When I’m at the beach I wear these heinous shoes all day, every day. They are the dorkiest item of apparel I own, but I wouldn’t even consider walking through the sand without them.
As soon as my feet hit the boardwalk leading from the condo to the beach, my family parts like the Red Sea, and I take off sprinting past them, sometimes with the pool bag flapping at my side, until I am ankle deep in ocean. I look ridiculous. I know I do. I look like I’m being chased by a Land Shark. People probably joke at dinner about the crazy lady they saw running by herself onto the beach, speculating about what motivated me to act like a maniac. But I do not care.
See, I’m allergic to fire ants, and not just like “achoo” or “dang I got a rash” but like” jab me with my Epipen and rush me to the hospital ASAP.” So to avoid these little buggers who live in hot, sandy places, I cover my feet and keep them in the wet sand where the ants are less likely to bite. And it is worth the ugly shoes and the strange antics to stay safe. Every single step of the way.
I’m sure there are many other things I do that seem strange or counter cultural to someone observing, but I do them for self-preservation. You probably do too. At dessert while out to eat with some girlfriends recently, one friend offered another friend a bite of her brownie. She answered, “No thanks. It looks so good, but I’d have to pay for it for a week.” She is gluten free and knows the wheat in baked goods attacks her body. The bite of rich, chocolaty brownie, although oh so yummy, just isn’t worth it for her. I have another girlfriend who needs her sleep. NEEDS IT. Like no one else I’ve ever met. She wakes up, takes her kids to school in the mornings and goes back to bed for another hour or so every school day. As a result every minute she’s awake she is more energetic, more productive, and happier. It is what she needs to be healthy and in a good place. And so no matter what everyone else does or thinks she should do, she deliberately gets her sleep.
It’s not always convenient to do the thing that’s best for you. But it’s essential to do it anyway.
The most significant thing I do each day to keep me grounded, safe, full of joy, and in the right frame of mind is to read the Bible. Most mornings I am on the fly—attempting to sneak a jog in before it’s sweltering hot, trying to get one of my kids on time to an early morning soccer game, hoping to get a bit of writing in before the rest of my family wakes up. And then there are the days when I am just sooo sleepy. But regardless of how handy or opportune, deliberately starting my day in the Word keeps me anchored to who I am.
So before I pull my covers off, I reach under my bed, pull out my Bible and my journal and see what God has in store for me for the day at hand. My morning time with my Bible:
There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 MSG
Just like my awful pink beach shoes keep me safe from seemingly harmless insects that are life-threatening to me, beginning my day immersed in the Word of God protects me against seemingly innocent insults, rejections, comments, stresses and tensions, and reminds me I am wholly and completely loved and accepted, just as I am. And this reward is so fulfilling that I am always glad I woke up early, took the time, or waited to get started on something else. Always.
How about you? What seemingly countercultural or inconvenient things do you do to keep yourself grounded, safe, happy and shining your true reflection?
Last week my husband was complaining of headaches.
Last week I kept looking in the mirror and thinking I looked pasty, like strangely pale.
Turns out he was making himself his usual two shots of espresso each morning, but he was using the decaf. Ouch!
Turns out, the new bottle of foundation I bought was two shades lighter than I normally get. Ew!
Brett had fooled himself into thinking his dose of caffeine would wake him up, and I was tricking myself into believing my make-up would even out my skin tone. It was unintentional, but it was our faults, because we weren’t looking hard enough at the truth. We were in too much of a hurry, too much of a routine, felt like we had it all under control, when clearly we did not. But the result of all of our self-imposed hoodwinking was both of our heads were messed up. Gheesh! You’d think we could count on ourselves!
But we are guilty of self-imposed unintentional deception. We tell ourselves lies. All the time.
“If I just lost five pounds.”
“If I just had a job lined up.”
“If I just played for that team.”
“If I just got this deal.”
“If I just looked like/sounded like/performed like her.”
And the result of lying to ourselves about our worth—that we would be better off if we were different—is much more damaging than a headache or looking ghostly. We tell ourselves we’re not enough. And when we do that, we take away from the beautiful creations God made us to be.
Why do we deceive ourselves? Why do we fall into the routines of life, rushing around in a hurry without taking the time to open our eyes and examine the truth?
