I've been struggling here lately. Things seem 10 times harder than usual. The kids seem to be acting out more. My patience is waning. Seemingly trivial things irritate me. I'm rushed. So rushed, always in a hurry.
A few weeks ago I wrote:
I'm worn. I'm tired. Making a calendar of events for the summer has been great, but simultaneously has left me feeling rushed and overextended. Add to that all the classes for the adoption and I'm feeling so very on edge. Classes, classes, classes. Do this homework, get these physicals for everyone in the house done, make sure the cat is up to date on his rabies vaccine, get a copy of that certificate, make a copy of the water bill and tax forms, make a safety plan, check into bunk beds, go to more classes. Take the kids to a babysitter, pick the kids up.
The reality is that not much has changed. Sure, we finished our classes (Yay!), summer break is over and the kids are back in school. But not much is different. Same dog, different trick. Life has a way of doing that, doesn't it? Running ourselves ragged during the summer to make sure our kids have a great summer break. Trying to cram each minute full of fun and memories. And now it's not trips to the river or pool or weekends at grandma's. It's soccer and volleyball and games and practices and homework and tutoring and doctor and orthodontist appointments.
Yet in the midst of it all there's an emptiness. A void. It echoes reminding me that memories aren't always made in the busyness of life. They're made in the every day, mundane moments.
I keep seeing these Facebook posts from Proverbs 31 Ministries about Lysa TerKeurst's new book. Don't you just love it when you can tell by the title of a book that it's meant for you? It's that way with this book and yet I haven't even bought one or cracked the spine of it. The mere excerpts from it speak volumes to my soul - reminding me that saying "Yes" isn't always bad, but if it takes away from a better yes, then it can be.
I've had to start asking myself some hard questions. Questions like:
Is tutoring Eli's best friend a good "Yes"? Most definitely. I'm not willing to give that up... to give up on him. I've seen the progress he's made and investing in his life is just as much for education purposes as it is eternal ones.
Am I willing to spend 2 hours at a volleyball practice Saturday, then go to another one on Monday night, to a game on Tuesday night (also while Eli has soccer practice), another practice on Wednesday, another game on Thursday, and then a soccer game Saturday morning and another volleyball practice after that?
No I am not.
Although that's exactly what last week looked like. It was a circus around here. And the sad part is that this week looks worse. And everything in it is a good "yes". It's not like I'm begrudgingly saying yes or feeling obligated. Yet I'm running here and there, Anna had a friend over yesterday, Christmas play practice has begun on Sunday nights, there are 2 volleyball games, 1 soccer practice, 2 volleyball practices, I'm watching my friend's baby all day today, Anna has an orthodontist appointment one day, a dermatologist appointment the next, E has a speech eval, and I have parent teacher conferences to attend for both of them. And since Mark is working all week, it all falls on me. Then we'll finish the week off with a college football game.
Just looking at the calendar makes my heart rate increase. This is a recipe for madness. For missing what's really important.
Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with kids playing sports. Clearly mine are in sports. But I refuse to live and breathe sports and run myself ragged to the point that I have nothing left to give. I don't want to live my life waiting expectantly for my kids' bedtime. Rushing one here, another there, and rushing back to catch the last half of a game only to rush back to watch the last half of a practice. It's not worth it. I don't want to wake up and realize I rushed through all these years with the only memories I have of them being that I was plum worn out and giving my kids 2nd best because of it.
Because that's what happens. We're so busy rushing everywhere that we miss what's right in front of us. We miss genuine time with our kids and intentional, deep, intimate time with the Lord. And I'm tired of missing my best for a mediocre "yes".
I held my phone, hesitating to send the text saying Anna wouldn't be at practice last Monday. I kept having to remind myself that that many practices don't fall into the "best yes" category and so I sent it. One less burden. One less thing on the calendar. And it was glorious. We loaded up and went to the hospital to see Eli's best friend's new baby brother. We listened to the kids go back and forth in English and Spanish and I soaked up some snuggle time with the sweetest little baby with his black curly hair and tan skin and had the chance to use what little Spanish I know: "James es muy guapo." We shared a smile, me and her, us navigating the language barrier the best we know how.
And I could have missed it.
The reality is that I've probably missed 1000 of those moments. Moments of snuggling up together and reading a book. Moments of sitting on the couch, licking an ice cream cone, watching the Duggers together. Moments of piling up in bed together reading our nighttime devotional. Moments of playing soccer together in the yard or joining in on their water fight. Moments we were so rushed that they didn't have the time to tell me something important to them. Moments where I'm so behind from all the running that I've missed rocking and snuggling with Emi. Moments where we're so hurried out the door that plates are left on the table and dishes until the next morning when it all starts again.
I'm tired of it.
