I had this "aha" moment yesterday, and then I went and read Andrea's post (go read it- I'll wait!). I was so surprised to realize I had passed this huge milestone in my life, but I couldn't quite figure out the how or why. I just knew in this heart-level way that I had shed some immaturity in my life. Reading Andrea's post made me realize the "whosywhatsits", as Ben likes to call it. (Translation: the 5 "w" questions [who, what, when, where, why, and sometimes how]- he called it that one day and it has always stuck. I love it. It makes me giggle.)
I've found crash protection in parenting because of a journey towards 'simple living'.
It's happened over a stretch of almost three years now. It started because of Isaiah's food allergies….he had horrible colic as a baby, and the behavior issues only escalated as he got older. A wise pediatrician realized that we were dealing with some pretty hefty food allergies. The end result is that we now eat almost entirely organic, unprocessed foods. It was a choice that James and I made together- we could have continued to eat in the 'old' way while preparing Isaiah's food separately, but the reality was that it would be too expensive to do so. What little research we had done at the time made us realize that eating 'closer to the soil' was much healthier for all of us, so we made the jump. You know how it goes…your child is diagnosed with something, and you read everything you can possibly get your hands on. Talk about an eye opening time!
It changed things drastically in our home life, for the simple reason that unprocessed food usually takes a lot longer to prepare. No longer could I pop something in the microwave for five minutes or dump a box in a pot…I really had to prepare meals. Looking back, I can see how the food issue began changing everything else. James and I, although parents to three (at the time, Ben was 3, Isaiah was 2, and Lorelei was a teeny tiny newborn), were still definitely 'college kids' in mindset. We were both working on our degrees at the time, and our life really revolved around that sort of catch-as-catch-can lifestyle that college often forced us into, between working full time and everything in between. Our food choices really reflected that, and our time management definitely reflected it- it was not unusual for us both to put in a full day of parenting and working and then do homework into the wee 'sma hours, only to get up at the crack of dawn and do it all over again.
The need for actual factual food preparation and planning changed that, and quickly. Not only did I have to pay attention to when dinner was, I also had to source food far from the typical grocery run. It took a lot of forethought. It brought a subtle order to our days that had not existed to that point. I graduated not too soon after that, and our lives took on a whole different dimension. James was adamant that if it could be done, I was to stay home and be with the children- he did not want me to work outside the home unless I wanted to. He prayed that it would never come to a matter of need for me to work. And, amazingly, it never has. Oh, it's been awfully tight at times, but it's never come down to me having to work. (Of course, logistically at this point, it would cost far more for the children to be in daycare and school than it would for me just to stay home.)
I remember that time of discovery. Really meeting and getting to know my kids for the first time, figuring out what made them tick, realizing I could do all these things with my days, no longer tied to deadlines. It was very freeing. It was a time of learning…how to mother, how to be a wife, how to care for my home. As usual, I went a hundred miles a minute and burned out quickly. Again, the food issues brought me back towards center. I had continued reading and studying about food, it's production, how it affects people with allergies and digestive disorders (like Celiac's)…peripherally, many of the books I read also referred to this idea of 'simple living', of returning to quieter ways, closer to natural rhythms. At the same time, my times of prayer and devotional time had a sort of running conversation with God about what it all meant. Oh, I was getting so frustrated! It seemed like roadblock after roadblock stood in my way between being the mom I wanted to be and where I was. Spinning my wheels, it seemed like I was constantly turned towards verses about seasons and times. [I'd just like to mention that I am majorly dense…2x4s are often required.] Eventually, it was Psalm 90 that stuck and I finally got the point. It is a Psalm of Moses, and when I read it, I realized that Moses was in the desert on the forty year trek towards death. With every passing year, he watched the disobedient generation die out, and he knew that he would never enter the Land God had promised. To the world, that was definitely an exercise in futility- and no one would have thought less of Moses had he quit and gone back to Egypt or something. But what does he ask of God? Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (v. 12) What?!?! Teach us to number our days. I figured Moses knew a bit better than I did, and that became (and in many ways still is) my prayer. To everything there is a season, and God is always in control.
The thing is, I had no clue what an ordered life looked like, at least at the time. I think I am much closer to some of those answers now. I'll go into what I've learned in areas like being a wife and making a home tommorrow and the next day, but today I really want to focus on the crash protection 'simple living' brings to parenting. The fact of the matter is, American culture is pretty high-speed. Everyone knows that. Everyone knows how hard people work, the long hours, the clogged interstates, the cell-phones, the fast-food drive thrus. Our culture makes it easy to get in the fast lane and never ever get out, and it makes it awfully easy to push our kids into that overclocked lifestyle too. It is not uncommon for a family of four to only sit down to dinner together one day out of seven, and leave ten minutes later headed for a myriad of weekend activities destined to make them 'better people'. I know, we were THAT family.
Like I said yesterday, it is really easy for those of us designed 'a hundred miles a minute' to get into that overclocked state- a horrible state to be in when it comes to parenting. We'r
e going too much, and too fast, to really listen and pay attention to our kids, to really hear their hearts. It is a very concious decision we have to make to get in the slow lane. The interesting thing is that the slow lane has this way of making a lot of things clearer. For one, you can actually see what's ahead. You can read the signs because they are not flying by in a blur. The chaotic accident ahead that you would have gone flying into in a nasty splatter of metal and glass is much easier to avoid in the slow lane. You have time to stop, turn around, get over. And hopefully, you're not even driving. My favorite bumper sticker has got to be this one: "If God is your co-pilot, switch seats!" As odd as it seems, slowing down gives one more time, not less. Doing a few things with intent and focus reaps much greater rewards than many things done haphazardly, and no where is this more true than in mothering and parenting. I am trying to avoid overanalyzation (another tendancy of mine) to a point, but finding order and discipline (ours, not our kids) in parenting creates vast change in our children. Or maybe it is a change in perspective in ours…I'm not sure. When life isn't overclocked and cluttered with actvities, projects, and places we have to be, we can get to know our children in ways we never would have been able to if we were constantly go-ing. There is space to hear and see and know.
Andrea has a great conversation on this going on over there…if you like this post, you might want to surf on over and jump in over there too…
What have you learned about simplicity and parenting and how the two relate?