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. 1 Peter 2:9-10
We are chosen by God. Chosen for high work. Chosen to be holy. He loved us so much He died for us. He must love us, immensely, if He was willing to die for us. To Christ we matter. To Him we have value. To Him we are not something to be rejected. He has already accepted us, fully. Why would we ever tell ourselves otherwise?
I mean the world tricks us plenty. You’d be happier if you drank this beer, wore these yoga pants, had this hairstyle, etc. The world cajoles us into thinking we have to look or act a certain way, that we need a prom date or an SUV, that we need to live in a certain neighborhood or have a certain relationship status to be content. The world makes us believe who we are and what we do is not enough.
God tells us the opposite. God loves us for who we are, exactly who we are. He doesn’t care how many miles we logged, how many points we scored, which income bracket we fall into, or if we check married, single, divorced, or widow on our tax returns. He just loves us. For us. Because He made us. Exactly how we are.
It’s time to discard both the lies the world is telling us today, and the ways we’re deceiving ourselves. We need to take time to focus on how excellently formed and marvelously functioning we truly are, exactly as we are. We need to run with this truth, embrace and own it, without ever worrying about how we measure up or compare to someone else, because that’s just messing up our pretty priceless heads. We need to instead just go ahead and be what we were made to be, our own true beautiful reflections.
Are you rushing around believing what’s in front of you, because it’s there, because it’s easy? Are you conning yourself into how you can be energized or how you can feel beautiful? Or are you taking time to examine the truth? The truth that God loves you. Are you deceiving yourself today? Telling yourself you’re not enough? Telling yourself you fall short? That if you just did (fill in the blank) you'd be better? Take a breath. Open your eyes. Wider. Look at what’s really going on. Examine who you truly are. Because you are more than enough for the one true King, therefore, you are enough.
So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. Romans 12:6
In a thick fog of sleep I turned off the alarm on my phone and noticed someone had called. Who would call in the middle of the night, unless...yes! A message from the kids’ principal. Snow Day!
There’s so much magic in a snow day. Starting with the gift of being able to turn off the alarm and roll back over for a bonus round of coveted sleep. Snow days are in some ways better than weekends, better than holidays. Because on weekends and holidays my calendar is still jammed—packed full of soccer games, basketball games, cookouts, church services, small group gatherings, and if that soccer tournament is as close to that shopping center as I think it is, we can pick up the new mailbox we need at Lowe’s (yes, ours is literally falling off its hinges) and swing by Dollar Tree for the items I need to transform my blonde-haired, blue-eyed third grader into Sitting Bull for his “Living Museum” at school. Weekends were supposed to be the END of the week, time to rest from the work of the week. But I schedule them to the gills, until I have so much fun and activity, and don’t get me wrong, it is all fun, I can hardly breathe. How about you? Are your weekends as busy as your weeks? When do you slow down and rest?
But a snow day? Well, a snow day is the opposite. On a snow day all of the things that were scheduled are canceled. I have the perfect excuse to not do anything (including getting dressed), because, well, how would I get anywhere with the roads all covered in snow and ice, and if I’m not going anywhere why get out of my pjs?
And so our snow day was a much-needed Sabbath. All six of us Smiths slept until 8:00 a.m. instead of our typical 5:50 a.m. on a school day (okay, my girls slept longer), because our bodies were tired and craved the rest. I made pancakes laden with chocolate chips. Because I had time. Because no one had to eat a quick breakfast or rush off anywhere. And because chocolate chips are so very yummy. I let the kids play electronics, which made them cheer, gave me time to prepare for a speaking event, and I never once had to worry that they should be doing their homework. It was all done the night before. We ate lunch together. As a family. On a Tuesday. Even my busy seventeen-year old. We went sledding; squealing for joy as we flew down the hill, snow spraying in our faces. Afterwards we made cocoa to warm us up. I couldn’t have scheduled or planned any of these things. If my family knew we had free time, someone would have planned something for that time slot.
At the end of the day I felt tired in all the right ways, like from clomping up the sledding hill in heavy boots, not frazzled or stressed. I didn’t feel like I was forgetting twelve things on my list, because on the snow day the list got tossed in the recycler.
