Just Wait

I was all set out to bring back my Bold Intentions.  Because I haven’t done them in a while–on the blog or in my life.  Well, I take that back.  For the first time in 5 years of marriage, my husband and I are actually on the same page and have been doing three sets of Bold Intentions over the 2015 year.  But that’s a story for another time.

I haven’t really been doing a lot of personal goals.  I’ve been taking a lot of small steps, and I’ve definitely seen fruit (finally!) come from practicing discipline, but to me, those small steps are not the same as goals.

Here’s the thing.  There’s a lot going on right now about goal setting and doing work and chasing your dreams and getting your life plan and then planning it to action and then actually acting on it.  Everyone’s got dreams, right?  Everyone wants to be doing something more than what they’re doing right now.  Everyone has hobbies and passions and ideas and so now there’s a plethora of information about how to take one of those hobbies or passions or ideas and turn it into a goal and then turn it into a plan of action.  We wouldn’t want all those hobbies or passions or ideas to sit in the back of your mind without you doing nothing about it, right?  Because that’s the ultimate “sin,” isn’t it?  To not do something about it?

I’m coming up on a year of motherhood.  A year that I feel simultaneously relieved and anxious about because this has been a tragically hard (and terrific!) year and parenting has really only just begun.  At the end of a very easy first year of marriage, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “If this is marriage, we’ve got this in the bag!” and then fist bumped each other.  But at the end of this first year of parenting, we looked at each other and said, “If this is what parenting is…I’m going to need a nap.”  In the last five years of marriage this has most definitely been the hardest year–physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

So how am I supposed to be reaching these goals?  How do I turn a hobby into a plan of action?  How am I supposed to have an entrepreneurial spirit when my body aches from moving all the time?  How the hell do I get that bikini beach body the magazines tell me I need when I spend free time playing Old Maid?

just wait

I’ve been told many times by many people that if there’s a “trend” or something that a large majority of the population is doing or liking, I automatically won’t do it or like it purely to be different.  I’m not sure how true that is.  When there’s a large group of people doing something, I’m more likely to immediately question the communal thinking and then decide for myself.  It just so happens that oftentimes I decide differently.

Just like everyone else, I, too, have been swept up in this goal-making frenzy.  But instead of getting all excited and feeling my heart beat fast with nervous anxiety, I start to feel panicky.  My palms sweat.  I can’t catch my breath.  Homeostasis fails me.  And instead of questioning whether I should get caught up in the craze or not, I just allowed myself to make lists and charts and plans, thinking that that’s all I need to get my body to calm down.

Lately I’ve felt very much like a failure, in a lot of different ways.  I feel like I’m failing as a wife when my house isn’t clean or when my husband yearns for time with me and I don’t respond to him.  I feel like I’m failing as a mom when I feed my kids cereal for dinner because every.single.dish is dirty or when my youngest wants to snuggle but I don’t respond because there’s too much other stuff to do.  I feel like I’m failing as Caitlin when I get home and don’t do anything “for myself” (unless it’s Netflix after the girls are asleep) and if I do it’s not anything “productive.”  And then I feel like a failure when all I want is time for myself but I have three other people depending plus a dog depending on me for survival.

This morning I made a list:  All The Areas I Feel Like a Failure and Why and What Small Step I Can Take to Do Something About It.  And I wrote it all out.  And I decided I would write until my hand cramps and my mind can’t produce any more failing thoughts and I’d have it on paper with all my small steps and I would just work on those.  At the end I went over my list and realized that there were really three categories:  My Spirit, My Body, My Home.  There was no category labeled My Dreams, or My Goals, or Me Time.  It’s full of simple things like not talking to Jesus, not doing morning yoga, not cleaning my bathtub.  And when I lay it all out, as long as the list actually is–and it is long–it’s not overwhelming and it’s not really life-draining.  Actually, it’s just a list of life-giving things I should be doing on a regular basis.  Like washing dishes.  Folding clothes.  Cooking dinner.

So here’s my giant Bold Intention for the summer:  JUST WAIT.  I’m going to literally put every thing on hold–any passion, any goal, and hobby, any dream–and just wait.  I’m going to settle in my comfy chair in the mornings and pray.  I’m going to play Old Maid until I get one hundred paper cuts.  I’m going to scrub the dishes until I form callouses.  And I’m going to love all of it.  I’m going to enjoy every crumb I get to pick off the floor and every time I get to hold my husband’s hand.

And I’m going to pray for grace every time I begin to feel like I’m failing again.  Because of all the steps to take, I’ve got to get at least that one right.

