On Planning for a School Year

“The importance of the invisible! This is true of any life as well. If all of our life is visible to others, from the time we get up in the morning until we fall into bed at night, then we’ll be as unsteady as a ship with no keel. Indeed, more of us is invisible, hidden from the world in quiet, in study, in planning, and in prayer, the more effective our visible life will be.” -Anne Ortlund

I have been steadily preparing for our new school year since July 15th. That date is my boundary date every summer for when my focus needs to turn from rest and play towards planning and preparing. I have learned that it is best for me to steadily get my home, lists, ideas, curriculum, school supplies, and calendar prepared over several weeks instead of waiting until the last minute with a low-level anxiety settling over my soul.

I have put a few meals in our freezer. Some pasta dishes, browned taco meat, poppyseed chicken. I have menu-planned through Plan to Eat for the next few weeks. Their drag-and-drop system makes it so quick and easy. I am stocking up on paper products so that I don’t have to think about them for a while: paper plates, napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper.

I bought all of our school supplies through Walmart Pick-Up! How great to not have to sift and dig for the specific school list that I have. All have been labeled and are ready to go. This doesn’t take long so love your future self by doing it now. I am sifting through the boys’ clothes this week and making the final list for what their clothing and shoes needs are.

I am trying to find consistency in my morning routine. It’s time to implement that again before the busy days where I feel yanked along by the demands of the house, meals, education, and sports. The best thing to do is to write it down. Make your morning self follow it exactly and don’t allow your emotions to make the decisions every day. Decision fatigue is real so we want to save our decision making for the big things that come to us, not the small things like when to brush our teeth.

I spent time today updating my Simplified Planner, and making sure that all the meetings that have been trickling in through email are written in my calendar on both the monthly page and the daily pages. I responded to emails that I have allowed to back up, and deleted a bunch of newsletters that had piled up. I am deleting podcasts that don’t fit this season and only listening to and reading posts that are encouraging me towards faithfulness at home and in mothering. Sometimes we need to curate our input so that we don’t get distracted especially in times of transitions and new beginnings where we feel especially vulnerable.

The most important thing that any of us can do as we plan and prepare is to submit again to the Lordship of Jesus as our ultimate authority. I have been convicted this summer of being the lord of my own life, focusing on what I want, what I feel, what I desire, instead of praying for and submitting to His leading. Do we follow the culture or the King? Is our theology and views based on convictions from the Word or from the preferences of what the culture accepts and applauds? Are we pleasing man and not God? These are always important questions, and even as long-time believers, we can quietly and easily be led away from taking up our crosses daily and submitting all of our ideas and desires to Him.

“Our invisible times of quiet determine the stability of our lives”, says Anne Ortlund in Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. A new school year needs all the stability we women can offer, and the way to be anchored, to be steady, is to plan, prepare, and pray in the quiet spaces. We can find these spaces in the early mornings, during the afternoons, when children are tucked in bed, at a local restaurant, the library, or a night away. Quiet is there, and we can find it if we choose to deny ourselves distractions, ask for what we need, and make it happen. Find the quiet, receive stability.

May the peace of Christ flow in you and through you in the weeks to come!

On Lifelong Mothering

I was at a local thrift shop, running in for a quick peek, while my teens waited patiently in the car. I was excited to find 4 place settings of the Happy Holidays Christmas china with scalloped edges that I collect. As I stood in line, the woman in front of me was having a conversation with the cashier; they were discussing their grown children.

“Please pray for Jim–he has arrived at a fork in the road and I’m praying for guidance and discernment for him.”

And the cashier replied: “I know exactly what you mean, and watch my children go through these same challenging times. How old is he?”

“Late 30’s.”

Cashier: “Yes, my son is in his 50s. We have to pray and trust the Lord with them, don’t we?”

