I spent last Saturday on retreat, a retreat focusing on deep prayer -- appropriating faith, hope, and love more fully into life; developing a habit of daily, meditative prayer.
As one of the talks got underway, a thought popped into my mind. I leaned over to Tim's piano instructor and whispered, "Is the piano recital really in two weeks?"
This sort of explains why contemplative prayer is such a challenge for me.
I want to reach the heights of contemplative prayer, I sincerely do, but first I feel the need to buy Tim a dress shirt, find two more pillar candles for the First Communion retreat, locate and sign Ainsley's permission slip, and get two of the kids to the dermatologist.
First Communion retreat, Confirmation, soccer tournament, The Glory Run, piano recital, Spring Formal, Mothers' Day, Spring Dance (not to be confused with Spring Formal), potential Scout camping trip.
And that's just hitting the high points.
I read this reflection by my friend Rachel who was ruminating about how families with lots of kids survive extracurricular activities. She asked an older friend for advice, and their exchange is just priceless:
"What’s your schedule like,” I probed, “how do you decide who does what? How do you get to all the activities? What’s your plan and process?”
“Hmmmm,” she said, and kinda left it at that.
That says it all, really.
As Rachel pointed out it's grace and a sense of humor and a certain amount of shrugging it off and saying, "Yeah, well, these days are busy."
As we've been moving into high gear, I've thought of a few tactics I employ that seem to help me:
1. Put the big rocks in first.
2. Prayer is a big rock. When my mind is spinning from the busyness, I take a simple, simple approach to prayer. Read the Psalms. Pray the rosary. No time for complications, not much space for creativity.
3. Laundry and dinner -- Big rocks! Like it or not, they are big, BIG rocks. They drive the whole day. Is that crazy? I swear it's true. One missing soccer uniform gums up the whole operation.
4. Be at peace -- With God and others. Big, big rock. Nothing -- nothing! -- drains me first emotionally and then physically more than unresolved conflict. And let me just say what I've said before: The sacrament of confession is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
5. Avoid the library - More broadly, avoid any and all places, animals or things (we've been studying nouns) that involve due dates and/or fines. One more thing to remember? Thanks, I'll pass! The library is a great cause and, gosh, I'm glad my late fees are going there rather than the IRS or the corner Red Box. But before they dedicate a wing in my name, I think I'll just try pulling books from the limitless stacks under my own roof.
6. Keep a list -- Read it. No, really, read it. Read it again.
7. Keep cash on hand -- Fives and ones, specifically. Every field trip costs four or six dollars, never five, rarely ten. Eight grade lunch sales -- roughly $7.25, but at least they take checks.
8. Track spending -- This is a scary one as I'll be the first to admit that when money is flying out the door, I much prefer to bury my head in the sand and hum a little ditty. Denial is a beautiful thing. But then I try to remember that this year is not last year when one of our two AC units went belly up to the tune of a sum of money so hideous I won't even mention it here. I may cringe over the $78 tuxedo rental that came on the heels of an expensive car repair. I may chaff at the $20 dance ticket I bought just after writing a hefty check to join the pool. But really I should just step back and think, "Cheaper than an AC unit!"
This time of year requires a little tunnel vision. Do what you're doing, said some spiritual adviser from days gone by. If I'm reading to Ainsley, I won't be answering the phone. If I'm on a First Communion retreat, I'll work hard to be fully present. If I'm reading Tim's research paper, I'll give it my best shot.
And I'll remember that our busyness flows out of an abundant life.
On top of saying Hmmmmm, I really need to add a simple and sincere Thank You.