“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:1
This verse has always held profound comfort for me. When I find myself longing wistfully for something that is not going to happen at this time, I can remind myself that it’s not a question of whether it’s a good thing or not; it may not even be a matter of priorities: it could simply be a question of timing. I’m not in the right season of life for that particular wish right now.
Of course, it can become a cop-out if used flippantly. “Oh, I’m just not in the season of life for that right now” is a lame excuse if applied to, say, paying your taxes. But usually it’s a perfectly reasonable concession to acknowledge that this may not be the best time to take on another outside activity, start an ambitious cooking regimen, or give up coffee.
Right now, we are smack in the middle of the young-family-with-very-young-children season. (Or maybe we’re on the front end. Or nearing the end. In any case, we’ve been here awhile.) That means that many things I’d like to do—tour Europe, stay out past midnight on New Years’ Eve, volunteer at a local food pantry—are simply not viable options for the near future. And I’m (mostly) okay with that. I can handle the notion of putting a bunch of dreams and plans on hold for now.
Living in this season also means that even all the other theoretically do-able things are much more difficult than they used to be, or than they will be someday. Shopping with a bunch of kids is a challenge (but it still needs to get done). Keeping up with the housework is a challenge (and it doesn’t always get done).
But one thing we are still figuring out is the question of hospitality. We’ve wrestled with this issue since our firstborn arrived, and though we’ve tried a variety of approaches to smooth out the evening’s program (feeding kids before the guests arrive, setting kids up with a movie in the back room, putting kids to bed early in an attempt to secure a quiet atmosphere), we haven’t quite found a foolproof plan that results in a peaceful and uninterrupted evening of conversation or games.
We used to think that it was just a busy season, and that we’d find our groove once the younger ones got past the most trying stage. But we’re always going to be busy, and once we get past this phase, we’ll be in the throes of another. We can’t keep putting off the important things in life while we wait for circumstances to be more convenient. What we do know is that we like to get together with people, and that it is often inconvenient to do so with small children underfoot. Now is the time to live with our priorities in order, as best we can.
So we still invite people over. Hospitality and friendship—keeping up with longtime friends and cultivating new ones—are important to us. Therefore, we’re going to keep trying, despite the potential hassle. This is not a season to sit out on friendship and fellowship. After all, anything worth doing will probably take a bit of effort, so it’s no surprise that having people over can be a logistical challenge sometimes.
Our children get to practice how to behave in company: it’s the perfect training ground for how to function as reasonable members of society. We get to practice our parenting skills with grace under pressure. Our guests get…well, food, anyway, and a hearty welcome into the reality of our family life. Sometimes they even come back (especially if our little kleptomaniac has pinched a trinket or two). (You know the old saying about counting the silver when certain guests leave? Here, in this house, our guests would do well to take stock of their valuables when they take their leave.)
Sometimes it does take a bit of soldiering through when things get particularly loud and distracting. We’re grateful for good and understanding friends who bear with us through interrupted conversations, messy dinner tables, and early exits.
Photo Credit: Second, third, and fourth images by Rose Focht.