Slowing Down

The first few days of January is the time for me to slow down. Our town is relatively quiet. There are New Year’s events but mostly I stay home with some or all of my children while my husband works a conference.

Generally, I have longer times reading my Bible in the morning and I stay up late (way too late) reading good books. In the daytime I get a few things done while children play more than normal amounts of Xbox. I make some returns, pack up Christmas, think about Bible study plans for the spring, and generally slow down.

The phone chimes pretty rarely and just about absolutely nothing is on the calendar as far as appointments or meetings. I can wear the same thing multiple days if I want, as long as its clean, or I can wear all the things that are comfortable, even if they don’t match! Its divine…and uncomfortable at times.

I realize during this time how much I like to do things to feel worthwhile. Spending the time with myself is like looking someone in the face for just a little longer than is socially acceptable. It’s a bit uncomfortable and revealing.  And, I think it is absolutely necessary to slow down enough to look yourself in the face long and hard at least once a year.img_6469

When I slow down I relearn stuff about myself. I regain my affection for cooking. It actually occurs to me that I would like to try a new recipe that I wouldn’t enjoy tackling when school is in session and life is busy. I stack up scheduled posts on my blog.

Slowing down restores my spiritual health. Reading the Bible a little longer and without much of an agenda is like having a date with my husband where there’s nothing we have to get at the store or plan and there’s no time we have to be home. It’s just free time together.

My life is a little peculiar in that it is very seasonal and shifts very quickly from a lot of people intensive time and scheduling then changes to working on more back burner stuff like planning and development. Then, we take the 6 week work related trip most summers! Not everyone has that kind of work.

So, how do you take time to face yourself? Consider wrestling with this question and figuring out some creative solutions like taking a day off for a long weekend spent without obligations. Or, wipe a week clear of anything that doesn’t absolutely have to be done. For a tax accountant, that won’t be April, but there’s probably a few days somewhere that the cycle of the job is at a low ebb.

It’s taken living in the U.S. for almost 5 years and our current home almost 4, to discover some rhythms. That’s one of the hard things about a move internationally, a change in jobs, or a significant life change like becoming a mother or kids going to school or leaving the nest. There are new rhythms and it takes at least 2 years to figure them out!

The first year, everything is new and I constantly adjusted. The second year, I remembered the first year and tried to figure out what was an every year thing, or an anomaly. The third year solidified some distinct patterns to life like this first week of the year slow down.

I’m glad I have it because next month our oldest kid gets her learner’s permit. Hopefully all these stored up reserves will be enough! She swears she is going to drive like a grandma and we need to worry about our middle kid who has some Michael Schumacher speed in him.

We will see. He’s 2 years away from a permit so I have 2 more slow downs before he drives.

 

restoration

Flea Market Flip ran last week on HGTV while I exercised. Teams picked out old junky furniture and restored it in a nicely equipped workshop. Then, they resold it to people who found out they paid way too much when they watched the show a few months later. That show cracked open a door in my mind.

Can I be a Flea Market Flipper too?

I browsed Goodwill hoping to find a bike for my son a few days later. I found a bike for my son. I also found a table for me. Do I need a table? Why, no, I do not. But, the table needed me, so I took it home. Now it sits in my garage waiting for me to restore it.  IMG_0372

Which brings up a curious point of drama in this story because I don’t actually know how to do that. So, I pinterested.

I discovered a few options for this kind of project. One involved a few cans of superior grade spray paint. After that, there’s the small step up. I can buy a can of some kind of primer, sealer, base type paint and slather it all over before painting the table some daring color.

I’m not a particularly daring person so picking the color intimidates me. I’d leave that to my friend, Lori.

Then there’s classic restoration. It’s time intensive and complicated. It takes elbow grease and new tools. Sanding, staining, putty, glue, varnish, oils. The result is a beautiful, classical table in the style first envisioned by the maker.

I’m not sure I’m up for that. And, do I want another dark wood table? Not really.

