This morning, it is our first weekend of summer. I’ve poured coffee, prepared for some “me” time in the word, for some reflection before my work day begins. Still, the girls rise early. They want to drink every moment of their summer, not waste a second by sleeping late.
So why is my first reaction to question my daughter’s presence on the stairs? Why do I want to whisk the girls back to bed?
Am I so old that I have forgotten what it was like to wake with the sun on a Monday in May?
Am I so tired or stressed that I try to make believe that those sweet sounding, stretching yawns don’t pertain to me? Aren’t designed to gain my attention? That she isn’t trying to enlist me to get up from my morning routine to join her, to hear about her dreams, to discuss things we want to do today….
I am a follower of The Hands Free Mama…. I have been for years. The program author Rachel Macy Stafford taught me and millions of other busy moms resonates with my life as a working, writing, social media mom.
I, like Stafford, was holding on to the wrong things. Sometimes I still am. She reminds with her books: Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, and Only Love Today…
Each book is a study in patience. Each title is quietly strewn with faith-based suggestions on how to pay attention. They are the loving words from a reformed type-A mom trying to deal with the fact that life is messy, and often times we are the author of that mess and it is our choice to either embrace the chaos or clean it up.
And as much as I long to be “hands free” I still clutch and cling to things. Often, the wrong things.
I sometimes wonder how many other women feel just like me.
I frequently am caught not paying attention. I allow distraction from everyone else because I am often guilty of being … of living, distracted.
I am present, PHYSICALLY, because I work from home, but because I work from home, I am rarely mentally present with the ones who love and need me.
AND NOW, IT IS SUMMER AGAIN.
Last year, summer for the girls was an epic fail on my part.
I was working a new full time job, albeit from home. It was a new set of responsibilities for me. Patience was worn thin with trying to figure out what was expected of me. I was too busy to even get up from my desk to play a game of Marco Polo in the pool. I was so brittle, so dry, so wasted and barren with worry and weight of new responsibility that often, I snapped. I was grumpy. I watched the kids go off to the beach, to the pool, to the zoo, to enjoy summer without me. It was a summer of loss. Of let down. Of regret.
Not this year.
Today, and often, I turn to Ecclesiastes…. And the book is so much more than the song about seasons and time for every purpose under heaven.
It is told from the perspective of an aged person, watching the young seek wealth, seek perfection, seek fame or strength.
Meaningless! The author says. Everything is meaningless. Work, pleasures, wisdom and folly, advancement and riches…In the end, all of our fate is the same.
Now, Don’t let that Old Testament language throw you. I don’t believe for a second that our Heavenly Father wants us to throw in the towel because life is meaningless and we are all going to the great beyond, anyway.
I just believe that the meaningless part is the part in which we trick ourselves to stop being children. As Jesus tells us we should be and believe like children. And like children, we need to remember that relationships and experiences and making memories matters more than making money and chasing the approval of others whom we do not know.
Now, I love a nice home as much as the next Instagram and Pinterest junkie. I believe in crafting the life I want, the environment I love and that I want my family to live in. But, as we are reminded by this scary Old Testament book, BECAUSE the trappings and niceties of this world are meaningless, we should remember to TREAT ourselves and others the way that we want to be treated.
We need to remember that the greatest commandment of all is to Love God, and love each other. Even when others don’t. Especially when they don’t. And aren’t we always most critical of ourselves?
As Stafford often says, remembering to be good to yourself, to forgive yourself for messes you get into, giving yourself the opportunity to begin again, fresh without guilt, that is the way to live “hands free.”
And so, during my reading of Ephesians it came to me.
I can forgive myself all that I want to. I can love myself anyway for taking on too much responsibility…., for shouldering too much burden in my home, for volunteering for multiple things that steal attention from where I would rather focus. However, I’ve been digging holes, so deep some of them that I can’t get out of them.
And, I was raised in such a manner, by such a gracious and loving woman, that I would never abandon those responsibilities just because life gets hard.
And friends, I have done a doozy. I’ve been in a season of saying YES! I can help. Sure! I can do that. Don’t have someone to fill that gap? Run that fundraiser? Build that website? Allow me.
Spiritually, personally, every time I have freed my hands this year, I’ve filled them with something else.
And if I really want to live hands free, I must first take responsibility for where I am. I must own it. If there are things I can delegate, I will but for the things I alone can complete, I must Push through each promise. Make them good. Check those boxes on the last of my grand “to do” list, and keep my eye on my finish line.
Take Responsibility for Every Action Today.
By making one last To Do list.
The last list of the overwhelmed working mom.
On it, I will add a few things to it for my own personal strawberries.
I may even put one or two things that I’ve already completed just so I can have pleasure of marking them as done.
And when this work is done, once these wells are carved out of the dry, desert soil of my overwhelming tasks, I will happily share them. I will hand them over to the next person who wants to help, to do, to run things, to add their unique spin on the classroom, the soccer club, the blog.
I will go back to sitting on my hands when the call for volunteers goes out. Or better yet, I’ll lace my fingers through my husband’s. I’ll clasp hands with my daughters. I’ll wrap arms around my parents.
Yes, today I am taking responsibility for what I’ve done to get into this hole. And tomorrow, I will make sure that I am out of it. That I only volunteer after we weigh the obligations and commitments currently on our shoulders and determine we are still in balance.
There is a season to be “busy” and to work to build a better world for those around you, but it should never be at the expense of those you hold dearest.
TREAT. Today, I pledge to treat myself, my husband and my kids to seeing what it looks like when you fulfill your obligations. And tomorrow? well…we shall see what the day brings.
God is my first responsibility and my joy. My relationship with Him keeps everything in balance.
My husband, my children, my family comes next. When we are aligned, everything is clear.
Your everything else looks different than mine. Perhaps you weren’t as crazy with that feeling no one can do things as well as you can, perhaps you were even more frenzied than I!
Today is the day to start fresh. Clean slate your worries. Roll up your sleeves and determine how to not just forgive yourself, but free yourself. TREAT yourself and your family to a better life today. Ask for their help and ideas if your kids are old enough, or map out your plans in crayon alongside them if not. You deserve a fresh beginning and a light at the end of your tunnel.Best,Ashley Ludwig
Ashley Ludwig has been a columnist and online news editor since 2007. Prior to joining Patch, she worked as a staff writer for Southwest Riverside’s Valley News Newspaper–in print and online. She was a co-founder of the Southern California news conglomerate, DailySoCal.com–and prior to that, a freelance journalist for such publications as the North County Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, and Southwest Riverside News Network (SWRNN.com), and still owns the local Southern California Wine Country blog: TemeculaGrapevine.com.
Ashley Ludwig has worked as a writer on the web since the late 1990s. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona, with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences.
Wife, and mother of two daughters, she is the author of multiple inspirational romantic suspense novels. www.ashleyludwig.com