I get a lot of comments these days saying something to the effect of, “I don’t know how you keep up with all the things you’re doing. You must be superwoman!”
While I do appreciate this sentiment, the truth is I am not superwoman. Actually, I’m not super-anything. I don’t have any super powers, unless you count my ability to sense when the toddler is up to no good, and I could never pull off a skin tight super hero outfit.
I am ordinary…and that’s okay.
Most of us are ordinary. Perhaps even all of us are ordinary (unless you happen to be the actual superwoman reading this, in which case I’m willing to concede that you are more than ordinary).
We’re all doing the best we can inside each of our unique circumstances.
I used to think that in order to be successful, one had to be constantly in motion. But the more I push my way through this ordinary life of mine, the more I realize that success comes in the quiet moments – those quiet pockets of time when the frenzy dies down.
A few years ago, I attended a conference that was designed specifically for moms. On the second day, a woman stood in front of us, and she acknowledged the obvious: Moms don’t have a lot of time.
“What do you do,” she asked, “when you want to build your business, but the children are clamoring at your feet, and the moments in your day are parsed out?”
I leaned forward, ready to accept her answer to this question that often left me befuddled.
“You do one thing every day,” she said. The room was silent as a hundred moms with dreams soaked in this freeing nugget of wisdom.
“You can’t do all the things when you’re a mom, but you can do one thing. So do one thing every day that helps grow your business, develops your ideas, makes you money – whatever it is you’re working toward, keep pressing on, one step at a time.”
Yesterday was one of those days that seemed to spiral out of control. Between homeschool and toddlerhood, and all the life that crept into the cracks of my day, I found myself antsy and frustrated.
There simply wasn’t any time yesterday for me to sit and work.
By 8:00, I felt panic beginning to well up in my chest. I just wanted the kids to go to bed so the house would grow quiet, and I could find a moment to complete a thought.
It was 9:30 before I found that moment, and by then I was so exhausted the thoughts were tangled together, and I just wanted to go to bed myself, but I knew that if I could do just one thing I’d sleep a little more soundly.
As a writer, I’m finding this process of marketing books in the new media age to be rather intimidating. I’m not good with video or images – I’m a word girl. Facebook is my happy place because WORDS, all the WORDS!
Instagram bores me, and Pinterest intimidates me, and don’t even get me started on Periscope. But I need to step outside of this little comfortable box of mine, and I need to learn how to better utilize these online tools. So before bed, I went to Pinterest and poked around a bit.
I added a few photos to some character boards I’m developing for my book launch, and I looked at what other authors are doing on that platform.
This didn’t take a lot of time, and it didn’t require me to formulate any ideas. This was my one thing and it was all I had, but you know what?
I slept like a rock last night.
Doing one thing every day frees us up to enjoy the bigger picture. This season of my mothering life doesn’t offer loads of free time. I’ve got slivers of time in each day, and so I have to utilize those slivers to the best of my ability.
I slept so well last night because I went to bed knowing I’d done one thing. I didn’t toss and turn all night, chasing down ideas or fighting bitterness at all the stolen hours of my day. I felt a peace knowing I’d done something – one something – to get better at my job.
There will be other days when I can conquer my to-do list; days when the house is quiet and I can do a slew of book-related things. But those days are not the norm.
So I’ll keep doing one thing every day, then focus my attention on the children clamoring at my feet. And in this way, I manage to survive this ordinary, maybe even slightly extraordinary, life.
I crawled out of bed early this morning. Not by choice, of course. My covers were warm, and after spending three nights on a rickety pull out couch in a hotel, I wanted to stay nestled on my cottony mattress forever.
Forever and ever.
But the seven year old had nightmares, and just as I drifted back to sleep the baby woke up demanding food, and it became apparent that more sleep was a luxury I would not be afforded.
So I made my way to the coffee pot, and now I sit here in front of my computer. It’s so quiet, and it’s still dark outside. It feels like the entire world is still. As much as I wanted a couple more hours of sleep, I must confess – this is my happy place.
This is the place where the Lord meets me – where He whispers peace in my always swirling heart.
This is the place when words wash over me, and sometimes they even flow out of me.
This is the place where I chase my goals – where I chip away at a dream just a little bit more.
There are a lot of stories out there of people who find success almost by accident. They were blogging for fun, or to get through a difficult time, and they were noticed and suddenly there was a book deal that they never asked for!
