Have you noticed that folks are already out here promoting fall garb? I was recently served an ad for Thanksgiving tableware! It’s the middle of the summer, my friends! But that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start thinking about the next season.
Even though I’m a mom of littles (which means we’re not gearing up for back to school just yet), I find it very helpful to think ahead to the next season of life and envision what it will look like. Each season offers us a reset. We get the change to leave old habits or rhythms behind, and to start new ones as they serve us well. I think especially since I’m in a season of staying home with my girls and working from home, I find these questions help me picture the next season and plan for it in a way that is a blessing to me and my family.
Here are six questions to ask when a new season begins. I pray they serve you well!
1. What do you love most about this coming season?
Fall is ahead! I love this time of year, and while some folks might tell you sentimentality is a bad thing, I actually think it can serve us very well. What do I love most about this season? I love the food, trading grilling outside for hearty stove-top meals. I love the cooling of the outdoor air (especially here in NC where it is unbearably humid through August). I love the clothes that come with fall, layers and boots and finally packing away my denim shorts; I love seeing the girls in dresses and cardigans and tights and Mary Janes! What do you love most about this time of year? What are you looking forward?
This is a great time to take note: while it often seems like our lives don’t change that much (daily schedules are often monotonous), the seasons do change. And because they change, we have new things to look forward to! This list can be sentimental. It can be nostalgic. Don’t reject good memories of fall picnics in the past because of the season of life you’re in. Dream a little, sis. It is good for your heart!
For me, I really want to spend time outside with my girls. Long unhurried stretches of time, since we haven’t been able to do that in the heat of summer. I want to go to the park in the morning and stay through lunch, only coming home when it’s nap time. I want the wind to tangle our hair as it blows it for hours at a time. I want to eat snack lunches and drink coffee lates, since being outside and drinking warm beverages are my favorite things about fall!
2. What challenges do I anticipate this next season will hold?
Will you baby be dropping her second nap? Will you be starting solids with your little one, and do you dread the mess that will ensue? Will you miss the heat of summer and the routine of being in the pool each day? Will you miss having a spouse home more, or hosting friends with ease outdoors? Where are your “tough spots”? This isn’t a time to problem solve. Just name the challenge.
For me, this fall will be our busiest time in ministry of the year (yes, even busier than Advent season is, because we start planning our Advent series and Christmas Eve service in September). So, for me, the daily routine that I really enjoy and that I have intentionally made to be slow enough to sustain over the long-haul, will have extra meetings and programs in it. And the challenge for me will not be the meetings and programs themselves, but doing with them with the girls in tow. Additionally, Emerson is dropping her nap, which currently overlaps with Elliot’s name (noon to 2pm). I currently work during their nap times, so this patch of time would be very difficult if Emerson is entirely up and playing during this time.
This is a time to name any limitations you have. Do you have budget restrictions? Time restrictions? Mobility restrictions? What limitations do you have? Name them now, so that as you come up with the solutions you know how to best tackle them.
Are there solutions to this? Yep. But I’m not going to name them just yet. Just naming the tricky spots is all I’m trying to do at this point.
3. What kind of person do I want to be in this next season?
Okay, this question might seem too open ended. I’m not asking you to envision yourself a totally different person. For a long time I wished to be Lorelei Gilmore with her fast-paced lifestyle and witty remarks. Guess why? I’m not witty. And I am not that fast paced. If I wanted to be Lorelei Gilmore this fall, I couldn’t be – even if I tried very hard! I would only grow frustrated. Instead, we have to know who God has made us to be, and cherish the way he has wired us.
Instead of idealizing ourselves into someone or something else, we can embrace who God has made us to be even while we grow into the person God is shaping us into! This is embracing the process of sanctification – the process by which God makes us like himself. For me, I want to grow in being a peace-maker in my home. I have noticed that when my girls get elevated, I do also. My anxiety rises and instead of contributing to the peace in our home, I contribute to the conflict in it. Because God has brought this to my attention, I’m going to be praying about it, working on it. And this fall, I want to focus on being a peace-maker.
4. What are some of the immovable pieces of my weekly rhythm?
All of us have things in our schedule that can’t change. The baby takes a nap each day. You work Monday and Wednesday. You have church on Sundays. Notice I said week, not day. Because each week have landmark events that we cater to; even the fact that the weekend is, well, the weekend, is an immovable piece of your weekly rhythm! Name these immovable pieces, and in doing so, you’ll notice where your free times are – or which patches of time are variable or flexible.
Here are mine: Monday is a work day for me (Austin is with the girls), and I work 8:30 to 4pm. Tuesday through Thursday I’m with the girls, and on these days they both nap between noon and 2pm (challenge named above). Every Tuesday, Emerson will have ballet class in the afternoon. Fridays are family days! Austin and I both take Friday and Saturday off. Sunday we have church, and this fall, as mentioned, we have a lot of other Sunday afternoon and evening events/programs. These can’t be changed!
