Our granddaughter visited us for ten days, earlier this month. Our time together was a gift in many ways—and a challenge in others. For one thing, the ebb and flow of the freelance life means I can do my best to plan around the busy seasons—but the busy seasons fluctuate, according to the whim of my clients, and what I’d hoped would be an ebb tide turned instead into quite a heavy flow. I’m not complaining—when you’re a freelancer, work from ongoing clients forms the core of your business! But it did make for quite a juggling act.

You see, I always want everything to go perfectly when family visits. Henry will tell you that I spend far too much time worrying about getting the house clean, figuring out what to serve, making a long list of possible activities to keep family members engaged and occupied. I also love the desert, and want to show it off to best advantage….

Naturally, our week did not turn out as I had planned. There were days when I took my laptop with us in the car and edited while Henry drove to our destination of the day and our granddaughter plowed through some pretty significant summer reading books. (I don’t recall being assigned summer reading homework and felt rather sorry for her, but at least it meant that, when I was working, so was she!) There was one day when I actually chose to stay home and work while she and Henry went to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum—since we are members there and I can go at any time.

I also had to let go of my worries about whether our granddaughter was enjoying herself. Like her grandpa, she doesn’t easily share what she thinks and feels, nor does she have much opinion about where we go to dinner or what we’ll eat if we stay home. As a natural empathic who is wired to respond appropriately to others’ desires, it was hard to let them both be who they were and proceed to the best of my ability.

I found myself remembering the four lessons from the biblical book of Jonah—the Hebrew prophet who ran away from God’s call to preach to the Ninevites, got swallowed by a whale, and had three days in its belly to ponder the ramifications of his rebelliousness. At the end of the story, when Jonah’s own preaching had resulted in Ninevite repentance, Jonah got angry with God for being merciful. I’ve talked in depth about these four lessons before:

1. Show up.

2. Pay attention.

3. Tell the truth.

4. Don’t get attached to results.

In this situation, it was the final lesson that I really needed to remember. I can only do my best to be a loving, attentive hostess; how my granddaughter responds to it all is totally out of my control. I also need to recognize that a week with us is not going to irrevocably warp her, one way or the other. God is in charge of her life and her experiences, not I.

I am slowly learning, family visit by family visit, to loosen my grip on my need to control. When I can go with the flow, day by day, I think we all have a better time together. Certainly I can focus on my houseguests, rather than on my performance—and the houseguests are the point of the visit, after all.

What lessons in control, and going with the flow, do you need to ponder?

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