Making Choices

Ain’t that always the kicker? So many choices, so little time. And yet God only asks us to do our part, not everything under the sun. Everything is in God’s job description, not mine. So which part is mine? That’s the hardest to start with.
On my list of balancing acts, there’s:
  • Family time and work time
  • Writing time and talking time (and which category does Facebook fall in?)
  • Travel time (and money) and office/home time
  • Internal work processes and external relationships
  • Clearing out old stuff and getting started on new stuff
  • Raising money and doing program work
  • About twelve different current work projects
  • About six new projects I’d like to be doing
I want to be involved in my children’s lives while they are growing up. I want to still be married in 30 years, not just in name but in love. I want to be a woman who still cleans her own bathroom, or at least takes her turn emptying the dishwasher and running the laundry. It is important to me not to get so caught up in the academic and political aspects of my job that I fail to be connected to the real life of people on Earth.
I see more clearly the practical organizational development tasks that need to be done in my office. Not exciting, most of the time, but necessary to build the strong foundation for the organization to thrive. Nothing at crisis level, but they still take more time than you think.
I see the changes taking place in the Religious Society of Friends and I want to ride off in six directions at once. The renewed life of the Spirit among South American Friends. The continuing outpouring of energy and ministry among young adult Friends in many places at once. The re-shuffling of the deck of Midwestern Quaker meetings. The new crop of heads of Quaker organizations.
I want to be up-to-date and informed, I want to have a broad and historical perspective, I want to be involved, I want to be helpful, and darnit, I can’t do everything and be everywhere. Not all at once, even though it feels like everything is happening at once.
I’m praying a lot about this, but at some point I just have to make my own decisions. I believe that God is with me, comforting and guiding and hoping for the best from me, but I don’t really expect the wet fleece/dry fleece kind of signs about any of my decisions. Maybe that’s just a lack of faith on my part? No, I think it’s more to do with God’s faith in me to do the right thing.

So what is helping?
Making lists. Seeing that I can fit all the options I’m considering onto one page, even if I have to write small, helps.
Knowing that I can’t do everything at once. Accepting that choices will be made, consciously or sub-consciously, and that it’s better to make them upfront rather than recognize and rue them after the fact, makes it easier to say no sooner.
Taking time out to walk, swim, sleep, laugh and read juvenile fiction are all helpful. I probably haven’t done enough of these in the last month and I’m starting to feel the ill effects of that.
Hearing myself talk helps. Sometimes telling someone else about the options helps me to hear which way I’m leaning.
Asking for advice and input. Many of the choices in my life are not just mine to make. My family has their own opinions. My co-workers have a lot of valuable experience and insight. The huge network of representatives and committee members and friends of FWCC all have a role to play in our priority setting process.
Asking for help, not just because I need the help, but because other people are yearning to be of service, to carry out the ministry and use the gifts that God has given them. Whether that’s a gift of display making, or accounting, or translation, or money to give away, or committee clerking, the RSoF is richly blessed with people who want to help. A big part of my job will be helping to connect people with their ministries.

So, what do you do when faced with new choices to make and new resources to direct?

How are we, as the Religious Society of Friends, in all our diverse glory and painful divisions, going to make the choices that will affect our future?

Which Bible stories do you find to be the most relevant to all the choices I’m facing? I really need help with that, so if you have suggestions, please leave a comment or contact me one way or another.

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Blogger Sara J Wolcott said...

Robin, I love this blog. They say that freedom is development. In my experience, there is little as terrifying as freedom. I find the dance between having choice and choosing to be a hard one - and that i'm doing it all the time, conscious or not. I want to write theology and practice it. see friends and be alone. get a job and continue doing lots of different little things that don't add up to a job. finish my project and keep working on it. all of this is a lack of simplicity, i fear- and avoiding the responsibility and potential of full committment. But your blog reminds me that it is also part of living; the tensions that we experience in and between ourselves. i want to be part of an ongoing anchoring group that is supporting one another in realising the great transition, a group that knows me for who i want to be, not just who i fall apart as. the ironic thing is that i'm really close to having that - but i haven't treated them as such because they are not Quaker! So often, the real answers are right before us. we just have to live them.