We all need rest. With a break from work we come back with fresh eyes, bursts of creativity, new ways to solve problems. With physical rests for our bodies they perform better, run faster, react more quickly. After a day of not to-ing and fro-ing, I could honestly say I didn’t snap at my kids all day. I hadn’t once looked at the clock and freaked out about what time it was. I wasn’t running late or actually late for anything.
On the seventh day, He rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day. Because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had done. Gen 2:3
When was the last time you rested? Even our Sabbaths our Sundays our weekends are over scheduled. And even when we clear our personal schedules, our bosses, coaches, instructors, or teachers seem to schedule things into the free spaces, the margins we thought we’d allowed.
Since I haven’t been good at scheduling down time, God gave me a day full of it, a snow day. So how do I find more days like this? How do you? What if we declared tomorrow our own personal snow day? Or at least a snow delay? What if we hit snooze, made pancakes, or curled up with a good book instead of throwing in that extra load of laundry, sending that one last email, or running one more set of numbers or one more errand? I’m not suggesting we all become slackers, that we habitually play hooky or lie to our bosses, but what if we claimed our own Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? What if we declared our own snow day, savored time with the people we love most, had an adventure, created something with our hands, got outside and breathed fresh air? What if we rested?
You don’t have to wait until tomorrow. You can start right now by opening your cupboard and making yourself a cup of hot cocoa. You don’t need any special ingredients or packets. It will take less than two minutes, be completely natural and have zero waste. And it will be delicious, warm, sweet, comforting and relaxing.
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1 T sugar
the smallest sprinkle of salt
1 to 1 ½ cups milk
In a microwave safe mug mix cocoa, sugar, salt and a splash of milk. Microwave for 20 seconds to form a thick cocoa paste. Remove from microwave and stir. Pour in enough to milk to fill your mug the rest of the way. Microwave for another 60 seconds. Stir. Drink. Sigh. Enjoy your mini snow day.
If you had a snow day tomorrow how would you spend it? Leave a comment below and share your favorite way to unwind.
Brett’s aunt was turning 75 and her husband was throwing a surprise party to celebrate. We had a million and eight excuses not to go. Brett had just had hand surgery. I was on the fifteenth day of fighting a sinus infection and the snot was winning. The party was an hour away from home. On a weeknight. The night before the kids’ last day of school before Christmas break.
But Brett’s aunt was turning 75! So, despite obstacles and inconveniences we paid the very small price of attending—a little time, a little planning, a little more energy than we had in the reserves. And it was glorious. There was lobster. AND cake.
But even better than the lobster and cake was a room full of people celebrating a woman who has lived life large. Aunt Linda was a flight attendant who has traveled the world from China to Germany to Paris back to California and Ohio again. She actually made a deal with Monte Hall on the original Let’s Make a Deal show. She worked as a waitress in the Playboy club in the 70’s and has stories about Hugh Hefner that would make your eyes pop. She has lived. And this gathering of neighbors, family and friends was a testament to her verve and vitality.
What if we’d stayed home? Called in sick? Everyone would have understood. No one would have been mad at us. But we would have missed it.
Jesus invites us to a feast too, in Matthew 22:1-3 “God’s kingdom,” he (Jesus) said, “is like a king who threw a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out servants to call in all the invited guests. And they wouldn’t come!
Why wouldn’t the invited guests come? I mean who wouldn’t come to a wedding banquet of a king? (Cough). Perhaps the person who had the sinus infection? Or the four kids who needed to pack lunches, and bring in a treat, and a gift for their teachers the next day? Just saying. Thankfully, God doesn’t give up on us that easily.
“He sent out another round of servants, instructing them to tell the guests, ‘Look, everything is on the table, the prime rib is ready for carving. Come to the feast!’ “They only shrugged their shoulders and went off, one to weed his garden, another to work in his shop. Mt 22:4-7
I mean, we have work to do, right? Driveways to shovel, dishes to wash, tests to study for, clients to serve, reports to finish, emails to send, things to sell, volunteer hours we’ve signed up for. But what are we missing when we tend to our to-do lists instead of God’s invitations? How many times do I reply to God’s invitations, “Yeah, God, that would be nice, but I’m really busy.”? It would be great if I listened intently to the story my daughter is telling about gym class, or to grab coffee with that special friend, but I have to get dinner on the table and have deadlines to meet. They’ll understand. Now is not convenient. It might not even be feasible.