It seems like my Facebook feed has been filled with such stories lately, and they’re good stories. I like to read them. And yet…
There’s a part of me that wonders if maybe I’ve just wanted this too much. Maybe if I just quit wanting it so bad, then the publishing contracts would roll in. Because aren’t accidental success stories so fun to read?
“I didn’t want this. I wasn’t looking for it or pursuing it!” People say these things and I smile because I’m excited for them. But also, my heart cringes a little because I do want this. It’s why I’m working so hard.
This is why the quiet spaces are so important, because it’s here in the quiet when I’m reminded that the toil is a gift, and the wanting is okay.
“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:11-13
There is good to be found in the discipline of rising early to toil away at your goals and dreams. In the quiet dark, while the house is still, your hands move and your heart sings because this is your time. This is the gift.
Friends, the message is simply this: The time spent working and laboring, creeping your way toward a goal, is a good thing. You do not labor in vain, and the difficulty is a gift.
It’s okay to dream, and it’s okay to chase those dreams. Your story isn’t diminished by years of toil. Though it sounds romantic and poetic to somehow accidentally stumble into success, the truth is there is so much beauty in the toil.
Are you working toward a goal? Do you feel like you’re laboring in vain? I assure you, you’re not. It’s okay to want to see the fruition of your hard work. It’s okay to chase after your dream, whatever that may look like for you. It’s okay to want it.
The stomach flu, that most unwelcome of visitors, has made a pit stop at our house. I shouldn’t complain. We haven’t met up with the the stomach bug in years. He was bound to stop by at some point.
Landon is down for the count, though I’m hoping the worst of it is behind him. And I’m going to be busy disinfecting, and praying that somehow the rest of us are miraculously spared.
Really, is there anything worse than waiting for the stomach bug to make it’s rounds?
So no new words from me today. But I am over at Extraordinary Mommy this week talking resolutions, and giving a few tips on how to get your kids on board with your goal setting as you plan out your year.
So why don’t you join me over there. It’s for the better, really. You probably don’t want to linger here in germville anyway.
Happy weekending, everyone! May your days be puke-free!
It’s that time of year again.
The time of year when we write down a list of ambiguous, unrealistic resolutions for ourselves – goals that we more than likely won’t accomplish because what does “Eat Healthier” really mean, amiright? Does it mean one spoonful of Nutella instead of two, or should I start Pinning fancy recipes for Kale and Brussel Sprouts now?
In recent years, the idea of making New Year’s Resolutions has become less popular. I think we’ve all come to realize that we set ourselves up for failure using the traditional resolution model of the past.
There is something invigorating about the first of the year, though. It teems with possibility and in many ways it feels very much like a fresh start. Setting plans for the coming year doesn’t have to be stressful, as long as we do it the right way.
In recent years, I’ve enjoyed bringing my kids in on this little goal setting tradition. It’s fun to sit down together as a family and discuss where we’d like to be as a unit in a year.
Kids love to set goals. It makes them feel safe when life is predictable.
How children set their goals, though, will depend almost entirely on their personalities and, to a lesser degree, their birth order. Most (not all, of course) Type A first borns will want to set very high, lofty goals (get all A’s on my report card), while feisty second borns will set the bar much lower (eat ice cream every day).
Setting goals as a family is a fun way to tap into your children as unique individuals, and it gives you shared direction as a unit heading into the New Year. Here are a few tips to get you started.
I watch her tenacity, and I find myself envious at times. My eight year old knows exactly what she wants, and when she puts her mind to something, she doesn’t let anyone get in her way. Her determination and quest for accomplishment are amazing. A goal, no matter how big or small, is all the motivation she needs to put in the hard work, to go the extra mile. And, so far, she has accomplished all that she set out to do.
She is teaching me, reminding me, what it’s like to pursue a goal without fear of failure, and to dream without concern for what others might think.
Something happens when we grow up. We become so predictable, so practical, so…safe. We think through every possible scenario, every outcome that could result from a decision, and more often than not, we choose the path with the least likelihood of road blocks.
Some of that is simply out of necessity. When you have bills to pay and mouths to feed, you cannot live life on a whim. Decisions have to be made with a heavy amount of respect for the future. Sometimes, however, (many times?) we let practicality be the boss of us. We fear a path of imaginary destruction.
