Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Year of Showing Up


Ding. I looked down at my phone. A friend is hoping to visit her sister in the hospital - could I watch her two boys for the later part of the afternoon? My two kids are already well into nap time. It's the type of request that, years ago, perhaps even several months ago, I might have refused. The quiet of afternoon nap time is sacred space - time for processing and re-setting for the rest of the day. I guard it, I protect it. I cherish it. And, honestly, there's nothing wrong with that for young parents - it is one of the few breaks we get, and it's not always consistent.

But there's this voice that gently tugs at me too as I re-read the text: Show up. Show up.

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There are two times during a year, generally, when it feels most natural to set new rhythms, leave behind unhealthy habits and create some new ones: once at the beginning of January, and once again at the beginning of the academic calendar near August or September.

I've never been huge on resolutions or intentional creation of space for reflecting and starting with new habits. A "word for the year" hasn't ever really grabbed hold of me. But this past spring as I contemplated the rest that would be brought with summer and a certainty that I was not being called back to serve in a particular place where I had served for the past two years, another thought entered: showing up. Choosing to serve in places and with people who just required my showing up - no frills, no circus, very little to no preparation, but ready with hands and feet ready to receive marching orders.

Preparation is good. Or, it can be good. And for some folks, especially the perpetually prepared Type A friends that I know and love, preparation and consistent service allows the calm and lack of anxiety that they tend to prefer, I think, in order to move through their days well.

For me, however, I have begun to notice particularly in this season of young motherhood, that serving in places or being with people in ways that require much preparation actually causes more anxiety - it's just one more thing I haven't done on the perpetual list of things to do.

As I thought and listened and decided to be intentional about where to commit my time as fall picked up the pace, I realized there was this constant thread of wanting to be in places where all that was required of me (mostly) was my being there. This summer, it looked like offering to drive Afghan refugee women and their children from their homes to English classes at a local church, showing up with a van. A couple times, it's looked like being able to watch after the children of friends while they care for others who are facing crises, showing up with a house and toys to share. For some people (and sometimes this includes me), filling in for these last minute needs would be stressful. And it's not that they are without their own stresses. I don't want my kids to resent time spent in the car shuttling people back and forth, but I do want them to learn about people coming from other countries to our own country to seek better opportunities. I want them to know these new acquaintances of ours firsthand.

But for the most part, opportunities like this do not stress me out the way they did before. They usually come last minute, and therefore require little thinking ahead. It's just a "will you be there? Yes or no?". I have gotten better at saying no when I need to, but most of the time we just happen to have an open afternoon or other plans that have been canceled.

I know of many people who much prefer to serve and be in places where there is more preparation required, or something that involves a more consistent schedule, and if you are one of those people I so admire you and thank you. Thank goodness there is a diversity of people when it comes to serving in different ways - we need both (and anyone else who falls somewhere in between)! I think there is also quite a bit of fluidity here - in some seasons, I will need to prepare more to serve in some places. But right now, when so much of my energy is going into keeping kids alive, well fed and mostly happy, I need spaces where all I have to do is get there. Sometimes, this doesn't even require me leaving my own house.

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"Sure!" I text my friend back. "Bring them over, no problem."

I'm sure it helped that I happened to have popsicles in the freezer that day. And that my friend didn't mind that I let her boys watch television until my kids woke up. Or that the weather happened to be pleasant enough that we all played outside. Or that I already happened to have a plan for dinner that day (miracle of miracles!). What gifts!

This is my declaration: this is my year of simply showing up. Showing up with whatever I have and saying no (sometimes out loud) to anxiety and guilt for what I may not have. There's no shame in simply showing up with ready hands and feet.


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