Y’all, this interaction poured warmth and love deep into my soul. This is a conversation that two women have on elementary playgrounds, over coffee during the teen years, on the back deck as their children marry, over the phone when the grandkids come, and in thrift shops when children face mid-life crises. The burdens of our children come and go, and we are witnesses of them over a lifetime.

We never ever stop being a praying mother.

That day I was reminded again that the heart of a caring, engaged mother stays present and prayerful into the deep years of white hair, hip replacements, and Easy Spirit tennis shoes. Other callings may come, change, and end. Some are for seasons, and then God calls to something new, but the call of motherhood is from child’s first breath to mother’s last breath. In the midst of our own mid-life changes, careers, or ministry expansion, receiving times of greater freedom with our schedules, we will always have the opportunity to stay present, watchful, and prayerful over our children.

When mine are in their fifties and I am in my eighties, I hope that I’ll pray with the heart of a nurturing, engaged mother, sharing those burdens with other mothers, always invested in the growth and goodness of my children.

Live, Mind, and Work: The Antidote to Social Media Anxiety

I have been off of social media since Ash Wednesday. Nine full days have felt more like nine months in that I feel emotional, spiritual, and mental clarity in fresh ways that somehow it must have taken longer than only nine days to get here? Those scrolling images and habitual updates already feel like forever ago. This shows that even short social media breaks can have a huge impact on our well-being.

As I was walking around a local pond during these early, lovely days of Spring, and pondering how settled my soul was beginning to feel, I Thessalonians 4:11 came to me :

“and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.”

This verse can be a gentle admonishment for anyone who is feeling the creep of an anxious hum forming in her interior life. Social media is loud, public, and the work of other people’s hands. It’s noisy. So many images, marketing, opinions, to-dos, statements, crafts, clothes, patterns, passions. Because we are getting inundated with chronic visual input, our minds start ruminating and dwelling on “her affairs” even when we put away our phones. Her decor, her mothering style, her way of reading the Bible, her ideas. And if we follow about 400 women, that is 400 women’s voices, affairs and work on display to us over and over again all day! These lives can begin taking over our own, overpowering our unique thoughts, ideas, and creative output.

In my time away from social media, I have had the surprise of desiring to write again which has resulted in two blog posts and some journaling. I cleared out the winter clutter of my den, all the dark pillows, throws, and layers and lightened the space with some Spring decorating. I made pretty Spring wreaths from artificial flowers glued and wired to embroidery hoops, and knotted a simplified macrame birdfeeder. I have listened to great podcasts and dug deeper into stimulating books. I have hosted old and new friends, reached out more, and am dreaming about new, local possibilities. It’s as if I am being set free to do “me” again instead of dwelling on all the “hers” and what they are doing. My time isn’t being sucked away looking at hundreds of highlight reels, but creating my own singular, real-life highlight reel for me and my family to enjoy.

I had told you in my last post that I had Social Media FOMO, but I didn’t fully realize all that I was actually missing out on in my real life. I now am beginning to fear missing out on the now, because presence is where the magic is, and that’s where social media leads us away from. Presence is where we live at peace, manage our own affairs, work with our hands. We can’t do these well if our mind and eyes are distracted and living in someone’s else visual real estate.

Let’s invest in our own space well. Our interior spaces, our living spaces, our relational spaces. Let’s quiet ourselves, simmer down, be content with less stimulation, inspiration, and opinions. Let’s mind our own affairs, working with faithfulness within our homes, jobs, and resources, with full focus, clarity, and bringing the first-fruits of our best selves. Let’s work with our hands, tending our people, kneading the bread, digging the garden, stitching the fabric, stirring the soup, cleaning the corners, typing the words, wiping the counters, knitting the yarn, folding the shirts, hanging the banners, arranging the flowers. There is so much life to be living right in front of us! Not her work. Not the work of the past, not the allure of a beautiful future, but the right-now work of the real-life present. The invitation to a peaceful and meaningful life is in front of us. Let’s say yes to it.