Tonight, I took Elsa with a little cart to the grocery store.
If you have never taken a small child to the grocery store where they have, what our family calls “little carts” (grocery carts that are replicas of the real thing, only pre-schooler sized) its a little like an installment of the Hunger Games, the parent edition, where there can only be one victor. Now in the past 2 years of my daughter's life, I've been able to bypass the “little carts” by either allowing her to “help me” by pushing the big cart, or by allowing her to sit in the big basket to sort and stack the groceries. However, 7 weeks ago, her little brother entered our world, and now grocery shopping is a whole new adventure. His car seat sits in the big basket and much to the confusion of the cashiers and baggers at the check out, he tends to sometimes hold the groceries or they are strategically placed all around his car seat in the basket.
Tonight, I needed to go to the grocery store but I knew what all I needed to get wouldn't fit in the remaining real estate allocated by Baby Brother's place in the cart. My daughter is 4 and very good at it. Today, she put on what she calls her “Elsa” costume (a blue costume dress my Mother scored from TJ Maxx) and refused to take it off. So not only are we walking into Kroger in full “Let it Go” mode, I glance off to the left of the front doors and spy the dreaded “little carts,” and I know in my heart its my turn to “let it go” and let her do her thing on our grocery journey while also providing the extra space we need for the groceries in her cart.
An hour later, we emerged from the store with stickers (for her), caramel M&M's (for me) and most of our needed items, relatively unscathed and only one of us is crying (Baby Brother). As I sit here in the quiet of bed time, it dawned on me that this time last year, I was having dinner with a dear friend in the gorgeous Gilmore Girls-esque hamlet that is The Highlands, NC. We had arrived a day early for the Cultivate Retreat where we both would be presenting as break out session speakers, and we were taking the night to relax and have some fun before the hard work began the following morning.
As I sit here and remember that dinner, I also remember what I was in The Highlands to talk about. “Balance,” the creator of the conference had said. “I think it'd be great for you to talk to us about work-life balance.” Which, in light of my current situation is hilarious, but at the time, I feel like the Lord gave me some insight into a process that I desperately need to revisit. And maybe it can be helpful for you too.
You see, I actually don't know that I believe in “balance.” Jen Hatmaker writes in her book For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, “Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it doesn't actually exist.”
I presented to my fellow attendees at Cultivate (who decided that it would be best to sit/lay on the floor and get comfy during my talk-- God love them-- ) that maybe instead of creating a formula for keeping the ever changing scales “balanced” in order for them to define us, there has to be an honest evaluation of what matters to us and what makes us who we are in the season we are in. Once that has been established, then we can make decisions about what's realistic, how we define things like success and failure, and create accurate measurements for what is enough here and now.
Man, I need that reminder now more than ever before. Its amazing how much can change in a year. If you had told me that evening in the Highlands that I would be sitting here recovering from a day with Elsa and her little cart, an almost 8 week baby boy, and trying to get back to work after taking a maternity leave... I definitely would not have believed you. It was such a different season, I felt the Lord telling me to be obedient to the next right steps in my personal and my professional life. Things were shifting and I felt more compelled than ever to buckle down in my calling and to dive into more things like what I was there in The Highlands to do, speak, encourage, write, and more. I was walking with a one of my dearest friends who had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and as on the 10th of this month, she will have been cancer free in Heaven for 5 months. Things were busy, things were full, but even if much of it was new territory, it was familiar enough to me that small adjustments made significant improvement in how things were handled.
Flash forward to now, where it seems like a whole new world has cracked open and presented an entirely different Earth and its overwhelming mostly because I haven't been able to figure out why its so overwhelming. (There's some fellow over-thinker out there that can totally nod their head with me and 'amen' to that, am I right?) An Earth where suddenly a grocery run is enough to make me want to crawl in bed before 9pm with my bag of caramel M&M's. An Earth where I can't tell my friend that that there could possibly truly be another season of Gilmore Girls. An Earth where just knocking 4 things off my two page to do list feels like I should have won a medal.
I think the truth is, I'm overwhelming myself in expectations that made sense a year ago. The same measurements just don't apply. Its time for a brand new evaluation about who I am, what matters, what I'm capable of and what is possible inside of those parameters. That doesn't mean you throw it all out and start from scratch, but it does mean that I've got to... dare I say... "let it go" in certain areas. (You're welcome -- Double Disney reference #ftw). That I've got to press in to the pockets of time the Lord provides, and also rest. That I can't do as many things in one day as I did before, but that there is a new way to get things accomplished. That I need to ask for help and take it when its offered. That I need to believe the Lord isn't surprised by any of this, and He will equip me for the good work He is doing. (Hebrews 13:21)
What about you? Have you been pushing yourself to do “all the things” based on what was working for you before? Your life may not look like mine, but I can almost bet that you are not the same person you were this time last year. What's changed in your world, for better or for worse? Where can you give yourself some grace? Where can you make adjustments in order to have better focus? Be honest, be real and be kind to yourself. This season isn't better or worse than the last, its unique to you now. Don't wish it away, don't shame yourself in perceived failure, open your eyes and be willing to see it as it is. It may not be perfect, but its part of your story. Stop and give yourself the gift of evaluation and allow margin for the new.
And when you are overwhelmed, I highly recommend the caramel M&M's.