Of course, all of this connects on a deeper level for me. If you haven’t gotten there yet. I am the table. A little loose and damaged needing quite a bit of sanding and staining to bring out what’s underneath all the crud. I’ve always needed restoration. I’ll always need restoration.  Until the end of days I will need restoration.

So, what kind of restoration am I opting for? It depends on the day or the hour or the minute. Mostly, I want the fast spray paint type of restoration. Just get me looking a little better. Cover over the worst of the transgressions. Blot out the huge blemish on the surface.

But, there are days when I understand that spray paint fails to do the job. It’s fast, easy, and noticeable on pieces that got a lot of problems. I got a lot of problems. I don’t really ask often because who wants to know the truth about themselves?  But we all kind of know, don’t we?

It takes creativity and time but in some areas I take a step further and really try to cover up the problems. It’s takes years to manufacture the hard shell that covers the really big stuff, those huge gaping wounds and gashes. Add a daring coat of paint to distract. Voila. I’m repurposed.

I’m longing more these days for more restoration in my life. I know its painful to feel sanded, stripped, and scrubbed but I want it. I can see a glimpse of what can be and I want more.

I’m in a good workshop now. Lots of skilled restorers of lives, lots of tools, lots of space, and gentle spirits that walk with the Lord. It’s a good time to restore. I’m realizing I need to keep a workshop in my life in years to come too. A place and people who restore. A place where I can be involved in the restoration of others too.

One person mentioned a few weeks ago that when we’re tired…bone tired…we need to work backwards from the physical through the mental and relational back to the spiritual. I ponder that these days and I wonder if the table is God’s answer to my prayers. I prayed that I’d connect with Him in a new way soon, that I’d see His hand.

Did He give me this flea market find to engage me in the ongoing work He’s doing in my life? Why, yes! I think that’s exactly what He did.

So, now back to the real table that is not me. I want to go buy that good primer, sealer, coater all-in-one paint today.

The allegory only goes so far, folks. I’m going to paint that table in my garage.

 

 

 

Entering the Rest

20140121-101129.jpgThese days I spend my days with family enjoying the warmth and sunshine of Thailand.

Mornings I read and journal on a balcony to the sounds of rustling palm trees.  Afterwards, we all suit up and head to the pool to swim and play.  The hotel room offers cool shade for the afternoon rest.  We walk on the beach at sunset catching hermit crabs and finding shells.  We sink our toes in the sand underneath our dinner table by the beach.  Idyllic, right?

But my heart grows restless in the midst of all this wonder.  Instead of an increasing relaxation I find an uneasiness rise up.  It’s hard to enjoy and enter the rest.

The world says we are entitled to this time.  Our Human Resources handbook says we accrued the weeks.  Our bosses approved our timing.  We saved to afford our accomodations.  Beyond that is the self-justification.  We never take all our allotted vacation time.

But my heart knows something deeper.  It knows I don’t deserve it and I didn’t earn it and I can’t pay it back.  It is a gift, a grace, a display of God’s generosity that I can never repay.  And I want to pay.  I really want to pay!  I feel that in repaying it I can more fully enjoy it.  But there is no way to repay it…no way.  I’m caught.

So God leaves me with a choice to accept the gift with thankfulness or do what I do now…struggle to find a way to pay and in doing so, rebel.  Because in wanting to deserve, to earn, to pay I strive to be equal with God Himself!  And I startle at the realization.  I want to be equal to God, always have and, this side of heaven, always will to some extent.

So I miss out on the rest…or I was missing out.

In the coming days I hope to enter the rest He provides.  Enter it boldly.  Not the vacation rest but the real rest my heart seeks…the rest from thinking I can earn, deserve, repay, prove.  To receive the gift of His Son who paid all on my behalf.  I need no longer strive.

I need only accept the gift with a smile, that gift that is so priceless I cease from all rebellious endeavors to repay it.  I bind myself to the Gift-giver heart and soul.  Even that is a gift for my wayward, wandering, rebellious soul.

To be anchored by His undeserved favor, the true rest for my weary soul.

