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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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