Time, energy and love are gifts. It is up to us to decide how we use them.
If you had told me a few months ago that I would be trying to slow down over the summer, I probably would have laughed at you. On the Enneagram, I am a 2 wing 3 (lover and achiever). On Gallup's Strengthfinder Assessment, my top 5 strengths are Developer, Achiever, Connectedness, Belief, and Empathy. On the Myers Briggs Assessment, I am an ENFJ. On the Spiritual Gifts Assessment, I have the gifts of Shepherding, Teaching, and Prophecy.
I have taken almost all of the personality assessment tests out there, and it all comes down to this: I love to love and affirm others, and I love to be loved and affirmed.
Now that can all sound good and healthy, and it can be... as long as I keep my focus on the people and things in life that I value and declare to be of upmost importance. Each person has different strengths, gifts, callings, and priorities. If we all had the same ones, not very much would get done. Because I am primarily relationship oriented, I have generally viewed my top priorities through the lens of relationships: God, husband, kids, friends, and ministry.
But it has become apparent to me that, in the last few years, I have started focusing my love, energy, and attention on the people who speak love and affirmation the loudest. It wasn't God, honestly because I was "to busy" to stop and listen to His love and affirmation. It wasn't my husband, because he works crazy hours and by the time he's home, we're usually both exhausted. It wasn't my kids because, they're 2 and 4, and it's not their job to affirm me. I found that I had gone to the people who would affirm me the most, my friends and those whom I serve in ministry. While friendship and ministry are both vital parts of life, I found that I was not focusing my time, energy, and love on the things that I had said were the most important.
I constantly felt frustrated and exhausted.
Want to know why?
1. I wasn't resting.
2. I wasn't making time for the things that mattered.
3. I was looking for love in all the wrong places.
The last few weeks, I have been setting better boundaries around my energy and time. By giving my very first and best to God each morning, I am better prepared to give my time, energy, and love to my husband and kids. I'm finding that I then have excess energy and love to give to my friends and women in my ministry. It's not a perfect science, but it's working for us!
Time with God:
I have made time with God each day a priority. I expected that it would make me more tired. Instead, I feel more refreshed, centered, and energized to do what He asks me to do. The very best part: I end up receiving the love and affirmation I need so that I'm not hungry for it from other people. I can just enjoy being with my husband and kids because I'm not expecting for them to fill my love and affirmation tank. It's already been filled to overflow. Instead of expecting them to pour into me, I'm having excess to pour out onto them!
Time with My Husband:
Most days its pretty simple: coffee in the morning and at-home date nights at night. We have been doing one date-night out a month and have been more intentional to use our nights to connect with each other without phones and other distractions. We are continuing to get to know each other better, learning to love each other better, and holding one another accountable to our goals and dreams. It's not always perfect, but it has been such a blessing to spend more time with my best friend!
Time with Our Kids:
By seeking my love and affirmation from God and my husband first, I've been setting more realistic expectations for my kids. I've been much more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled/less angry. I'm definitely not perfect, but I'm becoming a better mom.
I have cleared all the busy out of my summer to allow for opportunities to just have fun with my husband and kids. This morning, we decided to go to a local U-Pick Blueberry Farm. It felt nice to not have anything on the schedule and be able to say "yes" to something fun with our family. We're doing lots of fun, "no pressure" things this summer--going to the zoo, spending time with family, learning to swim in my Aunt and Uncle's pool, and baking for our local firemen--because we are making these things a priority. Rushing less has been changing how I treat my kids, and it's been changing how they behave!
Using Our Time Wisely:
We still have friends, eat meals, take naps, do chores, and are actively involved in serving our church. But clearing the schedule has allowed us to be more spontaneous with what we do. We're having more fun, doing things that we love, and making best use of the time that we have. We've had to intentionally schedule less each day and add "Rest" to the calendar to make sure that we actually rest. While that has been a slow learning curve, by setting better boundaries, we have had more energy for the things that matter most to us.
Take a few minutes to think about your priorities and how you use your time. Does how you spend your love, time, and energy match up with your priorities? What would it look like for you to take off a few things from your calendar? If you had more time, what would you want to do?