Slow, Schedule, September
Today, July 31st, one month before the start of September, I have a reminder that pops up automatically on my calendar.
It says "Slow, Schedule, September".
I like change, excitement and new things! So, when September rolls around with fresh new opportunities, it calls to me and invites me to exhaust and over-extend myself!
So, for the past five years, I've been taking a few weeks in early to mid August to pray and listen to God's voice and pre-plan priorities for September before it arrives. It's been fantastic and since my reminder popped up this morning, I thought I'd share my process with you in case you find it helpful.
Here's what I do:
1. Prayerfully, evaluate my personal responsibilities and schedule them in, common sense, ordinary stuff, (doctor's appointments, etc).
2. Prayerfully, reflect on what stage of life it is and leave room for what is important. (Our sons are young adults now and don't require much assistance but they are in the process of moving out, starting businesses, navigating relationships and adult-life-stresses, so they do want to talk about things occasionally. We leave room in our lives to take that time when it comes.)
3. Prayerfully, identify the general direction that God is leading me in. (If I look back in my journalling, or talk to a good friend who has heard my struggles and joys in the past year, there probably is a recognizable compass turning toward something . . . something that God has been leading me in. Not my own spontaneous ambition, but a deeper, gutsy sense of God's calling me toward something.) So for instance, I started helping with the senior's ministry at our church and have come to LOVE it in such a way that it has surprised me. I've sensed God's green light in this and will continue. Other ideas that I've had have been interesting but will sap the energy from me. So, in this step, I take my best guess as to what God is saying yes to and what He is asking me to let go of.
4. Prayerfully, fill up the calendar. This is where I actually schedule in my priorities for the first few months of Autumn. (If helping with a seniors event is on Thursday, then Wednesday and Fridays are 'booked' for prep and rest. This enables me to pick up supplies, prepare, and then take everything down, submit receipts etc...and then rest.) For me, it's about honouring what God calls me to be about and taking it seriously, rather than just jamming it in amongst other things. So my calendar has things scheduled on it with these types of labels: home day, coffee shop writing, solitude/yard work, finances, meetings, food prep, coffee with friend, date with Randy, thrift store wander, problem solving stuck areas, reading, listening to podcasts, neighbour coffee etc.
Here's the really great part . . . once these things are scheduled in and September and October are officially booked, then when you are faced with requests for help with a community project or church volunteer opportunity or "Fall-Kick-Offs" for various programs where new ideas are presented, you can make decisions based on and around the items that are ALREADY booked into your calendar.
I recently spoke at a ladies luncheon and was able to visit with some of the ladies afterwards. Many were exhausted and overwhelmed with life and responsibilities. They felt the pressure of trying to care for many people and tasks with very little resources coming back in to replenish their strength. I came home with a sense of admiration for them that they were in fact really trying to be helpful to God and to others. But the worn-out reality was real.
Slowing down is, in a way, like fasting, like a spiritual discipline. We choose to feast on God's Word, on the nourishment He wants to give us. We are sustained by "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4. We also choose to restrain ourselves from satisfying our every appetite for satisfaction, fulfillment, significance, importance . . . to allow God to establish what He thinks is important for us. 4th Century Asterius wrote, "fasting ensured that the stomach would not make the body boil like a kettle to the hindering of the soul."
Let's take care of our souls, slow down, listen to God and take action to plan our lives with intentionality. Let's be people who's thirst is quenched by God, so that when others relate with us, spend time with us, they see, hear, sense refreshment and rest. What a 'testimony' to who God is in our lives - that He cares to satisfy our deepest needs first, in our souls. Imagine that being 'rested' is one way of reflecting who God is to an exhausted, broken world.