I am only three weeks postpartum and one day in the official Fall season and already the anxiety is creeping back in. The plans I had confidently and steadfastly decided upon months before begin to look foolish when I realize just how far away the New Year really is and I am not sure I can hold out that long.
I can’t stop. My mind is restless and these bold decisions and what felt so right is now being called into question as I look at my near empty calendar and realize that I may just be in this for the long haul, may just have to stick this out.
I remind myself that other options are not feasible, not cost-effective, and not worth the investment like my children are and my education. I made this decision with my husband to stay home with the children until they are all school age, to homeschool until we find a better option in our hometown or move, to continue my own education at home and obtain the PhD I have dreamt about for so long. When my first daughter was born I realized how much I was missing out on my children and I had piled so much on my shoulders they were falling forward and I was falling behind and really missing out on life, instead spilling my responsibilities into a pile of stress and exhaustion.
When you have worked so long and delicately (not so delicately?) balanced everything for so long you forget what it is like not to feel stress, to not feel like life is sweeping you forward faster each day and you don’t have time to catch your breath because if you stop for a moment you will collapse from being worn out. You forget what it is like to live life a little slower.
I forget all the time.
And when I forget? That’s when the lists come out, the even more detailed planning, the counting of days and looking at other ideas and options and always, always, stressed and worried if I am doing enough.
So I decided this time I would do something different. I began a study on the importance of the Sabbath, the importance of rest and slowing down.
Funny how when God is trying to teach you something important things come up that try to stop you.
Like the first day I began my study and got up extra early to have time before the kids got up and they got up earlier than they ever have before? Or I began the second day and baby A fussed and fumed and I would forget the question as soon as I read it and you really can’t juggle a pen and paper and trying to nurse a baby that doesn’t want to nurse because she is frustrated and you don’t know why. Or how you reaffirm in your mind that you are not starting school for a few more months but then some issues arise that make you think you may have to start sooner.
So I stop. I tell my children they can sit quietly and listen to the teaching. I settle the baby. I pray about school. But the important thing is I am learning to stop, to breathe, and to put down the vacant calendar and detailed lists.
And that book that shook me wide awake a few years back, the one on counting gifts and finding the joy in the little things and always thanking God? I’m pulling that book back out, re-reading it slowly, underlining and highlighting and crying my way through it again. Because I need that reminder. I need to remember it when the anxiety arises and the fear that I need to do something all the time or I am falling behind. I need to remember that God created a day of rest, He incorporated rest into our lives for a purpose and it’s not laziness. Because if we don’t learn to rest, to slow, we will go faster and harder and spiral out of control and burn out. We won’t know how to stop, to have balance. And it amazes me that one day of rest in God’s peace and presence can balance out all the chaos we create the other six days of the week. How I can come to Him burned out and He re-ignites me, I come with my detailed plans and He says, Lay them down, abide in Me. I come feeling as if I have not done enough this week and He gives me reminders of what I am doing right, like when my baby daughter rests peacefully on my chest or my other children run to me with hugs and kisses or the moments of giggles or revelations of reading in school or gathering around the table as a family to eat dinner every night.
A slower life is not a bad life. It is not a less productive life or a failing life or a lazy life. It is a life that allows room to appreciate what you have, what you are accomplishing, and where you are going. It doesn’t mean you have to quit your job or sell your home and move to the country. It means taking the time to step back, re-asses what is important, and learning to find rest and balance. I admit I am terrible at it but this time, I’ll try again, really embrace it.
One day at a time.
Abide in Him.
Pare down to what is important and take the time to live in it and love each moment.