The Busyness of Summer

This summer was the busiest I ever experienced. Busier than the summer I worked multiple jobs. And than the summers I worked as a camp counselor. Busier, even, than the summer I taught in China. I didn't enjoy this summer. I didn't really live this summer. I survived.

Of course there were moments I'll never forget. Experiences I am beyond grateful for. But those experiences were overshadowed by long working hours, endless deadlines, mountains of reading, and practicum hours. In addition, we participated in an intensive 10 week initiative to learn how to better parent while the oldest child placed with us learned different techniques to help her regulate, express herself, and establish that she was in a safe place.
Those 10 weeks changed our lives. We walked in a broken, messy, barely holding it together family and walked out with newfound hope. I will always be grateful for the experience- for what it taught me but more for what A gained from it. She came alive in those 10 weeks, and she invited me fully into her world. I'll never be able to describe how much it means to share the relationship with her I do now. No matter what happens I will always carry love for her and remember her as my buddy. I'll always see her reaction to "The Little Mermaid" on stage and how she loved her first big girl haircut.

Yet, I felt like a failure during those 10 weeks. There was a sense of failure before the 10 weeks started, and there is still a lingering sense of failure. Not because of anything related to the sessions but more because of what I wrestle with - all of which became even more evident during this summer.

Filling my schedule up comes naturally. Being an introvert at heart, who desperately longs for time alone to recharge, you would think I would welcome an empty schedule. Instead I tend to pile on as many tasks as I can feasibly handle with a few more for good measure. I do occasionally say no. But I usually say "no" to the wrong things and "yes" to things that might not matter quite so much.

It took a few weeks after we finished the counseling and learning for this all to come to light. More than that, it took leaving town for five days and turning off all email notifications on my phone as well as setting my iPhone to "do not disturb" to fully comprehend just how busy I had made myself and just how it had weighed me down.

I can't really remember the last time I willingly took time off - even for just a weekend. I've certainly planned to take off and have told those around me that I was going to take off, but I haven't really practiced that. It's one of the reasons I feel I had knee surgery back in 2013 (beyond, you know, blowing my knee out completely).

The busyness of the summer was tearing me to pieces. It was wreaking havoc on my family, my marriage. I felt it every Saturday my husband played with the kids while I worked or studies. I felt it every weekday I ignored the kids to study. I felt it when they exclaimed they wanted to go "bye bye" with daddy but not with me because he was always a part of the most fun times.

All of it I did to myself. Some I could more easily step away from. Other aspects were more difficult to untangle myself from. We all make choices, and some of my choices led me to a summer of non-stop studying and paper writing on top of parenting.
I know what's important. At least, I like to think I do. I say all the right things, and I work to be as fully present as I am able. But my heart goes to the grades on my papers for meaning rather than looking at the life I am living and the people (little and big) living out life in front of me.

I had to take a final when we were on vacation this August. I was able to change the date of the final to our first night of vacation rather than the second night of our vacation. But still. As soon as we arrived at a beautiful resort, I rushed into the room and settled into the desk area to complete my final instead of enjoying the beauty and the silence that was time away with just my husband. It was truly the perfect picture of the summer.

Since returning from our trip, I've silenced some of the remaining busyness. I've stopped taking on so many duties at work. I've enjoyed time spent in front of the television. I've made memories with the littles in our home. I've even read a few books.

I've heard Jesus in the silence and the stillness that weaves through my daily life. During the most intense moments of the summer, I struggled to believe in his presence. I thought it was because He had forgotten me, but it was me who had silenced him while focusing on everything else. I made the choice to make time for everything but Him.

Getting out of town allowed me the opportunity to breathe. There was a noticeable change to my person. I rested. My head felt clear for the first time. The strength I depleted during the summer returned. I connected with my husband and held coherent conversations. I even got to meet Jen Hatmaker.
It's been a few weeks since we returned. I've battled the busyness. I've spent hours on the couch. I've continued to connect with Jesus. But my mind is swimming. I'm stuck between purging our house and de-cluttering with this intense desire to take on a million projects - spreading myself entirely too thin.

We're in a stage of a transition. I'm transitioning with school and my practicum. We're transitioning with the littles (always and amen). We're discussing the future and what we think that looks like (simply so Jesus can blow it up and show us just how wrong we were). We're engaging with other families and even more with orphan care. There's so much happening. And while I'm terrified that I'll get swept up in all the transitions and lose sight of the constants, I'm also terrified of remaining still and quiet. Yet I know the stillness and quiet is exactly where I'm meant to press in.

How do you bid farewell to your reaction to life when you have no choice but to just see your commitments through? How do you balance the quiet with the insisting assignments and projects? How do you invest where you are when there's also a future to plan? How do you engage in the life you've been given when the life looks wildly different than anything you dreamed?

If you've got the answers, I'm all ears. Until then, I'm going to try to rest, to plan my time wisely, and to make as many memories as I can..... (and maintain a 4.0 in grad school because I can't quite give that up).

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