I pointed out in my book, The Other Side of Charity, that an adopted mother once told me I needed to learn how to "receive" rather than "take." What she also said at that time (that I did not put in the book) was that the next book I wrote needed to be about giving rather than receiving - implying that I had a lot to learn about the topic.
Her words left their mark. They were hard to hear, and I have pondered how to learn the first side of charity in the five plus years that have intervened.
Recently, I have felt the tug and pull of the Spirit-through various blessings, scripture readings, and conference talks-whispering to me that one obstacle I face in becoming charity (rather than just "developing" it) is time.
I have been diagnosed as a type "A" personality - no surprise to those who know me, I'm sure. Among other things, this means I am obsessed with time efficiency, and have goals for my time at all times. I probably get more done this way, but I may be missing "the better part" as the biblical Martha was in her being busy and troubled about many things (from the New American Bible, not King James).
I often have "service" to-dos on my lists of things to do. Of course, caring for my children (how thrilling it is that I can now say that in the plural form!) is always a given, maybe a visit to a ward member, or sharing what I understand the gospel to be in some fashion. But with goals and objectives and an obsession with time, there is little time for anything but my agenda. I have good things on my agenda, but it is still my agenda.
What I have been sensing is the next step in my spiritual development is actually quite scary for this type A-er: I need to do less. Perhaps, as a wise spiritual leader has counselled me, half as much as I have done previously.
In the spaces that such a non-agenda leaves, I will have more time to serve. Service in the sense of it being a way of life - to respond to the Spirit, to listen to a friend, to help a neighbour. And to enjoy my family more, giving more of myself as I play with my children and be more present for them and my husband. Perhaps, in losing my agenda, I'll find a better one.
And so, with this maternity leave, I am maintaining my cleared schedule so I can learn what it is like to have space in my life for a non-agenda. For work colleagues and friends, please accept my apologies in advance - I will not be able to meet previously-held expectations. As I recalibrate my life and what it is filled with, I am hoping I find time for the better part.
I'll let you know how it goes.