Friday, May 2, 2014

Sounds Like a Plan!

Having order is a lovely way to live. Creating schedules, itineraries, and  to-do lists give me great satisfaction, especially when I can check-off, cross out, or say ‘that went really well, thanks to the planning!” During  most years of our family life, I've had a laundry schedule, monthly dinner menus, and  a color-coded calendar mounted on the fridge. Obviously, I enjoy  predictability and structure.  I've noticed that in seasons of extra stress, whether from an over-booked schedule or lots of unplanned doctor visits or personal issues, having at least some part of the day ordered has given me great comfort and probably saved me from going over the edge. Likewise, when I've gotten away from the strict planning, I've found myself falling apart under the everyday busy-ness which is our lives.  The ever present “what should I cook for dinner tonight?” at 4 o’clock in the afternoon is one such stress that can break me when it’s a particularly hectic day.

I just completed a 6-week online workshop which included podcasts and essays called “Restore”. It is for moms who've experienced burn-out and how to recover.  While I've had a pretty good last few months, I've equally had a few rough years. Last year around this time, I was coming out of a burn-out situation and had let my daily plan, including the dinner schedule, go. I haven’t restored any of it yet and although I've been managing each day satisfactorily, I haven’t been thriving. Living day to day with no set plan other than the kids’ weekly activities recorded on an electronic calendar have left me a bit unnerved.   
I chuckled at the irony of the first podcast which was a lesson on letting your plans go, God has you right where you are needed regardless of what your written down schedule says you are supposed to be doing.  A few days later, our lesson was on how to plan your day! As odd as it sounds, there is much wisdom here! Planning is good, as long as we are open to God’s will when it doesn't go our way.  He already has a plan for us, we just have to figure it out and say Yes to letting go of what we've written on paper (or in our mind!).
One important facet of the schedule that I have repeatedly failed to include was me! Like most moms, my day is mostly dictated by the kids’ activities. Add in homeschooling, and, yeah, not much time left for anything else, but that's all about to change!

 About two years ago I had the privilege of visiting the local residence of some Dominican Sisters in our area. They live in a suburban neighborhood and have come here from their convent in Tennessee to build and run a high school. I was one of the lucky women invited for breakfast in their lovely home. Like I said, it’s in a subdivision much like my own and yet, walking into their house a feeling of peace was immediately felt. Perhaps it’s because I wasn't tripping over someone’s shoes left by the door or there wasn't’ any ‘stuff’ laying around and cluttering the space.  We had an intimate and enjoyable visit, just ten women and the three nuns. One of the questions they answered for us was about a ‘typical day’ for them. I know that most religious follow a Rule, which isn't a bad idea for we lay folks either. One thing that struck me, however, was that as part of their Rule, there was a scheduled hour daily from 7 pm to 8 pm for leisure which usually meant playing a board game or cards, working together on a jigsaw puzzle or doing some other kind of handi-craft.  I was fascinated!  In another life, about 20 years ago, I used to sit in the evenings and work on needlecrafts. It was so relaxing after a busy day taking care of little ones or working. ( I worked part-time back then). There wasn't any guilt about the house not being clean enough yet to sit, or another load of laundry to be folded. What happened?? Somewhere in-between running carpools and planning curriculum for our family I forgot about nurturing this side of me! It seems that my evenings, once the kids are picked up from their activities, are spent doing last minute counter wipes, laundry rotations, or straightening up. I never just sit and “play”.

Well, that’s all about to change! Thanks to the Restore Workshop,  I have a new planner notebook just waiting to be filled in with dinner menus, household schedules for upkeep, and (what I’m most excited about) my daily routine, or Rule.  These daily sheets will have scheduled time for prayer throughout the day, quiet time, exercise, and allotment for leisure! They also include long term goals for myself and each month a list of 3 strategies for achieving each goal I am working toward.  I’m so excited to have a set time to sit and read or crochet, or play a game with the kids. You must understand that if it’s written on the schedule I will be able to leave the clothes in the dryer (they’ll still be there tomorrow, right?) or the random dirty bowl in the sink and just have down time, creative time, fun time! I know there will be days when God’s plan doesn't match at all with what I've written and I might not follow any of what’s on the paper, but I’m open to that!

So, armed with my planner and a new attitude, I’m psyched to order my life a little better and even have some time for fun!