When I was in elementary school (maybe fifth grade?) my best friend and I decided to go ice skating. Behind her house was a stream and on the other side of the stream was a long dirt driveway that had completely iced over. The perfect place to skate…as long as you only went in short straight bursts.
I didn’t have skates so I borrowed a pair from her. Spare skates, just lying around…not even sure where we got them…the barn maybe? Anyway. I put the a-little-bit-too-tight, kinda-smash-your-toes squeezy skates on. And we began to skate.
Almost immediately I was aware of a terrible pain in one of my toes (the one next to my pinky toe…is that your ring toe?…for those that need those kind of details to focus on a story). The pain was pretty intense, but I chalked it up to the too-tight, too-small skates and continued skating.
When we were done skating and I sat to take off my skates I found it difficult to pull my toes and sock out. A little tug. A lot of pain. And my foot was free. Perhaps I shouldn’t wear squeezy skates again, was my thought. Imagine my surprise when I found my sock bloody and now a bit torn. Upon closer inspection I was even more surprised to find a hole in my toe.
Turns out the squeezy skates had a nail poking through at the toes and I had slowly impaled my ring toe as we skated. I had made the best of skating, explaining away my pain and bumbling through.
Life is kinda like that, you know?
It is easy, as wives and mothers to fill our calendars up with every sort of committment. We serve on committees, we drive in carpools, we head this event, attend that fundraiser, volunteer to bring a dish to that family, we lead this ministry or that organization…or both. And life begins to feel a bit like those squeezy skates.
At first it is just a matter of finding room for life, love, marriage, family, rest, oh and God amidst the entries on our calendar. Then we begin to feel the poke, the prod, heck, maybe even the stabbing pains of a broken skate…or life. It feels as if suddenly your life doesn’t work — your kids are acting out; your husband greets you like one of his buddies instead of the love of his life; the laundry has piled; you have to prepare for a meeting, sort through this week’s homeschooling lessons, make dinner and prepare for your in-laws visit all before they get here at six o’clock. And the dog who used to follow you around with tail wagging has packed his dish and his bone and is sitting at the front door waiting for you to let him out.
It feels sudden. This implosion.
But it’s not. No more than that hole suddenly appeared in my foot. I committed myself to skating and having fun, and refused to stop and pay attention to the signs my body was sending (oh, like pain…blood).
Oh, how I have been here. Standing in my home wondering when life got so crazy, why I am so tired and how to dig myself out of the pit I’m standing in. I’ve been here. A LOT.
In fact, I’ve spent the last year trying to teach myself to not dig this pit. And God has taught me some incredible lessons along the way.
Last fall as we began this homeschooling adventure as a family I was aware that this was a major committment. To my children. To our family. To God. And I needed to devote time and energy to making it work….not to fitting it in.
So I made a list. A short list. A list of three things that I would devote my time, energy, passions and talents to. If something didn’t directly benefit, support or further those three things it didn’t make it past my inbox or the telephone…there were not spots on my calendar for things that would turn my life into a pair of squeezy skates.
1. my marriage
2. my children and homeschooling
3. women’s ministry
With my list written I was sure the rest would fall into place. Easily. Quickly.
Um. Not so much. I spent most of the fall turning down “opportunities” people presented me with. I generally tried to explain why I turned things down, hoping that people would understand, if not honor, my commitments to the three things God has called me to at this stage of my life. I was amazed at how offended some people were at the simple answer of no…as though I owed them something or had personally assaulted them. Some used guilt or tried to rework my list and definitions, assuring me that their tasks absolutely fit within the scope of my life.
But I stuck to my guns.
And you know what happened? Our marriage was attacked, beat up and put through the ringer. Homeschooling was hard, my children weren’t always delightful to be around. And women’s ministry was full of long hours spent trying to help and serve women, many of whom can just be plain difficult. What? You were expecting Mary Poppins, a spoonful of sugar and a happy ending? (hang in there…there might just be singing and dancing yet!)
In all seriousness, it wasn’t easy. And for a few months I thought perhaps I’d missed the mark. But by early spring I could see and feel a difference.
Yes our marriage had taken a few hits and been battered, but it didn’t sink. In fact, I’d say we’re more in love this year than any other year of our love story. (don’t you think honey?)
By spring, you could see the progress the children had made in homeschooling — not just in the three R’s, but in their knowledge of the Bible, their love for God, and in their behavior!
Women’s ministry was a different creature as God changed the where and the how for me, but even in the turmoil of church crisis and drama I saw where His leading had paid off. I was closer to more women than ever, our phone rang and email filled up with women just looking for support, love and council. They had been my priority when life was simple…and they could feel it. When life was hard they knew who was ready to love on ’em and walk the hard road with them.
So here we are, ankle-deep in fall again. And I’ve got my list, again. It is still short. In fact, it is the same. Already I’ve had to hold up “opportunities” to the yardstick of God’s callings in my life and say, does it fit? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.
This year I’ve learned that the best me is not an overscheduled woman committed to so many things that I’m trying to live life in a squeezy skate. No, the very best me is the woman who says yes to God’s callings in my life in a radical way…which means saying no, a lot. In the past year I’ve turned down some great things. Fun things. Exciting things. Things that I would have excelled at or been able to learn from. And while they were good openings, they weren’t right for me…not in this season. Not with this list.
All-in-all this year of lessons has been great. The non-squeezy skate kinda life is full of more joy, more time, less stress and more Jesus.
So tell me…how do you balance all that life throws at you? Do you have priorities? How do you set them? Do you find it hard to say no to the “opportunities” that come your way?