Fake Busy

You know what I am tired of hearing myself talk about?  How busy I am.  Yes.  I do a bunch of stuff.  But yes- I have the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else has.  And, just like everyone else, I get to choose how I spend it!  So why do I get stuck in this cycle of complaining about how little time I have like my own schedule is something that is happening TO me?

I chose this!

Half the things I find myself racing around to do are things that my husband calls ‘fake busy’… burning items on my to do list that I just made up out of my head that I need to get done.  Since when is buying a new pack of athletic socks an emergency?  It sure seemed couponthat way to me last Thursday!  Just because I have $10 loyalty rewards and a 40% coupon at AC Moore does not mean that I am required to go to that store today.  Whether or not I have painted my fireplace is actually not a life and death situation.  And yet, that’s how I live my life!  80% of the things I feel stressed about are things that I made up for myself to do.

How about you?

How often are your days filled with ‘fake busy’ items on your to do list?

How much time to you spend in front of the TV?  On social media? Disengaged with your life?

How many hidden pockets of time are being lost in your day?

I have a lot.  And as I am reflecting this Lenten season, I wonder what would happen if I invested that time more wisely?  If I lived my life intentionally, prioritizing people over things?  If I spent the hours entrusted to me engaging with my kids, calling an out of town friend, or just savoring the sweetness of my life, instead of rushing headlong into the next project I created for myself?

    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude
We are merely moving shadows,
   and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
-Psalm 39:4-6

We have a choice.  Even on the things we have to do.  Yes.  Humans need to eat, with shocking regularity.  But what if cooking a meal was an invitation into presence?  If we enjoy the scents, the smells, the colors of cooking our food, instead of rushing it onto plates?  What if time spent in the car was seen as an opportunity to pray blessings on the strangers we pass along the road?  Or to marvel at the beauty of a sunset, a tree branch, a backseat child’s laughter?

There is a difference between surviving and truly living.  We all have 24 hours.  How we spend them is an attitude of the mind.

 

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Please Don’t Give Up Chocolate for Lent this Year…

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Today is Ash Wednesday, the official start of Lent.  Which means that people all over the world will begin their Lenten fasts.  In my experience, however, these chosen fasts have more to do with crash dieting than with deepening one’s walk with Christ.

Having grown up in a tradition that didn’t talk that much about practicing Lent, I only had a vague idea of what Lent was as a high schooler.  If you were to ask 16 year old me what it meant to practice Lent, I probably would have told you that for 40 days before Easter you weren’t allowed to eat chocolate, soda, and you were supposed to go for a 3 mile run instead of watching TV every day.  In essence, Lent was a second shot at that failed New Year’s Resolution.  Other than the timing of the season, I didn’t know that Lent had all that much to do with God.

As an adult, I have come to understand what Lent means in the practice of the faith.  The season is meant to be a time of anticipation, a time of making room for Christ.  That is the purpose of a Lenten fast- to create a hunger for God, to create space in your life and your schedule to devote yourself to prayer and reflection.  In my thinking, the practice of Lent should draw you closer to God, creates a sense of fullness and satisfaction, not one of hunger or deprivation.  So let me ask you (humbly, gently); does giving up chocolate, caffeine, or fast food really create room and awareness of God in your life?

Is there another practice that could better accomplish that purpose?

I so often see people (and have been guilty myself) of choosing something for a fast that is really more of a diet plan.  In my mind I am thinking I am doing this for God, but if I also happen to lose a bit of weight in the process, that’s ok too.  As I reflect upon this, I realize that that is dancing a line very close to idolatry.  What am I really pursuing in this goal?  To draw closer to Christ, or to draw closer to my goal of the perfect body?

In the past few years I have decided that instead of giving something up for Lent, I will instead add something.  A daily (or if that’s too hard, regular) practice that serves to draw me closer to my savior.  To more deeply connect me with the author of life. To invite me into a time of personal worship.  This year, I am going to try and set some time each day to create.  As an act of worship.  Acknowledging that I am formed in the image of my Creator.  That practice speaks deeply into my soul as something I need right now.  Perhaps there is something your heart is whispering to you that would draw you closer to God…

Time each day to walk, outside, appreciating God’s marvelous creation.

A family meal each week, set aside to connect with each other on a deeper level.

Worship music in your car on your morning commute.

Reading the Christian book that has been sitting on your nightstand for weeks.

My challenge to you is to use Lent to enrich your relationship with Christ in a way that has no other outside benefits.  Let your pursuit of Him for the next 40 days be unspoiled by other secondary goals.

And may the Peace of Christ be with you.

 

Snowstorm Sabbath

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One of my favorite things about living in the South is our kooky reaction to winter weather.  As the first flakes of frozen precipitation begin to fall from above, we feel compelled to act as if the sky itself is falling.  School is cancelled.  There is a run on the grocery store.  Motorists on all major thoroughfares immediately smash into fellow  vehicles.  We stack up our firewood, pile on the blankets, and drink mug after mug of hot chocolate.  It’s amazing.

