’s not full time.
  • And because it’s not full-time, a year ago I also took on a couple of freelance jobs that became triple the work of what I expected. (Lesson learned.)
  • My kids were doing all of their kid things. Two of them are teenagers, which means there’s no end to the shenanigans (and maternal angst.)
  • From February until the end of school, I lived in constant stress. Then summer and working from home with kids. Bless it.
  • After nearly 20 years of teaching Economics to college students, my husband began a brand new career last August. We’re grateful and excited; it’s such a good fit for him. But it’s meant long hours, working on Saturdays, and yours truly filling in the gaps. It won’t always be like this, but building a business requires a great deal of heart and hustle (and uncertainty.)
  • Also? Our girl graduates from high school in less than 8 weeks, and this year has stretched each of us in ways we couldn’t have known ahead of time.

 

Guys, I’m tired.

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But do you see what I mean? These are normal things, good things. Every role and responsibility I have means that I’ve been entrusted with gifts and people and opportunities to nurture and steward. But good things still come with hardship.

Which brings me to the first thing I’m learning during a season of living my stories instead of writing them down:

1. Too many good things at the same time are still too many things.

Sometimes we can’t help it. Sometimes we really are at the mercy of season and circumstance. But sometimes we let too many things in during a season that’s already sagging under the weight of all the good things.

Like a generous host throwing a grand party, we leave the door open and the lovely guests keep filing in, champagne glasses held high in celebration. Next thing you know, the floor has collapsed under the weight of this fine party. Here’s the part where I chuckle because this exact thing literally happened last year in the town where I live. It’s fine. No one was seriously injured. It’s a metaphor that works, is what I’m saying.

2. Life right now is much more about managing my energy than managing my time.

I’ve only fully realized this over the last several months and guys, it’s a game-changer. Busy as I am, I have actual time on my hands. We all do if we’re brutally honest. What I don’t have leftover is energy. And the things I really miss (like regular writing) require a mental and emotional energy that’s currently taken up by other required roles and responsibilities.

Once I realized this, I was able to let go of some of the guilt and striving, and replace it with grace and acceptance. I’m still sad about it. But all of my brain power and emotional reserves are currently spoken for. (See #4 if you want to know where it’s going.)

3. Structure is my friend.

A lot of us struggle with doing tasks that we don’t feel like doing. We procrastinate, distract ourselves, and make excuses. I have a friend who’s currently writing a book. As in, she’s under contract to write a book. One morning she texted me, “Haven’t gotten one word down on paper this morning but my hair and make-up look exceptionally good.” I laughed so hard because THIS IS WHAT WE DO.

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And some of us struggle more than others. (Ahem, it’s me.) Add to this equation that I work mostly from home, which means it’s easy for work tasks and mom / wife / home / life tasks to bleed together into an existence where I always feel “on” and never “off.” My brain is in a constant state of whiplash from switching back and forth between vastly different roles and tasks.

“Enough,” I said to myself in January. “You are a grown-up and you can do this differently.”

Now I try to have three days a week when I work full-time and two days a week that are for my other “job,” the one where I plan the meals, get the groceries, run the errands, fill out the paperwork, email the teachers and coaches, decipher FAFSA forms, do the laundry, (take a nap,) etc.

We’re all different but my brain works better when it has a long runway in the same direction. I’m more efficient with the work I do for my job when my brain gets in that zone and can just stay there for hours. The same is true for domestic life. It only makes sense to structure life in accordance with how my brain works. It’s required all sorts of rearranging and it will never be a perfect system, but it’s given me a renewed sense of hope that I can get through this season with a measure of wholeness and stability.

I can’t stress enough that this doesn’t always work perfectly. The last few weeks my rhythms have been off and I’ve had to accept it. But each week I begin again and ask for grace. Always, I try to hold it loosely.

(If you’d like to learn more about this, I highly recommend this podcast episode by Emily P. Freeman: Design a Rhythm of Work — Theme Days!)

4. If you’re living in a pivotal life season, even one that’s not a crisis, it will take up more space in your head and heart than you realize.

No one can tell you what it’s like during the last year before your child becomes, in theory, an adult.

And just like that, the tears start flowing. (I was doing fine until now.)

I recently told a friend that I feel a low-grade sadness all the time. I miss this girl of mine already and she hasn’t even gone anywhere yet.

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I think it’s because of this. When you hold that baby in your arms, 18 years feels like a very long time. It’s overwhelming, how long 18 years seems when you’re on the front end. But here we are. Though I hope and pray that our relationship will be always be close, that I’ll always be a trusted voice in her life, I know that most of the formative work is done. It is sobering beyond words, partly because I see all that I did wrong, all that I omitted, all that I didn’t know and now I do.