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Obedience is the Most Important

There are some mornings when I’m reading my Bible, that I get a glimpse of a peacefully calm life where everything is peachy keen and I’m floating around wearing rose colored glasses with a dopey smile on my face.  Because that’s what God can do for you.  Let you know that everything is A-OK.  That time with him can be calming and peace-giving to your hectic soul.

But then there are mornings when I’m reading my Bible that God takes the ideas I’ve formed over the last 27 years and blows them up in my face.  I can see these ideals laying in a pile before me, and I see a grenade careening to the air hitting the pile with a thud the second before the mushroom cloud ascends and everything is obliterated to dust.  Because that’s what God can do for you.  He opens your eyes to see that while you didn’t necessarily have His Word wrong, you also didn’t see the bigger picture until that moment when he destroyed the old to make way for the new.

Like today.

Hebrews 5 talks all about how Jesus was called by God to be a High Priest; to die on the cross for my eternal salvation.  I’ve heard this a bazillion and one times every time I sit in a straight-backed church pew.

But what no one has ever told me before was that Jesus was in agony over his role in the Gospel.

I knew that He prayed to God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane that He would be delivered from the cross.  Obviously that didn’t happen.  I really thought that’s all it was. A simple, “Do I have to?  Really?  Okay then, I’ll do it.”  I had no idea that he cried, he pleaded, he sent up prayers of agony that His Father would release him from His calling.  And God heard him.  And instead of releasing Jesus from death, He allowed Jesus to learn true obedience through His suffering.

That’s when it hit me.  Discipline, Suffering, and Obedience are not neat little ideas wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string to be given as presents.  No.  Instead they are abstract and complicated thoughts that have been put into a blender with the setting on high and have been pulsed so hard you can’t extract one without also pulling out the others.  I can’t have suffering without also learning obedience and discipline.  I can’t learn obedience without going through suffering and using discipline.  I will never be disciplined until I go through suffering and learn true obedience.

For Jesus, in this particular example, it was obedience to His ultimate calling.  He wanted out of what He had been preparing for for 33 years.  He didn’t want to suffer humiliation or death.

I hear a lot about this calling Jesus has placed on all our lives.  That we must obey the calling.  That we must go forth and do it.  That we must not be scared or use excuses but to know that He has called us for a reason.

And I believe it all.  But I also think that we’ve started captializing it and putting it on a pedestal and shrouded it with fog machines and stuck a spotlight on it and preached it so many times that the Calling gets all the focus and all the attention.

But what about the day-to-day?  What am I to do when God has Called me to His plan, but right now I still have to clean poop off the floor.  What do I do about my Calling when I spend 40+ hours a week in a classroom teaching students–a calling unto its own, but perhaps not The Calling.  What about those times when I’m being called but I literally don’t have a single dish, utensil, or pan that is clean in my house?  Do I pursue my Calling then?  Or do I pursue my latex gloves and a sponge?

obedience

It might sound a little crazy, comparing suffering through my daughter’s potty training to the suffering Jesus felt when He was told to go die for the world, but that’s what it is.  Suffering.  And perhaps spending three hours cleaning things that are just going to get dirty again isn’t going to save the world, but it is being obedient to my Jesus, who has called me to be a wife and mother alongside my other Calling.  And you might scoff at the bags under my eyes formed from getting up early every morning, because who isn’t tired, but to me I’m suffering from lack of sleep.  But I’m gaining discipline every time I obey God’s call to read my Bible.

I think this is something worthwhile to keep unpacking:  Obedience in the form of Suffering and Discipline.  And I’m starting to think all this talk about intentionality, discipline, and thriving in the midst of toddlerhood is overshadowing and belittling what is Most Important. Obedience in the day-to-day mundane.

 

The Art of Practicing Discipline

One thing that I’ve been praying for lately is discipline.

This may sound way too over dramatic, but there are some days where I feel as if the day has run me over and I am left sprawled on the pavement, my limbs spread out and bent at weird angles, blood coming out of my ear and pooling on the ground, and all I can do is wonder How the hell do I get up from here?

As I’m lying there on the rough concrete and let my mind do a quick flashback review of how I got to that point and I can almost always point it back to a lack of discipline.

discipine

I’ve always thought of discipline as “not cool.”  Like, if I want to fit in and be popular, discipline is not the attribute that I want to possess.  But now that I’m an adult, I see it being more terrifying than anything else.  It’s an attribute I so desperately want to attain, and yet it encompasses so many parts of my day–the big ideas and the minutiae–that I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to have even a smidgen of it.  It’s too hard to fail at it, ergo, I shouldn’t even try.

