Dare Dreamer Press
Overcommitted. Overscheduled. Overwhelmed. Common realities that lead to a common end: lack of joy. Keeping a family and household together while maintaining employment and volunteering exhausts even the liveliest of women.
I was a late-twenties single mom when Ron and I met. He was a single man in his early thirties with no children. I was unprepared for the impact marriage would have on my life, and unaware that the habit of overcommitting myself and over-scheduling my time would undermine our marriage and hinder my personal growth. I desired excellence in all areas of my life and would settle for nothing less in my marriage. Good motives. Bad idea. With an unrealistic to-do list, I became another casualty in a long line of overachievers. It was somewhere between “I do” and “I did” that reality hit.
Upon returning from our honeymoon, I unpacked from our move to a new home, started a new job, volunteered to work with teens, and joined a gym. High hopes for the average person—but I had been a single mom who earned her master’s degree while working full time. This would be a cinch. Or so I thought.
“Class dismissed. I’ll see you tomorrow.” The familiar words rolled off my tongue as I set my junior high students free for the remainder of the day. Sometimes it was hard to tell who was more relieved—the students or their teacher.
When the final student left the classroom, I closed and locked the door behind him. No more questions to answer. No more lessons to plan. No more tests to pass (or fail). I moved to the other side of the room to close the blinds, and then returned to my desk. Five minutes was all I had to gather what I needed for the weekend, straighten the room, and pick up Imahni, my daughter, from school. I didn’t have the strength, but I had to find it.
The migraine that had haunted me for days lingered and my growling stomach would no longer be ignored. Lunchtime had been used for running errands. No time for food. On my way out the classroom door, I grabbed my bag and rummaged through it in hopes of finding some nourishment. A piece of chocolate. Better than nothing, I thought. As soon as the chocolate crossed my lips, that thought was replaced with feelings of guilt for avoiding the gym and a critical assessment of the pounds I had put on since getting married. The thought was gone as quickly as it appeared when I climbed into the car and saw the time flashing in front of me on the dashboard. I was late. Imahni hated being the last child picked up because it worried and scared her. I had failed again. I had visions of her as an adult describing her mother’s many faults and failures to a counselor.
The throbbing in my head increased with my speedometer. Tears filled my eyes and blurred my vision. Not a safe way to drive. I hastily wiped the tears, swallowed hard, and commanded myself to get it together. A voice from the past rang in my ears. “Stop whining. Fake it until you feel it.” I had been faking it so long I didn’t know what was real or even who I had become. Friends who had once been close were now a distant memory. I had given up my goals and plans as impossible dreams. The more I tried to hold everything together in my two weary hands, the more it seemed that things were slipping through my fingers.
That day ended as I managed to get Imahni and myself home safely, throw together a semi-healthy dinner, and begin the never-ending list of responsibilities: laundry, chores, grading, planning, and homework help. Long after midnight, I finally collapsed into bed. A sense that something had to change passed quickly through my mind before I fell into an exhausted slumber. That “something” showed up sooner than I expected.
The next day the alarm rang at its usual time. The sound pierced my sleeping mind. I scrambled to end the noise, unplugging the clock and collapsing back onto the bed. I had a migraine that wouldn’t die, stomach pain that wouldn’t be appeased, and shakes that wouldn’t be still. My husband was already awake and fixing breakfast. I stared at the ceiling and willed him to come to the bedroom. It didn’t work, so I called to him. Two hours later I was in the doctor’s office undergoing tests and evaluations, trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
“You need rest,” the doctor reported after reviewing the test results. “Nothing seriously wrong that a few minor lifestyle changes won’t cure.”
My body had finally surrendered in defeat. During the next two weeks I was bedridden, and God finally had my undivided attention. Some reflection, confession, and behavior modification needed to happen. And fast.
As a young girl, I fantasized about being Wonder Woman (and had the Underoos to prove it!). Her superhuman strength and Lasso of Truth would come in handy as a modern wife and mother, but alas, I discovered that I am only a woman, not a superhero.
Wanting to do all and be all that my family, friends, colleagues, and students needed set me up for failure. My husband married a confident, energetic, stable woman, but she had vanished. Much to my chagrin, a cranky, irritable, and impatient woman had replaced her. Eliminating should from my vocabulary was imperative so that I could become the woman and wife I was created to be. That could happen only through trusting that God knew what He was doing and by allowing Him to work in my life. The solution? Inserting deliberate times of slowness into my schedule. One of the ways I did this was by turning to a beloved hobby: scrapbooking.
Lessons happen when my mind slows down long enough to hear God’s whispers. Most of the time I’m too busy filling my ears with television, music, and conversation. When I’m not preoccupied with external distractions, my personal hopes, dreams, fears, and concerns frequently drown out His voice. However, when I clean the kitchen, take a walk, or scrapbook, my mind becomes still and quiet.
Surprisingly, I began to hear God’s unmistakable whispers through the scrapbook page—lessons about slowing down and taking time for what I valued most. Learning new techniques about symmetry and placement of pictures on the page taught me about creating balance in my life—something I was sorely lacking. Finding artistic ways to manage and mend journaling errors introduced me to new concepts in accepting and mending personal mistakes.
Late one night, as I reflected on the pages I was making and the challenges they provided, I discovered a relationship between the lives we live and the layouts we create. That is when I began to recognize the wisdom we can learn from the scrapbook page.