Sometime in August, Dave and I were asked to take charge of a major fundraiser for the boys' school. For twenty-nine years this had been a Christmas Festival held in early December. While it had morphed and evolved over the years, mostly the Festival offered amazing ethnic dishes, a silent auction, a yard sale, a bakery, and a variety of kids' activities all amidst thousands of twinkling lights.
Two years ago, I am fairly sure approximately two hundred people (I'm just guessing that all but two of them were women) simultaneously cried Uncle! We loved the Festival, really we did, but it was a monumental effort, a huge expenditure of time and money in a season known for a shortage of time and money.
Our fearless leaders listened.
Last year we took a sabbatical year with no fall fundraiser. This year it came back in a greatly simplified form, and the Dolins were in charge.
Dave and I thought and prayed and discussed it all in great detail before saying yes. See, I've done things like this before. You can have the most amazing plan on paper, but it's still hard, hard work and twenty-six thousand and two phone calls, texts, and emails.
Dave was pretty positive about it from the get-go. I didn't know if I could handle it. After much rumination, I agreed to take it on with two provisos:
1. Tim's sixteenth birthday would not get lost in the shuffle.
2. Neither would All Saints' Day.
Over the summer I had started thinking about Tim turning sixteen. I began to formulate a plan. If you queried Tim, his ideal gift list would probably include a) a girlfriend and b) a car. Oddly enough, these weren't on my list. But I did think about giving him his own space. We have a four bedroom house. Since the day we moved in, one of the rooms has been an office. And that's worked fine until we added four children to the mix and two of them hit adolescence.
I've pretty much always hated our study -- in point of fact, I dubbed it The Den of Iniquity. Close to the kitchen and to the front door, it has always been a magnet for Stuff, all sorts of Stuff. Over the years, I tried to wrest a little order out of this bedraggled room. I got rid of the couch and bought a cute chair. I hung nice curtains and attractive artwork. Nothing changed the fact that it was nearly always a cluttered catch-all for the detritus of family life -- the backpacks and the cleats, the coat the neighbor left and the stack of over-due library books, the pecan picker and the leftover collage of Antarctica.
Do you remember the oft-quoted line from Field of Dreams? If you build it, they will come?
That's the theme of the study. I was tired of providing too much space for the junk to come. And I started to think about giving that bit of real-estate to my soon to be sixteen-year-old son.
So that was goal #1.
Goal #2 was to really enter into All Saints' Day with the little people. Two years ago, I had grand plans for Ainsley to be Queen Esther. She was just two, and no amount of cajoling on my part could induce her to don any sort of costume at all. Oh, she was all about the candy. And the jumping houses intrigued her. But an ornate, itchy dress and a crown? Pass. Thank you very much.
Last year we had group themes, and ours was Veggie Tales. Ainsley was happy enough to be Laura the Carrot, and John was Junior Asparagus. Yes, these were cute, but this year I wanted something special.
I don't always put First Things First. I remember studying Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The Covey system encourages you to put demands into four categories:
1. Unimportant, not urgent
2. Unimportant, urgent
3. Important, not urgent
4. Important, urgent
The ringing phone that turns out to be a telephone solicitor? Urgent and unimportant. But too often it gets our time as if it were both urgent and important. Investing time making costumes for the little people? Important but not urgent. Investing some time prayerfully considering who Tim is, what his needs are, how we can better meet these needs? Important. Maybe even urgent. But there's no alarm that sounds when you begin missing the boat with your kids. There's no warning that comes registered mail to tell you in unequivocal terms that you are about to close a window in a child's life.
Except maybe there is.
And that warning is the still, small voice of discernment that God gives parents. It began to tug at my heart this summer, insistently whispering that Tim needed space.
It helped me notice the exuberance of these small children of mine. John and Ainsley are all about costumes and props, beauty and heroism.
That still, small voice reminded me that this is a season, just a season, and a relatively short season at that.
Tim is a young man who will all too soon be on his own. John and Aisnley will move on to other pursuits.
There will be other birthdays; there will be other All Saints' Days. But I felt a pressing need to be present right now.
Here's the thing about putting first things first: There is grace. There is peace. I find that things move faster than expected. I find windows of time to accomplish this or that.
One day a week or two ago -- when things did not seem to be going faster than expected -- I became extremely frustrated at the lack of progress on Tim's room. And then a thought came to mind: You have completely redone two rooms in under two months. While taking care of four kids. And planning a Fall Fare. Go, you!
The little people had nice costumes.
Tim is over the moon about his new room.
The other day, he actually said, "It's weird, Mom, but now that I have my own room, I want to keep it clean."
Be still, my beating heart.
And the Fall Fare? It was a great time