When will I ever use this?
Sometimes I am too vague and I know what something means to me, but I hesitate to spell it all out for others. I don’t want to be didactic or prescriptive, giving you all the answers as I see them and chiseling out the three easy steps or ten tidy ways. I trust you to think. I assume that you listen to the Spirit. But again—sometimes I am too vague.
Last week I wrote about the change of seasons (life and climate) and my need to adjust my routines accordingly, to make room for longing and press on through changes. I have always felt like if I just had the right routine and kept the right lists, made the best plans for the day, life would roll out before me like a Hallmark movie. Safe. Predictable. Wrapped up tidy in the end. I never articulated these thoughts, but all my keeping and tracking and noting and scheduling were backed up by this underlying idea, and at times in my life I would even say I was consumed with making and keeping schedules. Teach us to number our days and all, down to the literal half-hour.
My days are looser now. I am writing from the middle and not from the other side, but this middle is a different spot; my kids pay taxes and buy groceries and talk to all kinds of other adults about their life plans now. By necessity my life and routine and mind have changed, and it is all so very good and right and hard.
My friend Tonia posted recently about her plans and planning. In the “old days” of blogging people used their spaces as a link to other bloggers, following a topic together and communicating in a sort of public letter exchange. Here is my response to Tonia’s prompt at the end of her post—how am I nurturing my vocation? I love that phrase. Put another way: How am I outlining my days so that good things can run wild?
Let me try to be more specific.
On a practical level, I have most of three weekdays at home right now. I’m tutoring two days a week and weekends are hard to wrangle and shifty, but those three days I feel freedom to order as I wish (what a lovely thing that is). Not having a perceptible schedule is anathema to every planner and a total reformation for me. I might read first thing, exercise in the middle, end the day with writing, all interspersed with household and business tasks and a side of homeschooling the very last child. He knows the ropes but still needs me close by, and I never feel like my mind is completely my own while he’s doing school, so I can’t always do focused work doing school hours.
(I’m going to tell you, from the middle and not the other side, children are people and people have issues and I’m a person, too. It will never be easy. It can often be good.)
I pray more naturally these days, as things roll along. I go for a walk whenever I can and get groceries after school Wednesday, water the plants on Thursday, dump chemicals in the hot tub on Saturday or Sunday, pay bills on Monday. I get up earlier than necessary most days and go to bed early, too. I clean on a very formal schedule: What piles or places are driving me the most crazy right now?
Do I feel bad telling you all that? Yep. A little. Because the worst thing you could call me would be “lazy” and my schedule sounds a little lazy right now and it’s just very unacceptable to not be so busy. I’ve never been a high-energy person, though. I’m never the person you think of when you think about people who energetically volunteer for lots of things; but telling you my days are mostly unscheduled feels very privileged. I recognize it. I also realize it will all change soon so I enjoy it while it lasts. The weeks of November through the new year are a twilight zone of luxuriating in my own life…does that make sense?
I’ll ride it out while I can, because outlining life for good things to run wild means taking each season and schedule with all the grace I can scoop up, rather than fearing what is to come. And by what is to come, I mean in the very next hour. I have gone through months in the past where my first feeling of the morning was dread for the day ahead. It is not helpful for me to think I shouldn’t feel this way because my life is so much easier/freer/less busy/more privileged than so-and-so’s life. My feelings are my feelings. I make choices to counteract those feelings but it takes a lot of practice to actually change them. Sometimes the season changes before the feelings do and I’m off the hook. I may be in one such season.
Back to the practical: I still keep lists. Tonia wrote about her shift from writing the daily, mundane tasks that will obviously get done, whether she writes them down or not. “...as if I don’t feed the animals every single day of my life, as if somehow, if it doesn’t appear on a list I will just look blankly at the meowing cats and shrug, clueless as to why they keep bothering me.” I am a recovering post-lister—one who does a task not on the list and then writes it down for the joy of crossing it off. But I also weave life into the lists in my modified bullet journal by copying quotes, recording my writing goals, noting important moments, and lately, experimenting with art journaling. I am making more play out of the work of living, in spite of feeling a little foolish about playing sometimes. I still have to do things I dread, but simply lighting a candle while I pay the bills, listening to an audiobook while I do the housework, or taking ten minutes off from the practical stuff of life makes enough difference, enough room.
My life is less controlled and tidy these days, in the middle of things, but this is probably what the psalmist intended when he said Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12 NKJV). I tend to dwell too long on the insignificant things. The wisdom in my heart tells me that if my true vocation is to bring glory to God through the art of living, I can’t just make time for that by dropping a bullet point in my daily schedule. Time IS for that.
This still wasn’t uber practical but if schedules and lists and planning interest you, check out the bullet journal method or this post about my notebooks. If you need more art in your living, see what Kortney is doing with her homeschool MFA. If you love pretty things and internet rabbit holes, YouTube “art journaling” and kiss your time good-bye. And if you feel foolish about your chosen art, that thing you are passionate about, maybe this post I wrote for Fathom Mag will help you feel less alone.
Nurture your vocation, friends. What could be more practical than that?
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