The Challenge to Do Less

As indicated in my previous post, I have very little spare time. There is so much going on, in fact, that I have very little to write about in my very few moments of spare time. This season has presented me with a fresh challenge: to do less rather than more. It goes against my nature but I have come to terms with it.  The question is: how do I meet this challenge?

One of the first things I have done is identify the priorities of the day; this is followed by reducing or eliminating anything that would distract from them. Social media has hung in the balance during this evaluation phase. It is essential to my  business and it certainly is a useful means of keeping up with the happenings in the lives of other people.  It is also convenient for keeping others updated on the events of my life without having to make individual contact with everyone. On the other hand, it can be the ultimate time waster as I scroll and click and browse and watch.  In many ways it is information overload to my already saturated brain. And after I finish scrolling, I rarely feel uplifted; it is more common for my heart to feel heavy as I see the parts of people’s lives that they want me to see: the pristine homes, the trendy clothes, the vacations, the new purchases, the perfect day. I am often left sighing about what I don’t have or can’t do or won’t see. This does nothing to add to a serene home or a peaceful heart.

I also feel a pressure to post. If it’s Instagram, I feel like I need to post every day with a million hashtags so that I will boost my following. I find myself comparing my following with others or my pictures with others and there I go again with feeling dissatisfied. There seems to be an element of social status on Instagram; if you don’t have a cool feed then you won’t have a large following and if you don’t have a large following you’re not cool. With Facebook, there’s an element of social obligation. People are friends because they want to know what’s going on in my life and if I’m not posting regularly I’m letting them down.

I realize that I could be reading a lot into this and I may also be stepping on some toes by broaching this subject. I also know that there is a growing frustration with social media. We are seeing that it does eat up much of our time – time that could be spent reading a book, playing a game, writing a letter, making a phone call or (*gasp*) stepping outside our front door and striking up a face-to-face conversation with someone.   People long for authenticity and let’s face it, that’s hard to come by on social media. People long for community, but we have to admit that the community found on social media is shallow and impersonal – you can’t borrow an egg from a friend on Facebook; you need a neighbor for that.

What it comes down to is that we fear invisibility and insignificance. We want our voices to be heard and our thoughts to count. On our accounts we are the center of the virtual universes we create; our followers see what we want them to and if we don’t like their comments we can delete them. It is not so easy in a live conversation on our front porches, is it? But truthfully, that is where true relationships and true change comes about: in person. When I weigh out a quick peek on Facebook with reading a story to my kids, which choice will have the lasting impact? And what will benefit my children the most, seeing me typing out a political post that they can’t even read yet or listening me engage in a thoughtful conversation about worldview at the dinner table?

The sands of time are sliding, ever sliding. I am seeking to maximize each minute: in conversation, in correspondence with individuals, and in lingering without the distraction of thinking about what I’ll say on my next Facebook post.  How we spend our time is a personal issue between us and our Maker. I know that many in my readership seek to use social media as a platform for sharing Christ’s truth with the world; I applaud and am grateful for their efforts. Personally, as I spend less time on social media I am  finding more free time than I expected and am now seeking to invest this time into individual people rather than the masses.

How would you rate the benefit of having social media in your life? Could those benefits be gleaned from other sources as well?

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Don’t you just love the tail in the picture? LOL! This photo captures a rare moment of stillness in my home. I’ve been wanting to return to my normal blogging routine for quite some time now; the topic ideas are piling up in my brain but when I sit down to type I just don’t have the energy to operate brain and fingers at the same time.

If anyone has tips on how to stay on top of meals, bare bones housecleaning, laundry, two preschoolers, a headstrong toddler, a baby giant who is ALWAYS hungry, and puppy training, please share them with me. I am going from sunup until well past sundown trying to accomplish all the must-do’s while squeezing in a few want-to’s like a blog or a chat with a friend or reading a page in ANNE OF AVONLEA.

My husband is presently in a season of much travel so that adds an additional strain to an already an intense time. But in all this I cling to my new motto: THE JOY OF THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH! He has provided; He equips; He will sustain.

