I love late summer and early fall. For me, much more than the start of a new calendar year or the first buds of spring, fall is a time of new beginnings – probably because I always loved the start of each new school year. I feel most alive in the fall – the crisp air, the last of the harvest, the knowledge that we will soon be tucked away indoors for quieter days. I am determined this year to become more intentional in my relationships. I say this to myself from time to time, but it is becoming apparent to me lately just how important this undertaking is. I am naturally independent and introverted, and it is therefore easy for me to isolate myself and neglect nurturing my relationships. But that is not how God intends me to live, and to be honest, it is not really how I want to live, though it is in many ways easier.
I do crave relationship and connection, it is just not something that comes naturally to me. God made us relational creatures. I am made for intimacy with others. I desire to know and be known, yet relationship building is hard work – emotional and sometimes uncomfortable work – and sometimes, oftentimes, it’s easier not to. I am not the type to become fast friends with someone. It’s a slow process that, for me, involves shedding self-consciousness, learning to trust, allowing my façade to give way to a willing vulnerability and honesty. I long to be free of those hindrances in my relationships, but getting to that place where I can be comfortable, at ease, my real self, can be intimidating. And in the day to day of life with toddlers and a home to care for, it is easy to put off my relationships because honestly, the work around here never ends. There’s always more to do. But God does not call me to have a perfectly clean house; he does however call me to be in relationship with others. That is important work – hard work – good work.
I have a hard time finding balance in life. Whether it’s a week long sewing binge that causes me to neglect responsibilities around the house or whether it is striving for a pristine home at the neglect of my kids, it seems I tend toward extremes. I get very involved in one thing. Because I am rather driven by guilt and by the need to be (or at least appear) perfect in order to prove my worth (something I’ve been ruminating on recently – perhaps a post sometime down the road) – anyway, because of those factors, I focus too much on trying to keep up with my house – probably because that is a very tangible measure of how hard I am working. And having a relatively clean home is important, to be sure, but I can become focused on that to a fault (although you probably wouldn’t guess it since if you walk into our home on any given day, you’re likely to find a mess of some sort, likely many sorts). Then I can be irritated if my kids need me too much (whatever that means!) or I can neglect to allow myself any leisure time to refuel and do something enjoyable, all because I have made crossing off tasks on my to-do list my definition of success.
So, the trick is to find the balance between taking care of my home and taking care of my relationships -to take the time and energy to connect with others on a meaningful level. I am getting out my calendar, and I am planning time to cultivate relationships with people who are important to me! What a tragedy it would be for me to get to the end of my life and regret all the missed opportunities to connect, really connect with those I love and those I could have grown to love.
Serving a to-do list is no way to live. God calls us to serve one another, and I can do that best when I am nurturing my relationships and taking the time to appreciate God’s gift of friendship.