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.


Riding Waves

I have no business being on a surfboard. I am not in shape. I’ve never surfed nor participated in a surfing lesson. My bathing suit screams sit and look pretty on the beach. It is not sporty at all.

Yet, there I was on a surfboard in the ocean trying to catch a wave.

Actual surfing was never my goal. My husband’s goal for the day was to ride a few waves in. He was the one trying to surf, not me.

But he tired out. Surfing is hard work, folks! I guess that’s why surfers are in shape. My husband is in shape. I feel like I must add this part since he reads my blog. He runs distances and he runs them fast. He is a tough former Marine. He lasted light years longer than I did.

I felt strangely adventurous. Since my boogie boarding was paying off, I thought I’d try a little long board while he rested.

So, I sat on the surfboard waiting for a wave. Then, I looked down and it didn’t take long for the alarms to go off in my brain. The tip of the surfboard was under water and a big wave was coming.

20 years after high school graduation and physics is still paying off. I calculated and visualized myself in that wave and it wasn’t pretty.

I jumped off in time and didn’t experience that reality and I am so glad! I want to mother my children way into their adulthood whether they like it or not.

That day I managed to ride two waves in on the board on my stomach all the way until we crunched into the sand. I never pictured myself on a surfboard, never in all my life, not even on my belly. I tried a new, daring thing. Way to go me!

We debriefed our life overseas this weekend. We did it by the ocean which is why we rented a surfboard. I watched the sunrise and the sunset. I listened to the ocean and I reflected on our life overseas, the joys, losses, and how it shaped me.

Now we live a much different life. It can seem a bit dull sometimes when everything isn’t a challenging adventure. It’s a weird kind of hard when things feel too easy. This is the new thing we are doing for the first time.IMG_0396.JPG

The guy at the long board shop spoke to a customer. “We want to live the best life we can live.”

He did not speak it to me but I took it in. I, too, want to live the best life I can live for the Lord wherever He plants me.

I want to enjoy the constant breakers of life. The points where I watch, where I wait for the wave, where I try to ride it, where it wipes me out, and where I get up and go back into the surf. Low tide, high tide. I want to live it.

Those are my next steps. I will find real Chinese food like I said under point #1 in the official debrief packet I filled out. But, above and beyond and as the background to all that, I will live life for the Lord.

I also plan to stick with the boogie board. Like I said, I want to live.

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?