Life, Love, and Learning About Margins

I realized yesterday that I’m caught smack in the middle of every working mom’s biggest dilemma: How can you be there for your kids during an immensely important time for them that is also an immensely important time for you at work?

My daughter is about to enter ninth grade (how did THAT happen?), and at a whole new school in a new area where she knows almost no one. And just as she most needs us, events are conspiring against us.

Not long ago, we got the emails from the new school: “Mandatory parent-student orientation on X date”… and my stomach sinks as I see that I have a speaking engagement halfway across the country on that very day. Booked one year ago, before we even knew what school she was going to.

Then the emails from the volleyball coaches saying here are some of the dates for her big games early in the year… and I’m out of town for some of them.

Then the deadline for revisions to my latest book ended up being the first week of school. Which means during the week that I most want to be picking her up from school and hearing all about her teachers, her schedule, the new kids, her hopes, and her worries, I’m going to be most frantic to meet my deadlines for my supportive, but-there’s-only-so-far-we-can-push-the-schedule publisher.

Most women who juggle a demanding work schedule have found ways to work around it and cope—but as we all know, there is only so much you can do when the client says “You have to be here on X date” and it is exactly the day you most didn’t want to leave your family.

What do you do? Well, I want to focus on an answer that is beyond the usual sort of “juggle duties with your spouse” answers that seem more practical (and which I’m definitely still going to do!).

I think the main answer is to desperately pray and ask God for a solution, and to ask others to pray.

A few weeks ago, before I knew about all these conflicts, I sent out one of my regular emails to my prayer team, asking them to continue to pray for God’s anointing on this book as I write, and that we would meet our deadline well. I got back this email from someone who knows me and my daughter and our crazy world of traveling and speaking very well, and is also in the world of education. So she was seeing something coming that we hadn’t seen yet:

Continuing to pray, mostly for margin of all kinds. This is a big year with your daughter starting high school. I pray that God will help you meet the book deadlines AND have quality times with your family between now and then.

I was very grateful for her mentioning this when I hadn’t thought of it… and before I realized how hard this schedule was going to be. And now that I know the difficulty, I’m very grateful for her prayers. And I’m absolutely sure that God hears them and will answer. This is when I expect to see the truth of that Scripture “I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” and the worship song that “He will make a way when there seems to be no way.” I would never try to get out of any speaking engagements—I am grateful for the chance to share, and these folks are depending on me—but I trust that God will bring answers in other ways.

Like one of the event sponsors a few days ago agreeing that I could fly in much later than I normally would for my speaking slot, so that I could go to part of the school orientation. Like another event at the last minute asking to change their date just slightly—but enough that (unbeknownst to them) it will allow me to go to my daughter’s main volleyball tournament!

Small mercies, but they show me that God is listening and working.

And yesterday, I saw an email from a group asking for parent volunteers to serve lunch to the kids on the first day of school. Yes, it is only days from my book deadline, and yes, I know it will mean four hours out of a day that has no “margin” in the schedule—but I trust God will make me ultra-efficient in writing at other times to make up for it. So that my daughter can look across a crowded cafeteria, and throngs of new kids, and see a face she knows. A face of someone she knows loves her and is there for her, even in the middle of a very crowded week.

During these “impossible” times, trusting the ultimate Parent to manage what is most important is, I believe, the most practicalthing we can do.

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