Eliminate & Concentrate

I recently got to hear an amazing woman, Anne Ortlund, share her thoughts on navigating life well with a group of women. Anne is definitely in her "golden years", and I don't know about you, but when I have the opportunity to listen to someone share about living life well who has lived a lot of life, I lean forward and really listen. She had so many morsels of wisdom to give us. But one thing she talked about has really stuck with me.

She was talking about managing time and she said her two favorite words to implement in time management are "eliminate" and "concentrate".

These two words are gnarly. They are weighty. I feel like they belong in a board room. They sound strong and definitive and driven, don't they? They are not wishy washy or touchy feely.

And, I am trying to apply them to my life and love the direction they give me.

I know that there are things in my life that need to be eliminated.

Straight up.

There are a few places that I see this word doing surgery on my life.

In how I spend my time, and how our family spends our time. There is a whole vortex around me sucking me and my time towards it. I am a people-pleaser and a do-er, which means that I want to say yes to everything because number one, I don't want to hurt your feelings or upset you, and number two, I like doing things. But, when I say yes to everything, I end up doing nothing well. And, I end up frazzled, frustrated, bitter and ill. Yes, ill. My body has been pushed to the breaking point far too many times for me not to own that I do damage to my physical body when I take on too much.

I need to eliminate.

I also see this in my kids' lives. They have countless involvement opportunities as well. They are in school and have homework. They are invited to play dates and birthday parties. They can do brownies, cub scouts, be in school plays, play soccer, football, baseball, swim team, water polo, tennis, golf, dance, gymnastics, music lessons, choir... The list could go on and on. And, hear me when I say this - they are 6 and 8.

I want my children to be active.

I want my children to try hobbies and sports and find what they are good at.

But, more importantly, I want them to be peaceful, humble and to live in a family environment that is not frenzied and frazzled and out of control. These are all "good things" - who doesn't want their kids to play the sports that the kids are around them are playing? I have heard the saying "good is the enemy of best" so many times recently and my soul knows this well. When my children and involved in too many "good" things, the BEST for our family is sacrificed over and over and over. It is easy to say that we will be a "one or two sport" family but more difficult to stick to those guns when all the kids around you are playing multiple sports and you feel like your children will be left behind and made fun of for being the only ones who cannot throw a basketball right. But, I have to step back, focus and remember what my long-term values are for these little humans.

I need to eliminate.

I also see the need to eliminate in where I let my heart go. This may sound really, really crazy to a lot of people, but I have learned that Facebook is not for me. I have no judgement for those who love this corner of social networking, but FOR ME, I have learned that Facebook does wacky things to my emotions. Aside from the general "time vacuum" that it always ended up being, I found that Facebook pretty much left me in a very melancholy place.

I would log on to catch up with the happenings in my friends lives and I would log off feeling like I was out of the loop on far too many happenings (excluded from events that I really did not expect to be invited to, but seeing all the people tagged in the photos and the list of comments that praised how epic it was left me feeling lonely), not funny enough (other people have so many likes and comments on their status updates), like my family doesn't have as much fun as everyone else (everyone else is posting photos of their AMAZING moments from their day), and just generally discontent.
My purpose in going onto Facebook was to feel connected and I would always leave feeling more disconnected and just a bit angsty (totally a word). I had to learn that Facebook is not for me. I still have an account that I can use to message people, but I rarely, rarely go on there. This little life shift has served me well. It was truly the best for me.

Am I completely anti social networking in general? No. I would buy stock in pinterest tomorrow if I could. And, I have even seen that Facebook and other social networking sites have been used for a ton of good in a lot of ways. I do have some pretty big concerns for what all of this means for our kids and our society. I feel like people are losing an important part of human interaction, which is face to face connection. I feel like there is something to looking in a friend's eyes and just knowing that they are having a tough day and digging a little deeper to make sure they are ok. I feel like Facebook and Twitter can make us a little too ego driven sometimes. I mean, should all of our followers really care about where we had lunch? Should we even take the time to post that? Why are we posting that? Would that time be better spent in another way? How are my kids honored by how often I reach for my phone or laptop to update the world? These are all questions I continue to ask myself with regard to technology and how we choose to engage it as a family. At a bare minimum - I have seen the fruit of my decision to eliminate Facebook as part of my daily connection with the world.

