Planning for Spontaneity

I like to think of myself as a fun! and spontaneous! person, ready for adventure or new plans at a moment’s notice. That hope is pretty much opposite of my personality. I’m a planner and organizer and when things don’t go the way I’d hope, I feel at the very least low-level stress.

IMG_4924We took a staycation the week after tax season and I had a lot of hopes for that week. We were going to create amazing family memories and totally reset our quality time after three months of a crazy schedule. Instead of hoping that Frank understood these expectations, I made a list.  It’s not exactly the definition of fun! and spontaneous! but it did help Frank know what I was expecting on our week together.

It made me think about the times with Frank or with my friends when my own expectations have gotten in the way of an experience. When I had hoped for a certain outcome that didn’t happen. Usually it’s because no one else knew I had that expectation.

Now that we’re a couple weeks into summer, I’m wondering if we need to make a list of expectations. Not a to-do list or even a summer bucket list but just a list of things we expect from our days. Do we expect to go swimming every day? Do we expect some sort of playdate or excursion or pajama day? I’m wondering if I include Bea in this list-making if our days would feel different? More summery and adventurous, rather than rushed and frustrating?

I still love the idea of fun and spontaneous days, but maybe those need to make it onto our list of expectations. Maybe a little planning allows for a lot more spontaneity.

How do you communicate your expectations about a vacation or a gathering? Are you a list-maker or more spontaneous?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “expect.”

Heaven is a Wonderful Place

We used to sing a song in Sunday school called Heaven is a Wonderful Place. The gang from Psalty the Singing Song Book would sing about a place filled with glory and grace and Jesus.

IMG_3567After college, as I read more and matured, my view of heaven shifted from a place we go to a restoration of what God has given us. A place filled with glory and grace? Isn’t that what Jesus called us to do, here and now, on this earth? Or, I love N.T. Wright’s image of a place of rest before the restoration.

My maternal grandmother died this week. She was 92 years old, missed my grandfather for the past 12 years, and was ready to see Jesus. And I’ve found that all my intellectual images of heaven leave and I hope that she is actually seeing Jesus and my grandpa and her brother and sister and friends who have gone on before her. I want her to be dancing and eating incredible foods.

Those images give me comfort and hope. But I still grapple with the idea of heaven as our only future goal. What about this earth God gave us? What does John 3:16 mean when it says,

God so loved the world

It doesn’t say God just loved humanity or God just loved Christians. It says God loved this world. It reminds me that, while I do long for heaven and restoration, I also long for restoration now. And maybe that’s what the glory of heaven is. Finally seeing that restoration.

How has your view of heaven changed as your faith has grown? What gives you comfort?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “future.”

 

Labels that Can’t Be Taken Away

We recently toured Bea’s new school for next year. Outside a kindergarten classroom, a sign read, We are authors. We are artists. We are learners. We are kind. We are mathematicians  We are helpful. We are friends.

danbo-2105835_960_720I just wrote about claiming labels and how some labels are so hard to claim. For me, those big labels that call up people who have worked far harder than I have for them: writer, historian, activist.

I just finished reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The first part of the book is a memoir of his years in several Nazi Concentration Camps, including Auschwitz. Frankl describes an initial experience of reaching the camp, when every possession is stripped from the prisoners. For him, his most important physical item was his early manuscript on his study of logotherapy.

What Frankl learns is that those who survived found labels that cannon be taken away. They found something beyond their present circumstances to cling to. His hope of seeing his wife and unborn child again as well as the hope of rewriting his research kept him alive.

This has made me reflect on those labels that I have so much trouble with. Perhaps I need to focus on labels that hold far more truth, that can’t be taken away. Even the precious label of mom could be taken, but what is deeper than that?

Friend, loyal, loved, loving, connector. These are all labels that go far beyond anything that can be taken from me.

Our last MOPS meeting was yesterday and before it started our leader gave us a heart with beloved written on it. She had us put it over our name tags as a reminder that above all, we are beloved.

That’s a truthful label that cannot be taken.

What are some true labels you need to remember? How do you separate those labels that can be taken from those that are far deeper?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “truth.”

Parenting Without Immediate Results

The other day I felt like the Best Mom. I put aside my to-do list and focused completely on Bea. During quiet rest (which is just as much for me as for her) we read books, played an imaginative game, drank hot cocoa with her tea set, and wrote a book. It was a sweet three hours, just the two of us.

IMG_1708When Elle woke up from her nap, a switch flipped. I had assumed that all this quality time would carry over to the rest of the evening but something happened and suddenly Bea became a wild thing.

My first thought was, Well that was a waste of time! I could have just worked on my to do list and gotten the same results.

Of course, parenting isn’t a results-based practice. We can do all the “right things” and still not get the immediate results we’re hoping for. Sometimes this extremely long-term vision is tiring. I want to know right now that my kids will turn out ok; that my attempts at patience and empathy will pay off.