8/08/2011 9:26 AM  
Blogger Barbara B said...

The only Bible story that comes to mind is Martha and Mary. I agree with you that we ought to make our choices conscious, otherwise they happen anyway. We have to choose when to be Martha and when to be Mary. (And also when to be neither, just to take a break). I'm basically a Martha, a hard worker taking care of everyone else, and forget sometimes to make the space to listen to what God wants me to be doing. We are all both women and the world needs both kinds of people. Jesus and the disciples wouldn't have been cared for and fed if it hadn't have been for Martha. But we also need to take time to sit at his feet and devote our entire attention to listening to the inner voice.

Robin, you are on such a good path, with such amazing self-awareness. And blessed with a family who can help support you and keep you grounded.

I remember some advice that Lincoln Moses gave me once when I had competing obligations. Which one requires YOU to be there? I often need to slow down and just listen to where Spirit needs ME to go, because otherwise all the "shoulds" will render me completely overwhelmed and incapable of really being present anywhere.

8/08/2011 2:43 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Sara, I'm glad this is helpful. Please share any other suggestions you learn along the way.

Barbara, I'm thinking that Esther had to make some hard choices, and Solomon, and there must be other good examples that aren't quite so life and death.

8/08/2011 8:54 PM  
Blogger jeff said...

Hi Robin

I wish I had one tenth of your energy. I need at least half an hour of journalling and reflection (with an optional nap) before I can get up the speed to wash the dishes!

Jeff :)

8/09/2011 4:47 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

I am having so much fun, in between and among all the work, that the yoke is easy. And I've had a nap and gone swimming twice in the last two days and I generally find that gives me more energy for everything else.

8/09/2011 9:22 AM  
Blogger cubbie said...

it's good to see you. being. being robin. being present. being open. doing, too. :-)

8/09/2011 6:39 PM  
Anonymous katherine said...

Thank you for finding time to post this.

8/11/2011 9:23 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

You are welcome. It's better for me to find the time to post the essays I compose than to have them on infinite repeat in my head.

8/12/2011 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Robin, thank you for this. You have listed many of the requirements of being of service to our community, but what of this benefit? The opportunity to be held in prayer and to be heard by a support committee that will help anchor and support your choices as you move forward.

What feeds and nourishes you and frees you up to live fully into what is offered? How does your life speak and listen? Where is the joy?

One way to read the Bible is exactly as you asked, how do we say "yes" to God? Moses, the fugitive murderer was asked to return to the scene of the crime and demand justice for the Pharoah's slaves. Joseph was asked to forgive his brothers and sustain them in their greatest need. Mary was asked to offer her first born as a living sacrifice.

How does my soul magnify the Lord?
How does my spirit rejoice?
To the hungry, He gives good things and the rich He turns empty, away.

8/13/2011 7:27 AM  
Blogger Ashley W said...

Hi Robin,

I've been thinking about your question about Bible stories that are relevant to the questions you are facing, and the ones that come to me are the stories about Jesus when he was engaged in his public ministry. So many people wanted so many things from him, and he had to make choices when to say yes and when to say no. Whenever I read the gospels, I am encouraged by the number of times Jesus went away for some time alone. In between all of the preaching, healing, and teaching, Jesus spent time resting, in prayer, and with just his close friends. It is a good reminder for me when I am tempted to stretch myself past my limit.

Thank you for continuing to share your journey with all of us. I am thrilled to read about your energy and excitement, even as you work to find balance. Be gentle with yourself in this time of transition, and rest assured that there are many of us holding you and your family in prayer.


8/13/2011 3:46 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Robin, you made an oblique reference to one of my favorites, Matthew 11:28-30. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." If we take on the work that God gives us, it's actually lighter than if we try to bear everything that the world thinks we should.

8/13/2011 4:25 PM  

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