Category: Slowing Down

Four Ways to be Less Busy

 

It’s autumn in Pennsylvania. Autumn in this part of the world means cornfields that rustle beige in the evening thermals.  It means pumpkins on stoops and hay mazes towering in muddy alfalfa fields.  It means russet leaves applauding the sky and geese heading south with their human-like voices echoing overhead.

For our family it also means settling into a different routine – one that currently includes soccer games, hunting trips, and longer hours within the walls of our living room. Darkness comes earlier, and we find ourselves racing to fit more into days that seem shorter.  It’s the time of the harvest – a time for filling the freezers and picking squash and baking countless loaves of zucchini bread for who knows what.

In the midst of it all, we want nothing more than to slow down and embrace the season, but the current of our lives races by at a furious pace, and we see little choice but to let ourselves be carried away in its grip. I sit in the woods on a Sunday afternoon and watch sycamore leaves flutter to the yellowing earth.  It’s time to recalibrate.  It’s time to consider what it will take to slow into a pace that doesn’t feel frantic, and this is what I’ve come up with:

Refuse to hurry

What would actually happen to our lives if we refused to hurry – ever again? I consider the consequences: We’d probably be late for social gatherings more often than we already are.  We might miss the school bus a few times.  There would be less time spent in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices.  And everyone would be ok.

Maybe everyone would be more than just ok. Maybe we’d be better for having killed the rhythm of the rushed.  Psalm 46:10 reads, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.”  For years, I thought this was a verse solely designated for quiet time with the Lord: Stop your constant thinking, worrying, and planning, and focus on God.  But what if it’s more than the mantra of the devotional time keepers?  What if it’s a Word for the hurriers, and what if it’s meant to be invoked outside of our prayer closets, in the midst of our important and frantic lives?

Plan margin time

Caleb and I walked to the creek this week. The day was blank on our calendar – a day for cleaning the house, cooking, and enjoying the season.  I pushed him in our worn stroller, and we walked to the creek – black water winding through a crimson and orange understory.  We threw heavy stones into the water and laughed at the droplets that splashed our legs.

We walked home without hurry, and the neighbor was in his yard. We stopped to talk for ten minutes or more – to encourage him and speak words of truth.  As we strolled away from his house, I considered how many times we’ve hurried past with a quick wave, off to the next thing on our schedule.  I also considered the way margin time in our days leaves room to actually see the people in front of us – to look into their eyes and silently ask God what he might want to speak through us.

Take a day off every single week

Sabbath-keeping hasn’t been a command I’ve honored well with my life. As an athlete in high school, there was often a tournament or track meet that filled my Saturdays, and Sunday was the only day left for studying physics or biology.  College was more of the same, and when a teaching career came, Sunday was the day for planning the week’s lessons and activities.

Life as a full-time mom has its own set of challenges. If we’re not careful, every day of the week starts to feel exactly the same as the others: scrubbing sticky floors, laundry, meals, and more.  We don’t live this perfectly, but we’re learning to live differently one day a week.  For us that day is Sunday.  Sunday is slower, more intentional, and more restful.  We take naps and force ourselves to slow down.

Slowing down one day a week recalibrates us and helps us slow down throughout the rest of the week. It breaks the frenzied cycle of rushing from one thing to the next.

Keep first things first

Saying no to busyness means we can’t say yes to everything. It means letting a few tomatoes spoil in the garden, letting the basement door remain unpainted for another year, choosing soccer over cross-country, and taking a break from the women’s group I once loved.  Saying no to busyness means stepping back and honestly assessing what matters most, and then arranging our lives to honor our highest priorities.

 

In the stillness of the woods, I write my list for a less-busy life, and I stand to slip away from the sycamores. A leaf cascades to the ground and lands squarely on my shoulder.  I’m thankful for having noticed.

Friendship Friday

This post was shared on a Friendship Friday Blog Link-up

Please follow and like us:

How to Start Seeing What’s Right Instead of Seeing Only What’s Wrong

 

October has come with its warm, mild afternoons. It has come with clear skies and seventy-degree days – with rolling fields of gold and beige and tawny wood lines and promises about what’s to come.

I used to dislike October because it felt like the slow death of summer, and summer was the season I loved most. In October we said goodbye to any possibility of dipping our feet in creek water.  In October we stowed away all but our favorite pair of shorts and pulled out boxes of sweaters and scarves.  In October we snuggled under fleece blankets on cool, rainy days that foreshadowed the winter months to come.

Sitting in the sun on a cloudless October afternoon, I’m reminded that every day of my life, I face two choices: Look for what’s right, or look for what’s lacking. I can complain, on this sunny October afternoon, that it’s not warm enough for swimming in creeks, or I can give thanks for the beauty of leaves changing color and geese overhead.  I can focus on the long months of winter that will soon come and keep me from sitting on the deck in the sunshine, or I can embrace the ebb and flow of seasonal changes.