It’s also this. Senior year means we’re all living in the tension between a child still being under our roof and soon not being under our roof. Giving as much freedom as possible within boundaries is messy. It looks different for every child and it may exhaust you like nobody’s business.

Back in October, I drew up a “Senior Syllabus,” something we could all refer to throughout the twists and turns of this year. Sure, it’s been somewhat helpful but the truth is, there’s no real guidebook for this. We’re all simply making our way one day at a time. I pray a lot and I process it with a couple of trusted people in my life. I probably need to have a good cry or ten but I’m afraid that if I give myself permission to do that, I won’t crawl out of the corner for days.

5. Sometimes you have to choose your absence from the thing you love most.

Because there are people you love more.

For me, that thing has been my own writing. Again, it’s not that I don’t have leftover time. Monday I spent six hours of my day writing and editing content for my job. By 8 pm, I had no mental energy left, even though I didn’t go to bed for another two and a half hours. Sure, I could have come downstairs to my desk for personal writing time, but with what brain-power? (See point #2.)

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Five-ish years ago I read a little book called Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. He said many wise and timely things but here’s the phrase that’s stayed with me.

We must choose our absence, our inability, and our ignorance – and choose wisely. The sooner we embrace this finitude, the sooner we can be free.

In the last year, I’ve said no to speaking engagements that would have brought much personal joy and fulfillment. I said no to teaching a periodic  class, even though I miss teaching and would have loved it. I turned down additional freelance work even though the money was good.

And I’ve said no to regular writing and publishing my own words, for now, because it requires energy and intention I need to save for other things. Yes, it’s life-giving and makes me feel most like myself. And yes, this joy has a way of spilling over into my everyday life. But I tend to run after this joy, this work of my heart, with too much gusto, leaving my people in the wake. Though I desperately want to learn how to curb my own ambition and enthusiasm, I’m not there yet. And this high-stakes season is simply too precious and fragile to risk.

Even though I have so much to share with you.

I’ve been storing up posts and ideas in very organized and professional ways–scattered Word docs on my computer, iPhone notes, even an entire book I’ve outlined in a spiral notebook. I started it two years ago and I keep scribbling in it. I also want to write about teenagers–about daughters and about sons. I want to write about acceptance, doubt, everyday faith, and how the life of Christ has everything to teach us about receiving our right-now lives, even as we wait with hope.

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If you’re in a similar season of working, of waiting, of wondering if “your time” will ever come around, know that you’re in good company. And that company isn’t just me. It’s Jesus.

One of the things I’ve learned from studying his life is that God’s timing for our work is perfect, and that Christ himself is with us as we labor–whether it’s scrubbing the dishes (what I’m doing after I finish this,) helping with an overwhelming research paper on Macroeconomics and The Great Recession (what I’m doing after I finish the dishes #LordBeNear,) or being diligent in the work you’ve been paid to do (what I’m doing after I finish those other two things.)

As I labor in everyday ways, I invite Jesus, the one who filled the nets of his weary working friends with fish, helped them cook it up for breakfast, and then offered them a feast on the beach. This is his heart for us. He meets us as we struggle with discouragement, fatigue, and lack. He cares about all of our work, and delights to show up alongside us with compassion, grace, and sometimes a feast. (John 21:1-14)

Whatever season you’re in, I pray you will experience Christ’s presence with you, and know his heart of abundance for you.

Thanks for being here. (And for reading all the words. I sure know how to make up for lost time.)

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I do post on Instagram pretty regularly @marianvischer. It’s a little bit of personal life (think college visits + laughable school projects + how I redid my kitchen backsplash with stickers,) a little bit of writing, a little bit of everyday beauty. In the last year I’ve enjoyed writing a couple of series there.

10 Things to Tell You Series last September, hosted by Laura Tremaine. Here’s a link to the first post in that series. 

12-Day Series with Hopewriters in January. Here’s a link to the first post in that series. 

When I do publish here, or if you’d like to stay in the loop with news I only share with subscribers, sign up in the email box and you’ll be the first to know all the things. : )

The subscribe box is below this post or on the right if you’re reading on a computer. If you’re reading on a phone, scroll way down to the “Yes, Please” box underneath my photo.

Finding the Unlikely Path to Gratitude

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I’m an Accidental Optimist.

