When You Take the Time It Takes…

When you take the time it takes, it takes less time.

About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to go through some amazing self-development training.  Some training that forced me to dig deep.  To look at why I do things the way I do them.  To learn why I react to things the way I react.  We worked with horses as we went through this life-changing training against the backdrop of God’s artistry in Wyoming.  During our time there, this line was repeated- “When you take the time it takes, it takes less time.”

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It’s a nice sentiment on it’s surface:  if you take the time it takes to read an entire recipe instead of getting halfway through prepping dinner to discover you don’t have all the ingredients, it takes less time to get dinner on the table because you don’t have to scrap that and figure something else out.  If you take the time it takes to properly potty train your new puppy through consistency, it takes less time because your puppy isn’t confused about what to do when it needs to go outside.   But this quote?  This idea is far too intense to let it just sit as a nice little saying.

We live in this age of instant gratification, instant information, instant food, instant anything really.  We live in an era of everyone wanting something done and wanting it done right now.  We live in this space where if something is taking too long or is getting too hard, we decide it’s not for us any more.  We want the biggest and best without having to put in the actual time and effort to get those things!  We want to lose weight in a week with a magic shake.  We want to make six figures as soon as we graduate from college without having to work as an intern and do the grunge work while working our way up the ranks.  We want to have that big house or that fancy car or the vacation home without putting in the years of saving and investing and time.

A child throws a fit because he doesn’t get his way, so you give them what they want because it’s easier and it’s hard to see them so upset.  Then down the road, you try and change that behavior after it’s been established (or worse, you continue to give them what they want leading to an entirely different battle of entitlement, but we’ll leave that for another time).  If you’d taken the time it takes to teach them right away “that’s not how you get what you want,” it would have taken less time (and your preschool years would have been a lot easier with established expectations for behavior!).

You start a business, and you’re excited and passionate and can’t get enough of it…but you aren’t successful overnight.  It’s hard!  It takes so much time and effort and blood and sweat and tears.  It takes trying new things and making sacrifices.  So rather than give all you have to your dream, you quit and move on to another business venture and start all over.  Or worse yet, you settle for something that doesn’t bring you any fulfillment at all.  Or you can take the time it takes so it takes less time to do something that feeds your soul.

You discover marriage is hard.  You discover living with another human being everyday means you committed to the good things and the bad things.  It means learning to share your entire self with that person- hopes, dreams, feelings and frustrations.  It means learning how to communicate and to not go to bed angry and not hold in feelings that build up.  But that’s scary and hard, to let someone see your entire self, so instead you choose the easy path and walk away because that’s less work for you.  But if you’d taken the time it takes, it takes less time.

You lose a baby at six weeks.  You’re devastated but you hear “you can always try again” and “there’s always a reason for everything” so you make yourself “get over it” and pretend like it wasn’t a big deal.  Until weeks later, all those feelings come flooding to the surface because you weren’t allowed to grieve that little life.  If you take the time it takes, it takes less time.

You have these dreams and these goals and a vision of what you want your life to look like…but it’s taking too long.  Instead of letting it take the time it takes, you try and make things happen faster or skip the important parts.  The necessary parts.  The growth.  The learning.  The valleys and the mountaintops.  The recognizing it’s not always all about you.  We don’t like that.  We don’t like it when it’s not all about us.  So we walk away from those things too and decide those dreams just “aren’t meant to be.”

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But when we take the time it takes- If we continuously point our babies in the way they should go, they learn from early on that it’s not always all about them.  We learn that the little things that seem so tedious and monotonous, done day after day, build upon each other to create an amazing business or career that ignites our passion.  We learn that relationships get so much better over time if we take the time it takes to tend to them faithfully and learn how to do life with another person.  We learn that if we take the time it takes to grieve losses, it takes less time to bring beauty from ashes.  We learn that our greatest purpose in life lies not in living a mediocre life spent focused on ourselves but in an amazing life filled with purpose and happiness and joy that’s chosen and overflows to serve those around us.

