Monday, September 7

A Successful Day

There has been so very much that has happened over the last year - and so much that I couldn't possibly tell it all in one post - that I'll trust that as I write more, bits and pieces will come out to illuminate my sweet friends that still read this blog. I know. My little blog has quite a lot of dust on it.

But for now, I want to write about a moment yesterday that surprised me. 

Being a mom to two daughters under the age of 2 is busy and demanding, full of interruptions and monotany. And I was a "bored housewife." If by bored, you mean "unable to identify what I had accomplished during the day, but feeling worn out and exhausted."

So I saw this sale on a web series from a blog I like, "Money Saving Mom." It wasn't the best time to spend $10 - at the end of a month in which we deviated greatly from our budget - but I was looking for something that would give me a kick start to figure out, "Why am I so cranky every day?"

I would lose my temper at my toddler, then feel guilty, then wallow in Facebook, and then watch the historical documentary of choice on Amazon Prime. (Soaps? Why would you watch them when THERE'S SO MUCH HISTORY? Real Life drama!) All the while telling myself, "Well, you kept them alive, didn't you?" And "you need more sleep."

It's true. I did need more sleep!

But I needed a lot of other things too.

So far, I've completed 5 of the webinars and done the little worksheets. It's been very good. They have illuminated a couple of realizations that I needed to come to:

1) I need to get up before my kids and husband.  a) Why? Because I am SOOO SLOWWWW in the morning. I need to sit and wake up with a cup of coffee. Before my eyes even begun to focus. And if I'm sitting and drinking my cup of coffee while my husband (who is Very Productive in the morning) and children (How do they EVEN have that much energy?) get going during the day, I'm about 10 feet behind them for the rest of the day.
b) I need that time for myself. I need it. I have never needed alone time - me time - the way I need it now as a mama of littles. I need to refill, and I need to do it with Scripture.
Ok, and let me enter my disclaimer:  I'm notoriously bad at getting up consistently before the rest of my family, so we'll see how well I continue, but I do have some determination.

And then came the thought that shocked me:

2) I had NO IDEA what a successful day looked like.

Not. One. Clue.

Because each day would come with the good and the bad, but I would feel so out-of-sorts by the time Adam came home. That "JUST PLEASE GET HERE!" feeling that most stay-at-home moms feel at 5 pm.

So, I thought and thought about why I never, not once felt like I had a string of good days. Maybe a good day here and there, but not a number of them. 

And I realized I was trying to do too much. All the while distracting myself from all the things that I wasn't accomplishing. And failing at getting every.single.chore done every day. ("Really, Hannah? Really? You thought you could get every single chore done every day? Yes. I did. Yes, I was ridiculous.)

So now I reveal to you my successful day:

I have a list of 1,000 things that need to get done. It's a running list on my Wunderlist app. It is every brain dump thing I think of in the moment. That I can't get done at that moment.

I don't do the 1,000 things every day if you think that's where I'm going.

No, I do Three And Only Three Things each day. I have a separate list called "Only Three Things" and it's the only one I look at throughout the day. I plan out my Three And Only Three Things for the next day at least an hour before bed.

This list excludes keeping my children alive by feeding, reading, teaching and playing with them and it excludes getting dinner prepared and other daily chores that must happen for the world to continue turning.  

Items on this list DO include: Showering and washing my hair. Yep. I don't shower each day. True confessions. It includes vacuuming. It includes windexing the dirty bathroom mirror that has been smeared with toothpaste for 4 days. (That one bugs me, but has fallen below other tasks I feel are more necessary). If I do other things above and beyond my three things I document them so I see that I am accomplishing things, but those are more like extra credit than a sense of "get as much done during the day as possible!"

The other part of my successful day is to remember that The afternoons are chaos. Don't try to manage the afternoons. Just let them ride. Because, one way or another, if I plan a post-child-nap task, it will not get done. There will be a diaper explosion, or a cranky toddler or a needy infant that throws a monkey wrench into the afternoon and evening.

And finally: GRACE. Grace for myself for when the 3 things don't get done. For when I'm angry at Charis or Lathie. When everything just gets pushed back into the afternoon and evening. Grace for me, and Grace for them.

So there it is, my friends. Part of what is making my life less cranky. Realizing that success is really about less, and not demanding more. And therefore being a more loving mom and wife. 

Sunday, February 8

What 40 days of prayer and parenting a small human does

At the turn of the year, I was in a pretty miserable place.

You see, Christmas was hard. It didn't feel like Christmas, for one. Which may have made it a little easier to have not returned to the states to see family, because it didn't feel like Christmas, but there was far more loneliness than we were prepared for. Many of our friends in Indo were sick, and so we mostly stayed at home and did the same things: woke up, went for walks, visited the mall, walked home. It was a fairly mundane 3 weeks.

During that time, we started reading Prayer by Tim Keller and I decided I was going to imitate Daniel in the Bible and pray 3 times a day. Twice on my own (morning devotions and once when Charis was napping) and then I counted Adam's and my jointly nighttime prayers as my 3rd. I decided I'd pray for 40 days. In a way, it was similar to a fast.

But you see, I wasn't praying to simply know God better or to worship God rightly, as Daniel did. No, I had an agenda.  I wanted God to do what I wanted.

Not that what I was asking for was something sinful. Not in a clearly blatantly sinful way. I was just praying for my way. For deliverance to something. For provision. But deliverance and provision in my way.

But then God did what God does through prayer. He changes it all.

That is what I learned while praying for 40 days and parenting a small human:

As I prayed, it started out as "God, please do this. Please give me what I am asking for!"

Now juxtapose the image of a 16-month-old girl signing "Please!" 20,000 times a day while pointing at something. Every day.

Sometimes I'd give it to her right away (water sippy cup, toys she can play with). Sometimes I'd say a firm, "Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" (scissors, permanent marker, my phone). But often - in fact, incredibly often - my answer was, "Yes! Just wait a little bit. In a while."

But that answer was as bad as a "no" to her. Interestingly, the things I usually said, "yes, just wait a bit" were about going somewhere. She loves to go. To get out of the apartment. To visit daddy at work. To see the students.

But her timing was off. I was often preparing to go - because if any of you have a small human, you realize you have to pack half the things you own in preparation of going. She, of course, is oblivious to all the things that have to be done in order to go. But they must be done.

And as I prayed, I connected the dots - I thought of God as my heavenly father, and how he was parenting me daily. And I was asking 20,000 times - often with tears - "Please!"

And maybe my timing is off.

Which is where the second part of 40 days of prayer changed me. Eventually, instead of praying, "Please God, do it, I cannot. Please do it now," I began to pray, "Lord, help me trust you. Help me trust your timing. Help me to remember you are my deliverer. You are the God who provides."

To the point that on day 36 of 40 we received news that the what I had been praying for was not a closed door. It might not be a "no," but rather a "just wait a bit." And my response was deep ambivalence. I ran to God with fear: "God! Is this what you want? I've just become still and (semi)content in the place you have me. Are you shifting everything? Because I know I've been praying for it, but now I'm bewildered!"

And God reminded me: Peace is not some inexplicable internal feeling you cultivate on your own. No, Peace and contentment are inextricably connected to trust. Trust in God. Remembering his promises.

And if God opens the door, then his timing is right. And I do not need to fear.

What though I wait the livelong night,
And till the dawn appeareth,
My heart still trusteth in His might;
It doubteth not nor feareth:
Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,
Ye of the Spirit born indeed;
And wait till God appeareth
With octaves of a mystic depth and height