the illusion of time

Lately, every time I give Hans a hug, spot him napping on the couch or simply call into his room, “Goodnight Hans!” I’m struck with the pure luxury of still having him home. Some days I only get small glimpses of Hans– he’s in and out the door, at school, study groups, tutoring, frisbee, madrigals, basketball games, decorating the school for the next dance or event, service projects, church stuff, missionary prep….

These days I’ll do anything he asks. He’s so responsible, doing so many good things, it feels like a pleasure to serve him. And he’s also the sort of person who never asks for anything selfish or unreasonable– I could give him my credit card and never worry about a frivolous purchase. Primarily, he asks for my time, my talents: helping with a video, chaperoning a dance, taking photos, baking, attending events, picking up something from the grocery store. Last week Hans was in charge of Spirit Week and Mary counted twelve trips up to the high school where we helped with something or delivered random objects (a peeled lemon, white duct tape). It’s busy, it’s crazy, but we have so little time left.

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This week, Thursday or Friday, Hansie’s mission call should arrive in our mailbox in a large white envelope.


It’s so interesting anticipating a mission call. You can take the globe, give it a twirl and make a guess on every continent, every country, every island. It could be anywhere. Anywhere (with the exception of Antarctica and most of the Middle East). And then, all of a sudden, the call comes and it’s one place. One place and people who will change Hansie’s heart. A language he’ll love, food he’ll crave for the rest of his life. People he will teach and people who will teach him.

The earliest date he could leave is July 1st, but you never know with a mission call– he might not leave until October. April 28th will bring Stefan home to us and we’ll have at least two months together. All summer plans are on hold until we know Hansie’s departure date. I’m ready for his call to arrive, but not for him to go.

I’ve been thinking about my mothering. It’s a natural phenomenon with graduation looming in June, even without a mission call in the queue. Last fall the LDS Church put out a video titled You Never Know How Much Good You Do. While it was loved by many, it also received a fair amount of criticism for depicting the martyr mom who did everything for everyone else. I understand the complaints, and agree some of the scenarios are pretty unrealistic (the last minute science fair poster that wins first place?). But I’ve been thinking ever since about the beauty of being the person who makes life work for everyone else.

I am that mom. And this year I’ve embraced the privilege of being completely available to my children. Rather than resenting their needs as I have at times in the past, I’ve enjoyed (almost) every opportunity to run a lunch up to the school, attend wrestling matches, bake cupcakes, host parties, teach Mary, go running with Gabe. With every step, I know, “This won’t last. Enjoy it. This won’t last.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no saint. I get grumpy and tired and distracted. I’ve forgotten to pick up carpool or buy food for lunches. But we’ve been kind to each other; we accept each others’ failings and cheer for triumphs. I give Hans a great deal of credit for the peace in our home.

While I wisely cut back on photography work this year, I was ambitious about branching out in videography or writing a book this fall. But my intentions led to nothing but roadblocks and failures; I’m grateful for that now. It’s not my time; it may never be my time. I know that’s the antithesis of everything out there right now: “you can do anything” “follow your dream” “aspire!”

After one of my more spectacular failures last year, one of my writing friends sent me a note. She’s successfully published several books and navigated the new trend in social media where authors need to constantly promote themselves on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram… Writing composes only a small fraction of the time required to promote the book, be constantly available for interviews, book signings, etc.

She told me– and this is sacred to me, so I share it cautiously– “If I knew three years ago what I knew now, I wouldn’t have written the books. It’s taken too large a toll on my family.”

From the tingling on my scalp to the electricity racing down to my toes, I knew her words were true for me. Sacred. Like my own little message from God sent through another person. Now, I’m not suggesting her words are for everyone. I’m sure plenty of people can juggle professional and personal life just fine. But I’ve always known I don’t juggle as well as other people. I need a lot of sleep, I need personal time, I fall apart when I’m overextended.

Right now, I’m enjoying the last few months of Hansie’s senior year, my home filled with friends and music and food on the counter, one lovely 17 year old girl added to our family, kids who laugh and love and help each other– it’s a good dream.