We learn that when we take the time it takes to grow, to learn, to listen, to reflect, to take the hard roads, it takes less time.  While the easier roads may seem faster, you have to travel and backtrack and turn around on far too many of them to reach the same destination.  In fact, you may never make it there at all, and then you get to look back on a life of regret.  On a life of giving up when you should have given it your all.  On a life of quitting when you were on the brink of a breakthrough.  On a life of just getting by instead of a life of thriving and passion.  On a life wrapped up in your own wants instead of a life marked by making a difference.

When you take the time it takes, it takes less time.

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The Day I Decided to Simplify

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog front lately.  With summer dwindling down, I found myself jealously soaking up every extra minute I can with my boys before they go back to school.  We had a mini family vacation and more lake weekends.  We’ve had zoo fun and pool dates.  Loads of family time and loads of chill time.  This fall, for the first time in seven years, I will find myself alone at times during the week as all three boys will be in school in one form or another.

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I’m a little sad this chapter of my life is coming to an end.  (OK, let’s be real, my Mama-heart is breaking!)  The Little Years are quickly fading from view as my Middle enters Kindergarten, and my Littlest ventures into half-day preschool (way more ready than his Mama is!).  But as sad as my Mama-heart is to watch them enter their own new beginnings of childhood, it also bursts with pride at the tiny people God is shaping them to be, and a minuscule part of me is curiously excited.  What will I do with this time?  Certainly devote more time to my business, yes!  Exercise more, yes!  But what about those things I’ve wanted to do, but never seemed to have time for because my time was completely monopolized by my Babies?

Don’t get me wrong-  I have loved 97% of being a stay-at-home mom turned work-at-home mom.  (The other 3%?  Well, we all have our off days and see the grass as greener on the other side sometimes.  Am I right?)  But I have on my horizon, some form of time I haven’t had in a very long time.  So I’ve been reading (and writing!) more.  All those books I’ve put on the “when I have time” list.  They started coming to the lake with me, or I spent time in them when I was up before the boys, coffee in hand, with no school to rush off to.  I read personal development books (if you have not read Girl, Wash Your Face go download it or pick it up right now!). Books about learning to rest, not quit.  Books about doing what makes you happy and choosing joy, being passionate, chasing Jesus, and learning to find your own form of beautiful instead of chasing someone else’s.

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I’ve tried really hard over the last seven years to embrace the whole “Sorry the house is a mess, but there are kids making memories here” thing.  And while it brought me some comfort during the chaos of the “three little boys ages 3 and under” time of my life, it also caused me a ton of anxiety and stress.  My personality just doesn’t do well with clutter and mess.  In fact, it stresses me out like none other.  But it’s hard enough to simply clean your house during the Little Years, let alone keep it neat, tidy and organized, and I learned to give myself grace.

So here I sit reading my latest book,  A Simplified Life.  The author talks about simplifying (imagine that!) and decluttering and organizing to make your house a home, and it dawned on me that I finally have that time!  I finally have the time to systematically go through every closet, cupboard and drawer, and I am giddy at the thought!  (Greg thinks it’s funny that I get this crazy sort-of high off of organizing and cleaning, but everyone has their thing, right?!)

Over these last eight and half years of marriage, we have accumulated So. Much. Stuff!  When we added kids to the mix, our stuff became mountains of things.  We did a little bit of decluttering last spring and had a rummage sale, but this time it’s no-holds-barred.  Everything is getting a home (no more junk drawer!), and things that haven’t been used but kept around because “we might need it someday” are going out the door.  It’s going to be glorious and magical and all the things.   But it begs the question why?

I mean, I’m getting all sorts of good feels out of organizing and decluttering my house, but I also don’t want to spend this precious time on frivolous things either.  Is this type of massive overhaul worth the time and energy I’m going to expend on it?  I seriously reflected on this question over the weekend while I was sitting by the lake.  I have no desire to live a minimalist lifestyle, but a simpler life?  Absolutely.

