Everyone laughed at me. That is, everyone to whom I said I was writing an article on time management and boundaries but didn’t have the time or space to write. Actually, they laughed with me. Too many of us are stretched so tautly and wound so tightly as our culture screams for us to do more, more, more. Modern technology provides resources that make it possible to be the perpetual Ever Ready Bunny. The frequency with which the cell phone rings and the emails pop up place the tyranny-of-someone’s-urgent continually before us.
For the first time in twenty-three years I do not have a child to homeschool but still it has taken several weeks of finding tidbits of time to write about the consequences of misused time. I sat to write anywhere, anytime I could: alone on my bed while a house full of grown children and grandchildren were living with us, time at the salon while getting my hair cut, time in the car while waiting to pick up a grandchild from an activity, time in the waiting room at Hoag Hospital while Danny was having an endoscopy, and eventually time alone as an empty-nester in the quiet of my living room listening to the relaxing music of piano hymns while sipping freshly brewed hot tea.
On and off for the past twelve years, but consistently for the past six years, two of our grown children and their families have lived with us. We were a cozy bunch with as many as eleven of us at one time, sharing three bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms. Praise God for a big back yard! For sheer survival we had to live our priorities, limitations and manage our time well, both in our home and in our business. But recently I found God fine tuning both my near and farsightedness.
Since our school has procedures for members to request transcripts, have forms signed, or any other administrative service, why do we seem to consistently scramble for time to meet these needs on an emergency basis? It is because we can. But is it worth the cost?
Before the holidays I was significantly involved in a new opportunity that would benefit a few of our students. Knowing this was a time sensitive issue, each of the participants still failed to meet a particular Friday deadline and/or what was submitted was incomplete for one reason or another.
I found myself early the next Saturday morning consumed in communication with the school board over the recurring issue of non-compliance of members and deadlines. Coupled with several weeks of illness and medical concerns Danny and I were facing, I pondered the impending workload to pull together the missing information. My emotions were attempting to overtake my good judgment. The desire to give grace, compassion and do everything within my power to meet the needs of our members was waging against the frustration and anger I felt for accepting late and/or incomplete submissions.
I want to always be there for our members; to communicate so perfectly that I would never be the reason for their delay or lack of opportunity. Psalm 90:12 says, “...teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” My vision was clouded as I searched for wisdom to fulfill the time consuming task at hand. Where does grace end and the reality of consequences begin?
The effort to meet the administrative process found me hiding in my bedroom with my beloved laptop for the remainder of that Saturday. My daughter-in-law peeked in to ask if the grandkids and their visiting friends could decorate the gingerbread men I had purchased just for that purpose. Of course I was happy to say yes. The sounds of six little children giggling with delight as they lopped frosting and sugar candies onto the gingerbread men would normally bring me great joy. But instead an intense sadness overwhelmed me. I was allowing the now urgent needs of members to monopolize my day rather than doing what was important. I was missing the gingerbread men. I was not living by my conviction to guard my time and invest in the lives of my grandchildren, which is what counts for eternity. Why? Because I was now consumed by work that would not have existed had we not accepted late or incomplete paperwork.
The next evening I took two grandchildren to a special outing at a non-Hope event. A member sought me out to inquire on the status of the project. She had no knowledge of how it had emotionally and physically consumed me the previous day, nor how I dreaded her even asking me about it. Neither did I even realize that it would monopolize the remainder of the following week to finally complete the task. I did my best to answer her questions. There might be ‘one quick question,’ but I never seem to have a quick or short answer. “Nothing can be simple” is what we have come to affectionately recognize as our motto at Hope.
I allowed my attention to be focused on the member’s need for information rather than being with my grandchildren with whom I had this special date. My 11-year-old, high-functioning autistic grandson does not do well in crowds and became increasingly stimulated. The member was very gracious as I excused myself several times to reign in my grandson. The short conversation eventually came to an abrupt halt as I was forced to make an emergency exit from the building when my grandson became overly agitated and disappeared. With the help of three adults, we were able to catch him across the campus. By that time he was aggressive and had to be restrained in a locked office until my son, his dad, could get there to take him.
The emotional circumstance that I had allowed the Hope situation to become had fueled my need to answer our member rather than attend to my grandchildren. It literally impaired my vision until the situation with my grandson escalated more out of control than the Hope state of affairs.
As I stood outside in the cold night air waiting for my son to arrive I was watching through the window as our pastor lovingly subdued my grandson. My focus was quickly sharpened. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18. Not only do we need purpose, but we also need to literally see clearly what is in front of us. Lack of planning or following direction on the part of our members can not constitute an emergency on our part.
As a staff we are we continually working to perfect our procedures for greater efficiency, effectiveness and communication. Since founding HOPE in 1986, my goal for our staff remains: Their volunteer service to our members keeps the administration and ministry going to provide the type of home school organization they want for their own children. Their staff position is not to distract from their main calling to home school their own children, but to complement and enhance it.
As members please follow the procedures for the school to which you agreed upon registering including attendance at Faculty Fellowship meetings, paperwork and other deadlines, and only sign up to take part in activities for which you can truly participate. Purposing to comply with deadlines and membership requirements helps us all to work together to get everything done in a timely manner. When our staff accepts late submissions, it steals time from the one who planned her schedule (and schooling!) to coordinate within the deadline, event, or work she volunteered to oversee.
Who or what steals your time? In addition to keeping your timely commitments at Hope, what boundaries and disciplines do you need to establish to avoid fatigue and time pressure? Use the cell phone, telephone, computer, and email with prudence. Use the answering machine and screen calls during school time.
In addition to the school board establishing and keeping deadlines at Hope, I made a personal commitment to use my time more wisely by avoiding the temptation to check my email each morning and evening until after I first seek the face of God. Psalm 105:4, “Seek the Lord and His strength. Seek His face continually.” This verse reminds me of our need to look carefully to see His face (His word, His truth) just as I tell a child whose attention I want, “Look at me in the face.” We can look with anticipation of finding His face, like a child looking for some special hidden treat that we have assured him is really there, but he must seek for it.
Guard your time and give the gift of time to others by respecting deadlines so none of us miss the precious Gingerbread Men moments.
Brenden and Zachary Haller pictured December 2007