At the end of the day, or week, or year, or our lives, will we find peace that our home was spotless? Will we pride ourselves in having perfect attendance at our Paddle matches? Or will we savor the stories, the time together the feasts God laid out for us? That might include a move, a new position, changing majors, switching teams. These invitations could take some consideration, definitely some prayer, to make sure they’re from God, but if they are, can you imagine the party we might miss if we say no? And these invitations, these are just hors d’oeuvres. The biggest invitation from God of all, the one to hang out with Him, to be in relationship with Him. Well, that’s a feast. And I don’t want to have made any excuses that would make me miss it.
I’m a big proponent of saying, “no” to things. The last thing any of us needs right now is more things on our plate. But how about living our lives large, by saying “no” to the unimportant, trivial things, and RSVPing “Yes!” to God’s invitations. Because when we drop the things we think are “so important” to show up to God’s table, we will be blown away by delicacies like lobster and cake, and laughter and relationships and love.
Then he told his servants, ‘We have a wedding banquet all prepared but no guests. The ones I invited weren’t up to it. Go out into the busiest intersections in town and invite anyone you find to the banquet.’ The servants went out on the streets and rounded up everyone they laid eyes on, good and bad, regardless. And so the banquet was on—every place filled. Matthew 22: 8-10
We’re all invited. Everyone in town. The good. The bad. Regardless. So, yes, that includes me and you. All of us. No matter where we stand today. No matter what we have or haven’t done. This is a New Year’s party we don’t want to miss! Ring in 2016 by accepting God’s invitation. This is the year we can live larger than ever.
Do you know that old Rod Stewart song, “Every Picture Tells A Story (Don’t It)”? I’m understanding more and more that every person has a story, and they’ll tell it to you, and it will blow you away. All you have to do is ask.
I recently experienced an amazing event in Nashville called STORY. The experience was filled with presenters sharing their stories and inspiring attendees to explore and share theirs. Abigail Washburn the Mandarin speaking, banjo playing woman from Illinois, who just returned from a tour along the Great Wall of China with Yo Yo Ma was a stand in for a sick presenter. What? This was the sub?
And Jeremy Cowart, celebrity photographer who has taken photos of everyone from the Pope to the Kardashians to Sting, yet uses his celebrity to launch amazing humanitarian projects such as Help-Portrait, which offers free portraits to people who have never had their picture taken, and campaigns in Haiti, Rwanda, and Uganda to raise awareness of the devastation these people have endured and funding to help them rebuild. This guy was the guy who struggled through high school. This was the guy whose mantra growing up was, “I can’t”. But his parents repeated to him, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13). A reminder of truth that WE CAN, despite what the world tells us, despite what our achievement tests score us. Look what he’s become! Think what you can become.
Jon Guerra appeared on stage plucking his acoustic guitar and breaking into a soulful melody “We are stained it’s true, but when Your light shines through, we all look like stained glass windows to You.” And there was the lady who played the bassoon and the woman I bumped into at an after party in a warehouse who made a cotton candy tree full of wishes. And James Rhodes, world renowned classical pianist and composer, who played Chopin so beautifully it made me weep, then proceeded to share openly his story of being sexually abused as a child and how music saved him.
Not to mention the fact my sweet friend who I attended Story with and I, stayed up late in an artsy Nashville hotel wearing our pj’s watching Taylor Swift videos. We all have stories.
I could go on and on. But you get the idea. Stories. We all have them. Each and every human being was knitted together in our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139:14) by God, our Creator, with skills and fears, hopes and hiccups, weaknesses and joys, leaps and bounds, whispers and screams. And God takes all of those marvelous little details and writes our stories. It’s like an Encyclopedia Brown mystery, in that God gives us the opportunity to choose if the hero (you or me) will pick A or B, will they give up or keep going, will they try harder or stop trying, will she dream bigger, smile broader, take a different path when the first one is blocked? Will he or she trust in the Author of their story for a happy ending even when the villain seems menacing and the tornado is twisting and they’re locked in a closet? Will they tap into the courage and peace their God has to offer? Will you?
What’s your story? What’s the story of the person next to you, the one you’ve never talked to, the kid who sits in the back of class, or the woman on the far side of church, or the person who always shows up late and leaves a minute early at boot camp? Are you willing to ask them? Are you willing to share yours? Because when we hear other people’s stories, we see their true reflections, often for the first time. And when we share ours, we let other people see ours. And they are all beautiful.