I also need to learn to eliminate certain thoughts before they start to spin in my head. A wise counselor I know says this: "The birds will land on your head, just don't let them nest." I cannot stop my brain from thinking, but I have the choice in whether they nest or I shoo them away when they are not life giving or helpful.

I need to eliminate.

This "elimination" concept has all sorts of practical applications with regard to living in simplicity (getting rid of excess stuff that clutters and could be used elsewhere), and even with regard to a healthy diet. I need to eliminate a few more chocolate covered almonds from my daily eating patterns if you know what I mean.

And, I need to concentrate.

I need to concentrate on what I know to be important so that I can make wise choices in what to eliminate. I need to concentrate so that I prevent needing to eliminate. How wonderful it would be if I just knew my limits and really was thoughtful as I walked life and did not get to the place where I have to make those surgical cuts.

I need to concentrate on my children. This time is so fleeting. They will not always be here, and I know that but I still live as though they will. I live as though there will be tomorrows for the life lessons that need to be taught today. I have these moments with them and I want to "mine" these moments well, as it says in the very definition of the word. To sift these moments and separate the metal from the ore. To purify them and make them stronger.

There are countless reasons why it is important to concentrate in this time that feels like a breeze blowing through my home ...

Because there are these moments that will build their foundation of love for each other as brother and sister for the rest of their lives. We are crafting our family's legacy in the moments of everyday life...

Because he only turns 6 this one time (and soon, he will no longer pronounce "Actually" as "ackshly") ...

Because I am going to wish that she would sit and hug me and want to talk to me about all the details of her world in 7 years ...

Because I am only going to be able to carry him like this for a wee bit longer, and she will only dance and twirl and sing in the background without being self-conscious for a wee bit longer ...

I have this moment that replays in my head that causes me to feel such remorse. A few weeks ago we were getting ready to go on a trip to Lake Arrowhead for a family getaway. My to do list was a mile long and I was frantically trying to get all the games and activities packed up before I had some children arriving at my house for tutoring. My daughter came over and started to hug me as I was sorting card games and packing. I literally brushed her off gently and said, "Honey, I don't have time to cuddle right now. I have got to get this stuff packed up." The look on her face still hurts my heart quite a bit when I recall it. She recoiled and looked as though I had slapped her. "You don't want to hug me?" she said. And, her eyes filled up with tears.

I immediately stopped and apologized and told her mommy made a bad choice and tried to make it right. And, she was gracious and received my hug but I could tell I hurt her and it wasn't all totally perfect. There was still that hurt place where she realized that I made a choice and it was not to love her first. It was my stupid to do list.

Oh man, how I want to concentrate.

I need to concentrate on my marriage and my husband.

He so often gets the left overs of me. He gets the wiped out, emotionally shut down, exhausted version of his wife at the end of the day. I need to evaluate what in the world is going on here if I value us staying a connected, vibrant and in love couple well into our golden years. I need to concentrate on showing him that I am present and still listening. I need to concentrate on affirming him and speaking words of love to him, especially in times where he needs that bolstering. I need to concentrate on being his love who is there for better or worse, richer and poorer, in sickness and in health - that pretty much means BEING there our whole life. All of life pretty much fits in those descriptions and I said I would.

I need to concentrate.

So, these are two words that I carry with me in my days. I use them to make decisions and process how we are doing as a family. There will be an ebbing and flowing of activities and time. There are seasons for hibernation and seasons for a flurry of activity.

But, I will endeavor to learn to live these words out well.

How about you - what do these words evoke in you?

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