Embracing What’s To Come
by Sarah Anderson
I remember being told from day one of parenting, that the years would go by fast. That I should be “numbering my days.” And like all mothers, I accepted the nostalgic platitude, and then went about worrying how I would make it through the next 24 hours—the immediacy of the uncharted days before me feeling more pressing than the far off “some day” when my kids would be independent and self-sufficient.
I have heard all the advice and been offered all the insights. And still, at the time, they didn’t seem quite tangible.
Until now. Now, as we register our oldest for kindergarten, as we are six months out from entering a new season, when we are on the brink of big change. Now, I am realizing more than ever, my days really are numbered.
The closer I get to Asher starting school, the more I feel like every moment matters and I find myself wondering if I did enough in the years leading to this one. I am tempted to look backwards at how I’ve done so far.
Numbered days have a way of doing that to you.
The passing of time will make us panicky about how much we have left and insecure about the time that’s already passed.
A couple of weeks ago, the Christian calendar entered the season of Lent. Traditionally, this is a time, like Advent with Christmas, where our days are numbered and leading towards a marked event. Unlike Advent, Lent is more nostalgic, more internally reflective. It too is leading to something, but the road is marked with sacrifice and contemplation.
Lent prompts us to reflect on who we are and what needs to change. It causes us to look backwards and do a self-inventory, to be honest about where we have fallen short, and to be transparent about the parts of us that got the better of us—but shouldn’t have. But if we aren’t careful, Lent can turn into a morose miserable time so focused on what we are giving up, on the ashes of our lives, that we forget Easter is just around the corner.
In the same way, numbering our days in parenting has the potential to trap us in our expectations of who we should have been without looking forward with expectancy to what could be. It keeps us looking backwards with nostalgia rather than forward with willingness. And if we aren’t careful, this can ruin us.
Looking back we can make ourselves miserable thinking, “I should have been more patient, I should have been less frustrated, I should have spent more time playing instead of scolding, helping instead of critiquing. I should have read more, prayed more, played more catch, and just had more fun.”
And although reflection can be good, it cannot be where we stay.
Self-inventory at Lent isn’t the end of the story. Easter is.
Numbered days aren’t the end of our parenting story. Embracing what’s next is.
We aren’t numbering our days in our parenting so we can beat ourselves up about the job we should’ve been doing. We number our days so we can journey forward, hopeful that a God who makes resurrection possible can make something beautiful with what we have left—and what is coming next.
Easter is around the corner on our calendar.
Change is around the corner in our house.
Easter is a celebration of newness. And change can be too.
Yes it’s hard. No, it doesn’t feel like a celebration. The emotion I feel over my oldest starting school six months from now may be more close to irrational than I am comfortable admitting. But I will look at the time I have left not as a sentence, but as an invitation.
An invitation for a new start in a new stage.
Beauty can come from ashes. What happens next can always be better than what’s happened before.
And I know that if I can learn to be present in the days I have left, I am doing the best job at preparing for the days I have coming.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson writes for the XP3 student curriculum at Orange. She is married to Rodney Anderson and is mom to two beautiful bouncy boys, Asher and Pace. Follow her on Twitter @sarahb_anderson.
3 Practical Habits To Make Time Matter More
by Kristen Ivye
So time is moving. And it’s moving faster than you think.
What does that mean for you as a parent? How can you make the most of the limited amount of time that you have with your kids? How can you make sure that time isn’t getting away from you?
I certainly don’t know the answer to all those questions. But here are three pretty practical ideas that might be helpful:
COUNT IT DOWN
You don’t have to count down the seconds, or the minutes, or even the days. But maybe there is a value in counting your weeks. Because when you see how much time you have left, you tend to get serious about the time you have now.
So create a visual reminder. Have a countdown clock. In my family, we have two jars of marbles—one for each child. Inside each jar are enough marbles to represent the number of weeks that we will have with them before their high school graduation (we hope – fingers crossed for passing every grade). Every Sunday, I remove a marble from each jar as a reminder that our time is limited. Removing the marble doesn’t do anything special for my kids. But it does something for me mentally. It reminds me that time is moving. And because I know my weeks are numbered, I tend to make what matters matter more.
*A really simple way to keep track of the number of weeks you have left with your son or daughter is to download the FREE Legacy Countdown App!
MARK IT UP
Some parents are naturally wired to schedule things. Some (like me) are not. But regardless of how scheduled or unscheduled you are, you probably have a calendar or a notebook or a napkin somewhere that helps you remember what you need to do.
As a working mom, I am constantly filling my days with meetings, and deadlines, and tasks that feel really urgent. But if I’m not intentional, that’s ALL that will get space on my calendar. So, once every month or so, I look at my calendar and schedule the things that no one is asking me to schedule. I mark up the calendar with things like:
go on a date with Sawyer.
take the kids to the park.
have a movie night.
That may sound silly. But by “marking it up,” it reserves the time. Because I know the weeks are limited. I need a reminder to make the weeks count.
MEASURE IT OUT
Every day isn’t a special day. In fact, most days are pretty typical. But one of the best ways to make the most of every week is to create some habits. There are just some things that are inherently part of the rhythm of our world. And by creating some intentional rhythms, we can make the days and the weeks count a little more.
So if you want to make your time count, don’t undervalue the simple things:
What do you do every morning at breakfast?
What if part of your breakfast routine just became looking for ways to encourage?
When do you eat together?
You don’t have to make a home-cooked meal to have a conversation. What if one meal a day was a media-free time when you were intentional about having a conversation with your child?
What’s the last thing you do before they go to bed at night?
Every day ends the same way. We go to bed. So what’s your bedtime routine? How do you make the most of the moments right before your son or daughter drifts off to sleep?
I know there are people reading this blog who are smarter than me and parents who are just better at this TIME thing than I am. So what are your habits? How do you make the most of your TIME? How do you Count it Down, Mark it Up, and Measure it out? I’d love to learn from you!
Follow the rest of the conversation on Playing For Keeps as Reggie, Kristen, and others talk about the 6 things every kid needs over time. You can start with the first part of the series about how Time Matters.
About the Author:
Kristen Ivy is the Executive Director of Messaging at Orange and co-author of "Playing For Keeps", "Creating a Lead Small Culture", and "It’s Just a Phase - So Don't Miss It". She combines her degree in secondary education with a Master of Divinity and lives out the full Orange spectrum as the wife of XP3 Students Orange Specialist, Matt Ivy, and the mother of three children, Sawyer, Hensley, and Raleigh. Read more from Kristen on her blog, justaphase.com.