But I know now that this is not true.  As I search my soul and my heart to determine what the most important things in my life are, I’m realizing that discipline is an absolute necessity if I want to be intentional in the areas that call for my present state of mind.

Here’s the thing, though, the Thing That Keeps Me From Getting Up:  What exactly is discipline and how can I attain it?

Because I recognize that I am a failure.  I will massively fail at discipline when I attempt to do it on my own.

But God.

But God lifts me up and gives me grace and shows me that spiritual discipline is merely forming a habit that will repeatedly point me back to Him.  Spiritual discipline involves having God–not me–in control of everything, and that all of my actions should continuously point me (and others) back to Him.  And with God, I literally can’t fail.  Because perfection can’t ever be attained.

I’m learning that everything can’t be important, and I’m finding that in the area of discipline the same holds true.  I have a list of a zillion different areas I crave to be disciplined in.  But I can’t do it all at once.  Being disciplined in some areas is more important {right now} than being disciplined in others.

For example, not making my lunch the night before means I’m rushing the next morning and I’m spending time doing a menial task instead of eating breakfast with my family.  It’s not the absence of a lunch I miss in the morning when I’m driving to work.  It’s the absence of spending time with my family, which is one of my Most Important Things.

And when I figure out what’s most important to my soul, {Family} and then I figure out what’s preventing me from making it actively important in my life {not making a lunch the night before}, that’s when I figure out the Most Important Disciplines I need to have right now.

So I’m practicing.  I’m practicing discipline every time I make a lunch after my daughters are in bed.  I’m practicing discipline every morning when I wake up before 5:45 in order to spend time with God.  I’m practicing discipline every Saturday when I make it a goal to do all errands and all cleaning so that I can relax with my family on Sunday.  I’m practicing discipline every night I get everything on my to-do list accomplished so that the hour before we go to bed I can spend that time intentionally talking to my husband.

And knowing that not everything is important is what gives me the courage to slowly get up off that pavement and start again.

Everything Can’t Be Important {Part One}

Lately, I’ve been learning what I’m identifying as the most important lesson I’ll ever learn in my life:

Everything can’t be important.

I’ve been getting caught up lately.  Caught up in being a wife, a mother, a teacher.  In goal setting, praying, dreaming, scheming, running, healthy eating, and so on and so forth.

How do you do it all?  Seriously.  How do you do everything?

I sat down one night in the middle of my laundry, sniffing each article of clothing to figure out if it were dirty or clean because we hadn’t done laundry in so long that I didn’t even know anymore and I just thought, “How do I create a laundry system?  Especially now that I’m working and mom-ing.  How do I wash my clothes when I also need to do all the other gazillion things in my life?”

That’s when it hit me.  Everything can’t be important.  Some things are more important than others.  .

important

So I did just that.  I identified what’s important.  Prayer is important.  God is important.  My kids are important.  My husband is important.  Having a liveable house is important.  Being a hard worker is important.  Getting healthy is important.  Actively being active is important.  Eating better is important.  Writing my book is important.  Writing book reviews is important.  Giving my husband time to go after his dreams is important.  Finding/Creating/Being in community is important.  Laundry is not important.

But even looking at that list makes me overwhelmed.  Look at how important all those important things are.  And that’s when my thoughts became a little more clearer.  I forgot to tack on a couple of sentences.

Not every important thing can have the same value.  Some important things will be more important than others.  And they will change with the season.

And when I think about that, everything becomes clearer.  Not even everything I deem as having high priority in my life can have the same level of priority.  Even in my list of important things there will always be some things more important than others.  And as the seasons continue, those things will begin to fluctuate and change.

I can’t do everything.

But that’s okay.  Because everything isn’t important.

When you’re not a producer, or a creator. What do you do?

I cannot tell you how many blog posts I’m coming into about “saying No to Yes,” or “stop consuming and start producing,” or about creatives and how they need to stop comparing themselves to others and start actually creating.  I don’t know how it began, but someone somewhere realized that spending a billion hours on pinterest and blogs looking at other people doing things and wishing they had this or that and not actually doing anything themselves.  Then that person wrote about.  And the entire blog world is now up in arms about how creators need to stop looking and start creating. 

These small business owners and handmade shop creators keep rambling on about how comparison is the thief of their joy and stops them from producing their product.  And then other creators start talking about how to get rid of things in their lives in order for them to create more and blah blah blah.

Look, I get it.  I mean, I wrote an entire mini-series on the thing last year when I realized I had to much stuff in my home, my heart, and my head.

But what happens when you’re not a creator?  What happens when you’re not a small business owner, when you don’t own your own handmade shop, when you don’t blog?  What about you?