Thankfulness and positivity are just not the natural ways of me. I’ve alway been a glass-half-empty girl who faked that I’m not unless I was around those safest and closest. Bless their hearts, they have long borne my frequent lament, my incessant pining, my uncanny ability to see all that I was missing instead of all that I had.

My journey from empty to full began about nine years ago when I began writing on the internet. Turning the everyday stories of my messy, post-career life as a mother of three littles began to reorient my perspective. I’d begin a post with some sort of frustration or less than ideal situation, and lo, by the time I was finished, lemonade had replaced the lemons. Gratitude had replaced complaint. Grace had replaced failure.

It was the most serendipitous thing of my life. My own words would show up, one at a time, and take me somewhere else, even though I still lived in the same life. That’s still the way it happens. I never know exactly where they’ll lead; I simply follow the letters like bread crumbs toward a destination.

Usually that destination is a hopeful one, but not always. Like the Psalm that ends in honest declaration instead of victory and refreshment,

Darkness is my closest friend. 

Even then, our souls can find consolation as striving and pretending come to a halt, giving way to the strange peace of acceptance.

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Through writing, I discovered that that even our messiest of days are tinged with possibility. Redemption awaits. We only need to find the smallest of pathways and choose to keep walking.

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The gateway to a life of gratitude looks different for each of us — nature, reflection, rest, stepping away from it all for a moment or a day, prayer and meditation, a needful anti-depressant, reading Scripture, helping someone else, counseling, books.

I’m not talking about escapism or running away; I’m talking about reorientation. We find a way to see the same situation with different eyes.

We do this in both everyday and epic ways. I’ll share a story for both.

For years now, my vehicle has felt like a second home. With three kids in three different schools, with sports and youth group and all the things, I became downright bitter about the constant running around. Sadly, my martyrdom wasn’t a silent one.

And then I began doing the math, realizing that my days in the minivan with these kids were numbered.

Picking my daughter up from cheerleading practice every day felt like an inconvenience and an interruption until I began to see it as an opportunity for connection. Sometimes that connection looked like listening and biting my tongue as she vented her anger. Sometimes the connection looked like swinging by Sonic on the way home and laughing together as we listened to the Popcast. Sometimes it looked like arguing and steely silence. But always, it was an opportunity to water the soil of relationship.

And then there are the “epic” reorientations.

This usually requires divine intervention because it means life has so completely gone off the rails, all we can feel and see is that last line of Psalm 88: Darkness is my closest friend.

In 2011, I had just finished reading Ann Voskamp’s modern classic, One Thousand Gifts. It was providential to say the least, though I had no way of knowing it at the time.

Life did go off the rails.

And through the most unexplainable yet clearly divine power, I dropped to my knees, face to floor and gave thanks. I remember exactly where I was in my house. I remember the time of day.

I had never done that before and I haven’t done it since. But the message of that book had prepared my soul for the uninvited story I was just beginning to live.

Though I didn’t stay in that posture of gratitude moment by moment and day by day, I believe that experience shot a sacred arrow into an unseen battle. I knew my circumstances weren’t a cruel cosmic joke. This was all out war. And the battle was for my family. I resolved that day to fight for what was mine and for what was God’s.

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It’s the strangest, most counterintuitive thing to say but it’s true: the grief and the fight began with thankfulness.

Whether it’s something as inconsequential as a disappointing grade or something as devastating as family fracture, redemption begins when we dare to look Devastation in the face and call it Possibility.

Ann Voskamp says this,

That which we refuse to thank Christ for — we refuse to believe Christ can redeem.

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It’s the season of thanks but that doesn’t mean it’s all holiday drinks from Starbucks and happy Thanksgiving anticipation. I’ve learned that giving thanks isn’t a list or conjured up sentimentalism or an obligatory thing we do around the family table.

The deepest gratitude often looks like surrender.

It looks like humility as I relinquish my rights and expectations to receive what life is instead of what I want life to be. 

It looks like a discipline that doesn’t get easier but comes to me more quickly over time.

It looks like fighting the emotion of resentment with the counter emotion of thankfulness. 

It looks like choosing to see the good that’s there instead of the good that’s missing. 

It looks like receiving the everyday and epic moments with a heart of faith and trust in the One who lived and died and lived again — teaching us that every death actually holds the potential for new life. 

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Resources and Inspiration

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are :: This modern classic is one to return to over and over again.

Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love :: The real life story of Katherine and Jay Wolf. Their lives point others to choose hope and gratitude, no matter the circumstances. I love following them on Instagram too!