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Before I knew You

There was a time when you weren’t in my life.

Before I knew you I lived my life with me as the focus: my dreams, my job, my interests, my routines, my travels, my goals.

Before I knew you I felt incomplete, a bit empty, a little lost, wistfully lonely. Life felt a little flat and predictable.

Before I knew you, well, let’s not think about that anymore because now I know you!

Now life is intense and rich and active and filled with adventure! We have built a life together! Yes, we have added some kids and a puppy to the mix but it’s more than that. There is something mysteriously wonderful about having a person who belongs entirely to me and knowing that I belong entirely to you. It means that no matter how rough life gets or I get or you get, we are never going to give up. It means that tomorrow is a new day and we are going to start over. It means that if there is a problem we are going to find a solution. It means that if we get to the point where there’s only one man left standing, I’ll have your back.

Walking down memory lane this past week has been marvelous. I like remembering our courtship and our newlywed season but I wouldn’t want to repeat it. I like where we are right now: laughing at the silly antics of our kids, chatting long into the night about our future plans, going on spontaneous road trips (and coming back with a puppy), trying out new restaurants, playing games, welcoming guests into our home, being able to talk freely with you about my struggles and never once feeling inferior to or minimized by you. I crave life with you more as each day goes by.

Before I knew you I was happy, but now you’re my dream come true. Happy 5th anniversary, my Love! May we be blessed with 95 more.

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Lonely in a Good Place

At times, no matter how rich life is or how many friends I have or how often people reach out to me or how in tune my husband is to me, I still feel lonely.

I feel isolated in my emotions, caught up in the difference between the season I am experiencing and the seasons of others, too aware of what I don’t have time for and filled with guilt over what I’m not doing, ever wondering if I have chosen the best way to spend my time.

I don’t often talk about my waves of loneliness because there seems to be little justification for them. Life is good. I shouldn’t be playing the comparison game. Contentment needs to be the discipline I practice. This is the life I dreamed about, the life I chose, the life I wouldn’t trade for anything.

But at times I still feel lonely. In those times I recognize that my journey is unique and my personal experiences are mine alone. I can share them with others but no one else will feel the exact flavor of emotions that I did. And in those times the only one who can provide the solace I crave is Jesus. We will walk this way together.

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Stretched and Molded

I’m in the throes of a new normal. Tomorrow signals the completion of two full weeks of preschool and I don’t think I’ve ever felt the intensity of life as much as I have in these two weeks. It’s the first time I’ve made a daily commitment to something and then had to corral, restrain, guide, coax and require my little humans to help me fulfill that commitment.

Preschool itself has been delightful. My children are eager participants (especially at snack time or when markers are involved). They are forgiving and patient, something I appreciate since I’m a first-year preschool teacher. I probably lecture more than is recommended (the secondary ed teacher training I have) and many of my activities are coloring sheets. But learning is happening and it’s intoxicating.

The real challenge is in maintaining a home, keeping up with laundry, cooking three meals a day, brushing teeth and feeding the baby while still making sure preschool happens. I have yet to figure that out and the process is exhausting. I still want to have time to write this blog, keep in touch with people, run my business, work on photo projects and a million other things but when nap time happens I’m joining the slumber party!

As tired as I am with all this stretching, I’m getting up at 5am each morning to meet with Jesus. In those quiet moments I’m assured that He is molding me and I can surrender to the process. Much of my fatigue comes from resisting the change; I feel like I’ve failed if my original ideas don’t work; I feel ashamed to admit that I’ve had to adjust and readjust and then adjust again. But life is in the changing. That is where the discoveries are made and where the experience is gleaned. Last week my tiny students had no idea that the tongue is used to taste but now they know. They still don’t know what tastebuds are or how nutrients are absorbed from what we eat (although they do know what waste turns into); one day they will but it won’t nullify what they know about tongues today. Learning is new knowledge being added to prior knowledge.

And that’s how I need to view this season: adjusting, changing and tweaking is simply evidence of my learning and ability to adapt. Reworking my routines doesn’t mean my old routines were wrong; it just means something new is needed now. Most importantly, it’s yet another chance to peel back more layers of life in order reach the deeper meaning of existence: God’s reason for placing me on this planet.