There’s an entire world outside of the internet that I think bloggers miss.  Yeah, there’s a lot of people who love to read blogs, but not a lot of people who like to write them.  And on top of that, there’s not a lot of people that consider themselves a “creator” or a “producer,” at least not in the terms that bloggers are using.

Here’s the thing.  I struggle to consider myself a part of this group of creators.  Sure, I write, so that means something.  I love a good DIY as much as the next girl and my home is covered in thrifty handmade things because I don’t have the money to buybuybuy.  But there’s a lot of other parts of me that go along with that. 

I’m a teacher, even if I don’t have a classroom.  I’m a personal chef three times a day.  I’m a homemaker, a mother, a friend, a daughter, a student, a wife, a child of God.  I like watching TV, I like reading books, I like playing with my kids, I like going on runs, I like experimenting with essential oils, I like doing a lot of things that don’t put me in the category of “creator.”

So I can’t really relate to a lot of these blog posts.  I think a lot of people can’t really relate.

And then I realized, the terms are all wrong.  It’s less about creating a product, something tangible that you can see, buy, or sell.  It’s solely about the act of creating–anything–and that idea can apply to anyone.

Day in and day out we’re called to be creators or producers.  We create meals for our family and friends, a clean house to relax in.  We produce happy children and a happy husband.  We create wonderful memories.  We produce good work, whether we’re paid for it or not.

Which is where consuming becomes a big hindrance for all of us.  Too much time seeing what other people are doing makes us stop doing ourselves.  Reading too many food blogs makes us order take out instead of creating our own meals.  Looking at too many handmade shops means we start buying instead of being happy with what we have.  Watching too much TV means I live vicariously through people constantly working toward their goals and then predictably reaching them, and I don’t set any goals myself.

So, dear readers of all blogs, dear pinteresters and instagrammers and facebookers, just know that you don’t have to start a blog, start a business, or do DIYs in order to understand what all these blog posts are saying.  Know that we’re all creators and we’re all producers of some sort day in and day out.  And if we consume too much of someone else’s creations, we have nothing for our self.

Fall Bold Intentions {& August’s Goals}

I’m starting over with this whole “bold intentions” thing and going at it from the angle I originally went at it with.  And that’s to define some big picture “goals” or “to-dos” that will last as long as I need them to last. 

Because if I was to be honest, this next season of ours could be full of just to-do lists.  Like selling the house, packing our stuff, yard sales, moving, making last minute doctor appointments, returning stuff that isn’t ours, cancelling internet, etc. etc. etc.  And all those things will definitely get done, but I don’t want this month or next to be all about the to-do list.  I want it to be all about living intentionally.

fall bold inentions 2014So for the fall–an appropriate way to describe the season as it was a brisk 65 degrees outside this morning, and I saw some leaves falling off a tree yesterday–here’s my great bold intentions:

  • Have Patience. With my husband, with my children, with the move.  I need to be patient first, and speak second.
  • Receive Grace. There’s a lot that I’m failing at right now (who doesn’t feel this way?) and I’m letting my flesh try to take over and control the situation rather than allow Jesus to come in, give me grace, and allow me to continue.  If I were to be honest, I exactly know my faults and I’m afraid Jesus will chastise me for them.  But I know that even if He would do that, He would do it out of love and still extend grace to me, so I’m working on allowing Him in more.
  • Do More for Me. It’s that part of the season where I’m so wrapped up in what’s going around me that I’m forgetting that I was a whole person before I entered into it.  I’m being “Mom” without being “Caitlin.”  On the rare occasion when I do have time to myself I don’t even know what to do.  I found myself asking the question, “What did I like to do before this?” and I honestly couldn’t answer it for a while.  So I want to do more for me.  Read some books, do a project, write on this blog, whatever it is, just more for me.

That’s basically it.  Any more and I’ll drown in the to-doness of it.  And of course I have to ask myself the question, Practically speaking, what will I do to try to accomplish these things?  And here’s where August comes in.

august 2014In August, I hope to:

  1. Finish studying 1 Corinthians, a book laid on my heart and I’ve been studying it for a while.  I’m taking it slow, so though I may not finish I want to at least get deep.
  2. Wake up before the kids. I was actually really successful at this one for about a month, and then they started waking up at the same time I did.  So instead of making them wait in their rooms until a certain time, I’m going to try to get up earlier, at a time when I know they won’t be up, and spend time just doing ME things:  take a bubble bath, play on pinterest, read the Bible, read a book, do some writing, anything that will help me to wake up and get some of my own energy out before I start the day with them.
  3. Cover the glider & make some pillows.  I already bought the fabric and supplies to cover the girls’ glider and make some pillows for our bed, so I need to just do it.  I cut out and pinned one part for the glider two nights ago, so now I need to sew it together.  I feel as if I can get these two projects done I’ll be on my way to becoming a whole person again.