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  1. Linn

    March 10, 2015

    So very beautiful Michelle. I feel this so strongly as a mother and I appreciate so much how you put it into words. In the perfect way. Thank you. Thank you so very much.

    And what excitement to be receiving a mission call this week! So happy for you and your boy. And so sorry for your heart. It makes me teary just thinking about it.

  2. Jeanelle

    March 10, 2015

    Loved these heartfelt words from you today. Even though I can’t relate fully, I understand a little of what you’re going through and I so appreciate all you’re doing to raise such wonderful children in this world we are living in now. I can’t wait to hear where he’s going!!

  3. Andrea

    March 10, 2015

    I could not agree with you more! And I so enjoyed your last post. Trust me–I am taking notes! Thank you so much for your example and your positive reflections on motherhood. There is so much to be grateful for!

  4. Shannon

    March 10, 2015

    I read this as we speed down the freeway to deliver our daughter to the MTC tomorrow. Your thoughts resonate in my heart. She is our 5th child, fourth missionary and first daughter to serve. Enjoy every minute with that awesome Hans! But then, you don’t need to hear that, you already know it. Thank you for your beautiful blog.

  5. Laura

    March 11, 2015

    I loved this! I have felt the same way since my youngest started kindergarten three years ago. People always ask me what I’ll do with “my” time now that all my kids are in school. I feel like there isn’t any less mothering that needs to be done during the day. Sure it’s a little easier to fold the laundry without helpers to unfold it, and the house stays cleaner until the kids get home, but I love being available when they need it. I love that I can go help in the classroom when it’s needed. I love attending my kids meets in the middle of the afternoon. I love being, as you said, that person that makes life work for everyone else. I know it may not always be that way, and that I’m sooooo fortunate to be able to do that. But I feel that being a mother is my greatest calling in life and I cherish the time I’m able to do it.
    I also enjoyed your thoughts on the mission call. We guess their entire life, up until this point, where it is they’ll serve. Then one day BAM…we know. So exciting!

  6. Emily B

    March 11, 2015

    Great post Michelle. Thank you for sharing. I love the idea of living deliberately, even more so when I actually do it. A couple of years ago I decided to stop trying to organize my mothering responsibilities in order to do other things. Instead, I try to organize my life so that I can be a mom. It has made a big difference, more joy and happiness. So very glad I made that choice, yet still, it is a constant correction for me, with temptations of grandeur along the way. Your words inspire me.

  7. Laurel C.

    March 15, 2015

    I’ve been following your blog for a little bit now and have even commented a couple times. I was drawn to your blog through Segullah and your beautiful writing and lovely photographs. (I share those interests, too.) So even though I’ve never met your sweet Hans, I’m so very curious as to where he’s been called to! Update! Update! 🙂

  8. Kerri

    March 16, 2015

    I’m so excited for Hans. What an amazing call. But I am also grateful for your wise words. I have spent more time caring for my children and their friends this year and I am grateful for every minute being the one that makes their happiness possible. They really do need an ally and a facilitator. Teaching piano and callings and everything else has to remain a priority, but I want my children to know that I loved them and cared for them, even when it wasn’t convenient.

  9. Michelle

    March 17, 2015

    Love to hear the settled sense in your writing. This is such a great time and season to savor. And you savor with style and gusto and I love it.

  10. Alison

    March 23, 2015

    This is a lovely post that fills me with great warmth. My eldest is in her second last year at high school and I know your angst to grab at every opportunity to help and support. Time flies by so quickly. Children are the most precious gifts of life.

  11. Anne Marie

    March 25, 2015

    Such a lovely, lovely post. Thank you for your words. My oldest son is finishing up his last year of high school and will be heading to BYU in the fall, and your perspective on teens has been so important to me the last several years. Thank you for your powerful influence. I know your words will continue to shape hearts and ideas (whether by book, blog, or conversation). You have many decades ahead of you so who knows? Maybe a book can still sneak its way into your life (during another season). Or maybe you can compile all your amazing blog posts into a book (I know many who would jump at the chance to buy it!).

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