Readership~ thank you for being with me on this journey called life and for encouraging me by following my blog and commenting. My writing is simply sharing my newest learning with you. Please forgive me if I don’t reply to your thoughtful comments right away. Friends and family, please be patient if I don’t reach out as much as I would like to.

It’s a vibrant season of growth and blossoming minds!

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This weekend I was gifted with the opportunity to attend our church’s ladies’ retreat. It was a 24-hour getaway to a beautiful lakeside camp. There was ample opportunity for long conversations with lovely friends, yummy food we didn’t have to prepare or clean up, excellent teaching from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and her ministry, and pleasant games to support the themes we covered. Before I left for the retreat my husband asked me what I hoped to glean from this retreat and encouraged me to attend with an expectant heart. I am glad he drew my attention to that because I otherwise would not have considered it in the flurry of preparation to leave.

As soon as I arrived I felt peaceful and excited. I could sense the same emotions in each lady as we smiled and laughed and greeted one another. It was the first time I had ever been to an event like this and I was touched by the camaraderie of sisters in Christ who were eager to pause, be still and recharge so that we could return to our daily callings with renewed spirits. Everything about this weekend was special and will be treasured in my heart, but here are 3 of my favorites:

*The beauty that is ours~ God designed women for beauty. We are drawn to it, embrace it, design it. We want to be beautiful and that desire should encourage us to seek out His definition of beauty. In Titus 2 the virtues of true beauty are listed; the woman who bears these qualities in her life is beautiful in God’s sight.  Women are especially vulnerable to the comparison game and we often fall victim to the thought that if we are not exactly like “her” then we are less than “her.” The truth is that we are all given a unique life to live except in the virtues of beauty that should describe a woman of God. In this we all share the same calling and should encourage one another in our pursuit of them.

*The solidarity that is ours~ We are not alone in our loneliness. I think that women are also vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and isolation. We pour ourselves out night and day for others and frequently feel that we are alone in our struggles to live well. We feel alone in our search for balance, our efforts to remain positive and our fight to keep going despite the fatigue. But over this weekend I was reminded that we are very much NOT alone; we are all right there together. I have never before encountered such authenticity and heart-wrenching vulnerability as my sisters in Christ and I opened up about our struggles to live in a God-glorifying way. I was comforted to know that my struggles were theirs and theirs were mine and God sees all.

*The enabling is ours~ In the midst of the sharing of weaknesses was a vibrant hope because we recognized that everything we need to be the women God has called us to be is within reach. We don’t have to be victims to our emotions or our very bad days. Fatigue does not need to dictate how we respond to our loved ones; busyness does not have to steal our joy. Depression does not have to conquer. God equips and enables so that we can live victoriously for Him.

I left the retreat with a desire to linger more each day. I determined to change my approach to each day from what I need to do to how I am going to do it. The virtues in Titus 2 are not Sunday accessories; they should adorn my heart night and day of every single day. When they do, I am a lifegiver to those who cross my path.

Have you read Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s Adorned?

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The Fulfilled Life

According to Dr. Caroline Leaf a meaningful life is happy one. Humans want to know that their lives are making a difference. Happiness, she declares, precedes success; it is not derived from success. And so I wonder how I can have a meaningful life.

I notice that when people appreciate my writing I experience a sense of fulfillment. When others are influenced by my ideas I feel confident. When my family feels content at home or friends feel welcome it gives me purpose. But these alone are not enough to give meaning to my life. Making them the sole focus of my time and energy will only lead to burnout and disappointment despite how noble such priorities may seem.

2 Peter chapter 1 describes the qualities that must be present in a Christian life: with diligence apply to my faith moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. If they are present then my life will be “neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Meaning in life doesn’t come from my plans coming to fruition but from God’s will being accomplished in my life.

Psalm 139:1-6 capture the essence of the fulfilled life, the life that is formed, seen and known by the Almighty God:

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely O Lord.

You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

How would you define a fulfilled life? Is it yours?

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