Today, I am so excited to bring you this month’s contributor post from Bethany Douglass of Cloistered Away. Bethany has been an inspiration to me as I have journeyed through motherhood. As a mother of four she knows what it is to make it through the tough stages and to enjoy the most beautiful ones as well. She has been a refreshing and real voice in the world of motherhood and creativity to me so I am so glad to have her this month as our contributor. Make sure you follow along on her blog and Instagram to see more stories like this.
I tend to be a planner, an achiever, a doer. In fact, I could write paragraphs on the benefit of goal-minded living, and the need for patience and steadfastness in parenting, business, or home projects. In each of these endeavors, my days have always unfolded better with a little planning ahead, even with the smallest of lists. These lists help me sift through what is necessary in work and home life, to say no more often, to put my limited energy toward what I value. I get planners wholesale here. But how did Mary Oliver phrase it, keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable? Perhaps the greatest lesson in the midst of living-out planned days has been learning to temper them with space––space for spontaneity, for whim, for something unimaginable.
I realize the idea of preparing for spontaneity sounds silly. Doesn’t that miss the point? But have you ever had an opportunity you really wanted to take only to realize you had blocked your day up with obligation? Or felt like you are moving task to task to task in your day without room to pause, to think, to breathe? Have you found yourself saying I’m too busy for that today or often telling someone you love, I’m sorry, I just don’t have time. Juggling an increasing amount of roles and information can be taxing on anyone’s time and energy. How do we progress in a steadfastness manner toward what we want without burning out? How do we know when it’s time to pause our agenda or move in a new direction altogether?
The Ancient Greeks referred to time in two different ways: chronos and kairos. Chronos indicated measured time––minutes, hours and such. It’s where we get the word chronological. When we set goals and plans for our day or our lifetime, we plan it according to chronos, measured time and seasons. Chronos is linear and quantitative. Kairos, on the other hand, refers to an opportune moment or season. It is more abstract, intuitive, and qualitative. When we use the phrase, seize the day we are implying kairos. When we have worked diligently at a task, a career, or in helping our children, and the time arrives for it/them to blossom and grow, that time is kairos. Life goals and agendas are necessary for us to make the most of our measured chronos time, but kairos time, the sort of time that gives all of our tasks meaning and purpose, often requires attentive flexibility and spontaneity.
Sometimes life demands chance. It requires a change of pace, an alternate course, a risk. Life asks us to step into something new and unexpected, to do something spontaneous. For us, this has been as small as hopping into the car for an afternoon adventure with the kids instead of our typical school work, altering my agenda to make time to help a friend in need, tweaking a meal to include someone who dropped by, or pausing from work in order to simply sit on the sofa holding one of my children. In larger instances, we have unexpectedly decided to leave a job, move cities, or sell our home without knowing where it would take us. Although occurring at different points in our marriage, the latter decisions were weighty and difficult and unexpected. But we felt the urge for change, the invitation to take the leap. We sensed the importance of kairos time. And each instance, we lept forward without looking back.
When I imagine myself at the end of my life, rocking on a porch somewhere, reflecting on the earlier years of life, I wonder what that future self would say to me now? What secrets would she whisper? What regrets? Of course, I have no way of knowing for sure, but I imagine this:
Be spontaneous. Don’t hold life and plans too closely. It always has something better than you expect, better than you could have planned. Receive disappointment and failure as a lesson, a stepping stone on your journey, not the end result. Hold your children and kiss Mark more often. Tell them how proud you are of them. Always choose people over things. Always give thanks. Always.
Naturally, life cannot always be spontaneous, especially with young children. They love consistency and predictability. It cultivates security and safety for them. When we sense it’s time for a larger, more impactful change in our home rhythm, we discuss it as a family.
I want our children to understand and enjoy the benefits of setting goals and working toward them, but I also want them to know how to make space for whim as they grow––something more natural in childhood that seems to dissipate in the productive adult world.
Here are a few small practices in our home that help us find the sweet spot in our days, that help us keep room for the unimaginable.
Meditate / Meditation doesn’t require you to become a yogi, or even to block off a hefty amount of time. It’s simply finding a quiet spot in your day to pause and connect with your thoughts and emotions. For me, taking even as little as 15 minutes in a day for this can be impactful. Living in an achieving culture, mediation can be the balance to our cultural need and pressure to perform, to be efficient, productivity members of our home and communities. Mediation forces us to stop outward action and reflect inward.
Leave an Unscheduled Block of Time in Your Day / I try to leave an open hour in our day, one reserved for something unexpected. Some days this period acts as a simple buffer, balancing and slowing down a busy day. Other times, this allows us for spontaneous time outdoors or seeing friends.
Catalogue Packing Lists on Your Computer / This is a more specific practice for parents. I keep a catalogue of our packing lists on my computer each time we travel, by date and location. It sounds more difficult than it is. I simply type a categorized list for myself and my children, to help us pack more efficiently. When we decide to leave town on a whim, I simply pull up a previous list from a similar trip to reference, copy/paste, and revise with what our current trip might need. If we have an opportunity for a quick, last-minute road-trip, it takes the stress out of the preparation, especially as my own children can pack their own bags. Wink.
Honor Your Need for Weekly Rest / Weekends exist for a reason, but they can fill up with home projects and events and obligations just as quickly. Aim to reserve one of those days for rest and relaxed play. This will not only help restore you for the week ahead but will also help you positively reconnect with those in your home.
Unplug / I tend to underestimate how much time online life and work consumes. Unplugging for a day each week can restore balance to taxed schedules and hurried routines. I’m always surprised by how relaxed I am without screens and media for a day.
Thank you so much, Bethany, for sharing this month with us! You can find more content such as this on Bethany’s blog Cloistered Away and her Instagram. Please follow along and support her. She is a fresh and wonderful voice in the blogging world that we love following.
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