Monday, June 08, 2015

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

This is from the archives, and was originally published by Faith & Family several years ago, but I think the topic is always worth revisiting. It's about listening to God's scheduling memos: When to volunteer? When to pull back? It's an ever-changing push-me-pull-you, but I find that when I pay close attention to the memos, the message is usually clear.

I'm reprinting the article in its entirety below, and you can go to this archived link to see the original and comments.


Memo From God 

“But that’s my birthday!” my daughter protested. “How can you go on my birthday?”

My husband and I taught baptism classes in our parish, and I’d signed us up for June, oblivious to a date that should have been uppermost in my mind: the day my second daughter would turn 13.

“Ummm,” I fumbled, “well, you know we never seem to do parties on the actual day. We already talked about having the slumber party Friday night, didn’t we?”

She murmured assent and slumped away, carrying on her shoulders the weight of a forgetful, busy mother who (even with a constantly consulted day planner) had failed her.

It’s true that we’ve always been flexible with birthday party plans. Really. But, we still make a big deal of the day, party day or not, so I felt terrible. And guilty.

Prayerful Discernment
I’d been praying about the classes, and whether to continue or not. We share the teaching load with several other couples, and Tom and I are called on only a few times a year. But, in the last couple of years, whenever our turn popped up, we encountered a conflict with our kids’ schedules. Still, I told myself, stick with it. Surely such a minimal time commitment isn’t a big deal. But somehow I couldn’t avoid feeling nudged to give up this particular commitment.

And now, here was yet another conflict. I’d asked God for confirmation about my gut feeling and it seemed to have arrived. We stepped down from the teaching team.

Focus on Vocation
This isn’t the first time I’ve needed to pull back from a commitment or a committee, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. My primary commitment—to being an at-home, homeschooling mom—means that Tom and I must regularly tweak our schedules to keep them in harmony with our family’s goals.

That doesn’t mean we won’t volunteer again. But it does mean that we do it with a discerning eye. We step up to the plate when we feel clearly called to, but we’re equally willing to pull back when we see the need. It’s all part of adapting to the ever-changing circumstances of our growing family.

When we began teaching the baptism classes, our children were young and the parish offered babysitting each week (for both teachers and attendees.) We took the kids with us and emphasized to them that helping with the program was our family’s way of serving the parish together. But, as the kids grew, and their schedules changed, we began to wonder if this particular form of service was still right for us.

Continual Reassessment
In the past, we’ve made similar adjustments. Shortly after I was received into the Catholic Church, I joined our parish RCIA team. At the time we had only one child, and I actually loved getting out of the house once a week. Yes, I was giving my time, but it felt more as if I were receiving—I loved the riches of teaching, spending time with other committed Catholics (my husband was not yet Catholic), and offering support to those on journeys of conversion.

So, although RCIA was an intense time commitment, it didn’t feel like one in that season of our lives. It worked for us, and worked well until sometime after we had two children, with a third on the way. At that point, the demands of RCIA began to clash with my family and our homeschooling life, and it was time to step away.

And so it goes with every consideration of my time. As I live out this vocation of motherhood, I find I must frequently reassess how everything fits into that, rather than shoehorning my family into something I want to do, however good the “something” may be.

Sometimes I fail—I become the forgetful, busy mother who has disappointed her almost-thirteen-year-old. When that happens, it’s time to pray. I ask for some heavenly scheduling help, and then I read God’s memos and tweak accordingly.

He’s even better than a planner.


Anonymous said...

Appreciated hearing this today. Thank you.

Tamara said...

This is a great post Karen! I definitely agree with the need for ongoing discernment. I think we sometimes forget that because what we're doing is so good and we don't want to give it up.

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks, Tamara! I agree that that we often don't want to give up what we're doing (there have been times I loved what I was volunteering for, even if it wasn't best for my family) or even can feel guilty giving it up, because in and of itself it's a great good -- but, oh, yes, that discernment is so important.