But if we choose to follow a different path, one that is less practical on paper, and the road is rockier, the terrain filled with more ups and downs, and the ultimate outcome less guaranteed, then does that mean we made the wrong decision?
All of these people inspire me to live more intentionally. They have each taught me through both their words, and their actions, that life doesn’t have to be predictable, and you can still be responsible while chasing the things you love.
Living a little outside the lines requires that we make a few sacrifices. We can’t be confined to that which is predictable, and we certainly can’t expect the path to be easy. Fulfilling? Yes. Exciting? Most definitely. Challenging? Without a doubt. Responsible? Depends on who you ask.
But easy? Rarely.
Dreams and goals shouldn’t be laid to rest with childhood. We can still be responsible without being predictable. And the beautiful truth is that if we’re willing to make those sacrifices – if we’re up for the challenge of living intentionally, and doing the hard work necessary to live our lives in pursuit of the things that will leave a longer lasting impact than the boundaries of a 401K, we might find that something beautiful occurs.
We may just carve a different path for ourselves, for our children and for the world around us.
Fanciful daydreams of a life of grandeur are the things that make childhood so magical. Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies to strike the fatherless is the stripping of innocence – a building block of dreams.
My daughter and I had a few moments alone in the car last week, and she reminded me yet again of the power of a good dream. We were on our way to her gymnastics practice, and she didn’t really want to go. She was tired, she wanted to stay home and fight with play with her brothers, and she just wasn’t in the mood for a four hour workout.
After a few tense moments of whining and pouting, she quieted down and took a deep breath.
“Mom?” she asked.
I glanced at her through the rearview mirror and reminded myself that she’s still so young. Big eyes hover over soft, full cheeks and a nose dotted with fine freckles. I waited for her to speak. She is the child who needs space to prepare her thoughts, slowly and deliberately choosing each word.
“I don’t want to play soccer next year.”
I was surprised by this comment. It was random and didn’t fit the context of our previous conversation. “Okay,” I answered. “You don’t have to.”
“I just don’t see myself as a soccer player,” she said, and I bit back a smile.
“And I really don’t want to play softball,” she continued, her voice strong and adamant.
I turned onto the street where her gym was located and tried to follow along with her train of thought, to connect the dots from the anger about having to leave for gymnastics and the present conversation. I had a moment of panic, wondering if she was leading up to telling me she didn’t want to do gymnastics anymore. It’s a decision I would support, but it would break my heart, because she has so much talent.
“Well what do you see yourself doing?” I asked, guiding the car into a parking place in front of the gym. I put it in park and shifted so I could look her in the eye. She glanced out the window and a small smile spread across her face.
“I see myself at the Olympics,” she said. Her voice was wistful and dreamy and I couldn’t help but grin. I know that look, and I know what she’s feeling. When I was eight, I saw myself as an Olympic gymnast, too. I remember imagining the podium, and what it would feel like to watch the flag raised with my anthem playing. I envisioned this with the images of Mary Lou Retton shimmering in my mind.
“I’m ready now,” she said. “If I’m going to go to the Olympics, I guess I have to practice, huh?”
There’s something about childhood that makes dreaming so enviable. Right now, there is no doubt in her mind that her dream of going to the Olympics will come true, and there’s no part of me that plans to altar that dream with anything resembling a dose of reality. I know that with time and age, her dreams will shift, and they will mature, and they will change.
But I don’t ever want her to stop dreaming.
Too often as adults we let reality bury our dreams in a pile of salt. We become so practical that we forget the power of a healthy dream. We don’t let our dreams grow and mature with us, and we abandon the act of dreaming altogether.
My childhood dream of making the Olympic team is no longer a reality (though I think I could still have a shot at Curling. I mean, seriously…how hard could it be?!).
But there are realistic dreams that fit my life now, and I’m tired of pushing them aside. I dream of publishing books, of working more with organizations that support orphan care, of not settling and growing comfortable with a life of ease.
I dream of keeping a clean home.
Wait…never mind. That one is about as likely as me becoming the gold medal All Around gymnast in 2016.
The fact is, I don’t have to stop dreaming any more than my eight year old does. And what’s more – I need to chase my dreams as hard as she is chasing hers. I need to push for them, even when I don’t feel like it.