As I write this, I’m at my mom’s apartment in Zagreb, Croatia (I’m here for our annual Retreat & Sea Cruise
It’s peaceful here… and so comforting. She keeps it very clean and tidy, but there are little picture frames and boxes with keys and bracelets and glasses and pens neatly sorted and placed conveniently where she would need them. A red and white checkered (and perfectly pressed) tablecloths covers her small kitchen table on which two orchids sit in matching planters – by the health of the plants you can tell that my mom is a natural nurturer. Her furniture is old but familiar, the dishes are the same ones we used when I was growing up here, but when I just talked to her, she liked to hear me say how beautiful her home is… and how much her love is present here. (At the moment, she is at my home in Franklin, TN taking care of the boys so I can travel for work.)
I love my mom’s balance of beautiful, put-together and just enough clutter which creates a sense of well-loved home in which a guest immediately feels a part of the family.
As I sat down to rest for a minute after our 17 hour trip, I saw how this balance is really one of what she can control (tidy and clean her home) and what she so easily lets go of (demand for keeping it picture perfect.)
And I thought how many people I know (including myself) who struggle with this balance.
When do we push through and when do we let go?
This can be applied to so many different situations in life… for example, when you are a student studying for a test. When do you push through and keep studying to get the best grade possible, and when do you give up and say ‘this is the best I can do’?
Or when you are making Thanksgiving dinner for the entire family and your realize the turkey will not thaw out in time. Do you push through even though the turkey is not going to be the best one ever? Or do you call it quits and order out?
This past week I took my son Dante to Savannah to college. We packed my little car to the brim, closed the hatch, placed a rack in its place and secured his blue cruiser bicycle on top of it. Half way there, my car started to have troubles (I knew my transmission was at its last leg, but I thought it would make this one more trip.) I pulled into a Goodyear and asked the very nice gentleman there to run diagnostics and see if they thought I could make it. They advised me to rent a car, instead of risking breaking down in the middle of a long stretch of nothing between Atlanta and Savannah.
I thought of how many times we drove hundreds of miles to our concerts on faith – in old vehicles that could break down any minute – and for a second I thought I could push through and make it.
But lately, I’ve been having problems with my stomach – consequence of the stress I’d been through the past few years – and so I made a choice to be gentle on myself and my car. Even if the car could make it, I knew I’d be just enough worried where my stomach would start hurting again. (For those of you who can run your cars on faith, I admire you. In certain circumstances, I can too… I just know when not to test it. 🙂 )
So I rented a van, we moved all of Dante’s stuff (including the bike) and drove to Savannah. And it was a beautiful, stress-free trip. (On my way back, I picked my car and drove it to Franklin – on faith. It ran smoothly without any problems, and I wasn’t worried at all!)
On the other hand, tomorrow we are starting a cruise. There was a point when we thought we’d better cancel it because several people who originally signed up were no longer able to make the trip – due to unforeseeable events like health problems and births of grandkids. But my team and I pushed through. It’s too beautiful of an adventure – and too valuable of an experience for those who are participating to let it go. Already many graces were received through it…
So what’s the difference? How do we know where this line is – between pushing forward and letting go?
I believe we can’t ever KNOW this for sure. I believe we only learn to TRUST the process and practice of doing all we can while also surrendering ourselves to life’s beautiful and powerful force.
Some will call it the Holy Spirit. Some will identify it as ‘gut feeling’ or ‘intuition.’ I think it’s both – the divine Presence and grace AND our own willingness to listen mindfully for clues and gentle guidance.
Do you see this balance in your life?
Are you aware of where you might be pushing too hard, and where you might be giving up too soon?
I always like to remind myself that each day I’m given many opportunities to make these decisions – and if I handle them with mindfulness (presence of mind, awareness), they become a practice… that prepares me for when I’m faced with larger decisions.