Earlier this spring, we had a lovely assortment of flowers and plants on our front porch. We had marigolds, ferns, and gerbera daisies, as well as a few others whose names I never got to know.
At first, we had a struggle with a squirrel repeatedly unearthing some of the potted plants. That was finally solved after I dumped hefty amounts of chili powder into the pots, though the cause and effect cannot be scientifically proven. Eventually, the gerbera daisies quit blooming, though I continued to water them to keep their greens lush. Then, after hosting two rounds of lovely finch eggs in the fern on the north side of the porch, the fern got infested with some sort of mite and had to be disposed of. In recent weeks, the plants began to shrivel, I watered less as we got busy with other projects, the heat got worse, and here we are, with a less-than-welcoming front porch of dried-out plants.
During the recent spate of hot and sunny days, when we had to run errands during the day, I would park the car in the front of the driveway to take advantage of the house’s shade, and so we were using the front door more often than usual. (Normally we park in the back and use the back door.)
Using the front door means I can’t blame the plants’ neglect on my lack of noticing.
Nope, I noticed.
And I decided I was not interested in making time for the outdoor aesthetics of the house that were not absolutely necessary when there was so much work to be done inside the house (the kitchen renovation), inside my head (homeschool planning), and inside my heart (encouraging and loving my people and my community, which I take seriously as Kingdom work).
The plants moved to the bottom of the priority list–actually, right off the priority list–and other things were taking precedence.
Because we are always, girls, always making choices about what is important to us and how we are spending our days.
What I mean is, I could easily make a list of all the things I’ve neglected this summer. Here are five things off the top of my head–
- The Garden: Take a step around the corner of the house, for example, and note the knee-high weeds in the garden that barely constitutes a garden.
- The Novel: Just last week at reading camp, one of the other volunteers asked me if I was still working on my novel. Gulp.
- Writing Goals: I had pretty high expectations for what I would be able to do this summer. I have myriad ideas for poems, letters to you here as well as in your individual journals, Instagram posts.
- Photobooks: I am behind in making photobooks. At the very least, I thought I would have by now made the annual school-year-art-project photobooks for both of you.
- The Summer Routine: I really thought I would get into a routine to give our summer structure. I did not. And it seems silly to me now that I ever thought this was a possibility.
But am I neglecting these things? That isn’t exactly true. Or at the very least it is misleading to characterize it as neglect.
Most of us use the word neglect (as in, I neglected to do that) as a way to distance ourselves from the action. It’s not exactly saying that we accidentally didn’t do it, but it is usually used to suggest that we didn’t have much choice in the matter. In fact, I would say “neglect” is most often used to say that we were too busy to get around to doing it.
And maybe we were “too busy.” But I’ve written before about the myth of busyness, and that we all have the same amount of time and many of us need to take more responsibility for how we are choosing to spend our time. It’s one of my things.
I feel similarly about neglect. Did I neglect the marigolds in this little pot in the photograph?
All I can say for sure is this: I didn’t make caring for them a priority because I made something else a priority instead.
And if I start labeling things as “items I’ve neglected,” I’m suddenly dealing with the baggage of an unfinished and impossible-to-finish to-do list. It turns the freedom of choice and priorities into guilt and shame. Yes, I know we could all be doing more and being more and squeezing more in. But we shouldn’t be doing that. Squeezing in more. Feeling bad about what we aren’t choosing to do.
No, girls, don’t frame your priorities like that. Don’t catalog the things you’re neglecting. Focus on the things you’re choosing to give precedence during this season. Embrace those things, and let the rest fall away.
Focus on the things you’re called to do. (And stop cataloging what others are or aren’t doing.)
And when in doubt, always choose the Kingdom work of hospitality. That’s one of my soap boxes, too.
Because Kingdom work is, for real, always a priority.
As is going upstairs right now to listen to you put on a homemade puppet show performance of the song “Baby Shark.” You already gave me a handful of pennies to pay my price of admission.