The Lazy Genius Practices Thankfulness {short podcast} :: “It feels right to give thanks in November, but it also feels forced and annoying sometimes. Let’s get back to the basics of gratitude and actually enjoy a season of giving thanks. No daily journals necessary.” Yes and Amen.

How to Give Thanks for Your REAL {messy * beautiful * laughable * sorrowful * honest * hopeful} LIFE :: a November post by yours truly : )

Follow me on Instagram for 30 days of thanks!

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My friend Kimberly invited me to join her in this endeavor. It’s something she’s done the last few years and she said it’s helped to prepare her heart for Advent. I need that. My hope is to inspire all of us to give thanks for the ordinary gifts of our real lives. 

“30 Days of Actual Gratitude” :: Because we should never take ourselves too seriously. : ) You guys, Knox and Jamie from the Popcast are doing #30daysofactualgratude on Twitter. It’s the best.

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I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life. Each post provides courage, companionship, and resources for life lived real.

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Weekend Links / Treat Yourself: On Dinner Mayhem, Motherhood, and Dragon-Slaying

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Happy weekend, my friends.

Here are a few gifts from the internet this week. Enjoy!

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A Mom’s Relationship With Dinner: It’s Complicated by Tracy Wright {for Scary Mommy}

Y’all, I died over this. Because I have this same “where did it all go wrong?” relationship with dinner and I needed someone to make me feel less alone.

Nothing is worse for your self-esteem as a home cook than a couple of kids. There is nothing quite like spending an hour-plus in the kitchen preparing a meal for your family, only to have everybody weeping at the table within minutes.

……….

The Spiritual Discipline of Being a Parent by Richella Parham

For so long, I’ve struggled with the concept and practice of spiritual discipline. But Richella explains it through a lens I can understand and relate to: motherhood.

I’d always wanted to be a different kind of person, the kind of person who loved and appreciated people instead of being irritated by them. I tried. I wanted to change myself, and I was constantly frustrated. No wonder: I was trying to do God’s job.

……….

What My 10-Year-Old Son Taught Me About Slaying Dragons by Matt Rampey

Because sometimes divine truth comes tumbling out of the mouths of children. And we’re wise to listen.

When I believe that my view of myself is more accurate than God’s, then that’s not humility at all.  It’s pride and pride is, as Will put it, a dragon that needs to be slayed.  That fight can be long and bloody and exhausting, but it is worth it.

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This week on the blog: How I Became an Accidental Optimist

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Sometimes we take part in something, week after week, year after year, and we have no idea how it’s changing us because the change is so slow.

Practice doesn’t make perfect but it does bring change. Over the years, writing has slowly begun to etch new grooves in my thought patterns, to kick the dirt over the well-worn path of pessimism and to instead forge a new path of possibility.

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And finally, one more plug for Hope*Writers {my favorite resource for writers} because I don’t want you to miss out on the awesomeness of it all.

Hope*Writers is for anyone who writes, who wants to write, or who might be curious about writing. This week they hosted the first ever Hope*Writers Summit, a FREE event with 12 video interviews with authors / writers / editors at various stages of the journey.

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One of those 12 interviews is mine. I’m not a published author or editor like the rest of these gals. But I sit down with one of my favorite authors, Emily Freeman, and have an honest conversation about where I am and where I’d like to be. interveiw We dish about everything from unfinished books proposals to “stewarding your story,” something I’ve learned to do as I’ve written my way through messy chapters of my own life. You’ll learn why I write on my blog and in a journal. You’ll also learn why my husband is my best editor, even though he’s not a writer.

Curious? CLICK HERE to learn more!

While the summit is over, if you join Hope*writers you’ll still get all of them to watch at your leisure + more.

Listen — I’ve paid hundreds of dollars to go to conferences. And while conferences are awesome, I get just as much {if not more} from Hope*writers. You can connect with other writers, share your work once a week, glean from interviews with published authors and editors, learn how to start a blog, find answers to your tech questions, and discover how to be a better writer. All from the comfort of your own pajamas.

For the price of two fast-food salads a month, I get Hope*Writers. And you can too! So join, look around, download all you can. If it’s not for you, no biggie. You can cancel anytime. {But I think you’ll end up staying.}

Convinced? Here’s the link.

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{Just click on my face to learn more / sign up.}

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I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox a couple of times a week.

 

*Affiliate Links: If you choose to join the Hope*Writers membership site, I receive a percentage at no extra cost to you. Affiliate links are one of the ways I’m able to cover costs and provide new content, year after year. Thanks for supporting my work! {Also, I believe in Hope*writers so much, I was telling y’all about it even before I was an affiliate. Now go get started!}