Living check to check

checklist blogI realized recently that for most of my life, I’ve been living check to check. Not as in paychecks (although there was a good chunk of time where that was true too…), but checkmarks. Checking off one box, just to get to the next. And much like living paycheck to paycheck, living check to check is not fun. And its not God’s best for us…

It all started one night when my husband recommended we take advantage of the beautiful summer evening and take a walk after dinner. We leashed the dog, strollered the kids, and set off. After a few minutes I heard him calling from somewhere in the distance behind me – “HONEY! Slow DOWN!” I stopped…and sure enough, the Mr. and our little man were a good 50 paces behind me. 

“What are you doing?!” I asked.
“We were looking at the trees” he said.
I looked. Yup. Still there. Still green. 

“Honey”-he says-“Its not a race.”
“Well where are we going?” I asked.
“On a walk.”
“Yes I know, but where? How far are we going? At what point are we heading back home? What’s the plan?”

And then he said it…
“There is no destination! Can we just take a slow relaxing walk and enjoy it?”
And it hit me…Nope. I can’t. 

See I’m a destination person. A product person. I don’t so much love the journey or the process. I want to know the quickest, shortest, easiest, most effective route-in every situation. 

Why would I make 4 trips out to the van to unload groceries when I can arrange and balance the bags just so…and carry them all in one trip?

Why would I spend hours driving back and forth all over town when it only takes a few minutes to strategically plan my errands in order to take the most logical and direct route, and avoid backtracking? 

Why would we drive 12 hours to Michigan every summer, stopping at random holes in the wall along the way when we can get there in a 2.5 hour flight? 

I knew an artist once who NEVER knew what her current piece was going to be. She would just start painting with no plan, no purpose, no concept of what the finished product would look like. She just painted until she felt something “forming” out of the random mix of colors and lines and then she would begin shaping the piece until she could “feel” that it was finished. Makes no sense to me. 

The inherent nature of a checklist is so ridiculously satisfying to me. I love a good strong list. A plan. A purpose. A formula. Tasks that I feel I can accomplish, and achieve. I’ll make a list even when I don’t need one just so I can cross things off of it. 

Until the night God showed me that I was checking away my children’s life. I picked the kids up from daycare one day and got home. 

“Mommy will you play with me?”
“Honey, Mommy has to make dinner right now.”

And then it went from making dinner to eating dinner to cleaning up dinner to baths to story to bed. 

And by the time I sat down to breathe for what felt like the first time that day-I realized I had just spent precious hours with my children, just trying to get from check to check. 

“Once we get through dinner it will be time for baths…and once we get through baths we can get ready for bed…and when we get through the routine we can read books…and when we get through books I can put them to bed.” 

Have I spent the better part of my life so far just getting “through” from one thing to the next? Do I even remember the moments? 

I don’t even know how to play anymore! I was horrified by this realization one afternoon with my son…when he wanted me to join him in whatever imaginary “bad guy” game he was playing. I was the police car. I was supposed to chase the bad guy. The bad guy was doing laps on the coffee table. Um-ok? So I followed the bad guy for a couple laps. “Vroom vroom.”

“Mom-that’s the wrong sound.”

So after getting schooled on all the different sounds that each toy car makes, I tried again. But I didn’t love it. It hurts even putting that down in writing…I wasn’t enjoying playing with my son. I have lost my imagination. I have lost the ability to participate in nonsense and silliness and activities with no ultimate purpose or product. 

I almost cried. I passed the bill to my husband (who is quite the player…pardon the pun!!) and I went to make dinner. Because that task has a product. Its concrete. I accomplish something. And as I stood in the kitchen doing “things” I heard my son laugh while my husband experienced some sort of dissociative break from reality-going from cop to bad guy to tow truck and I don’t know what other characters. That man can play. They have superhero fights and they fix toy cars and they wrestle and play all sorts of other nonsensical imaginary games. 

And I’m living check to check.

It was Priscilla Shirer’s “The Resolution for Women” that really got me thinking…about enjoying moments and really experiencing life. And as I considered what it really boiled down to-there it was again. Fear of failure rearing its ugly head. The need to do, to achieve, to accomplish. The desire to make the most efficient and effective use of my time. The focus on checkpoints-the next mile marker, the next season. Get through High School so I can go to college. Get through college so I can get a job. Get married. Have kids. Get through the early parenting years so we can get to the school age. 

My husband talks about moments, memories from the past and there are times I honestly have no idea what he’s talking about. There have been many a time where I honestly thought I had some sort of memory problem. Some lingering brain damage from a childhood incident that I don’t remember?? How do I not remember these moments? How do I have no idea what he’s talking about. 

And then I got it-I don’t have a memory problem. 

I have a moment problem. 

I’ve been too busy checking off moments to really make memories. You cannot remember the moment if you don’t stop and experience the moment. Smell and feel and taste and enjoy. How did I become so bad at this? And how am I STILL wrestling with this issue? I have been introduced to grace! I realized my fear of failure and stepped into an understanding of my worth and value to Christ! I stopped making lists! How are there still lingering symptoms of this nasty thing??

It runs deep.

But the grace and love of the Spirit of God runs deeper. 

The thing about living check to check (paychecks now) is that you never really enjoy what you have. You’re so focused on making that one check last, at least until the next check, that you don’t stop to rest in what you’ve been given. Its stressful. There’s nothing stored up. And there’s no room to breathe. 

And I’m tired of it.
I’m tired of a consistently low balance that runs out quickly.
I want God-size deposits.
I want an increased balance.
I want that word that never returns void. 

My resolution is to start a process, knowing that its continual and there will not be a “product” as long as I’m on this earth.
My resolution is to begin a journey with no intention of looking at mile markers, but rather to travel as fast or slow as He leads. Day by day.
My resolution is to throw out my checkbook (my list that is!). 

To learn to play again.
To freeze and rest and breathe and engrave memories on my heart.
To suck the life out of every day and stretch moments and smell the proverbial roses.
To stop caring if “things” get done and start caring if people are being valued.
To replace tasks with conversations.
To make a list…and then do NOthing on the list, just as an opportunity for personal growth. 

Love God. Love people.
Play with my kids.
Walk with my husband. And stop to look at the ever-lovin’ trees.
(Although I still don’t get this one. Seriously. Why are we looking at trees.)

To be perfectly content, knowing that my worth and value is not measured by what I do but by how I love. 

To continue this journey of transformation, as Jen Hatmaker so eloquently put it, “inviting the Spirit to stir our souls…redirecting our trajectory from ‘efficient’ to ‘inspired.'”

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