Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Push the Pause Button

The Lord gifted me with some actual quiet time this morning. I set my alarm another 40 minutes earlier and went to be last night praying that it would make a difference and that I would actually be able to get up. Not gonna lie, I still snoozed for 15 minutes, but I was able to get out of bed and be ready to be still a whole 30 minutes earlier than usual. As I sat down at my desk, I bowed my head and braced myself for the usual whine from the other end of the house, usually something to do with needing to go potty, a dropped stuffed animal, or just a blatant plea to get out of bed and watch Curious George.

But it didn't come.

I spoke to God about how I have felt like I am chasing the wind. All around me are things that are good things - tasks around the house, things on my to-do list at work (where I work for a ministry!), getting into an exercise routine again, spending quiet time in the Word, being intentional with my marriage, meal prepping so I don't make bad food choices, goof-off time with my kids, putting away the stacks of laundry piled up in my room. All good things. But no matter how hard or fast I run after these things, I feel like they are always just out of my reach. I stretch to my limit, but my fingertips barely graze the surface before I have to pull back and I am left exhausted by the effort. As I explained this out loud, the Lord gave me the image of the vine and the branches and I realized how silly it is of me to keep trying to do all these things apart from Him. His Word makes it clear that without the vine, the branch can do nothing. Why should I think that I would be any different?

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. As a gal from a Protestant background, observation of Lent has never really been on my radar screen. Growing up, I would remember my Catholic classmates giving up chocolate or swearing for Lent and quite frankly I thought it was stupid. How is not saying the f-word for a month and a half going to help you think about Jesus?

Taking advantage of this peaceful time the Lord had provided me in the dark, I fired up my computer and went to the first day of the Lent study with She Reads Truth. I had fallen behind of late and missed practically the whole study on Esther, so I was already struggling with the guilt of that. I was tired from the running, repentant of my pride in wanting to do it all by my own strength.

Lent is a pause button.

My heart dang near stopped as I read those words and I immediately wrote them down in my journal. I read on about how Lent is a quiet time unlike any other time of the year, a time to stop the running from God and pause to face the reality of our sin and why we need to pause, turn around, and go toward him.

Lent is a pause button.

The Lord was giving me a clear message that it was time to pause, to take a moment to just ignore all the laundry piled around me, the unmade bed, the growing to-do list. Turn off the Facebook notifications, worry about email later. The house was quiet and He called me to do the same.

Push pause, daughter. Can you hear me? 

There have been many times when Evan and I have been watching a show in the living room and we suddenly hear a sound that stands out, that doesn't quite belong. We look at one another for a moment and know that the only way to really hear that sound clearly is to push pause on the TV. The second we do, we can hear our son's voice calling out for a bathroom break or perhaps crying from a bad dream. Whatever the circumstance, we can't fully understand the message if it is being drowned out by the background noise.

Lent is a pause button.

I realized that Lent isn't just about choosing something to abstain from so others will know you are super-religious. I understood that, just like everything else, we have screwed up something that the Lord has provided for us as a way to draw us closer to him. I have seen so many people see Lent as a challenge, an opportunity to show how disciplined and righteous they are for being able to go 40-something days without eating a cheeseburger. This isn't what God intended for this season to be.

Lent is that opportunity to quiet the background noise so we can listen closely to the still small voice of the Spirit, reminding us of our need for a Savior. The study I read this morning pointed to Genesis 3:19b - "For you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

What can dust do? A whole lot of nothing, that's what.

I doubt I'll do the whole "I'm giving up _____ for Lent" thing, but I am grateful that the Lord opened my eyes this morning to this chance to pause. When I am tempted to open Facebook before I open the Word, my prayer is that I will remember to push pause. In this season of Lent, my prayer is that the Lord will help me to honestly identify what noise I have been allowing to deafen His voice and to help me push pause and lean in to listen to Him.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Busyness of the Proud

"We must refuse to let our calendars control us."

My friend Heather is afraid of my planner. Seriously, when I whip that thing out and start color coding and flipping pages like a madwoman, she gets a panicked look on her face and runs the other direction. She has flat out said that my planner stresses her out.

MY planner stresses HER out.

It's not even her life I'm planning and she's ready to have a panic attack.

I'm so glad that I got to read Jessica Turner's new book The Fringe Hours. There are three HUGE issues that really resonated with me from what Jessica is saying.

1. No matter how scary my calendar looks, it is not the boss of me.
2. It isn't selfish for me to make time for ME.
3. There is no room for guilt in my life.

Jessica made me write down - with pen - that I am not too busy to make time to do the things I love, the things that rejuvenate my soul. What's hilarious is that I was reading this particular section of the book in the few minutes I had left before my nighttime serving shift started and I was pounding black tea to try to wake myself up before I had to take my first table, since I had come straight from my day job to the restaurant.

My calendar is booked solid. No argument from me there. I have very specific pockets of time that are available each week and I am very, VERY good at filling those pockets with things like grocery shopping, running errands, spontaneously cleaning the hardwood floors, trying to eradicate the permanent smell of pee from my bathroom, and wiping face-prints off my patio door.

I'm thinking in particular of my Sundays. Sundays are the only day that I don't have to punch in at a job. It is the one "day off" I get during the week.

My "day off" looks something like this:

6:00 am - Wake up bleary-eyed and cranky because I worked a double shift yesterday and likely didn't get to bed until midnight after being on my feet for no less than 10 hours. Snooze.
6:20 am - Finally drag myself out of bed.
6:45 am - Wake up kids to start getting them ready for church.
7:15 am - Throw reheated frozen pancakes at the kids or dump cereal in a bowl for breakfast. Half the time at least one kid still has a pancake in his hand when we get in the van.
7:30 am - Begin the process of SHOES! COAT! HAT! SHOES! COAT! HAT!
7:40 am - We load into two separate vehicles and drive to church.
8:00 am to 9:15ish - We get our church on.
9:30 am to 11:00 am - While the rest of my clan heads home to change into pajama pants, I volunteer in the church nursery. I get my baby fix without actually having to birth another baby (can I get an AMEN!!!) and it's a serving opportunity that I genuinely enjoy.

The rest of my day is taken up by grocery shopping (because it is the only time-slot I have available to do it), house-hold duties I've been putting off all week, meal prep for my lunches for the week plus dinner and all the accompanying tasks.

And Downton Abbey. That's crucial.

It might not sound like a lot, but it is a lot. And this whole thing goes out the window when there is a birthday party to attend, a large job needing doing, or any other number of things.

Basically, when someone needs me to be somewhere or do something that is outside of my regular schedule, the only time I have to do it is Sunday. So I offer it.

I love taking an hour out of  my Sunday to have lunch with a friend. LOVE. But I still feel guilty every time I do it. I feel guilty every time I choose to leave Evan home with the kids so I go to Target by myself. I even feel guilty taking an hour out of that crazy Sunday schedule to read or nap.

Instead, I race around the house at a frenetic pace, throwing laundry in baskets, chopping sweet potatoes, thawing chicken, unloading the dishwasher, sweeping floors and picking up rogue socks while looking on with contempt while my husband relaxes on the couch with his head back and eyes closed.

"Why does he get to rest when I have to do all the work?" I grumble to myself. "I sure would love to be able to take a nap, but somebody has to do all this!" I tell myself these things over and over until I am slamming pots and pans, sighing heavily, and holding my lips at a tension.

"What's wrong?" he asks me.
"Nothing," I lie.

Why do I do this to myself? Jessica devotes a huge section of her book to ditching the guilt that we women tend to put on ourselves when it comes to setting aside the things that "must" get done in favor of the things that feed our souls. Where did this come from? How do we make it stop?

One of the suggestions Jessica gives in The Fringe Hours is to enlist the help of someone who will champion you and encourage you to invest in yourself. She writes about how her husband Matthew is so supportive of her going to get a massage or scrapbooking instead of cleaning the bathrooms or folding laundry. As I read that section, I realized that I already have that person. Evan is really great at encouraging me to take a break and relax and offering to help so I can get some reprieve.

My problem is that I often don't let him.

When I get right down to it and I am very honest with myself, I find that my struggle is not really with guilt, but with pride. I love to see the reactions I get when people see all the writing in my planner, it makes me feel important to talk about how busy I am, and my ego just grows bigger and bigger when I refuse to delegate something because I am convinced that it absolutely cannot get done correctly unless I am the one to do it.


I hold on to my busyness with an iron grip, raising it aloft like a trophy, displaying it so all can make sure to take notice.  Is my schedule pretty packed? Yes, it is. Do I work a lot of hours in a week? You bet I do. Is it my sole responsibility to make sure that every single thing gets done? Nope. But I act like it is.

This is something I need to work on, releasing my grip on my schedule and allowing the Lord to fill it in for me instead. I need to be ready to say "No" to some things and be ok with that and I also need to step out in faith and say "Yes" to some things I have convinced myself I don't have time for.

Without even realizing I am doing it, I have been slowly stealing away the joy from my own life.

Finding those next steps can be just as challenging as scheduling that pesky dentist appointment. What do I get rid of? Do I get up earlier? Stay up later? Work less? Join a gym? Quit the gym?

It's all something I'm still trying to figure out.

The Fringe Hours by Jessica N Turner releases on February 17th, 2015. You can pre-order your copy HERE and you can also check out for more information. I can't wait to read this book a second time and just highlight the heck out of it. :)

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