Monday, February 13, 2012

Strapping On Time

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to time.  What do I spend my time doing?  What things would I like to carve out more time for so that my activities match my priorities?  What things take up my time but don't make my life or the lives of others richer?  Who do I know that seems to spend time well, and how can I emulate those practices to bring about more balance in my own life?

I'm always annoyed when I hear people say things like, "Everyone has 24 hours in a day" or "We all have the same amount of time available to us."  I partly hate that statement because it's not totally true.  Depending on what choices we have made and what roads we find ourselves on, we have varying demands on our time.  The single mom working two jobs to put food on the table doesn't have the same amount of time as the stay-at-home wife of a CEO.  [Of course, time isn't the only variable in this example, but you see what I'm getting at.]

And I partly hate that statement because it is a little bit true and I don't want it to be.  While I choose to use some of my expendable time plopped on the couch watching television with a big bowl of popcorn on my lap (this has become a nightly ritual lately, and I must admit that I am loving it!), somewhere someone is doing something more productive with her time.  Somewhere someone is writing a letter, reading a book, composing a song, serving at a soup kitchen, making a meal for someone in pain.  And I am not.  In those moments, I am not a producer - I am a consumer.  And for some of the time, I think that's okay.

I struggle with finding a healthy balance between self-care and self-sacrifice.  Maybe it's a uniquely American phenomenon, but I find myself caught up in the quest to do more, more, more - at the expense of peace of mind.  I guess, like so many things, a lot of it comes down to motives.  The things we do with our time, no matter how noble, must be done with love if they are to be a valuable use of our time.  They can't be done to "keep up with the Joneses" or to try to live up to some standard of perfection we have set forth in our minds.  Of course, I'm preaching to myself here.  I often find myself checking my motives to be sure I am doing things out of love and not out of guilt or a feeling of duty.  Usually I find great joy in doing things for others - the guilt comes in when I choose to spend time doing something for myself.

When it comes down to it, I think time is ultimately a gift, and how I choose to spend my time can be a way to pass that gift along to others.  We are so bound by time.  Each day as I'm getting ready, I invariably have that moment when I put on my watch.  Sometimes this is done as an afterthought as I'm running out the door, other times I put on my watch even before I dress.  More often than not, the phrase that runs through my mind as I put on my watch is "strapping on time."  I feel as though I am binding myself to a schedule, shackling myself to the confines of the 24 hour day with all of its demands, choices, and possibilities.  [I realize this sounds dramatic, but I have never claimed to be otherwise!]

At my grandmother's funeral, my brother got up to speak, and he said something that has really stuck with me.  He said, "Being with Cici was like taking your watch off."  He went on to explain how Cici lived so fully in the moment and so excelled at sucking the marrow out of life that you never felt like she had anywhere else to be or anything else to do than what she was doing.  Yes!  This is what I want for myself.  This is what I want to be said at my funeral someday.

As Sarah Groves says of friendship in one of her songs, "You have taught me to slow down and to prop up my feet.  It's the fine art of being who I am."  What a wonderful gift to give someone.

I want to give the gift of time so well that I make each person I'm with feel like the most special person in the world at that moment.  I want to cherish the moments, to spend them well and wisely.  Sometimes that might look like curling up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn.  Other times it will look like baking, cleaning, singing, running, hugging, crying, laughing, dancing.  It will look like service and sacrifice, love and friendship.  Whatever it looks like, I want it to feel authentic and true.  As cliched as it sounds, I really do want to suck the marrow out of life.  And, though I must "strap on time" each day, I hope that I will also practice taking my watch off and teaching others to do the same.

Friday, January 27, 2012

I Don't Want a Clean House

It looks like it's been about two years since my last blog post.  A lot has happened in those two years - most notably, I gave birth to another precious baby girl named Parker Lane.  Parker is sweet and social, spunky and fearless, and has the best sense of humor of any baby I've ever seen.  That girl enjoys a good laugh!  Marin has blossomed as a big sister, and nothing brings me greater joy than watching the two of them love on each other.

Clearly, life has changed in many ways since I last posted.  One of the changes seems to be that maintaining a clean house is no longer within my grasp.  I should birdwalk for a moment here to share something about myself - I LOVE to clean.  I don't just love the end result, but I love the process itself.  I'm not such a fan of picking up clutter, but once that's done and it's time to bust out the Comet, I'm a happy camper!  There's something great about restoring order to places of disorder, and something soothing about working hard and seeing an immediate result.  Often times in my life when too many things seem out of my control, I break out the cleaning supplies and exert control over my small sphere of influence.  As I scrub, I am reenergized by the act of bringing order out of chaos.  Come to think of it, maybe there's something holy about cleaning.  Maybe being made in God's image, I too find joy in the creativity involved in bringing order out of chaos.  While cleaning a bathroom sink isn't exactly akin to separating light from darkness or making the stars, I guess it's my own small way of participating in the pleasure God derives from bringing about order.  Well, I think I've made my point here - I love to clean! And, of course, I love to sit on the couch at the end of the day and marvel at my spotless abode.

Well, those days are gone.  Now everywhere I look, there is a job waiting to be done.  Crumbs scattered on the floor from the last meal, a hamper full of laundry taunting me from every bedroom, a diaper to be changed, and the toys - oh, the toys!  An endless trail of toys that reappears behind me as I make my way through the house trying to pick them up.  Chaos.

The other day, standing in the midst of a disastrous kitchen, I exclaimed, "All I want is a clean house!!!"

And the moment the words escaped my lips, I knew it wasn't true.

Yes, a clean house would be great, and I will undoubtedly continue to dedicate much of each day vainly striving toward that end so that my family doesn't live in the midst of chaos.  But that's not what I really want.  The crumbs on the floor remind me that I have recently shared a meal with my children and that we are blessed with enough food to eat three meals (and two snacks!) a day.  Although laundry is my nemesis, hampers full of clothes serve as a reminder that my girls are well cared for through surprise shopping sprees by grandparents and hand-me-downs from friends .  The diapers to be changed mean that I am just at the beginning of a life-long relationship with two beautiful little people who have so many new discoveries ahead of them.  The endless trail of toys means that I have two sweet little girls roaming my house, exploring their world and delighting in their developing imaginations.  The mess around me is evidence that I am in the midst of a grand adventure as I work alongside the love of my life to raise precious babies into loving, Christ-like adults.

At the end of each day when I sit on [read: collapse onto] my couch, I don't want to marvel at how clean my house is.  I want to know that my children went to bed feeling that they had been seen today, that I had truly listened to them, that they are fully known and loved exactly as they are.  I want to marvel at the small miraculous moments that dotted my day like wildflowers on a Fredericksburg hillside.

And if my kitchen happens to be spotless, that's just a bonus.