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.