I am a planner. Always have been. Perhaps it is my temperament, perhaps it’s because my father is a planner. Either way, flexibility and spontaneity are things I have had to learn.
It’s so interesting to see how God has prepared me for this season of road-tripping over the last several months. In my counseling I have been learning mindfulness and psychological flexibility. For me mindfulness means focusing completely on the moment at hand. Noticing the sounds, smells, and sights around me. Enjoying the laughter of my boys as they play. Savoring my food instead of mindlessly gulping it. Enjoying the warmth of the sun and the magnificent details in the plants while watering the garden. It means not letting my mind drift to the past…past mistakes or past memories, and not letting my mind worry about planning next week or thinking about my dream house that will have an enormous garden and greenhouse. It means being in the present moment and enjoying it for all its worth.
Psychological flexibility for me has been learning to make plans but to hold them loosely. (This phrase which my psychologist uses really helps me visualize the process.) I will think about what I would like to accomplish tomorrow but be ok if it doesn’t all get completed or if my day ends up turning in a completely different direction. The old me would have had a fairly concrete plan and then fallen apart if it didn’t happen as planned. Psychological flexibility also looks like having a rough itinerary for our trip but allowing it to change as we go.
In my devotional time and current sermon series I’m hearing from God the reminder that we need to pray for our daily bread. Not weekly bread or monthly bread or yearly bread. Just what I need for today. Focusing just on todays gifts and trials and lessons. Not worrying about tomorrow. Not anxiously thinking about our health that could take a bad turn or the possibility of never finding a place to stop and settle. To say that finding a place to live when we have no idea where we are supposed to be is overwhelming is n understatement. The stress and anxiety I feel from these thoughts wreaks havoc on my physical and emotional system. I noticed yesterday how tired and low energy I felt and just a lack of excitement to go out and explore the area. After some discussion with my counselor it became clear that what I was feeling physically and emotionally was a direct result of the overwhelm I was feeling from the thought processes I had been engaging in since leaving our family in Texas a few days ago. A simple perspective change to 1) recognize how my thoughts were affecting me, 2) focusing on the moment rather than worrying about the future, and 3) making loose plans for each day this week and even our plans for moving onto Kentucky next week was enough to reduce my anxiety and help me feel up to going out and exploring Nashville lat night and truly enjoying my family time. Asking God for daily bread is asking him to provide what I need for today and trusting that he has tomorrow in his hands and that he will guide me step by step as I go.
Another part of praying for my daily bread is seeking God and focusing Jesus. If I am focusing on who He is and learning to listen to His voice, I am better able to hear what He has for me, where He is leading us, and no longer do I have time to be anxious. This is another important lesson I have been learning over the last year. I have been reading and working through John Eldridge’s Walking With God book and workbook (and group study videos during our Lifegroup). The Bible says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27. The more time we spend learning Jesus’ voice the easier we will recognize when He is trying to talk with us and guide us, and boy do I need guidance! After all, the road trip is about discovering what God has for us and where He wants us to settle. I need to spending time with Him daily to know what He wants for me.
The reason I share all of this is because I have found the need to use these new skills in my daily rhythms while on this road trip adventure. Whenever I stop to realize that I am actually homeless, living out of our car – traveling from hotel to hotel, without an agenda or itinerary, not knowing where we should go and when we will stop, I can very quickly get overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious! These skills which I have been learning were actually preparing me for this time of unknowns. To be flexible with our living situation, our destination, our homeschooling, our meal plans and eating habits (to name a few hot topics) I have to be flexible. I have to be ok with switching our plans at any moment. I have to not react negatively, to not allow my body to get all bound up in knots, to not get lightheaded and have shortness of breath (a few of my symptoms with anxiety). I have to go with the flow. I have been able to use these skills and they have made all of the difference in how my family experiences this adventure. Not only am I doing better by using these skills, I am able to help my children through their struggles with plans changing, living in different places each week, and having to eat new foods. I am able to model good flexibility and I am able to talk them through their feelings and encourage them to give new things a try, as well as reassure them that though their living situation is constantly changing that our family is together and God is with us.
I approach our homeschooling with the same skills. We are homeschooling on the road, first grade and preschool. Many families this year will find themselves homeschooling, even if it’s some form of virtually learning its still homeschooling. I have often put huge pressure on myself to have a planned out schedule for our “school day” and then get all bent out of shape when we can’t seem to stick to it or follow it well. I have learned to have a “loose homeschool plan”. This means that I have a basic agenda of what we will work on but I don’t plan a specific time for it to get done. For instance, I know that tomorrow we will spend some time working on a math and reading workbooks, some copy work, read aloud books, and time for creative play. It may get done right after breakfast or it may be late morning. It really depends on how we are feeling and how the morning plays out. We may feel like getting out and finding a park or going to explore a new place. Or, like this morning, the kids may get building and playing and be in their own little world, and so they will be allowed. Then we do our school work a little later. And like the other day, I took a short nap while the kids played educational games on the iPad. It’s a loose plan.
I have also had to practice self care. So when I realize that I am feeling tired I take the time to rest. For me that is usually a nap or asking my husband to take the kids for an hour or two so I can have quiet. Being on the road means I am mom 24/7 and I don’t get to call a babysitter when I need a break or a date night. I need to be intentional to pay attention to how I am feeling and where my stress level is. When I need to rest or need a break I have to take it or ask for it. The struggle for me is feeling bad when I put my kids in front of PBS kids for an hour or so in order to get a nap. My inner critic says TV is bad for the kids, I ought to be doing something productive with them, and I am being lazy for taking a nap. What I am learning is to acknowledge the voice in my head, and then tell it to take a hike. In order to care for my kids I need to take care of myself…and sometimes that means a nap.
In this season which I have found myself thrown into, I have had to practice mindfulness, psychological flexibility, asking God for my daily needs, and practicing self care. Its a learning process for me. Have you had a similar experience? What has helped you? Do you struggle with your inner critic or feeling bad for taking care of yourself? I’d love to hear from you! We are all learning together.
Until next time…