One of the highlights of living in a small college town is the Fourth of July.
There’s a penny carnival, where most of the booth operators don’t even collect the copper coins clutched in the children’s hands to play bean bag toss, get their face painted or bounce in bare feet in the inflatable jumpy house. Dum Dums and Tootsie Rolls clatter on the brick-paved street as library workers, firefighters and the mayor toss candy to the kids lining the curbs.
On scorching July evenings as our entire town gathers at the park, we eat icy-cold snow cones with generous pumps of sweet, sticky flavored cherry or blue raspberry syrup, and we’re certain to bump into everyone from former teachers to co-workers to friends our kids played with when they were toddlers. We’ve waved sparklers with colleagues from Canada and played pick-up soccer games with my husband’s international students from North Africa.
But of course the coup de grace, the main stage event is the fireworks.
“That one looks like a jellyfish!”
“Oooh, I like that one!”
“The kind that shoots up like a rocket then has brightly colored fizzles is my favorite.”
Pop pop pop!
“No the green ones that change color to pink, those are my favorite. Oh, I can’t decide. They’re all my favorite.”
And we are. In awe. Starry-eyed and goosebumpy, like kids on Christmas morning, of the colorful explosions glimmering against the dark, night sky.
These sparks of light and celebration signify the freedom of our country, but they signify something more—possibility, hope, beauty.
Fireworks broken down are man made packets of gunpowder and fire with metal salts, such as sodium nitrate of calcium chloride, mixed in to emit different colors. So how much more can we be in awe of God, the creator of vibrant sunsets, roaring waterfalls, rainbow dotted fields of wildflowers, who does His work, not in a lab but with His imagination and magnificence? God makes our hearts beat, our spines tingle, our eyes tear up with emotion. Have you taken time today to sit still and be in awe of Him?
I love the fireworks. I gaze completely content, undistracted, feeling fizzy inside when I watch them each year, like time has stopped and the world is filled with wonder, and I can do anything. Of course I am even more amazed by the way God loves me, blesses me and provides for me, and I am in awe of Him. Completely. Every day. But I don’t stop my life, pull up a chair, give Him my undivided attention and shout out, “Wow!” nearly often enough. Do you?
Are you hearing things clearly?
Are you hearing God clearly?
Earwax is a normal, healthy self-cleaning agent to actually protect our ear canals, except when there’s too much, except when it clogs our ear canals, because then we can experience hearing loss.
Is anything clogging your ears today?
Q-tips, not something we talk about everyday, but we all use them, right? The Q-tip website touts their many uses; lovely lips, flawless nails, crafts, pet care (that one had me stumped), but we all know why they were invented (even though doctors say we’re not supposed to use them for this purpose any more)—to remove ear wax.
Most of the time I feel I’m pretty in tune with God. We talk every day.
But there are other days, bad days, when I allow the world to clog my ears. When I let the world’s measures and expectations take that earwax that was meant to protect me and cram it in my ear canal until I can no longer hear God’s beautiful promises.
It’s difficult to hear through the earwax of the world.
And so, enter Q-tips. I know, I’ll repeat myself; we’re not supposed to use them anymore, but how about spiritual Q-tips? What do you use to clean out the gunk and the lies of this world, to hear God better?
Some spiritual Q-tips:
· Open the Bible and read. Let God’s promises and truths sink in.
· Find a quiet place and ask for God’s peace, His direction. Then wait to actually sense a response, or at least to feel and acknowledge His presence
· On the go? Tune your radio or earbuds to Christian music or a podcast or a sermon, something that inspires you, fills you with Biblical truths and centers you back with Jesus
· Hang out with or reach out to Godly friends. You’ll be amazed by the light they can cast on something you’re struggling with
What matters most is that Jesus loves us! We need to be reminded of that. We need to clean out our ears, so we can hear it loud and clear!
Apparently, the Q in Q-tip stands for quality. My friend, Amy Parker, once said in referring to God’s truths, “Quality truth is powerful.”
Clean out your ears and let the powerful quality truth that you are God's beloved pour in like a symphony today.
What ways do you use to spiritually clean out your ears?
