It’s been a busy past month. Late nights, long weekend commitments, you probably know the deal. On one day last week in between dropping off the girls and heading back out to go to a late evening meeting the girls stopped me and wanted to put on a show. So my wife and I sat on the steps and watched them enact a performance of their own creation. Talk about life interrupted, in a good way. I’m always impressed by their creativity. I’m just glad that I wasn’t too busy to stop and enjoy the show. This picture captures the end of their spectacular performance (complete with a play, music, and dance!). Funny thing about little kids, they don’t seem to worry about much. Sometimes (all the times) I miss those days…
Recently we began preparing for the arrival of our newest addition to the family. Granted, it’s a bit late for that, since our fourth baby girl is due in a matter of weeks. But, since we’ve been through this rodeo before I guess we assumed it would be easier. Turns out, there’s a lot of prep work still involved (go figure?). Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself ferrying baby supplies back down from the attic. Currently our guest room (converted from the last baby’s room) is surrounded by at least 15 containers of baby clothes that my wife has been methodically sorting into categories. Meanwhile we’ve started planning in other ways, easing back at work and putting extended family on notice of impending childcare duties (looking at you grandma and auntie!). I even packed a go-back (complete with emergency bags of cookies…because you know what else am I supposed to eat at the hospital?). So, I guess I’m ready right?
The funny thing about the future is that regardless of how much you prepare, you can never be fully ready for what’s getting ready to happen. That’s particularly frustrating for me because I’m the type of person who really loves to prepare. I tell people that preparation is our family’s secret weapon because of the way we calendarize everything and stick to a pretty familiar regiment. This discipline helps our family maintain some semblance of order and consistency. However, sometimes (i.e. regularly) our well laid plans fall apart. That’s when our foundation is really tested. Are we flexible enough to adapt when plans change?
We experienced this test firsthand two weeks ago when my wife started having early contractions. Concerned, we reached out to her doctor and she went on bedrest for the remainder of the week. Schedules were re-arranged, work post-poned, kids activities were cancelled, we all sort of hunkered down for a few days. I recently started reading the book, Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado and in one chapter he uses the phrase contagiously calm. As he describes it, the contagiously calm person is one who reminds others that God is in control. Every time plans change or things don’t go exactly according to the way I’ve carefully prepared, I have to remind myself of this phrase before I freak out. Max also says something else that hit right home for me:
The most stressed out people are control freaks. They fail at the quest they most pursue. The more they try to control the world, the more they realize they cannot. Life becomes a cycle of anxiety, failure, anxiety, failure, anxiety, failure. We can’t take control, because control is not ours to take. You can’t run the world, but you can entrust it to God.
I can be a control freak. I know that about myself. It’s how I ensure things go well. The problem is (and there are several), besides it driving my family crazy at times, it doesn’t do me any good either. I’ll find myself worrying about things that simply don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s why daily prayer and reflection is a key habit of mine. It’s why I’ve been working on becoming less rigid and more flexible (those who know me know that I’ve still got a way to go there!). It’s why my wife and I prioritized creating a life with margin in our vision for this year, meaning we seek to have the time, relational, and financial flexibility to live life at an appropriate pace.
It’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited to welcome a new baby girl into our home. Some may think that adding another child to the mix would actually make things more hectic and crazy, and that might be true. But what we’ve found is that with the addition of a new family member it’s also provided a season of clarity and re-prioritization. We usually end up shedding unnecessary things and focusing in on what’s most important. And, at least for the period of time that I take off to spend with our new little one, it allows me to slow down the pace of life for a little while. You’d be surprised how clearly you see and hear when there are fewer distractions in the background.
This morning I woke up with grand plans to accomplish an overwhelming to do list. In the spirit of full transparency, I’m now fully reconsidering if that’s what I need to do. This is the first Saturday in about a month that I’ve not had a speaking engagement, volunteer activity, or some other work-related event. I actually got to sleep in until, wait for it, almost 8am (actually 7:30 because I heard the girls upstairs). There’s a time to get things done, and there’s a time to sit in your office in your PJs listening to music and just enjoy a good journal writing time. Plans change. I’m still learning how to go with the flow, but it helps when life flows like today.