A few nights ago I was sitting on the couch after dinner—an amazing dinner I might add. My husband made it. Here is what was on the menu: homemade crab dip (it was out of this world), roast chicken, fresh-baked bread, and garlic knots with homemade red sauce. So needless to say, after this feast, I succumbed to sitting on the couch because moving my body in any way was not an option.
My two boys, Joel, fourteen, and Noah, eight, went outside in the front yard to enjoy some fresh air. Noah climbed up one of our Bradford pear trees. Joel sat on the hood of the car with his camera, taking pictures of the sunset. The windows were open and I could hear them being silly and laughing together. I could hear the breeze blowing through the leaves and the frogs croaking out back. It made me smile. This was a simple moment.
I like simplicity.
I work forty hours a week at a nursing home cleaning, helping care for the elderly residents, and being an assistant superintendent of environmental services to one of the best bosses on the planet (I am not just saying that because she might read this blog). It’s a very demanding, physical, and sometimes gross job. I like it. I love the residents and enjoy a lot about my every day. But sometimes, I am exhausted by the time I get home. Sometimes, I will work six or seven days straight without any time off. It’s the season our family is in right now and we make it work. My husband, on top of being a traveling minister, works full-time as a web designer. We are busy. But over the course of the last two years, I’m learning not to be too busy. I’ve learned that busyness does not equal godliness, and surrounding yourself with people and activity does not make you relational or relevant.
I love coming home after work, cooking a meal, eating together at the table every night (yes, I said every night), doing some light chores, settling down on the couch or sitting outside on the back porch to read, write, or watch TV. This is a typical day for us right now. Our boys are not super involved in sports or clubs at school. Neither of them have gravitated towards sports. But honestly, even if they would have, I probably would have preferred a minimum level of involvement.
What we have on our plates right now is enough. The boys spend most of their free time outside, doing chores, being creative, and in the trees on the weekends. They play music and pursue hobbies that they personally enjoy. They run around in the yard with neighborhood friends and go out with school friends occasionally to the movies. They look at their phones and play Minecraft (Noah), but it doesn’t overtake their life. We just don’t over-pack our schedules any more. And we have our bad days too. We may argue or get restless and grumpy. We have times of bad attitudes and necessary discipline. But we always take the time to resolve… to apologize… to duke it out. And we have that time because we are not constantly driving to some other pressing activity.
We don’t currently socialize often (gasp!), because honestly, at the end of a long day or a weekend where I had to work Saturday and Sunday, each other’s company and our relationships between the four us is top priority over anyone else. We have close friends over once a month or so, but we keep each other at the forefront of our free time. Our boys are ambitious and growing up so fast. I want to make sure I keep investing in them, being with them and letting them be kids as long as they can be. High school years and adulthood will arrive soon, and the memory of being outside sitting in grass being silly together is something I want them to be able to hold on to. I want them to look back on these times with fondness and appreciation whenever life gets complicated.
Life has changing seasons. In the past, we’ve been on full-time church staff and worked behind the scenes in ministry, serving insane hours of volunteer time. I mean, it was nonstop for years and years. We’ve gone through times where Jeremy was traveling, making multiple trips every month, and we’ve had people and friends in our home almost every weekend and evening. Our boys were heavily involved in church and school events, and there was literally never a day where our schedules were not filled to the brim. Over time it almost broke us. It was a life full of pressure and demands, and I constantly felt as if I was still not doing enough for the Lord.
Some of it was fruitful, deeply impacting, and extremely meaningful. But most of it was not. In fact, much of it was out of a need to feel important, to feel useful, to feel spiritual, or to impress others. At least, that’s what drove a lot of my motives for being so involved and busy. It was often guilt that drove my “yes’s.” I was not usually serving out of joy or passion. Rather, I had the mindset that pouring out my life in helping, into activity, and into every person that came across our path was super-spiritual. Anything less seemed like failure and selfishness. It was the idea that keeping our children just as busy as we were was good for them and taught them good life lessons… even if it seemed like we were always pressing them to get ready, get dressed, “eat that snack faster,” and get into the car.
There is nothing wrong with busy seasons, necessarily. Sometimes it can’t be helped. At other times, it’s the result of circumstances or goals that really do need to be pursued and accomplished. I understand that, and I’m not condemning. But, right now… I’m done with that.
I’m in a savoring season and I feel no conviction about it. I savor hearing my boys laughing outside. I savor making a good meal and enjoying it. I savor working hard and not feeling the need to fill up my evenings with social engagements and meeting with people based on guilt. I savor a good book and cuddling Ben, my adorable Miniature Schnauzer. I savor reading the bible with Noah, family conversations, naps, and watching movies—and that’s okay. Life is beautiful and God is abundantly gracious.
Mandy Caris is a relational leader with strong prophetic insight. She has a unique ability to disarm emotional barriers and guarded hearts while drawing out the giftings and talents of others. She loves art of all forms, but thrives on Holy Spirit inspired creativity. She is intense and passionate about those she loves, but most of all, she is a deep-hearted worshipper and lover of God. She is the proud mother of two growing boys.