5. What would serve you best as you tackle challenges and embrace who you want to be?
Do you ever notice that your first impulse to a problem can be shopping? It is mine, and I wish it weren’t! I have often purchased an item on impulse off Amazon because it promised to help me organize my calendar – only to find that I hadn’t done the necessary work to better understand my true challenges and what I really needed underneath the surface. Do you know how many planners I’ve thrown away? Too many! I thought at the time they would help me get organized when I felt chaotic, but I’m not a planner user. So they just ended up getting in the way! Instead I needed to name the challenges, and then think through actual solutions.
This is where I work in categories, addressing answers to each of the questions above.
What am I most looking forward to? Picnics in the park! I have an outside picnic blanket I keep in the trunk of our car, but I could really use a practical lunch box for Emerson and Elliot (keeping Elliot’s allergy friendly meals separate). I also want to drink an endless number of lattes, but our budget won’t support that. However, I did get an espresso machine a few years ago from Austin for Christmas! So I want to learn to make a latte I love, which means I’l likely keep an eye out for a social coffee syrup, and possibly either a to-go mug I like or some disposable coffee cups that I can recycle when at the park (I don’t love taking home dirty dishes from the park if I can help it!)
Who do I want to be? A peace maker! So how can I grow in peaceableness? How can I persist in faith the way I want? I’m going to look for a Bible study that will serve me well on this topic. Folding it into my daily quiet time will help me continue to keep at the front of my mind who God is making me to be.
What are my challenges? Lots of events this fall, which will be really difficult with two little girls in tow (and honestly? not much fun for then). An easy solution to this is scheduling childcare. Instead of spending money on things that promise to make me feel more organized, I’m going to spend those dollars on a few strategic hours of childcare for these events. Man, this already feels like a load off!
Another challenge is that Emerson is dropping her nap, and I really need that spot of reset and/or work time each day. So my plan now is to transition Emerson to rest time, rather than nap time. We’re going to get her a few toys that she can use in her room quietly, and keep them only for nap time so that they’re special. I’m going to do a little shopping for: a jewelry craft kit (toddler style) since Emerson loves to create. I’m also going to think about investing in a Yoto player and some cards for her, with a set of noise canceling headphones so she won’t wake Elle.
Notice that all of these things don’t have to be expensive or even cost anything! Ask a friend to swap childcare with you. Go to the thrift store and look for new puzzles for rest time. Borrow a book or study from the library on growing in peaceableness. Money isn’t the solution; but sometimes, stewardship of the resources God gives us is using them strategically to enable ourselves to be our best for our family, even in the face of challenges.
And here’s another thing to notice: while my anxious habit can be impulse shopping, my actual shopping list just got a whole lot smaller. Looking at a shopping list for a coffee syrup, Yoto and cards, ballet shoes and leotard, etc. might seem like a lot when it’s all listed together, but do you notice what’s not on it? New clothes. An abundance of pumpkin decor. Candles for every room in the house. Maybe these are on your list, and if so there’s nothing wrong with that. But when I think about fall, or even look at pictures of fall and dream about the season, I convince myself that I need a new fall outfit, and lots of candles that never end up being used. You know what? I have jeans. They’re fine. At the park I don’t need lots of leather boots. My New Balance tennis shoes are just fine (and just right for playing at a playground). I’m actually saving a lot of money by naming the challenges and only showing for what will actually serve me well.
6. What can I do now that my future self will thank me for?
This last question is an edition of a key question that the Lazy Genius ask (what can I do now that will make life easier later). What can you do as the summer closes that your future self will thank you for? If you’re most looking forward to the food of the fall, can your today-self be on the lookout for clearance beefs and whole chickens at the grocery store that you can freeze for later? Can you current self make an ongoing list of all the items that you’ll need for the fall sports/classes/events so that you can buy them all at once, either online or in store? Can you current self put all the fall events on the calendar as they come in so that you fall self doesn’t have to backtrack and fill them in later?
For me, I’m doing a little bit of housekeeping to get myself ready for fall. I’m organizing the garage so that when all the beach items are put away for the season I can still access the girls outdoor toys. I’m also doing an inventory of our deep freezer in the garage, so I know exactly what I’ve stored in there over the summer, and what is useable for the fall (love fall foods!). I’m also making a shopping list of what I want for Emerson’s rest time and for her fall ballet class, so that I can keep an eye out for the best prices. I’m also making a master list of all the events/times I will need childcare, and reaching out to one babysitter with all the dates to see if I can secure one person for all of them (way in advance mind you!)
Slow around the bend
This list may seem simple, but it is helpful, isn’t it? I have a friend who once told me that her dad’s best advice. to her was originally about driving for the first time, but ended up being helpful in so many other ways also. He said, slow around the bend. Meaning, when you’re driving and don’t know what’s ahead, move slowly. But how practical for life transitions, too! As fall approaches, let’s go slow. And see how much more we’re able to get out of the season (time, enjoyment, peace) as we both plan and prepare, and trust God with the outcome.
Note: this post contains affiliate links. None of the photos are my own, and each are linked for proper credit.