My husband and I are looking after my youngest sister’s three kids this week. Her oldest is nine, and there are a five and three-year-old in the mix. Then, of course, we have our own three middle-schoolers. Add to that #Snowmagedon2015, an emerging flu-like croup among those younger than thirty in the house, and blow-up mattresses that keep leaking air, and you’ll start to get a feel for things.
Actually, in all honesty, it’s been smooth sailing–in spite of a very real potential for madness. The fact that my husband’s school was cancelled for the entire week was a blessing because it meant that he’s been home helping out.
Also helpful is the fact that most kids like plain, ordinary days and a sense of routine, especially young kids. We’ve been able to keep things very Netflix, Lego, and peanut butter sandwich around here, and there’s been a serious lack of chaos, all things considered.
Something that had me (selfishly) worried, though, was the fact that I’ve made goals for myself this year, daily disciplines that require repeated, focused attention. Any change in routine means that I could derail on them at any point. And since it’s only February, and the disciplines are still new, I might have a painful time getting back into them whenever normal returns. I hate pain.
In times past, I would have told myself that a week of six children and snow and sickness meant temporarily forgetting about making any progress in personal disciplines at all– that to do otherwise would only mean setting myself up for frustration and failure. But I’ll be 37 this Saturday, and something about being three years away from 40 has made me want to figure out how to be open to serving others while still keeping up with my own stuff.
Easier said than… I know.
However, I figured out that I could exercise on the elliptical for ten minutes while the youngest kids dump dominoes out on the floor in the same room. I told them that if they stay near me, and share the trains with one another, they can keep on enjoying this extremely special privilege–but only when I’m on my machine. Happily, it’s working out, and so am I.
Since I can’t wake up early without all the kids joining me in my bed, I have taken to writing in the afternoon when the youngest boy naps. I sit in the room with him, cross-legged, silver Mac on my lap. He tries to talk to me for the first ten minutes or so, of course, but eventually fades away to the tapping of the keys. Unexpectedly, I discovered that I am writing as much this week as I did last week. And the bonus is that my little nephew is thrilled to have someone with him while he rests.
Finally, I’ve switched to reading my Bible at night instead of in the morning. I don’t prefer doing it this way, but the thing is, I’m managing to keep it up (I desperately need it) while still giving love and attention to those in my care. In the end, this is more important than doing it at the “right time.”
What I’ve learned this week is that I can do more than I think I can if only I’ll be flexible and resist an all-or-nothing mentality. Of course, I’m asking God to sustain me daily, and he graciously is. One of the ways he’s helping me is by giving me the strength to go with the flow. Another, though, is by helping me to find pockets in the day when I can practice body and soul care.
The upshot is that, so far, I’ve been able to love my people and take care of myself. I’m calling it a win-win.
How do you keep going when things get crazy?