In an age and generation of pure consumerism and materialism, so many people are looking for a simpler way.  So many people buy more stuff to make themselves feel better rather than invest in quality time with their family or go out and experience the world.  Our houses fill up with more and more things, and we sit among our “treasures” and wonder why they’re not precious like treasure should be.  I don’t want a house filled with “things.”  I want a home filled with precious memories and simple objects that bring warmth and beauty into the space where we make those memories.  When friends and family come to my home, I want it to feel inviting and spacious, not cluttered and chaotic.  And to be quite frank, when there is so much clutter and stuff everywhere, my personal anxiety aside, you simply can’t focus on the treasures right in front of you.

You can’t play the board games with your kids because the table is always covered with mail and magazines and this or that.  Your kids exclaim they’re bored because they have so many toys they literally can’t decide which one to play with.  They’re overwhelmed with options!  You can’t find your flashlight when the power goes out because all FIVE of your flashlights are never where they’re supposed to be (yes, this happened to us!).  You can’t figure out how the bigger house with all the storage space you bought a few years ago suddenly feels cramped and the storage spaces are overflowing.

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So, yes, for me, the time and energy that’s going to be expended on this adventure are going to be well worth it.  I know it’s going to take a while, and I know some of it is going to be hard.  I mean, we become emotionally attached to our stuff for some reason.  Disconnecting ourselves from the habit of feeling like you have to have the latest and greatest, of feeling like every space needs to be filled with something, that takes time and grace.  But the rewards and fruit of that labor that I can foresee are going to be so worth it.

A decluttering and organizing of my house is going to be just the start of my “simpler life” journey.  I’m excited to slow down and enjoy more date nights with my husband, more family game nights, more evenings with friends.  I’m excited to not fill every second with activities.  I’m looking forward to figuring out how to simplify our mornings so they don’t feel so hectic and how to maximize my time during the week so that I can focus on making memories on the weekends.  I’m super motivated to figure out how to simplify our spending so we can give our boys more experiences instead of more things.

And I invite you along on this journey!  Because while this post and this journey starts with simplifying my home, this is really a journey of discovering true passion and the beauty of life as you leave behind the “stuff” and focus on the treasures.  Some of my posts on this journey will be more practical (how I decluttered my kids rooms, how I organized my kitchen, etc), and some will be more soulful as I let go of some dreams and close doors to make room for others.  But all of it will be beautiful because it’s part of my story, and I hope you discover nuggets of advice that help make your life simpler and truth that resonates with your soul as you tag along on this journey that make your story more beautiful too.

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The Day We Skipped Baseball.

I feel like it needs to be said right from the get-go that Greg and I are firm believers that if you commit to something, you see it through.  Wyatt finished out his summer soccer season last year even though he strongly disliked it after the first week.  Baseball would be no different for Isaac.  Now Isaac doesn’t necessarily hate baseball…he’d just rather play in the dirt than pay any attention to what’s going on.  But, he wanted to play baseball, so we signed him up (and paid the money!), so he will finish the summer season out.

This morning though, this morning as I was drinking my coffee having some quiet moments with Jesus (because my house was still quiet at 7:30am!), I started hearing this whimpering that escalated to wailing.  I wandered down the hall to figure out which Little needed consoling so early in the morning.  (Let’s be completely honest here- I was mildly pretty darn irritated that I was already having to deal with a meltdown.  I mean, no one had even come out of their room yet!)  I figure out it’s Isaac, go into his room, ask him what’s up and get… “I don’t want to to go to baseballllllll today!” We chatted (or I tried to chat, he continued to whine at me about not wanting to go) back and forth for a minute before I just turned and walked back to the living room, leaving him to whine.

You see, I had this conundrum going on.  On one hand, I didn’t want him to think that by whining about something so atrociously, he would get what he wanted.  On the other hand, I’d noticed all three of my kiddos had been acting out lately.  Way more than normal kids being kids things.  (Last night, we ran errands and it…was…awful.)  Even at home, just the general disobedience and attitudes had escalated in the last week or so.  Isaac seemed to speak in an incessantly whiny voice.  Wyatt was pushing buttons and picking on his brothers.  Logan was literally losing his cool over every little scratch he got.  Consequences had become more frequent and stronger.  My patience was wearing thin.  My Mama-soul was tired.

