Last night as we drove home from spending an evening with some sweet friends my mind was reeling with so many thoughts. The whole evening was great. These are friends that we don’t get to see very often, and when we do it’s a quick visit. We honestly hadn’t ever shared a meal together or had time to really dive into life stuff. They phoned yesterday morning and asked if there was any way we would be free for dinner. It meant driving an hour, but we were game, and I’m so glad.
These friends are the kind of people, who after just a few years in, stepped back and started asking the same kinds of life in Haiti questions that we have. As we sat in their yard, on a porch swing made from large sticks strung with orange mini lights, and random chairs and benches around a fire, we talked about some of the hard stuff of making a life here. You know how some people are just easy to connect with on a heart level? These are those type of people. The ones where you can just come into it as yourself and not worry about all that other stuff. Where you can exhale, put your feet up on the furniture and just be. It was such a sweet gift and I’m so glad we were available to receive it.
And that, my friends, is one of the biggest things that’s been wandering through my heart and mind as of late. Being available.
I shared that I decorated the house about a week ago, and some of my thoughts around that. Just some though :) This past week and a half has been a crazy busy one for us. And all of it has been the good kind of busy. The kind of busy that is from gathering with people we love and enjoy. Of celebrating the lives of those I love. Of caring for and loving women who are here and giving of themselves every day. Of being with our missionary community. All of it has been wonderful. It’s just all fallen in the same week and a half period.
I’m an introvert who bumps into the edge of extroversion. I can do gatherings and hosting and visiting and I love it, but then I need to recharge and regroup and step back a bit. I know there are people who are reading this that would probably not use the word “introvert” in the same sentence with my name, because I can do the other side of it so well. But when I’m done I just want quiet and time to not have to talk or be social. I think it’s something that I’ve come into more, or maybe just learned to appreciate more as the years have gone by. I just need that in order to be healthy.
So, the busy. As we moved toward the end of this past week I found myself pushing for Friday. If we could just get through Friday… Again, everything has been great and good and amazing, but I needed rest. In fact, as Wednesday hit and Chris spent the day in Port au Prince, I decided to give myself permission to linger with coffee and not have major expectations of doing anything of substance. I read. I made a yummy dinner for our family. It was a long day for Chris so we had to eat before he got home, but the kids were bathed and ready for bed and no one was stressed out. At least I wasn’t. And you know what? It felt good to care about being healthy rather than about looking busy on the outside so everyone else would be happy.
And it gave me time to think about finding that place where things are just enough.
As I put out decorations last weekend, I looked at the tote that I have and thought, “There’s still a bunch of stuff in here that I had out last year. But, it feels like enough.”
And, in that moment I started to clear off the table and counters where I’d had stuff spread out. I put things away. And I closed the lid and took the bin back down to the storage room and closed the door. It was enough. And then I started making pizza dough and prepping things for one of my favorite family traditions that we’ve fallen into over the years – pizza and a Christmas movie the day we put up the tree. That evening we watched the classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by the Christmas lights. I put my tired feet up on the couch arm, and soaked up our kids being engrossed in the movie they haven’t seen since last year. Alex didn’t remember it so it was like the first time for him, and it was so fun to see how into it he was.
As I look around our home I’m thankful that I didn’t feel the need to push through and put something pretty on the coffee table. It means we can put our feet up and I don’t have to be barking at people to not touch or move it. For what? Our home is our home. Let it be, Leslie. There’s no sparkly snowflake above our bed this year because when I pulled it out of storage the bow looked off and one of the spikes broke off it. Whatever. I’m not actually missing it, and in fact have looked at the wall several times and been thankful that I was able to let that thing go. Maybe I’ll fix it, but maybe not. I’m not worrying about it right now. I haven’t moved a single ornament on the tree that the kids hung. I have put the ones back on that little hands have taken off, but the taking off has happened because of sweet curiosity, and everything is either metal or plastic, so no loss. We have a small wooden plane that I got when Olivia was 2 and it gets plunked in a branch on the tree each year. Alex loves it. Rather than saying no this year I’ve said yes, and I can’t tell you where it is right now. Anywhere but on the tree. I’m pretty sure it’s in the toy box. I know I’ll see it again soon. And then, when it’s time to put things away it’ll go back in the Christmas bin to be brought out again next year.
That picture sits in our windowsill year round. But, the stand is broken so it always has to lean on something :) And yes, cut poinsettias. But only because someone (she coughs as she looks at the ceiling) decided that the plant should be brought down from the roof where it’s been growing in a pot since last Christmas, and didn’t ask for help getting it down the ladder where it slipped and fell two stories… Oops. Thankfully the rest of the plant was able to be re-potted. And, I *think* there might be roots on the cuttings. Maybe.
