In our society of busy, busy, busy, hustling from place to place with so little margin, it’s hard to know what to feel when something falls out of place. We can so carefully set everything up, like a perfectly arranged line of dominoes, each piece placed precisely where it will be of greatest use. My dominoes are pretty clearly labeled, as I know they are for most of us. Fitness, cooking, laundry, errands, phone calls, cleaning, groceries, appointments, planning for upcoming teaching sessions, spending quiet time with Jesus, Ella, Sam, Pete… We’ve all got our own stack of dominoes. But what happens when something gets bumped and the whole line of blocks starts falling?
I first started to feel myself falling out of line about a year and a half ago. Pete was putting in 90-hour work weeks in residency, Ella was in her first few months of preschool, Sam was five months old and just getting involved with various therapies, and I was trying to research for my thesis while managing my online bake shoppe. Those were just the big things. I was also on leadership with MOPS, writing our blog, teaching premarital counseling classes at our church, preparing for the four of us to spend two months in Kenya, and really wanting to lose my baby weight post Sam. I was rushing from place to place with absolutely zero room for error. And you know what? I thrived. I felt incredibly productive. I felt like I was in my element, leading and teaching and directing. And I knew people were watching me, watching our whole family, wondering how we were able to do it all. Pete and I were a powerhouse couple. And then one of my dominoes tipped.
In early November of 2012, I got an odd stomach ache that wouldn’t go away. Then, when it did go away, it wasn’t good. My appendix had ruptured, but we didn’t catch it until a full 24 hours later. I remember thinking, as I drove myself to the clinic that Thursday afternoon, that I kind of hoped something was actually wrong so I could have an excuse to put things down for a while. As it turned out, I got that time to stop. I was in the hospital for a week while my body fought off all the poison that had spread through me. Then I was on a week of bed rest once I got home. I felt like God was giving me a moment to breathe. I still wonder if he had been trying to get me to breathe long before that but I couldn’t hear him in my hustling. I was so out of it in the hospital that I couldn’t even focus on writing a one-sentence text to my sister or watch an episode of Friends. Everything had stopped. And God started whispering to me.
It was during those quiet moments in the hospital that I realized I needed to make changes. They were hard changes, some that I didn’t want to make. The big one was closing The Little Yellow Kitchen. I loved baking and being a part of special events with people. And yes, I liked the oohs and ahhhs and ‘oh my goodness, it’s amazing’s from clients and friends. But I realized I was doing it because I could, not because I should. I also needed to push my thesis back a semester, which was not my plan. I wanted to show everyone that I could do it in my original time-frame, despite the unexpectedness of Sam’s diagnosis. I was a power mom and I was going to do it. But God had something different for me.
So I’ve been learning to simplify. And I’ve been learning to say no. I don’t like saying no, especially when I feel like I have the skills to do the job. But I want to really ask God how I can best use my time. And I feel like he’s blessing that. I get to have more time with my family. I don’t have to rush the kids through breakfast or put them in front of Netflix so I can get everything done (though I still sometimes do put them in front of Daniel Tiger or Super Why, don’t get me wrong). I get to play on the floor with Sam, working on standing or stacking blocks, while Ella is at school. I have time to show Ella how to peel carrots and crack eggs while making dinner and take her on afternoon coffee dates. I get to have a long date night with my handsome husband every Tuesday night. In the midst of all this, I definitely have to fight the thoughts that I’m not doing enough, I’m not checking ten things off a day from a gigantic to-do list. But when those thoughts start attacking me, I rely on the fact that I know this is what God has for me right now. My worth cannot be found in how much I get done in a day. My worth comes from trusting my Heavenly Father knows what’s best for me, for my family, and for our future. So I will continue to rest on that.
When I attended Hope Spoken last month in Dallas, Shauna Niequist, author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, spoke on this very topic. She said that this year she’s focusing on “More Love. Less Hustle.” Doesn’t that sound fantastic? I remind myself of that multiple times a day now. More love. More love. More love. In Luke 10:27, Jesus tells us to go out and love people, and I think that starts with our families, right in our own homes. So that’s my focus. Rather than letting the lies get me down, telling me I’m not accomplishing enough in a day, I am going to rest in the peace of knowing that my family will be immensely blessed by my time and my love. And so will I.