We have just weathered one of those storms, and, as we emerge from the blizzard of 2016, I find myself realizing what it is that I love so much about our winter panic- in the midst of the storm, everything stops.  We stay at home.  Engage with our families.  Cook luxurious meals and excuse ourselves from going to work, to the gym, to board meetings and the other obligations that fill our days.  We shelter in place.

In essence, we take a sabbath.

I cannot tell you how much the last few days have meant to me.  I have had real conversations with my family.  I have gotten down on the floor and played with my children. I took moments to pet my dog.  Wash my dishes by hand.  Talk to my neighbors.  I have marveled at the beauty of nature, and listened to good music.  In essence, I have taken time to stop and truly enjoy this beautiful life I am living.

In typical Southern fashion, the weather today is heading towards 50 degrees.  On the street outside of my office I see people in winter parkas walking next to others in t-shirts.  And I find myself a bit sad about the thaw.  Because although I appreciate the return to normal patterns and schedules, I know I will miss the freedom and space created by the snow.

For the record, no, I am am not wishing for an eternal winter. But I do find myself asking what it is about these snow days that are so meaningful.  What practices can I carry forward into the sunshine?

Here are some questions I have been asking myself in the discovery process… maybe they will resonate with you as well:

What do I cherish the most about snow days?

What elements of this time can I begin to incorporate into my own sabbath practices?

How can I hold myself accountable to engage deeply in relationships with those I love in the midst of my busy-ness?

Are there any new traditions I can put in place in my life to capture some of this whimsy and peace I love so dearly?

This Day.

One Day
24 Hours
1,440 Minutes.
We are all blessed with the same.

Each morning is a blank page, waiting to be filled with

words.

memories.

encounters.

tasks.

How do you choose to fill your day?
With scheduled minutes,
or unplanned moments?

We have a choice.  To rush and hurry
chasing the second hand in dizzying circles around the clock

Or to do the same things in a progression of moments.
Choosing to value the who over the what.

How will you choose to fill this day?

the gift of ordinary time

Each day is replete with blessings.  Our lives hold impossible glories.
Right now, the sun is shining through my window, dust motes dance upon the air.
Tiny ballerinas.  An intended audience of one.
Unimaginable beauty, contained within the mundane.

What will you do with this day you have been gifted?
Hurry through, with eyes turned to deadlines, screens, traffic lights?
Or allow your imagination to capture your attention?
See the glistening water flowing through the tap, and behold the bubbles of soap in their iridescent splendor?

What does it feel like outside today?
Did you take the time to notice?
What blessings will today hold for you?
Will you take the time to receive them?

just show up

You know what matters?  Words.  Words matter.  You know what else matters?  Presence.  If you have a person in your life who is hurting, just show up.  Use your mouth to make words.  Pretty much any words will do- and they will be a blessing.

I remember who visited me in the hospital and at home when I had my babies.  I remember who came to my father’s funeral.  I remember every time someone has dropped off a gift when I feel discouraged, sent a text at a time when I felt alone… these things matter.  We crave to feel known, to feel seen.

There is a huge battle fought every time we have an impulse to show up in someone’s life.  When we feel a tug on our hearts to be there for a friend in a time of need, the items on our to-do list seem to start screaming louder.  You suddenly notice the kitchen counter is covered in dirty dishes.  The washing machine is overflowing.  The work deadline looms larger, and you remember a dozen errands you have been putting off.  We worry that we are intruding, that the person isn’t up for a visit, that it will feel awkward.  But still… isn’t it worth a try?

We hear time and again that time is the most valuable commodity in today’s society.  The way we invest that time is significant.  It tells us about our values.  It gives us clues to our idols.  It is a resource we can invest, either in God’s kingdom, or in our own agendas.  Investing in relationships is a difficult thing to do, because that time is… squishy.  It doesn’t feel like you are doing something with your time when you are spending it with a friend.  It gets you no closer to your goals, to feeling in control of your life.  Or does it?  

Guard against the tyranny of the urgent. The most important things will seldom scream for your attention, they will simply wait for you to discover them. Things like prayer, Scripture study, cultivating friendships, thinking, enjoying art. The loud and demanding are rarely as important as these.”
~Charles Swindoll

Investing in people pays dividends over time.  We are not built to be alone.  We need people in our lives, people to show up when WE need them.  Not only that, we need to cultivate the discipline of investing in others.  In being hospitable with our time.  I am guilty of neglecting this.  I frequently let the fear of awkwardness or the pressure of busyness override my urge to reach out.  But I am trying to fight it.

Here are my resolutions (for now):
When I am asked to pray for someone really pray for them.  And follow up later.
Send that text.  Write that letter.
Show up.  In hospitals.  At sickbeds.  When it matters.
When I am with someone… listen.  not just talk.  Ask questions about them.

Any other suggestions?