I think the biggest thing in this area is that I’m trying to be intentional about stepping back and letting this be “our” home. Remembering that there is no point to Mom being cranky because I don’t want kids touching stuff. Remembering that Chris has thoughts an opinions about things too. Not just me. And you know what? Rather than missing things, I feel freedom. I’m able to see the things that are special to our kids, what they look forward to. They’re at that stage where this stuff is starting to become something for them, and I need to let that process be what it is rather than trying too hard to steer them one way or the other.
Let it be enough.
As we’ve been getting together with friends either at our house or theirs, I’ve been allowing myself the freedom to step back and do just enough in the food department. This is hard for me. I typically want to do all the things. On Thanksgiving day Chris said, “What are your plans for today? Oh, you’re probably going to be cooking all day…” I then told him no, I was just doing chicken, stuffing and gravy. I could tell he didn’t believe me. But, that’s all I did. And it was enough. I tend to over think these things and halfway through am thinking about how to change things up and complicate them for myself. But, this time I stopped and said, “Enough.” And stuck with my plan. And went and enjoyed the evening of being present, rather than busy. It was one of my favorite Thanksgivings in a long time.
Let it be enough.
On Thursday we welcomed some visitors to the mission that wanted to meet us and see how they could connect with the missions needs. I was reminded that sometimes those things that you go into knowing you should say “Yes” turn out to be exactly what you need, but not for the reasons that everyone involved might think. We get visitors quite regularly. We give a tour, answer questions and just spend time visiting. This was one of those times, but different. As we visited with these two couples, aside from their enthusiasm for what Clean Water for Haiti does there was such a deep spirit of love and encouragement. They were here because they genuinely wanted to get to know us. They were interested not only in the work we do, but in us. They had asked if they could bring anything for us and the mission, like most people do. They brought a duffle bag of supplies for work, but they also gave us a giant red gift bag stuffed with tissue paper. When I brought it upstairs before we headed out to show them the new property, I pulled back a piece of tissue paper and then almost started bawling. It was full of treats, but every thing was individually wrapped in colorful tissue paper. Later when Alex and I unwrapped everything we were blessed with not just a few of the things I had asked for, like dried cranberries, but a ton of sweet gifts. Special teas, coffees, hot chocolates, seasonal treats from Trader Joe’s, scented candles and little bottles of hand sanitizer from Bath & Bodyworks which always smells good enough to eat. And there were books. They gave me “The Best Yes” by Lysa TerKeurst. It was something I had considered ordering and there it was in my hands. Everything about this bag of goodies was intentional, loving and sweet. It was such a blessing in a time where I was feeling tired and run down.
On top of all that this group of people were heart people. The kind you just connect with. As we were visiting I would look over at Chris and see him fully engaged in talking with the guys while us ladies were having our own side conversations. I wanted to talk more, to sit with coffee and just be. They were encouraging and sweet and I’m looking forward to the day when we’ll get to spend time together again. As I thought about things after our visit I was reminded that sometimes I need to stop being the person to do the giving all the time, and let others give to me. To let them encourage and bless and love on me. That me stopping is enough and it is Godly to do so. If I am always doing and being that person I can take that opportunity from others, and I can get in the way of letting God feed my heart through them, especially when I don’t fully understand how much I might need it in that moment. Sometimes I need to get out of the way!
Let it be enough.
These lessons, these heart things, I am so thankful for them. And I’m thankful for them right now in this season. This Christmas season. Rather than feeling like I need to do all the things and be all the things my heart is turning to another way. This year I’m feeling compelled to stop and look around and ask what is enough? And then feeling confident in walking that way, knowing it is, in fact, enough.
Each time I wonder, as I stand on the brink of making that decision, whether I’ll feel like I’m missing something, or that I’ll wish I had done more. And you know what? I haven’t regretted one thing. In fact, the opposite. I have been so thankful that making those decisions that enough is enough have given me more – more room, more head space, more heart space, to gain from the situation.
Not having too many decorations out and things I care about has given me the space to focus on the people I care about and to let us all enjoy the season. There is no one here watching and keeping tabs on whether I have the standards of a happy Christmas checked off. The happy Christmas comes from being present not only with my family and friends, but being able to think deeply on the whole reason for this season. Jesus is enough.
When I let others help I give them the chance to shine and use their gifts. I get to receive and know what it feels like to be part of the body where we all care for one another. When I stop worrying about self-imposed standards and expectations I can see that God uses the unexpected to fill those voids, the voids that I might be trying to fill with stuff and activities and things. I learn what it is to have him love me through others. And that is beautiful. It is God made flesh, and dwelling among us.
Let it be enough.
As I think about the coming weeks, these are the things that I’m excited about…
I’m excited about a clear calendar this week. There is absolutely nothing in any of the boxes from yesterday (Saturday) to this coming Saturday. It was wonderful to have the freedom to say “Yes!” when our friends phoned yesterday. Haiti is hard when it comes to being spontaneous. Everything takes so much planning. But, because we had the space we could say yes, and in turn were blessed with such an unexpected and delightful time with people we really enjoy.
I’m excited that a clear calendar will give our family time together. Peggy went back to the US to be with her family for the holidays last week, and Chris’ parents arrive next week and will be with us until New Years. We love these people dearly, but we also recognize that it’s healthy for our family to have time together, and I’m thankful that we’ve got this week with no demands where we can do as we please with our kids. They need that from us. They need to know that even in the normal day to day stuff we’re here and not being pulled in ten different directions. It means that by the time Gramma and Grandpa arrive we’ll be excited and ready rather than feeling rushed and pulled. So happy about that!
I’m excited that I don’t feel this need to bake all the things just because it’s Christmas. Chris and I are both watching what we eat, and while we both enjoy treats, I just don’t feel the need to fill our cupboards with snacks and sugar. Yes, I have a couple of things I want to make but not ten things. Not 5 things. Just a couple. Enough.
I’m excited about seeing our kids and their enthusiasm for things this year. They’re at a fun stage where they get it in a new way and I’m loving that. Olivia is old enough to ask the whys behind things and we can talk about it in a way she understands. Alex is full of wonder at all the amazing things and has no hesitation in sharing that, which swells my heart and makes me laugh.
I’m thankful that stepping back has allowed more heart space. I don’t feel the stress of trying to get it all right, but rather the calm of just going with things. I want my kids to enjoy the holidays, not because of the stuff of it, but because it’s a time where we can enjoy each other in a different way, where we can be together and be more intentional about some things. I want to play games with my kids. I want to snuggle them on the couch as we watch White Christmas for the billionth time. I want to make a mess with them as we decorate cookies. I want to say yes to things because it will mean something to them. I don’t want to force things because I think they’re important, but rather follow their lead into things that are exciting for them. I want experiences to be enough.
I’m excited about tea and knitting and reading. I’ve gotten so reliant on entertaining myself with technology, but this season I want to step back. I want to spend less time on Facebook and more time with my knitting needles or reading a book. With my feet up on the coffee table. Yesterday I literally spent half the day knitting and the other half reading. It was bliss. Creativity feeds my soul and yet I find it hard to give myself permission to do those things. I need that to be enough.
As we move through this season, friends, I would love to encourage you to stop. And listen. Listen to the things in your heart and attitudes. If something is off or pushing or grinding, ask why? Is it too much? Are you saying yes to too many things? Why? Are the things that are getting a “Yes” the things that should be getting a “No” so something else can get your attention and time? What are the most important things to you? Are they even things? Are they getting the best part of you right now?
I know it’s so hard to step back when things seem to get busier and busier at this time of year, but maybe it’s time for us to be more choosy. And sometimes the things we say yes to are good things. But are they the best things for us in this season? I just finished up the James study by Beth Moore with some of the ladies here, and in one of the video sessions Beth (we’re on a first name basis, dear one) talked about how as God took her into something new (teaching on a more public level) something had to give, and she realized it was teaching Sunday School. It was a good thing. She loved doing it. She made it a priority. But, something had to give. And she knew that was it. She grieved it, but once she was able to step back she saw that removing herself from a good thing allowed someone else to shine. The woman who took her place took the Sunday School classes to a place she later realized she couldn’t. And that woman went on to become another voice to teach women, something that wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t let go of that one good thing.
Last year Thanksgiving started a very busy season, which seemed strange given that we were in Haiti where I thought things would be simpler. Less busy. Because, Haiti. But no, our calendar was full. And they were all fun, good things. But, we got to the end of our holidays and were in the weekend before we went back to work, and I was beat. I felt less rested than I had anticipated I would with staying here. I don’t want that this year. I decided to keep some things, and consolidate others. Some things we need to do, and others we have a choice in. Sometimes deciding that something is enough let’s it become so much more. Those conversations are hard. It means soul searching. It means checking our motivations and expectations. And being honest with ourselves. Just last week Chris and I were able to talk about things and how we were feeling. Does something need to give again next year? What are the most important things to us? Why? What do we look forward to most and find the most joy in?
Where is your enough?
My hope and prayer for you this holiday season is that you give yourself permission to stop there, and then be blessed by it. Because, let’s face it, the manger probably wasn’t ordered and pristine. Mary and Joseph probably thought the birth of their firstborn was going to be much different. But, it was God’s enough.
Here’s to putting our feet up on the coffee table this Christmas!