There is a message in the air. The world is saying it. America in particular is screaming it. We are shouting it to one another.
And, perhaps the craziest part of it all?
We are, without question, believing that it’s true. We are scurrying around like little hamsters on a wheel. We hear the message, become laser-focused on the task of the message and we join the rat race that is…
The message says, “Improve! Improve! Improve! Get better! Get better! Get better!”
We are looking for strategies to get things done more quickly, strategies to make things more efficient, strategies that make things happen in ways that we can understand and in essence, control.
And for the most part everything in me wants to fight that.
(Except for the times when I want to embrace it. Ha!)
And everything in me wants to push against the culture, the system that says I have to improve and get better.
(Except for the times that I want to get better. And when that feels good. And natural.)
I have some underlying desires for my life. Some themes that I always long to be present. These include (just to name a few):
embracing the now,
having good enriching relationships,
and allowing things to happen organically, without a load of strife.
I’m sure you have your list of desires as well!
Sure, there are definitely times when I choose the self-improvement path. There are times to make a plan, set some goals, stick with them and (pardon) Get. Shit. Done.
But often, I find myself pushing and trying and when I get really honest and step back, I ask myself, “Why the heck… am I doing THIS?”
I wonder sometimes, if self-improvement looks
more like embrace, embrace, embrace.
And that in embracing our right-now moments,
we actually DO improve and we actually DO become our best selves.
I wonder if that is the epicenter of where self-improvement happens.
And it’s not something we have to craft and create. And we don’t have to come up with a 7-step plan to do XY & Z.
(Except when our hearts’ desire is to come up with a plan and it feels natural and right to do so.)
We will still have the moments when our minds start to spin and we start to feel overwhelmed and we start to hear the mental track that says, “It has to be this way or all is lost.”
In those moments, really, the best thing we can do is just let go. And embrace what’s right in front of us.
Today I was feeling a bit of that.
I have a plan with writing. I’ve put some things into place and I’m proud of those things. But, when I take a step back, those things, they can look like a whole lot of nothing.
It can look like really small things that don’t really amount to much, that don’t add up. And I begin to believe that those tiny first steps are small and that I’m so far from the big dream.
I found myself this morning with some big dreams. Some actions in my mind I wanted to take. But the reality of today, a summer day, with 3 girls, is that they TOO have desires of their own hearts. I found my heart desiring to make some things happen in my writing world.
I begin to believe I need the calculated plan with the goals and the dates on the calendar and it needs to happen now.
And then, in the next room, I heard my girls.
And this is often what happens. This is what they always do, because our kids are our best teachers.
And this is what God always does. He reminds us of his simple love.
And there is power in play. And in stopping and seeing what’s right in front of us. And in being with them.
Perhaps the greatest work in me gets done in those moments without me controlling it. Without me doing a thing, except stopping and letting go and forgetting the plan and sitting.
I listened from outside the room to their giggles and laughter as all three of them (ages 3, almost 6 and 10) were playing dolls and having conversation and getting along and loving each other and embracing what’s right in front of them, which is their toys and a moment to play before we head out for our morning.
And so I went and I jumped in and I sat and we put the doll’s clothes on. I watched them. And I saw them. I hugged them. And I brushed their hair.
And my soul settled.
And pressure was off.
And it felt good.
And I found that in that moment of my soul centering,
self-improvement looked like embrace.
I was a better mom in that moment than I would have been had I been stressing over MAKING THE PLAN for my writing.
There are still times when I desire the plan. When I know I need to take action.
Sure, I definitely say yes to my kids.
But, there are times I say no. There are times I explain that I am going to write and they can find something to do quietly for a bit. We all need a little quiet alone time now and then.
This is OK.
Then there are moments when I begin to hold onto that plan, that course of action, so tightly that if it doesn’t happen, my world starts to crumble or I start to believe that I’m not successful, that I am a failure or that my dreams won’t amount to anything.
That is the moment when the plan has become the god. And it’s never meant to be that. It’s never meant to become that important. It’s never ever meant to BE THAT to me.
And that’s when I have to let it go.
And it’s in the letting go of the thing I was holding to so tightly
and embracing the right now in front of me
that I grow, that I improve,
that I actually move further along the path in front of me.
The path of love,
of embracing the now.
This summer I have been trying to craft a rhythm of writing. I have been trying to improve in the area of discipline to my craft. And several times my plans and efforts have been foiled. Kiddos get sick. Babysitters cancel. Other needs, priorities and desires rise up in my heart.
And this is reality.
I am not complaining about these other things. I choose to be home full-time with my kids. We could work things out to have a nanny in our world, but I don’t want that. I know, believe and feel that these times with my kids are so, so precious. And I don’t want to miss it!
I know the time will come (so soon) when they are all 3 in school ALL DAY. And that rhythm of life will look different than now. But, for now, this is my reality.
I choose them.
I want to say yes to them. But, at the same time, I’m doing the tricky work of saying yes to the gifts God has given me. Saying yes to the desires He has placed in my heart.
It’s not an easy task! But, it is a blessed position to be in.
So, in these efforts to craft a consistent rhythm of writing, and the plans sometimes being foiled, I have found myself wondering, “Is this worth it? Is this ever gonna work?”
And then I find that my efforts to craft and create and (gulp) “force” a rhythm, have become more than they were ever meant to be.
The light is on. I’m aware. Now I see.
The purpose behind it all is clear now.
The crafting and creating of a rhythm or a structure
has truly become about ME feeling GOOD
about the progress that I’m making.
When the progress was never the thing MEANT to make me feel good.
That’s His job, and His job only. My worth is only available in Him.
Everything else (even good things) is a cheap, plastic substitute.
And then I remember. This is a GIFT God has placed in me.
Gifts are good.
They bring joy.
His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I am meant to enjoy this.
All of it. And THAT is the truth.
That is kingdom in my craft.
That is heaven come down to remind me. Jesus’ blood covered my strife.
Let it be a gift.
Let it be good!
And then, in an epiphany moment, I step back and realize THE RHYTHM ALREADY EXISTS. It’s already there. It’s moving through my veins.
The rhythm is the “yes” to the plan at times, and the “no.” The rhythm is the plowing through and the stepping back. The hands on and the hands off. The not now and then EMBRACE the NOW.
This is all OK.
We are all OK.
This is the new self-improvement plan.
May we be aware of our hearts.
May we be aware of the rhythms at work within us.
And then, may we honor those things by
listening to them and acting accordingly.
May we embrace them and know that it is all so, so good.