The rest of this list includes all the aforementioned appointment making, scheduling, and condo selling, so I don’t want to put too much on my plate than what I already have.  And I expect September to be much of the same.  But that’s fine with me.  I’m going to take as long as I need to accomplish these intentions and these goals, with the hopes that I’ll be better all-around for it.

Thriving Intentionally in the Littlest of Things

After an unmistakably difficult day yesterday, during which I attacked my living room with a vengeance and threw out 6 boxes of crap, and a hard night which consisted of little sleep and lots of tears (yes, I cried because my littlest kept crying, and then we were both in this terrible crying cycle that we couldn’t break) I woke up this morning with a single thought:

I’ll make nap time early today, and then if I can just get through til then, I’ll call it a success.

Around 1:00AM last night I picked up my phone and picked on the Tenth Avenue North devotional I read off an on.  The one last night was entitled “Worn” about how sometimes we just experience this really intense feeling of worn out-ness, and only Jesus can give us rest.  The verse that went with it was Matthew 11:28 (my paraphrase):

Come to me all you weary and broken-hearted and I will give you rest.

So this morning, when I was thinking about how best to make it until nap with two girls who abhor the idea of staying in pjs in bed watching Suits or HIMYM, I started asking Jesus, “Practically speaking, how do I find rest in you?  How do I find rest when I can’t physically rest until the night comes?”

Matthew 1128I talk a lot about intentionality and practicality, and I’m on the Thrive Intentionally Facebook group started by Kristen of When at Home, so there’s a lot of talk circling my brain about how to live life with intention.  So as I was trying to come up with a game plan for making it until nap time, I felt like the best way to do today was to live it out intentionally instead of trying to just make it through with as little bruising as possible. 

I read my Steady Days book (awesome, btw) and I’ve created my own Steady Days routine.  And in the two days that I’ve carried it out it’s worked wonderfully.  So when I asked Jesus to show me how to rest in Him today, I felt like he was telling me to go back to that schedule.  That I don’t have to live it out minute by minute, and that I don’t even need to approach it with zeal and enthusiasm, but that I need to have a steady day that follows a pattern, or the four of us wouldn’t be any better off than when we woke up this morning.

I think it’s funny that we talk a lot about intentionality in the big things:  being intentional in motherhood, with reading the Bible, with your relationships with your husband, friends, and God, but a lot of times we don’t talk about intentionality in the little stuff.  Like getting dressed.  When my body is craving gym shorts (not a yoga pants kinda girl) and my husband’s t-shirt, instead I showered, did my hair and face, and wore clothes I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in.  When my mind is craving lots of vegging out to TV, I’m going to clean off my dining room table and start a load of dishes.  I’m going to babysit my granddaughter (did you know that when your child has babydoll daughters, that makes you a grandmother??? yup, news to me, too) and rock her to sleep the exact way I’m told to.  (See mom?  The exact way my daughter tells me to.)

In fact, intentionality has become a synonym for the word “productive.”  Like, if I wash my clothes, I’m being intentional about my day, but really aren’t I just being productive?  I’m still not sure how to describe this phenomenon, given my groggy state of being, but I’m thinking that we’re missing the boat on intentionality.  It’s supposed to be “deliberate and purposeful.”  Doing something on purpose so that a bigger picture can be acquired.  I guess that can mean to clean your house or wash your dishes, but today it means that I’m intentional about taking a day to do things I don’t want to do in order that my attitude changes and I don’t take my frustration out on my daughters.  It means that I’m getting dressed even though I don’t want to because it’ll make it’s a first step in tackling other parts of my day.  It means that I’m going to clean the kitchen because I’d much rather be doing nothing, purely because Jesus has called me to this day, and I’m going to do what He says knowing that my heart and mind will both be a lot better off for it.

And if all I do today is get my cloth diapers in order, rock my granddaughters, wipe off my dining table, I’ll call that day a success, because it means I didn’t sit in my own way of resting, and I’m sitting in His. 

So today is all about being intentional with being practical.  Because none of us need a day that we are just trying to get through.  We need a day that follows a routine, is productive in the little things, so that by the time we get to nap time, we can all rest in Jesus, knowing that everything is getting a little bit better. 

And probably, we’ll go to the beach.  Because even though it’s not on the schedule, the beach is always a good remedy.  Especially when it’s on a pond and you’re the only ones who are ever there.