And with returning to preaching tomorrow and to office hours next week, the likelihood of posting for the rest of the month will go waaaaay down, so I am admitting failure and moving on.
I did write a newsletter article for church that I think is not too shabby, so here goes with that:
Hello Everyone! It’s good to be back from Maternity Leave and getting back into the swing of things. Especially at this busy time of year when we are looking toward Advent and Christmas, it’s good to be an active part of this community of faith again. However, I’ve learned a few things during my leave that I’d like to share, things that I think are especially pertinent at this time of year:
1. Be Here Now.
This is one of my husband’s favorite new phrases, and a reminder to both of us. Strange as it seems, when my children are swarming around me (well, Jack and Irene – Maggie doesn’t swarm yet…but she will!), sometimes it can seem very much like an escape to browse something on my iPhone, or to log onto the Internet and do some shopping, or to pick up a magazine and start paging through.
Strangely, adding an additional activity like one I mentioned above seems to create a distraction away from the chaos of small children demanding attention. And, factually, it does. But that’s precisely the problem, because then I am distracted from my children. While they long for me to meet their gaze, I am studying a screen. While they desire human attention and interaction, I am interacting with a machine.
During this time of Maternity Leave, I have had no excuse to use the computer “for work” or to be glued to my phone in case something was needed of me. Of course, I have taken calls and answered emails, but there is not as much of a sense of urgency as I usually feel. And so, I have unplugged a bit more, and been more present with my family. I’d like to keep this up even after being back at work. There is a time and a place for multi-tasking, but when it comes at the expense of interaction with my children, it takes away from our relationship and our home life.
2. Slow Down.
We live in such a hurry-scurry culture that it is easy to feel compelled to function at warp speed, even when doing things that require no rush, like unloading the dishwasher on a Sunday afternoon when there are no other demanding tasks ahead, or getting through the grocery store in a hurry even when there is no appointment to run to. It can make a huge different to slow down and be intentional about interacting with family members, with those who provide services at places of business, with friends, and with neighbors (and yes, my classic urging to even slow down with other impatient drivers on the road). The interactions are richer, more focused, more gentle, more authentic. When you really see the person you’re looking at and really hear the person you’re speaking with, it’s remarkable how good you can feel.
3. Don’t Cram.
One of the reasons that we are not Here Now and we can’t Slow Down is because we cram too much into our lives. One of the biggest joys of this leave time has been just being with my family in our home without rushing to an activity or appointment each day. It’s all too easy to have each night of the week stocked with an activity (even an enjoyable one) or an appointment or a meeting. It seems to happen sometimes without us even noticing how full the calendar is getting, until we realize that we haven’t eaten a home-cooked meal in three weeks and we haven’t needed to run the dishwasher but once in the past week to wash water glasses and coffee cups!Sometimes, the more we run from one thing to another, the more we get accustomed to that pace, and we somehow tell ourselves that if we’re not that busy, we must not be doing enough and we’re lazy or boring. Actually, there’s nothing that says we can’t set limits on our time and say no to things that we know will just take us away from what we value most. We are allowed to declare what it is that we value, and we are allowed to declare what it is we would prefer not to commit to right now.
There are different seasons of our lives—times when we’re willing to spread ourselves thinner than others, times when we’re eager for something new and stimulating, and times when we need to clear the plate and keep some space. I can’t help but think of church life in writing this, because I know that you may read this and think, “Well, the next time someone asks me to serve on a committee, my answer is no!”
Truthfully, one of the things that I love about this church is that we don’t have tons of committees fighting over building space and calendar space to meet as often as possible. Our committees meet when they need to meet, and ad hoc groups of folks pull together the activities that need to be arranged. I hope that this culture allows people to commit to those things that truly want to be a part of, and to know that they need not feel guilty when they set clear boundaries about not being able to do certain things. That being said, I hope that you have found a place within the life of the church to serve in a way that is life-giving to you and also helps to meet the needs of our community!