I'm actually just, well... tired.
I have a rule about following through on what we commit to. Will my kids finish this season out in volleyball and soccer? Yes. Emphatically, yes, they will, as painful as that is for me. Much like the time Eli wanted to play flag football... that is, until he didn't. It was disastrous. But he committed to playing and therefore he was required to finish the season.... complete with his 4 year old self crawling across the field, slapping the ref on the behind, and completely and utterly learning basically nothing. It was awesome. *shaking head*
Now, with that said, I have to ask myself what is reasonable. And allocating 5 days to volleyball and 2 to soccer is not. Don't get me wrong. I love, love, love watching my kids play sports. There's something about it that evokes such pride in and for them. I love cheering for them and their teams, wearing my "Soccer Mom" t-shirts (thanks, Mom), and seeing how much they love doing it. Those are great things. There's absolutely nothing wrong with any of that.
Yet if my life (their lives) has become about that, then there is a problem. And the problem is that sports has taken a front row to life. To family life. To not eating dinner in a hurry so we can rush to a practice or a game. To leisurely nights at home. To reading. To laughing. To playing Checkers and Uno or building another Lego City. To just soaking up Emi before she's too big to let me anymore.
I am one person.
And might that mean that sports get limited in the future? Yes. Might it mean them playing but only attending a limited amount of practices? Yes.
But if it means a better me, then I'm okay with that.
And truthfully, it's not just sports. We can say "Yes" to so many things that we're overwhelmed and under nourished. We can say yes to volunteering at school, to working an extra shift, to taking a class, to going on a Girl's trip, to watching someone's kids, to heading up the church Christmas play, to teaching a class, to going to concerts, to helping a friend with a project, to hosting showers, to helping with fundraisers.... need I go on?
And none of those things are bad in and of themselves. It's when we add them all together because we can't seem to find our "No".... what our "Best Yes" is.
Because the reality is that when I'm rushed, I'm setting myself up for failure. I'm setting myself up to be impatient and stressed out and quick tempered. I'm creating a recipe for conflict and division.
But bigger than all of that is that when I'm rushed, I miss opportunities to show the love of Christ. I'm too busy worrying about getting out of Walmart that I miss offering a word of encouragement to the mom whose kid is throwing a tantrum, who has that ever so familiar look of defeat on her face. I miss stopping to ask someone how their day is and genuinely taking the time to hear their answer. I miss offering a smile or taking the time to pay for someone else's meal. I miss praying with someone in need of prayer. I miss offering Hope to someone in the depths of despair. I miss opportunities that have life-changing potential.
And that's not how I want to live.
No sport is worth that.
No committee, no meeting, no class, trip, or concert.
It's just not.
And no, I'm not advocating saying no to everything and just becoming a bum.
I'm simply saying we have to stop saying yes for the sake of saying yes and begin asking ourselves "Is this wise? What will saying yes to this cause me to have to say no to later?"
And running to practices and rushing home only to find myself issuing out orders isn't cutting it. "Get in the shower. Hurry up. Don't make me have to come in there and tell you to get out." "Hurry up, go brush your teeth." "No I won't lay with you, it's past bedtime." "No, we can't read a story." "Play the piano? Not tonight, I'm too tired. I just want to sit down and do nothing." "Please, just get in bed."
This is not the way I want to do life. I want to be the mom that crawls into bed next to my kiddos and lays there, listening to them talk about their day. I want us all to be piled up in bed reading our nighttime devotional. I want to be playing the piano only to hear Eli yell from his room "Sing Momma. Sing!" like he always does. I want to have family game nights. Nights of popping in a movie, eating popcorn, and laughing together.
And that requires me to say no to some things. Things that might otherwise be good, but that are preventing the things that I deem as more important for our family.
This past Saturday Mark took Eli to the rodeo. Anna opted to stay home with me and Emi ... because she just wanted time with me. Me. We watched the Berenstain Bears. We ate ice cream. We snuggled together on the couch. We giggled when Emi woke up at 10:00 refusing to go back to sleep. And instead of being irritated, we rocked together in the chair, singing, and soaking in sweet Emi.
I've missed so many of these moments because of mediocre yeses. And as I just typed that last sentence, tears of realization come. I've been so busy I've missed what's most important. I don't want my kids to grow up and leave the house saying "We sure were always busy." I want them to leave knowing time and energy was invested into them, that our yeses were made wisely, that when they play sports, I'll always be there cheering them on yet ensuring that sports don't overtake them and their childhood. I want them to know that I said no to others for their sake and the sake of our family.
I want to be wise in my decisions and how those decisions affect them, my husband, myself, and those around us.
I'm learning that saying no isn't always bad.
Because saying no frees me up to say yes to what really matters.