My favorite part about baking chocolate chip cookies isn’t sliding the finished product off the cookie sheet with a spatula. It isn’t even eating a warm cookie from the oven, although that is grand. No, my favorite part about making my favorite food is the process.
I love sniffing the vanilla from the jar, and letting the sweet, relaxing scent fill my nose. I love the magic of creaming butter and sugar and having the two become one substance. I love eating a handful of chocolate chips as I go. I’m amazed that things that taste as bitter as baking soda or as bland as flour can combine together to make delicious dough. And yes, for the record, I do like eating the dough more than the baked cookies.
So why oh why do I worry about how many copies one of my books has sold during a promotion? Why do I care how many goals one of my children scores in their soccer game? Why do I add up in my head how many cents I saved with my coupons at the grocery? Why does it matter how many people hearted my post on Instagram?
Why do I get caught up in end results?
I laugh as I write this, because I know why. I love to write, and hope my books sell enough that publishers will want to publish my future manuscripts. I love my children and long for them to feel fulfilled. I want to be a good steward of the family budget. I like to be liked. Don’t we all?
I don’t know what end results big or small loom over your head today, but I do know God has them already planned and already taken care of.
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 26:33 ESV
And knowing that He’s got me covered, that He’s got us covered should give us all a bit of breathing room. A chance to step away from the end results and enjoy the process. For me, that means delighting in constructing a conversation between two of my characters. How will they react to one another? Will one of them look away? What will go on inside of their heads? It means cheering from the sidelines for my kids and smiling when I put a box of their favorite cereal in the grocery cart. What does it mean for you? What end results are you hanging on to today, maybe even stressing about, perhaps being anxious about? Let them go.
Savor the process, the place God has put you today. Are you job searching? Think of the all the possibilities. Treat each interview as a chance to get to know someone interesting, to brighten their day, to learn something new. Is it your eighth snow day in a row? Play more games, watch more movies, maybe even bake some cookies and eat the dough. Because when else do you have time to do these things?
Yes, end results matter. But God already has them covered. So enjoy this day He has given you.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
What process do you plan on enjoying today?
Yesterday my husband and I took the day off.
It wasn’t a snow day.
It wasn’t a sick day.
It wasn’t some obscure bank holiday.
But we took it off anyway.
Because we need to slow down.
I’m sure you don’t. I’m sure you feel incredibly relaxed and rested and haven’t done anything in so long; you often tell people you are idle and your time is unoccupied. Right?
If you nodded your head then I haven’t chatted with you in a lonnnggg time. I can’t remember the last time anyone responded to me about all the free time they have. It’s all about busyness, achievement, enriching, accomplishing, isn’t it? Even snails these days are zipping around racecourses and going viral. Or so the kids’ movie, Turbo, depicts. That snail is fast!
And all of those things are good. Grand even. Until they become too important. Until we forget to take time for others, for ourselves, for God.
Even Jesus, Son of God, Creator of the Universe, Savior of the World, took time off. He would wake up early in the morning or take off late at night by himself, not to check scores, or statuses or headlines. Not to file one more report, or do one more set of sit-ups or tidy up one more room. But to go up the mountain, or out of the way and pray.
But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. Luke 5:16 NIV
Jesus also took time to share meals with the disciples. We don’t have any scripture passages depicting Jesus eating lunch at His desk while working on His next sermon or scratching on pieces of parchment during meals and handing them to messengers to deliver in the middle of dinner with His disciples. But we have several passages where Jesus is dining with them, talking with them, listening to them, showing them love, and teaching them about the Father. In fact his last interaction with his disciples was a meal, the last supper. And His one of Jesus’ first interactions with his friends after His resurrection was breakfast.
Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. John 21:12 NIV
So yesterday I dropped the kids off at school, grabbed a few groceries, and picked up supplies one of them needed for a project. Then I headed home. By 8:30 AM my husband and I were sitting in the family room, not at the table, not near one of our desks, not in the front seat of the car headed somewhere, but on the soft, cushy couches in our family room with the sunshine streaming in through the windows. We sat and talked for hours. About things we’ve been reading, and sermons we’ve listened to, and what God’s been teaching us. We talked about a trip we’d like to take and the state of our hearts and concerns on our minds and the blessing of our marriage. At some point we milled in and out of the kitchen, came back to the family room with our plates of sandwiches and fruit and watched a movie together. In the middle of the day. On a Tuesday. We even figured out how to work Netflix by ourselves, without any of the kids to help us. Score!
