By Jill Lejeune
“Virtually every shelf in my house is filled with bins of organized toys, legos, and books.”
I am a planner. I have a color coded calendar on my phone that syncs to my husband’s phone. Ditto to the online shopping list. Virtually every shelf in my house is filled with bins of organized toys, legos, and books. My island has a labeled spot for each of my boys’ drink cups. As I write this, I realize that as much as I like to plan and organize, these words for me, are really euphemisms for ‘control.’ When things feel messy and un-done, they feel out of control for me. And Mom is not a happy person when she feels out of control. Am I right, Moms?
What’s that you say? School is virtual? My boys’ baseball season won’t happen? My winning cheer season, cut short? Church? Stores? Restaurants? It’s all gone?? I like routine, even though it is often, I realized, with white knuckles that I cling to it. This routine that I cherish often leaves me feeling… exasperated, rushed, cranky. So why do I love it so much? Because it is predictable. It is embedded into the rhythm of my days. It makes me feel accomplished, like I’ve done something meaningful, made something of the day I’ve been given. I love to be productive, to check things off the to-do list.
Am I alone here?
When the worldwide pause happened back in mid-March, it felt a little like a vacation at first. We were up in Connecticut for a funeral. What was supposed to be a six-day trip turned into an eight week stay. In that time, aside from virtual school and various Zoom events, and loads and loads of laundry (for our six day trip, remember), my calendar was blank. BLANK. Gloriously unscheduled. Suddenly, we had all the time in the world. So we played in the barn and built makeshift shelves, benches, and tables from Grampa’s scrap wood. We made elderberry syrup and peppermint soap from scratch. We split and stacked wood for the wood stove. We made an explosive rocket with a water bottle,vinegar, baking soda, and a cork. We spotted bears in the woods. We watched almost an entire season of America’s Got Talent and Jeopardy. We went to Bible Study and church, virtually. We took nightly walks after dinner. We drove to the site where we scattered my Dad’s ashes twelve years ago.
Here’s what I didn’t do: I didn’t stress about late bedtimes and early morning alarm clocks. I didn’t scream at the kids to get your shoes on, now! I didn’t shove McDonald’s down our throats while we juggled three baseball games in different locations. I didn’t fret about having to leave for another long weekend of cheerleading. For once, for glorious once, we paused. We all paused. Not because we wanted to, but because we had to. Seems we needed to. I thought at first I’d hate it. I thought I’d be crawling the walls with cabin fever. I thought I’d need to do SOMETHING with myself. I didn’t. I wasn’t. I don’t. Instead, we learned to just be. Be together. Uninterrupted. And that was enough. These last few months have taught me that I am not in control. Not even close. Yet, functionally, on a day to day basis, I act as though I am. I fill up my calendar and make commitments, assuming that the plans I make will come to fruition. I mean, that’s how it generally goes, right?
Not these days.
These last few months have taught me that I am not in control. Not even close. Yet, functionally, on a day to day basis, I act as though I am.
As it turns out, since Day 1 of quarantine and Day 1 of creation, God is the one who is in control. In a world of constant news cycle, nothing is news to Him. He is the one who orders our days, even if I’m the one who enters it into the calendar. I may tidy up at the end of the day, but it is God who cleans up all of the world’s messes, working in us and through us, and sometimes –okay, often—despite us. And He was gracious enough to send us His Son to remind us of what He has done, which is infinitely more important than what I am doing or not doing. The God of the universe is the one who keeps this earth spinning, so that the sun rises every morning, heralding a new day and new mercies.
I’ve come to appreciate the empty space on my color coded calendar way more than I thought I ever could. I’m sort of protective of it now. When I see a colorful block pop up on a given day, I think to myself, I have something to do today? That’s weird. The difference is, now, when I have a schedule to work with, I don’t white knuckle it. (Note: Remind me of this in October.) I have learned to grasp my plans with loose fingers, palms outstretched, with a posture of God willing. And I feel like that’s a good place to be.
The world is slowly waking back up, in fits and starts it seems, with all of the complications and busyness that ensue from, well, life re-opened. We were meant to be productive and to interact and to do and be together. But, we were also meant to slow down and pause and rest and be thankful for each breath given to us. Sabbath is engrained in our very being. I hope that as summer gives way to fall, and the rhythm of life begins again, whatever it may look like, I can remember what I’ve learned: to live, and work, and plan, as if it all depends on God.
Because, as it turns out, it does.