Whenever people learn the ages of my children, the most common response is, "Wow, you are really busy." To which I'm usually not sure how I should best respond. Usually I say something like, "Yeah, it's pretty wild." But really, I'm not that busy. When you look at our family calendar, it's as full as we want it, but not nearly as busy as people might think.
So, if by "busy" they mean that I must have constant piles of laundry and an eternally messy kitchen and usually can't hear myself think, then yes. But really that's just the wild chaos of a young family. It's chaotic for sure, but I'm not busy. Usually if you call me and ask me what I'm doing in 30 minutes, more often than not I'd tell you that I have no plans for the next 30 minutes. I'm home. I'm doing dishes or laundry or legos or puzzles or reading or baking or cooking or napping or cleaning a toilet; I'm definitely not bored, but I'm not busy either. I'm available if needed. My calendar tells me that I'm here if you need a friend or a cup of coffee or a meal or a place for your children to play.
Sometimes I wish I was busier. Sometimes in my moments of weakness I wish I was "important" enough to be needed here and there and everywhere, with a packed schedule to prove it. Sometimes I feel lazy because if I went to work then we could have more money in the bank. And then I have an emotional melt-down on Paul about how I'm not needed anywhere or "doing" anything. (Honestly, I have these meltdowns more often than I should. It's kind of pathetic.)
But really I'm so thankful for the non-cluttered calendar. And I know that in the midst of this un-busy season in my life I'm doing the most important thing for me to do right now. I'm loving on my kids and doing my very best at raising them to know and love Jesus so that they can grow into adults who further the Kingdom of God in whatever roles God has for them. And God has cleared this time in my life for me to do exactly that. (I just wish that in my moments of weakness I could remember this truth before I meltdown on my husband.)
We have a culture that embraces busy-ness, don't you think? Often, when we get together and talk about our lives, it feels like we try to outdo each others' busy-ness. As if our worth or value is determined by how full our planners are. We thrive on busy-ness. But here I am admitting that I'm really not that busy. Take this week for example...I honestly have very little going on. Paul is working alot and I'll be home alot. Lily and I want to try a new recipe for cinnamon streusel muffins, and we need to do our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, and we have a couple of playdates, but that's about it. And that schedule has become quite typical at our house.
We used to be much busier, actually. In the last seven years since our first child was born, I have decreased work hours from 40 to 30 to 10, back to 20, down to 12, then finally down to zero this fall. We used to juggle my work schedule around Paul's 24-hour fire shifts, relay-style parenting. When he got home from the station in the mornings, I'd "hand off the parenting baton" and head to work for a full or half day. He would deliriously try to parent, typically on very little sleep after a night at the fire station, and then we'd go through the same routine the next day.
But now we are learning to say "no" to a whole lot of things that could make us busy. Paul is much better at eliminating busy-ness than I am; but I'm learning slowly. And it's surprisingly FREEING.
We have decided the tighter budget is worth it in every single way, as we try to eliminate busy-ness from our lives. (Like I said, I forget frequently and have meltdowns and then my steady-eddy husband reminds me what actually matters. It would be a total lie if I made it sounds like I've succeeded at this and have it all figured out...I certainly don't.). But it's such a blessing. We sit together at the dinner table 7 nights a week. Sometimes on Paul's off-days, he and I will turn on a movie for the kids in the middle of the day and then sit together at the kitchen table, in the middle of a week-day, and just connect with one another. Time together...what a novelty. We aren't running here and there and everywhere. I know one day it'll get busier, but right now we are embracing our freedom from busy-ness.
And the very sweet thing is that our kids notice the change if we get too busy, and they don't like it. They want us to be all together as much as possible Their greatest joys are always the times we are just together, being un-busy as a family. Don't you love how children so often help us adults to see what really matters? They instinctively know that busy-ness doesn't determine worth or value. Why do we get so confused as adults? Why do I have meltdowns about this when my children totally get it? I'm mean, think about Jesus. He is the most important and influential human to ever walk this planet, and yet when you read the Gospels, he never acted busy. He was focused and intentional always, but not busy or rushed. He took time for people. He fellowshiped. He hung out and cared deeply for people in a non-busy manner.
And that makes me think about when Jesus said "The thief has come to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) Life can be full and abundant without being busy. In fact, Our busyness often strips away the fullness of life. (Did you know that one of the primary indicators of whether or not a teenager will engage in high risk behavior is family dinner time? Teens whose families have family meals together at least 5 times per week are significantly less likely to engage in high risk behavior.)
When we are constantly trying to beat the clock, we miss out on the moments of fullness that come in togetherness and fellowship and laughter and puzzles and books and coffee dates and family dinner hours. I think one way the Thief steals and kills and destroys joy in our culture today is through the busy-ness of our calendars.
So, I'm not busy. I admit it. I should change the load of laundry and fold my baby's clothes and pack up a box of clothes that he has out grown, but that's about all I've got going on right now. And I'm learning to just relax and accept and even enjoy the un-busyness while this season is here.
So if you need a cup of coffee come on over. You have to come to me because I have four kids, and it's wildly chaotic for sure, but we have time for you. All week.