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Friday, October 26, 2007

Daily Discernment

I once heard that Quaker teacher Bill Taber didn’t do a single thing before stopping and listening for God’s guidance. Even when he was leading a weekend workshop, he never planned more than a session ahead, stopping at each break to pray for guidance for the next hour’s work. I aspire to be so grounded and trusting, but I’m afraid I’m still learning how to listen to my inner voice when the phone is ringing, the dog barking to go out, and the kids clamoring for help with their homework. This week I’m practicing with the daily decisions around scheduling a busy family.

This weekend, for example, is just ridiculous. My son has a soccer game on Saturday morning, while my daughter has a Middle School Friends activity in the afternoon. I am invited to an art exhibit opening where a poem I wrote will be featured, along with a piece of visual art that was created to accompany it. Both curiosity and ego made me want to go to the exhibit opening, which is being organized by a good friend. Unfortunately, it is a few hours drive, and not even the Pennsylvania mountains in autumn could justify such a long trip, especially since my husband (a hospice social worker) is on call, the kids need chauffeuring, and I have things to do to prepare for my husband’s birthday on Sunday. Once I admitted to myself that my ego was blocking my discernment, I was able to let that one go and erase the exhibit from the family calendar.

Then a trickier dilemma came along. Several of the parents of the Middle School Friends event, which has been planned for some time, realized that dropping our children at the meetinghouse at 1 was going to make us miss the human chain for peace happening at the other end of the city. I got the bright idea that we should take the kids to at least some of the peace march and start the field trip an hour later. One parent offered to drive all the kids from the march to the meetinghouse, but then realized she wasn’t going to be able to do it. Other family plans shifted as well, often when people remembered other commitments they had forgotten. To make a long story short, this dilemma generated scores of e-mail—we were, of course, hitting “reply to all”—as well as a few phone conversations. I felt like John Woolman who chided himself for wasting people’s time in business meeting when he realized he was keeping hundreds of people from starting their journeys home.

From a logical point of view, having Quaker kids go to a peace march made all the sense in the world. But yesterday morning I woke up with a strong sense that I needed to think less and listen more. (This also applied to the question of whether to offer a workshop at FGC Gathering this summer, which I had also been thinking about.) I took the dog for a walk in the predawn rain and felt a strong call to simplify, cutting activities unless they really were spirit led. The result will be one less peace march for my daughter, but I’ve realized she’s more likely to learn peace from having a peaceful mother than from rushing from one end of town to the other with a peace sign dragging behind her.

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Blogger Robin M. said...

Ooooh, this Friend speaks my mind.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Friendly Mama said...

And mine, as well! With a 16 year old, a homeschooled 12 year old and a very outgoing almost 5 year old, two parents, one full-time and one part-time job and one car, our schedule is always overloaded. Being able to listen for discernment begins with being able to still the internal secretary/clock watcher long enough to LISTEN.
Thanks for the priorities reminder!

"Let there be peace on Earth,
And let it begin with me"

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Perhaps the whole world is more likely to learn peace from Friends who are peaceable, than from Friends who rush from one end of town to the other with peace signs dragging behind them —?

Good post, Eileen!

6:47 AM  
Blogger naturalmom said...

I've been away from your blog too long! I just spent the last 1/2 hour reading your most recent entries, and it's been a blessing. (I'm up late with my new baby, but he's been asleep for the last 20 minutes and I'm still here!)

Anyway, thank you for your thoughtful posts. I always enjoy them.


12:02 AM  

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