B is for ant and other uses of time

This post is brought to you by the letter A and the number 1440, which is the number of minutes in a day.

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I’m trying something new right now. I’m really bad at it (shocker) and even when I have tasted small victories in the endeavor no one’s even noticed. But it doesn’t matter because I’m doing it anyways.

I’m letting go of my time. Sometimes, I’m managing to give it away.

I’m trying to stop counting it, saving it, maximizing it, mourning its loss and most of all, fretting over its expenditure.

Was it Horace Mann that wrote the poem about losing two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes? Whoever it was, at the end he wrote something rather profound. “No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.” In other words it’s no use crying over spilled minutes, they aren’t coming back again. For some that’s an easy concept–not for us Type-A wanna-be-efficiency-experts. We’re the ones always multi-tasking, always figuring out faster ways to do things, always thrown for a loop by unexpected complications. When people speak we think about how much more quickly or clearly they could have expressed it. When we make a mistake what bothers us most is the loss of time while we do the task over again. We like to check two boxes at once.

In domestic life this is picking up the puzzle that goes in the family room while we’re on our way to answer the phone because we can drop it off on the way. It’s steaming double broccoli because we can use the extra in breakfast. It’s using the same baby wipe to clean baby’s face, then swoop up that little bit of dirt on the floor, then polish the edge of the rubbish bin as we’re throwing it away. It’s brilliant and practical and sometimes completely ridiculous.

It’s also a lot of “Not right now” and “I can’t” and “Later, Darling, I have too much to do.”

Because a minute spent listening to you or two spent texting a picture of the tower you built to Grandma or fifteen spent teaching you to tie your shoe again are My diamond minutes and I have, as always, pre-planned a use for them.

I know I can’t just stop striving, stop making lists and being practical and working hard. That must go on. Regardless of what some may think or assume about the life of an unemployed mommy I can only say there seems to be a fair-to-middling amount of employment. It isn’t all sweatpants and popcorn and trips to the park. Especially the way I’m doing it these days.

Lately I’ve done a bit of an internal rummage and found I’m too obsessed with time. It’s true the last several years of our lives have been full and frequently hectic ones. And, for us, living overseas means that many things consume much more time than they used to. I calculate it used to take me an average of three seconds to choose a jar of pickles and set it in my shopping cart. In the last 48 hours I’ve made two batches of dill pickles, sauerkraut, applesauce, pumpkin puree for pies, two types of cookies, and two attempts at baked zucchini chips–from scratch. That’s not counting two days of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (Both attempts at zucchini chips were total failures but that is Beside the Point. Still, if you can help me with this problem be sure and comment below.)

It’s like we’ve been sprinting so long I forgot what it is to be still and live a little.

I can’t disciple my children if I don’t have time to sit down and talk with them about what they’re learning. I can’t build relationships with my neighbors if the time I allot them just covers “Hello-I-gotta-get-these-children-to-school” and “Goodbye-Must-start-dinner-now”.

Yesterday morning I chose to spend significant time with Hugh enjoying the letter A. We said it and sung it. We built it with wooden pieces. We traced it and picked it out of a lineup of letters. We made “A is for Ant” paintings by dipping marshmallows in paint. We said “A is for Apple” and made homemade applesauce together. And at dinner, when Daddy asked us what we did today, Hugh announced proudly, “I learned the yetter B!”

He thought we painted ants because B is for ant.

The efficiency expert in me says just wait until he’s five. (Or ten.)

If he watched more T.V. I could do more real ministry. Be better at correspondence. Keep things in order better. Do more. Do. Do.

But the truth is I gave him ninety of my diamond minutes because I love him and he’s my ministry, too. (I can say proudly that that is an estimate. I wasn’t even counting.)

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3 Responses to B is for ant and other uses of time

  1. Hello. I found your blog, looking for Advent readings. What a joy and Providence 🙂 Reading a bit of your life takes me back a year or two (let’s not dwell on the exact number). I just wanted to say: go, girl! The power of the One to you. I now have ten kids, only school 3 of them (praise God for Christian schools!), mere 1 in diapers, and next year we send out the eldest. I was going to offer some wise, encouraging though,t but the baby just dumped the 6-year-old’s milk all down his front and the carpet. So, rather let me say that the joyride is new every morning, just like the available grace.
    Press on, sister.
    Jamey

  2. Erin Reynen says:

    I’m just getting to this post now, Betsy, and had quite a chuckle at the whole “B is for ant” bit. All of the other wisdom in how I think about time… well, that’s given me a bit to think about! Thank you, friend.

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