Lessons from the Breakfast Buffet

I took on the job of teaching the kids how to maximize the breakfast buffet. We are on vacation and my reasoning runs like this: well-stuffed children will not need a large lunch thus saving time and energy and money. We can just snack our way to dinner. A perfect vacation plan for me, a mom.20140112-120836.jpg

Except that the kids don’t know how to overeat. They naturally stop when satisfied! Unlike me, their parent, my children enjoy their most tasty treats on the buffet and then they do this weird thing…they stop. I get a few more bites in them but it is a challenge neither of us enjoys.

I, however, make sure I get the best of the buffet meaning that I eat the most delectable items. Cereal? That is cheap. Eggs Benedict? More please. I strategize to make sure I squeeze out the most from my experience before my stomach fills to the point of bursting.

Who enjoyed the feast more though? Me who got the most out of it? Or the kids who freely enjoyed it?

Ok. Ink on paper makes it clear. Of course they enjoyed it more! And I see how I miss out when I try to squeeze the last drop of value out of experiences like buffet breakfasts. Instead of taking in the delight of eating a meal I did not shop for, cook, or need to clean up I expend that energy trying to force a maximum perceived benefit. Striving after the wind.

I watch my kids receive with joy and I see what I want to become–an open receptor of these wonderful experiences. I want to receive with thanks what the Lord brings. I want to enjoy without the pressure of enjoying it the most. The most and the best add pressure and a drive that blocks my receptors. The most and the best increasingly seem like a trap that inhibits being in the moment and giving thanks for the gifts He gives.

I continue to decompress here on vacation. Maybe this realization is part of the casting off of the driven-ness I fall into in daily life. I do recognize this striving after the wind in more places than the breakfast buffet on vacation and I grieve what I missed.

A heart of gratitude and thankfulness for what is. Enjoyment of the moment. A settled confidence that another day will come with more to receive from the Great Gift Giver.

That’s a lot to miss out on. It is worth way more than a well-played breakfast buffet.

What blocks your ability to receive freely from the Lord?

 

Climbing Past Restlessness

Every so often I travel alone.  I pack my bag with only my things.  Anticipation takes over greater parts of the days leading to my departure.  The expectation of caring only for myself looms on the horizon.  No one to dress but myself.  No one to feed but myself.  No time to eat but when I hunger.  Before the horizon zooms into reality I stock the fridge and imagine what might bring my husband some comfort for the task of all three children, all day, all alone.

Then, I journey.  Traveling alone means stretches of silence interspersed with bursts of speech…to the check-in agent, to passport control, to buy food, to the one who sits beside me.  But more silence accompanies me than usual on journeys alone.  More silence than children talking over each other talking to me.  More than the constant communication that makes home life run, soothes hurt feelings, or delves into deep issues of the heart.

I welcome silence…for a time.  I open books, ponder deep thoughts, fill pages in journals, watch movies.  Then I approach the seeming end of my thoughts or stack of books and my heart grows restless.  Like a mountain to be tackled with the promise of rest on the opposite side, I climb increasingly anxious to summit.

Activity fills most of my days.  Preparing food, giving direction, teaching, answering, asking.  The abrupt halt throws me forward like a passenger into a taut seatbelt.  Responsibilities pause yet I keep moving.  I require longer to slow down.  The mounting rise of restlessness washes over me.  I now know to wait and be still.  God has more for me than restlessness.

Given long enough I overcome the peak and enter the meadow of rest.  True rest.  Allowing inactivity and not labeling it “lazy” or “selfish.”  I see life marching on without my voice when I call home.  I know He values my voice but the knowledge that God does not need me frees me somehow.

I observe more of nature and life around me.  New, quiet thoughts come to me.  I feel lighter.  He upholds all, maintains all, sustains all.  I sustain small pockets of valuable life as He permits and because He sustains me, but He sustains all.

Rest acknowledges God is God.  I am not.  True rest puts me in my place and God in His.  He is Father, I am child again.

What do you learn about God when you rest?  What do you learn about yourself?