But yesterday I read this post by an acquaintance of mine on Facebook.  She and her husband have adopted three of their five children.  The adopted Littles were adopted from overseas and spent some agonizing time in orphanages.  She had written a post about how one of them reverts to his behaviors that stem from his orphanage trauma every once in a while through no fault of his own.  This particular day, this had happened…and she had wanted to punish him for his unacceptable behavior- have a time out, lose a privilege, something!  Instead though, she took him for some one-on-one time.  She loved on him.  For him, it was quality time that showed him unconditional love.

There is much, much more to the story than this short little blurb, and I can’t pretend that this even remotely relates to what that sweet boy goes through, but Jesus used that post to speak to my mama-heart in a very real way.  I realized these last two weeks, we’d been running a lot which means I’d been having to squeeze work in in-between all the running.  My stress level was higher which means my patience was thinner.  All day yesterday, I thought about that post.  All day it was on my heart.  My quality time with my Babies was lacking, and they were letting me know the best way their little hearts could.

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So today, we skipped baseball.  While the boys played, I secretly packed up a lunch.  We made a stop at the Welcome House to drop off some milk, sugar and bread we had picked up the night before which led to an amazing discussion on serving others whenever we can.  Then, I surprised them with a day at the zoo.  I mean, the entire day.  And we went at their speed.  Every section of the zoo became a world they “battled” their way through in some imaginary game they had started at home.  We made multiple trips back to the bathrooms which led to going through the same exhibit multiple times.  We had lunch by the camels.  We rode the train.  We had ice cream.  I let them run.  I let them have their adventures.  And I will never forget when we’d been there a few hours.  The boys were playing on the playground, and Wyatt came running over to me and put his arms around me.  He just sat there like that for a while, turned and looked at me and said “I love you, Mom” and then he was back to looking for some gopher (bad guy) that had gone into his hole by the swans.

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Mamas, don’t blink!  Our time with our Babies is so, so precious and so, so fleeting.  Don’t underestimate the simple things.  It doesn’t have to be a big spectacle or a meticulously planned vacation.  It just needs to simply be.  I know we hear this all the time, but I feel like the more we hear it, the more it begins to fall on deaf ears.  Since losing Clara, I’ve made conscious efforts to be with my kids more and to cherish that time.  I’ve made it a point to use my time more wisely so that I don’t miss out on these little years with my Babies.  While there are times the days seem so, so long, these days are also such precious gifts.  These are days we are blessed to have.

I needed that quality time just as much as they did today.  Today I saw the best behavior, the best attitudes, the best listening I’ve seen in weeks.  Today  had the most patience I’ve had in weeks.  I wasn’t annoyed by the little stories I’ve heard over and over…and over.  Today my tone was softer.  Today I didn’t worry about work, finances, life.  Today I was present with my boys at the zoo.  Today I watched from afar as the three of them played on a bridge, and my entire soul smiled.

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Today was one of the best days ever.

The Time I Ugly Cried

I ugly cried in the shower today.  Not a few tears or tears streaming down my cheeks.  Ugly, sobbing, couldn’t catch my breath crying.  The kind of crying you do when you simply can’t think of anything else to do.  When things seem so far out of your control, you feel like your only recourse is to cry.  I’m a fairly emotional person and find I need to ugly cry every few months or so.  The ugly cry comes when I’ve been doing my best to keep it all together, stressed beyond words with multiple things expected of me.  The ugly cry makes my eyes and my head hurt, and while I feel so much better afterwards, today I thought to myself while I know women just need to cry sometimes (I totally get that), why does it take getting to this point for it to happen?

Sometimes the Ugly Cry has good reason.  The last time it happened was when we lost our Baby Girl.  We found out her heart was no longer beating on a Monday evening.  To be honest, I had little emotion.  I had had this weird gut feeling for the last few days that something was wrong, but was trying to write it off as being paranoid from previous miscarriages.  All I could think of was what was next.  Tell family and friends. Check.   Call the doctor Tuesday morning.  Check.  Ultrasound and doctor appointment.  Check.  Discuss options and schedule surgery.  Check.  It wasn’t until Tuesday evening when I was in the shower (that’s where I prefer to do my ugly crying), that I completely lost it.  This was a justified Ugly Cry.  Heartbreak deserves ugly crying.