And then we went for a walk. Yes, it was twenty-two degrees outside. Yes, I was dressed in running clothes, because I’d planned to get in a strenuous workout. But, instead, we stretched our legs, inhaled crisp air, reflected on how bright azure the sky was, and exercised our souls.
And then it was time. Time to get the kids, and work on homework, and make dinner, and answer email, and run a load of laundry, but I did it more refreshed. More aware of how God is working on me. More grateful for the world I live in, my incredible husband, my amazing children. I know I can’t take every day off. And neither can my husband. But I know I need to take more of them.
It’s easy to let the demands of life fill my calendar and dominate my thoughts. It takes effort to slow down and unwind and intentionally set my phone somewhere I can’t reach it. But the effort is so rewarding. Because it allows God to restore my soul.
David got it right in the 23 Psalm (and my friend, Holly Starr, sings it so beautifully above)
The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
Let God lead you to still places, lie down, rest. Let Him restore your soul.
When was the last time you slowed down? Truly took a day off? Maybe it’s time to pull out the crammed calendar and schedule one.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus Philippians 3:14
Again this year, I traded watching the Macy’s parade from my mom’s cozy couch for the excitement of thousands of people gathered together in the chilled Thanksgiving morning air. I loved watching the people of all ages and stages assembled near the starting line, adrenaline beginning to surge as the speakers played familiar tunes like “Happy” and since I was in Columbus, Ohio, “Hang on Sloopy”. All walks of life were there; grandpas, dads, sons, grandmas, mothers, daughters, families, friends, strangers, large groups, solo runners, dogs and strollers too. Some had the goal of making a personal best or breaking a record, others had the goal of completing the race to claim their pumpkin pie at the finish line. Their outfits ranged from high tech athletic gear, to colorful tutus and turkey hats, there were people in Cookie Monster pajama pants and others dressed in pilgrim suits. Some participants donned basic crew neck sweatshirts and sneakers, many wore hybrid outfits of any or all of the above mentioned possibilities, all with one goal, one cause, running the race.
The excitement of a race is similar to that of a parade or a concert, a crowd of strangers united for an hour or so. This year was the fourth time I’ve run a turkey trot, and again I was blessed to see the human race at some of its finest moments during a race. What if we all treated one another as we do on the running course?
Even though the temperatures were somewhere in the mid-twenties, and icy pelts of snow were blowing sideways throughout the race, there were spectators, yes friends and family of runners, but also locals who wanted to come out, cheering the runners along. It doesn’t matter how we were dressed or how slow or fast our paces, at every mile marker, and sometimes in between, people cheered, “Great job!” “Keep it up!” “You’re doing awesome!”
Volunteers handed out glasses of water at water stands encouraging us to hydrate, picking up our cups as we ran on.
Strangers chatted along the way, made room for others, patted each other on the back, took pictures for and of one another, exchanged smiles, and “Happy Thanksgivinged!” each other.
Two girls in front of me fell out of rhythm. “Go ahead,” said the one. “I don’t want to slow you down. I’ll meet you at the end.” And her friend replied, “No, I’ll slow down. We’re in this together.”
When I’d run my race, gathered my water, found my family and was headed back to the car I saw a man about my age just closing on the finish line. He looked fit, like a runner, pushing a wheelchair occupied by an elderly gentleman wrapped in a blanket. I’m guessing he was the runner’s father, but maybe not.
Life is busy, crazy, intense sometimes. For many you’re neck deep in studying for or grading exams, Christmas shopping and baking and decorating, writing year-end reports, and achieving 2014 sales numbers or deadlines. But, what if we treated each other like runners in the Turkey Trot year round? What if we took a break from trying to get ahead, from keeping our noses to the grindstone and from over achievinghttp://www.columbusturkeytrot.com? What if instead we cheered each other on, smiled at stangers, waved and said, “Happy Thursday or Wednesday or whatever”, gave each other pats on the back, waited for one another, said, “I’ll wait, we’re in this together,” and pushed one another along when we can no longer go it alone?
I am so thankful for all of you. As you trot through this holiday season I hope you find refreshment and encouragement along your course. Just for the record, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing today, “Keep it up! You’re doing awesome!”
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