The immediate results that I am seeing are that I always have a little bit more. Even when I think I don’t have an ounce of patience or energy left, somehow I do. No one has ever died of playing one more game of tea party or reading one more book.

I’m reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Vicktor Frankl. In it, he talks about the need to look to the future, that without a future hope our present becomes meaningless. I’m taking those words and putting them to this journey. That even on the longest days, my hope is that these endless tea parties will make way for future friendships.

What is something you’re doing now with the future in mind? How does that long-term vision impact the way you view certain tasks now?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “mom.”

Playing the Should Game

Mom!! I want to be the boss! I wish you weren’t the boss!

IMG_4259It feels like I hear this exclamation at least once a day, but I’m sure it’s less frequent. Our strong, independent daughter is figuring out ways to be autonomous and doesn’t like hearing redirection.

I wish it were that easy – I am the boss of this house! and everyone just did what I asked. That never happens. The thing with about raising humans is that ultimately, my girls are their own bosses. I can suggest and give consequences; I can guide and give expectations but their choices are their own.

Sometimes I play the should game. I should have clearer boundaries; I should be stricter; I should say yes more; I should be on the floor playing rather than writing.

Here’s the thing with should. It’s a no-win game. Sometimes should prompts me to reprioritize but it’s usually rooted in guilt rather than best practices. Sometimes should helps a situation or reframes a power struggle but it’s usually as a last resort.

So, I’m trying to take a step back and recognize our family’s own best practices. What are systems I can put into place that dispel the struggle before it starts? I know that if we start the day with a quick snuggle (no matter how tired or grumpy I am) and then quickly move into some sort of protein-rich breakfast, the rest of the morning goes smoothly. Instead of saying, We should eat breakfast first! I’m saying, I know my family is happier when we follow this pattern.

It’s a small shift in phraseology but it’s a big shift in mindset. Maybe I should practice this more often.

How do you reframe expectations? Is there a time you found a shift in phrasing a situation has changed your perspective?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “should.”

Being Content with More

Mo! Again! Mo! One of my favorite learning-to-speak mix-ups is when Elle confuses more with again. I’ll be spinning her in her swing and she’ll shriek in the midst of laughter, mo! mo! ag’n! While making cookies, she’ll lick the batter, demanding, ag’n, mo!

IMG_3210Already, she’s outgrowing this sweet mix-up, understanding that more is used for quantities and again is used for an experience. I love that she’s understanding words and language but it’s a reminder that these sweet explorations are fleeting and that, before we know it, she’ll be articulating her wants and needs in full and clear sentences.

There are so many times I feel like all I can say is mo! without much articulation. When I stopped working,  my mom offered to take Elle once a week while Bea is at preschool. I decided to use this time for me – not for errands or chores. So, on Mondays I have two quiet hours to write or plan or do something that is significantly more challenging with kids around.

I’ve already noticed a change in having these hours but I see others who are farther on the journey and think, If only I had more… More time, more creativity, more direction.

I’m not content to recognize this gift of time and the slow process of getting better at something. I often think my journey needs to mirror the journeys around me. As I type this, I know this is silly but the feelings are still there when I’m feeling discouraged.

I’m learning to be grateful for more and to recognize that more looks different in different seasons and for different people.

Where is an area of your life or your time when you wish for more? How do you find time for more?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “more.”

The Grace of Parenting

We’re in the home stretch of tax season, which means that more mornings than not I wake up to Frank’s side of the bed empty. It may be that he has gotten up early to go into the office; more likely it’s that he came home so late he just crept upstairs to the guest room so that I wouldn’t wake up.

IMG_4122Our community, as always, has been incredible. My parents come for dinner and bedtime every Thursday so that I can continue my weekly walks with a friend. Our neighbor’s husband was gone for 10 days on a work trip so we shared meals, the girls played, and we texted support through the meltdowns.

But for all the incredible support, the girls still miss their dad. And I still miss having a partner to help me through this parenting journey. It’s nothing at all like being a single parent but these months give me a small glimpse into that world and empathy for parents who have to do this alone 24/7.

During these months, I rely heavily on the grace of parenting. Of the wonder of extra screen time and the spring weather to play outside. We live with an extra-messy playroom (because our playroom is never clean, regardless of Frank’s presence) and I allow myself to watch a movie after bedtime rather than tidy or read something more productive.

But I also rely on the sabbath that Frank’s office enforces. Each employee must take one day off every week. We bask in those 24 hours together, making sure that we soak in this family time.

On Tuesday, this will be over for another year and life will go back to normal. (Or, the new normal… Reintroduction can be tough.) I’ll wake up each morning with my husband next to me and our guest room will sit empty until actual guests need to use it.

What’s something in your life that is easier when you do it with others?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “empty.”