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But what about other times?  How do I let myself get to this point?  Since losing Clara, I’ve been making it a point to spend my time on things that matter to me, not others.  I make time to do the things that bring joy to my soul.  I literally schedule time to bake, go to the gym and make sure  my kids are getting plenty of mommy-time.  But this last week?  I’ve felt pressure from all directions that took some of that time away from me.  The stress of finances while we wait to see if workforce insurance is going to cover my husband’s back injury has me moving savings around to cover his six days of missed work and overtime.  The stress of needing to make my work quotas to ensure I get my monthly bonus.  This last weekend, I had a lot of places I was supposed to be, but I also had cranky kids, have been battling an ongoing stress headache (remember I said this last week has been tough) and it was Father’s Day weekend.  I finally realized I had to choose, and I couldn’t do it all.  I prayed for grace for the things I decided to opt out of.  My hubby lovingly let me go the gym after a busy morning of serving my amazing customers on Saturday, knowing that working out is a huge stress reliever for me.  Sunday, we spent some amazing family time together and did yard work but still didn’t get it all done.

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This morning, as I looked at my to do list, realizing how far behind I was, it all culminated into the Ugly Cry.  I’ve been working really hard on being ok with it when the vacuuming doesn’t get done the day I planned to do it.  I’ve been learning to be ok with it when I don’t check off everything on my to-do list for the day because I chose to go to the zoo with my kids instead.  But as I write this and stare at my sink full of dirty dishes (and cupboardless kitchen cabinets because life has kept us from completing the project by the time we wanted to), I can’t help but think of all the women just like me.  The women who strive to do it all and chide themselves when they don’t get it all done.  The women who work hard to please others and feel guilty when they fail or don’t do what others think they should do.  The women who try as they might to keep their stress levels down find themselves ugly crying in the shower because her checkbook makes her nauseous right now and she’s cut everything from her budget that month that she possibly can and she has to pay for her dog to get fixed tomorrow because he’s started marking everything in the house.

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To my fellow Ugly-Criers, you are Daughters of the King.  You are loved and your value and worth is not derived from how much of your to-do list you get done or how many people you please on this Earth.  Take a deep breath, and take a good look at that to-do list.  Will the world end if the laundry doesn’t get folded today?  Will things fall apart if you take an extra day to get those bathrooms cleaned?  Will your Friends disown you if you decide to go MIA from Pinterest night?  Don’t ever, for one second, feel guilty about taking the time to do the things that make your soul happy.  Don’t ever, for one second, feel bad about choosing family time over other’s expectations of you.

When we found out Wyatt had Sensory Processing Disorder, we had to be stricter in some areas and experiment with different therapies until we found what worked for him.  I know we were judged harshly by some for some of those decisions, but my child’s well-being was far more important than what somebody thought of my parenting.  My Friends, your well-being is no different.  Say “no” to the things you don’t need to do, even if you disappoint others.  Heck, say “no” to the things you don’t want to do!  When you look back on the years, you will never once regret saying no to something so that you could do something that made your soul sing or your children smile from ear-to-ear.  Schedule that time at the gym.  Schedule time to read on the deck with a glass of wine.  Skip the yard work for a day and go to the zoo.  To be clear- I’m not saying abandon all responsibilities.  I’m one of those people who get super stressed out by a disorganized home so keeping it orderly is a priority for me.  What I am saying is don’t get so focused on the to-do lists and expected activities that you miss out on the things that make you happy.  Choose joy, even if it means you take your kid out of one of their five activities so you can enjoy more time as a family.  Give yourself grace to to do those things.

And sometimes, you just need to ugly cry.  Sometimes, you need to scream and let all those emotions out.  Then you get to look at the world through those tears and realize you are right where you’re meant to be.  You have so much to be grateful for.  You have no need to worry because Jesus holds the world in His hands, and Sisters, He has your back.