Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I Can't Afford Overdraft Fees

My head spins sometimes with all I have to do. Thinking about it wears on my frazzled mind.

What I’ve come to realize is that, aside from my family and my marriage, I don’t handle long term commitments very well. I have this crazy habit of jumping into things that, if I would sit back and think about them for 2 seconds I’d realize, I have no business attempting at the moment. If I sat down and wrote everything I’ve started or thought about starting, the list would be never-ending.

But I can handle short commitments, and it helps if they’re fun. One could say that I might be a wee bit dramatic at times, and that ability has served me well on more than one occasion. I don’t mind people laughing. I actually enjoy making people laugh. I couldn't do stand up comedy, but I can play an airheaded bimbo fairly well. I can crack some pretty dry comments, but sometimes I have to have time to think up something really smart. When I’d be irritated at something my mother had said to me and I would start spouting, my sisters would say, “Yeah? That sounds pretty good. Why don’t you tell MOM that?” Because I can’t think fast when I’m angry, hurt or flabbergasted! And it just isn’t as effective, calling someone up 2 days AFTER a disagreement and saying “Well, just for your information, Joe...I do happen to believe Elvis is alive, so just stick your head in a bucket of ice and inhale!”.

Last year, I decided to join the Dinner Theatre group at our church. In the months leading up to that decision, I had the opportunity to use my dramatic skills a number of times, to various people’s amusement. I had fun. When it came time to start pulling the team together, I was asked to be the Director, and without thoroughly thinking it over - who am I kidding? Without thinking it over at all! - I jumped at the opportunity. It sounded like fun, so...let’s party! A couple of months into this, I started thinking, “What have you done, Deanna?!? You homeschool, it’s winter and you’re depressed, the kids require daily chauffeuring, you want to do this well and you don’t have the time, this will decrease your time with Tom”...I struggled with my decision a great deal, but in the end, I had to rescind my agreement to direct. It certainly wasn’t because I didn’t WANT to be involved. On the contrary, I love that kind of stuff! But, I have to admit, I can’t do everything. Yep, even I have my limits.

At 39 years of age, it has become easy (easier, anyway) for me to say “NO!” to things that I should say no to, if it’s something I don’t really want to do anyway...but when it comes to something that looks like fun, it isn’t as easy to turn it down. Isn’t that what Paul says? “I do the things I shouldn’t, and don’t do the things I should” (that’s the Deanna version...don’t confuse God-inspired with man-retold Message)

Backing down, putting limits on myself, turning down an opportunity to have fun - these are not easy, they are not fun, but they are sometimes necessary to save my sanity. Instead of always looking for an opportunity to bless others by saying yes, I must choose to sometimes serve someone else by saying no. When I make a commitment to perform in one area, it means I have to sacrifice in another area. That sacrifice may have a greater effect on someone than what I had hoped my commitment would have on a different person. How and what I choose to perform can mean the difference between a positive or a negative effect.

The late notice we get when it comes to overcommitment in our lives could perhaps be avoided all together if we would remember to balance our books and pay the important people first. Ever notice that the check-out aisles at Walmart don’t include high-priced items? It’s the little things that get ya! But how often do you stand in line, and at the last minute, grab that magazine with the pictures of pristine gardens? Who are you fooling? Your coffee table is straining under the load of similar books already, and you don’t even own a spade! That crossword puzzle book is going to wind up collecting dust under your couch, so put it back! And the cheap body spray that your 14 year old son just couldn’t do without? He’s allergic to it! The 4 pack of lighters you bought to light candles...you already purchased that last week...and lost it!

It’s the same with how we choose to use our time. Committing to the employee ball team might not appear to be such a big obligation, but how many nights a week will you be late getting home? Will it mean you can’t kiss your kids goodnight? What if your team wins big, and you’re obligated to tournaments for an extended period? Will it mean you can’t go to your son’s ballgame and cheer him on? And come to think of it, do the kids really need to sign up for every sport known to man? Check out statistics on kids, stress, and anti-depressant use.

What do we hope to accomplish by cramming so much into our schedules that we don’t have time to sleep? Certainly we need to include time for fun in our lives, but not at the expense of our family time. A backyard ballgame might be just the thing that would bring us closer to our children. A story read before bedtime goes a long way. Wrestling on the floor and getting Dad in a headlock will be remembered forever. Team sports are fun, but the most important team is the family. Kids don’t need a grumpy coach telling them how to toss a ball nearly as much as they need their dad helping them teach their mom how to catch a ball. Story hour at the library might net them a cookie, but baking cookies together and telling stories is even better.

Children grow up so fast, and before long the opportunity to rock them to sleep is gone, and they’re more interested in spending time with friends than they are with us. They need to know that when the friends aren’t around, we are.

One of the best things I can do for my family is to just be there. I want my children to see me serve others, but I want them to know that for right now, I serve them first, as part of serving Jesus. What spiritual effect will I have on my children if they see me extending my Christian love to people outside our home, yet I haven’t set aside the time to cook a decent meal at home in three weeks? What will I be teaching my children about loving their future spouse if I get so caught up in activity that I neglect their dad’s need for time with me?

People don’t intentionally forget to remain close to their family, but life is busy. Love requires effort and thought. It requires a conscious decision to make the RIGHT decision. It means you say no to inane activity and yes to building lasting relationships. It might mean that the activities you participate in either include your family, or you don’t participate. The whole “quality time” debate is one of the biggest lies families have ever fallen for! Kids need their parents, and married people need their spouses. Period!!! (Ok, that’s an exclamation point. I really mean it!!!!) What if we scheduled our family time first, instead of letting less important things crowd out our family? An hour a week just isn’t gonna cut it!

It doesn’t come naturally to slow down in today’s world. But it never WILL be easy, if we don’t start somewhere. I have a stack of old calendars. For some reason, I started saving them several years ago. I can tell you the date we found out we were going to have our fourth baby, when the kid’s birthday parties were, when the tax papers (ugh!) were ready...and that Tom and I had a date on Sunday, February 13, 2000 and Sara babysat for us. Some families pull out photo albums to recount past events. We have photos, but not in albums. Some families make a practice of journaling their every move. We aren’t a journaling household. Our family reads old calendars. Weird? You bet! But until I can figure out how to clone myself, it’ll have to do. What has struck me, though, in glancing back through the years, is that I can literally see when our family has made time for each other. If I compare the calendar dates to the stressed vs. happier times, invariably the result is that the emptier the squares, the better our family has fared.

We can’t avoid all things that might bring tension into our lives - kids have to have braces adjusted, mom might need help with moving the piano, the dog consumed an unmentionable and needed surgery...and inevitably, those things will happen when you have the least amount of time to spare. But trying to squeeze just one more activity in between Jr’s karate lesson, guitar practice and T-ball game just might push somebody over the edge.

With the addition of new family members, it’s becoming more important than ever that we reserve time to be a family together. Our circumstances being what they are, we are not able to go outside our home and serve Christ by helping others nearly as much as I would like. We probably will never go on a family mission trip to Cambodia. Our opportunities to spend a Christmas holiday working in a homeless shelter are fairly slim. But we can share God’s love in our home. We can teach our children the importance of caring without leaving our front porch. That’s a commitment I’m willing to stick to.

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