In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul writes, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

It’s noteworthy that this admonition is spoken on the heels of Paul’s encouragement for the people of God to live in harmony. It seems two women among the Philippian church were at odds, and it was stirring enough controversy that Paul saw fit to address these women from afar in his letter.  I’m reminded that dwelling on whatever is pure, lovely, and good can be applied to October afternoons as well as to the way we think about the people in our lives.

Surely this applies across the board of my life. Surely focusing on what is right, instead of dwelling on what is wrong, will have a positive impact on my parenting, my career, my marriage, my friendships, my current living situation, my financial state, my health, and more.

When I focus on what is right in my life as a mom, I’m immensely thankful for the opportunity to invest in two little lives and pour into them on a daily basis. Amidst the yelling, hitting, and occasional biting, reminding myself of what is right helps my perspective when it seems everything about this is difficult.

When I focus on what is right in my career, I give thanks for the moments that assure me that my words really do make a difference in the lives of others. I give thanks for the way this season fulfills a greater calling on my life, and I’m grateful for the lessons I am learning through the difficult parts.

When I focus on what is right in my friendships, I’m grateful for women who have walked alongside me through the valleys and cheered me along over mountaintops. Looking at the good in relationships reminds me to extend grace, hold shortcomings loosely, and believe the best about my friends when conflict arises.

Finally, sitting beneath the sun as bulldozers unearth pipeline across the road, I consider the struggle we’ve had with our current home and the longing to move to a cabin somewhere in the woods. It seems our neighborhood is constantly changing, and one construction project after another leaves our backyard anything but quiet.  It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong with our situation and squirm to change it.

A hawk screeches high above the poplar tree by the deck, and I resolve to fix my eyes on what is right about this moment. Suddenly, the roaring engines of the excavators across the road feel far less obtrusive, and I couldn’t be more thankful for waving fields of goldenrod and hawks circling above.

 

 

Please follow and like us:

The Power of Margin Time

 

I asked Caleb what he wanted to do for his birthday, and he wanted hotdogs and marshmallows for breakfast and a trip to the sandy beach. He settled for powdered doughnuts for breakfast, but I came through on the trip to the sandy beach.

The sandy beach is the name the kids have affectionately labeled a stretch of sandy shoreline along the creek behind our house. In winter we build fires at the sandy beach, and the smoke wafts up through a thick canopy of hemlock trees.  In summer we swim in the waist-deep water with the rock wall on the far side of the swimming hole.

We’ve been known to catch bluegills and crayfish in the shallow part of the pool, and surrounded by wilderness, the sandy beach feels like an escape to a different world.

The day of celebration dawns clear and cool.  I leave the calendar wide open and free of plans, and so our walk to the sandy beach is slow and filled with frequent stops. We stop to rescue a caterpillar from the middle of the dangerous road.  We pick goldenrod and ironweed and joe-pye weed for a late summer bouquet.  I gather a handful of green acorns for him to throw off the bridge when we reach the creek.

When we finally make it to the bottom of the hill and past the red barn, we notice that we’re not alone at the creek. Our neighbors made the half-mile trek to the creek as well.  The boys’ grandpa doesn’t get around as well as he used to, and so he drove the scooter down the road with his grandsons close at hand.

The boys are quick to tell us that they didn’t catch any fish today. Even worse, the fishing pole broke, and an essential part of the reel is submerged in the clear water just below the bridge.  We gaze down from above, and the lost part sparkles from the depths of the clear water.

“Go get it, Mama!” Caleb commands, and I know he’s onto something.

It wasn’t safe for the boys to head into the water on their own, but this is a task we can handle. Grandpa laughs and tells me it’s not necessary, but the pleading gaze of the little boy who is like a second son to our family captures my heart.  I don’t need to think twice.

And this is how I find myself wading across Wolf Creek on a sixty-degree morning in search of a piece of fishing reel.

The boys take off their shoes and stand in the mud along the creek, and I manage to wade into the thigh-deep water, reach to the bottom, and secure the treasure.  There are cheers and hugs.

An hour later, sitting along the bank of the sandy beach with Caleb, I consider all the times I’ve missed opportunities to bless others because I’m in too big of a hurry. My to-do list daily threatens to rule my life and dominate my decisions, but this is never God’s best.

God’s best is a life without hurry – a life that leaves margin time between activities: time to pick goldenrod, save caterpillars, and show kindness to neighbors. Surely, there are seasons when margins are narrower, but when there’s a choice – and there’s often a choice – wide margins hold the power to bless.  When there’s a choice, I decide to choose the wide margins and live with eyes wide open for what God is doing in my midst.

Please follow and like us: