BUSY

A year ago, I rushed into a place of business after school one day, four children underfoot, to complete an errand on my never-ending list of errands to complete. The owner of the business was sitting in his chair, leaned back, with his arms resting easy in his lap. When we barreled in, as we do, he didn’t jump up. He didn’t seem alarmed. He just asked how he could help. He seemed content.

After I completed my errand my thoughts returned to the owner’s posture upon entering his business. Was he doing anything? What was he doing? He wasn’t hunched over a computer. Or a phone. Was he thinking? Was he just sitting there thinking??

It was not a posture of production, but of rest. What an odd sight.

It’s hard to describe my subsequent feeling after that experience. Was it confusion? Surprise? Jealousy? Why was he able to sit and think? And why did I find it so odd and confusing? And why was I so intrigued and compelled by such a natural thing?

If you ask any red blooded American family how they are doing today, I can almost guarantee their response.

Busy.

It’s kind of the American badge of honor, the rite of passage for any self-respecting, growing, working, productive member of society isn’t it? Busyness. The conversation looks something like this:

“How’ve you been. Been busy?”

“Been so busy. You? You been busy?”

“Us too. It’s non-stop you know?”

“Yeah. I know”

And that’s it. That’s the extent of the conversation, because there is no time to say anything else, lest we miss the next appointment on our all-consuming iCalendar. That calendar is a powerful thing isn’t it? It almost feels like it gives us power – “Let me check my calendar,” we say. “My calendar is so full too,” we chime back. We wouldn’t want to suggest that our calendar has a whole open space. Because that would mean that we aren’t busy. And busy is our way to be. It is the measure of our importance, isn’t it? Eugene Peterson talks about our busyness in The Contemplative Pastor.

“The word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection.”

I wonder how the conversation would turn if someone were to fall off the script? I wonder what would happen if we stopped wearing busyness like a badge of honor?

“How’ve you been? Been busy?”

“Not really. Lately I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting. I turned down a few committee positions and devoted more time to prayer. You?”

Try to gather what kind of response you would have to that. I dare say it would put a cog in one’s perpetual motor, would it not?

Though many have tried, we simply cannot be two places at once (I very literally have tried to do this). So, when we commit our time to one committee/place/sport/person/pastime/job, we withdrawal ourselves from another committee/place/sport/person/pastime/job. Yes to one is no to another.

The symptom is pandemic. Organizations, schools, and sports teams all feel the need to appear busy as well. And the church is just as guilty. If we aren’t careful, we could program the Life right out of the church, focusing on the activity of the church rather than the God of church.

The problem, then, is that the only thing filled by a busy schedule is the calendar itself, and those rushing to and fro remain empty and unfulfilled.

The past year has been a time of FOCUS for our family. Michael suggested the word focus in order to streamline our commitments and reduce our overall busyness, so that those things that we say are priority actually take priority in our lives. We spend a lot of time saying no. (Directions: HERE). The freedom from too many commitments has freed me to spend more time in God’s word, develop new friendships, and invest deeply in our children. Since Christmas, we have spent each Sunday evening walking together through our woods. This past weekend on our walk, I sat down and watched as the kids maneuvered the hill they so love to climb. The fallen sticks crunched beneath my feet, the warm air enveloped me, and I breathed deeply the fresh spring air (so sorry for all the pollen sufferers who have a completely different experience with that air..). As I was sitting there, I began thinking of the wonder of God’s creation and my gratitude for it. You know, I was just sitting there thinking….

Our experience with God cannot be a drive-thru experience. Our devotion to him comes at a sacrifice to otherness, to busyness. Abiding in Him must not be rushed, nor an activity, nor a thing to do. It must be a frame of mind, devoid of distraction, that is only possible through Him. The unbusy frame of mind is one I have seen lived out through the life of my Granddaddy, who was unbusy enough to pen these words:

I met with God this morning as I knelt beneath the trees,
And He laid His hand upon me in the coolness of the breeze;
I bowed my head in silence as the world went rushing by,
And we had peaceful moments–The Lord, the trees, and I.

The trees had laid the carpet on which I knelt to pray,
And as we met together it seemed that I should stay
To watch the trees grow stronger with arms raised toward the sky.
We soon became acquainted–The Lord, the trees, and I.

The trees and I were puzzled; we lived at God’s command!
But why should some be missing and others bravely stand?
Some cut down, others fallen–Perhaps you know just why…
We shared our cares together–The Lord, the trees, and I.

Then came I near the valley to hear the singing pines,
They live so close together, the choice of trees to find.
But howling winds came, forcing their weary heads to cry;
Some things we had in common–The Lord, the trees, and I.

When day for me is over and friends are left behind,
I’ll rest in peace forever, and I’d sleep beneath the pines.
Could I speak to those around me, I’d say, “Oh, please don’t cry…
We’ll be satisfied together–The Lord, the trees, and I.

 

May we all be unbusy enough to abide in the One who so wants to dwell in our uncluttered hearts and minds. I’ll end with this beautiful heartcry from Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus:

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Related Posts: STILLREST

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GUTTED

There is a scene in the movie Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood with which every mother of young children can identify. It’s the scene where Vivi’s 4 children all have a stomach bug and there is excrement everywhere. It’s right before “she drops her basket”, the phrase used throughout the movie that refers to the time Vivi got in her car, drove to the beach, and slept for 3 days.

I’ve never done that.

But I’d be lying if I said I have never thought a temporary beach escape wouldn’t be nice alternative to All. The. Wiping.

I had one such moment late last summer. It had been an easy week. School had begun and we had spent the weekend enjoying the pool for the final time. It was a Sunday evening, and as we were coming down the lane, I told the kids that they would need to get their belongings together for the next day and then it would be time for bed. However, when we walked through the door, I immediately knew something was terribly wrong. I could smell it. As I descended the staircase, the smell got worse. It was coming from the boys’ bathroom. No. The boys’ bedroom. It was the floor. It wreaked of stale sewer. Apparently, someone had used nearly an entire roll of toilet paper (“ME!!!”, Zachary proudly announced) causing an overflow which seeped through the wall of the bathroom into the bedroom. Their carpet was ruined.

I headed to the laundry room to find some old towels and discovered that my elderly dog had had an upset stomach, as evidenced by more messes in the floor. Just as I let out a deep sigh, my oldest started yelling, “MOM!! My nose is bleeding! There’s blood everywhere!!!!” And it was. All over his rug and bedding.

I nearly dropped my basket.

Michael immediately cut the carpet out of the room, and I cleaned up the dog mess and started on bedspread stain removal. We began to discuss all the options. I saw a pretty simple solution.  Re-carpet the whole basement. I had wanted carpet in our tiled playroom for several years and now was the perfect opportunity to finally do it. We could just put new carpet in the bedroom and it should be easily laid on top of the tiled room. Michael made clear that if we were to lay carpet, all the ceramic tile would have to removed. He further declared that we would need to repair the walls, repaint, and fix all the doors.

“We’ll have to gut the whole thing,” he said.

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Typical precision, perfectionist Michael, was making everything more difficult than it needed to be. I was looking for quicker solutions, the most attractive of which required very little elbow grease on my part. But Michael wasn’t willing to start the project until I was willing to do it right. So that’s what we did. And it was hard. We had to hand chisel the solidly glued tile from the cement slab. Hammer and chisel, you guys. We had to scrape away the residual grout and glue. I don’t know if you are aware of the sophistication of the grout industry. This is a product that is meant to last through the ages. By day 3, Michael couldn’t feel his left hand, and mine were full of scrapes and callouses. We had to apply putty to every dent of every wall (please note all the necessary putty marks in picture below). Those areas had to then be sanded (twice) and painted. We worked tirelessly every spare moment for three weeks, and in the end we had a whole new basement.

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There were no hidden cracks or dents left. There was no old, damaged floor left underneath. The lighting was softer, the storage was greater, and the space was just so much better. Everything had been made new.

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And so it is with Christ.

When I came to Christ, I mean really came to Christ, I needed a complete transformation. I needed to be completely gutted, so that Christ himself could rebuild the walls and establish a new foundation. I tried to make it work with just a surface fix – you know churchin’ it up every Sunday morning – but Christ wanted nothing to do with my halfway attempt. I tried to just allow for a partial transformation, but He wanted to do it right. I had to drop my hands from the clay, and allow the Potter Himself to mold his creation.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no masterpiece yet. He’s still working on me, as evidenced by my reaction to the gallon of pure white high gloss furniture paint which spilled on that new carpet just last weekend. But the difference between the old life and the new life is that now I allow Christ to temper me, to mold me, to renew me. I have to continually drop my hands, my whole entire basket, and allow the Master to pick up the pieces and weave me ever so faithfully back together.

Go ahead, friends, drop your basket

TOO

On Christmas Day (but really before that because we couldn’t wait so we just did the whole shebang two days early), we brought home a baby Labrador Retriever and named her Penny.IMG_1986

I’m a new labmom, and I want to offer you some ways to know if you are ready to be a labmom too.

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I’m just trying to help you. I didn’t know this before I became a labmom, but there are ways to tell if you’re ready.  I’ve compiled them into a handy dandy list. Refer to it often as you ponder the possibility of bringing home your own furry friend. There are six tell-tale signs that can help you to make your decision about becoming a labmom:

  1. You have too many shoes. I know this is a problem for some of you. But I’m telling you, a labrador puppy will help you with your collecting hoarding obsession in a jiffy. Not only will she destroy the laces and soles, she’ll start with the most expensive pair and work her way down. Labs keep you from becoming too materialistic.
  2. Your shoes are too easily located. When you put your shoes in an organizer, it’s probably to quickly locate them the next time you need to wear them. But that’s kind of lazy, don’t you think? I’m not sure you realize the calorie burning potential of locating a lost shoe. Labs provide exactly that. Think of it as the squats and lunges you didn’t get to yesterday. You’ll look under the couch, the bed, behind the toilet, in the yard, in the trash… And then you’ll find it – under her bed. And chewed in half. By the time you locate it, your heart rate will have been up for the standard daily 20 minutes. Labs keep you in shape.
  3. Your carpets are too clean. No one likes that new carpet look. ‘Lived in’ is really so much more fashionable these days. Why do you think consignment stores, vintage items, and antiques are so sought after? It’s all the rage. I mean, you could go to one of those places and get an overpriced consigned rug, OR you could get a lab! She won’t let that ‘new’ look hang around at all. She’ll be especially good at rounding off the corners. Labs keep you in style.FullSizeRender                                         I call to witness: Bathroom rug #1
  4. You are getting too much sleep. This is problem for most of you, I’m sure. You just slip into bed around 10, and ease out at around 6. That’s 8 uninterrupted hours.  WAAAAAAAY too many. Suppose the zombie apocalypse happens and the zombies only keep you alive if you can stay awake for a SOLID 24-hour stretch, a stretch that involves traipsing through the mud at 2 a.m.? Owning a lab is really about your own safety.IMG_2136           This is how a 24-hour labmom shift leaves you… #deadonyourfeet 
  5. Your papers are too neatly stacked. Perhaps you’re living into your OCD tendencies. You know who you are. If things are slightly askew, do you start to feel a bit queasy? I say – get a lab. Not only will she wreck any chance of order, she’ll save you tons of electricity by not having to operate that pesky paper shredder. Labs basically cure your OCD while saving the environment. Win win.IMG_2046
  6. Your house is too quiet. We have three boys, and when our miniature schnauzer of 12 years died in October, our house became too quiet. Grief is a strange animal. It’s sneaky and unpredictable and just so terribly quiet at times. A few weeks after Prancer’s death, when I caught a glimpse of my eldest holding the empty dog collar and wiping silent tears from his cheeks, I knew we were a family that belonged to a dog. My formerly reluctant husband agreed, and is now completely smitten with our furry little girl. Things are boisterous and loud and filled up once again. The silence has been traded for laughter and gnawing and chasing and chewed up shoes. It’s been traded for walks in the woods, walks up the stairs, snuggles by the fire, and after dinner doggie dance parties.IMG_1994

If  you’re too orderly, too clean, too rested, have too many shoes, or are too silent, it may be time for you to get a puppy too. You’ll lose silence, order, and sleep, but you certainly won’t regret it. Because as Nolan often says, our little Penny is worth more than gold.

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SUBMISSION

coatsquotes

The “S” word for Christian women…

Michael and I dated 7 years before getting married.  Statistics say that is waaaay too long.  For the most part, I agree.  There are 3 reasons we waited:

  1. We started dating when we were babies.
  2. He wasn’t ready to commit.
  3. I wasn’t ready to submit.

He was ready to commit before I was ready to submit.  He proposed.  We planned the wedding.  I started freaking out.

I was independent!  I had a college degree!  I bought a house on my own!  Submit???  SUBMIT????

I was really struggling.  I would get all the way through Ephesians chapter 5, and every time I got to verse 22, I would stop.  I knew I needed to understand what it meant to submit before I walked down that aisle.  I did a lot of soul searching in those months before our wedding.  And I sought wise counsel.

“I’m…

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HOMELESS

I had lied to my mother. I had lied to her about where I was going, who was with me, and what I would be doing. Those were the three questions she always asked and I had lied about each one in order to go on a double date…fully two years before I was permitted to do so.

And I regretted it immediately.

I thought it would be dinner and a movie. Like an episode of Saved by the Bell, where we ended the evening laughing at the diner drinking milkshakes. I was fourteen.

We had ended up at someone’s home. No. Someone’s house. But did anyone really live here? I couldn’t figure out what they were doing with the spoon over the fire. I remember feeling invisible. No one seemed to notice me and I tried not to look directly at any of them. Being invisible was the only solace I had. Should anyone have spoken to me, or attempted to engage me in whatever it was they were doing, I fully expected to become a puddle in the floor. It was the Saturday night before Easter.

I wanted to go home. I was 14, but I may as well have been 5. I longed for the scent of my mother, the creak in our wooden floor, and blankets that would envelope my shame. I imagined that she would be preparing our baskets and the morning would come and it would be the most glorious feeling in the whole world. I couldn’t wait. I looked around the room and knew that no one else there had a mother like mine. I was so close to home, but had never felt so far away. My gut had such a wrenching ache.

This was my first true experience of longing for home.

My second longing, however, is much different from the first. The second longing comes with an assurance that the first longing only dreamt of. There is no longer a hollow ache in my gut. My second longing is accompanied with hope. The second longing is accompanied with peace. The second longing is able to experience the kingdom already but not yet the kingdom to its fullest. The kingdom to its fullest is still yet to come. Until then, we sojourn on. Until then we are all foreigners here, strangers in a strange land. Even when the babies are tucked in tight, and there are soft carols playing, and the glow of the twinkling lights provide the only evening light we need, and I am in my home…I’m not home. Permanence here is illusive. Because for every child nestled all snug in his bed, there is a restless one with no earthly ear to hear his cry.

And in despair I bowed my head

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

I’m not home until there are no more homeless refugees, trying to makes sense of their plight. I’m not home until there is nary a need for a gun, nor a fence, nor a password, nor a calendar, nor antidepressants. I’m not home until the fatherless get evening bear hugs with real touchable beards. I’m not home until babies sleep from a full belly, rather than hungered exhaustion. I’m not home until there are no more orphans smoking in crack houses on the Saturday night before Easter. I’m not home until there is no more night. In his book, Longing for Home, Frederick Buechner writes, “be really at home is to be really at peace, and our lives are so intricately interwoven that there can be no real peace for any of us until there is real peace for all of us.”

——-

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail

With peace on earth, good will to men.”

But there will come a Day!

Until that Day, we wait. We wait as Israel waited. And we wait with the promise that “The Lord watches over sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless…”. Until that Day, we wait not as we wait in line at WalMart, passively biding the moments until we can get on with our day. We wait as we wait for Christmas. We wait in constant preparation and proclamation. We wait, all the while proclaiming to the orphan that she has a Father! We wait, all the while proclaiming to the addict that the void can be filled – filled to overflowing! We wait, all the while proclaiming to the hungry, and the weary, and the worn – hope! And we proclaim to the refugees – all of us longing for a home – there is a home with table prepared, and where everyone has a Father.

And the Father is always, always home (John 14:2-3).

(This post was written for First Alliance Church in Lexington, KY to be included in their daily advent readings.  For a daily advent reflection, visit their website or follow my brother’s blog.)

May the blessed anticipation of the Savior be real in your home and your heart this Christmas season!

MRS.

When I was in the eighth grade, I walked into a classroom where there was being spoken a foreign language by the most brilliant, bright-eyed, lovely, quirky, caring teacher I still have ever known. Her name was Mrs. Mahuron, but since her husband worked a few doors down in the science department, we sometimes just called her Mrs.

She was always smitten with her chemist husband, who was equally brilliant and caring. Theirs was a marriage worth having. They subtly displayed a genuine, deep care for one another, and a genuine, deep sense of their calling as teachers. Our little town was so incredibly blessed to have them.

For five years she instructed me in the language, and then and since in all the ways of life.  She was always there. And she was always smiling. And she was always giving off the sense that she cared about us so much, and at the same time expecting us to preform to the absolute best of our ability. Her care for us never excused our mediocrity; her care was so genuine it demanded more from us. The best from us.

Mrs. was a steady, dependable constant at a time in my life when all was chaotic and in perpetual motion. She was always there. Over the course of five years, she showed up for me. She listened, but didn’t pry. She counseled, but didn’t lecture. She encouraged, but didn’t pressure. The atmosphere she created within those hard cinderblock walls was one of warmth and invitation. It was as if walking through those doors were walking right into a warm blanket on a cold day.

Outside of my family, she has been the greatest influence in my life.

My favorite exercise she had us to complete was a journal. It was informal. It was handwritten. It was loose leaf paper tucked in a plain manilla folder. An unassuming facade for a sea of thoughts and teenage emotions. Oh, how I wrote. It was as if I had been bound, and all of a sudden I had been set free. I, of course, journaled about very mature and distinguished things. Boys. Homecoming. Prom. Upcoming collegiate adventures….to where? What should I do? Where should I go?

Do you know that she always took considerable time to answer my quandaries? Her written responses were thoughtful and wise, deliberate and sure. She never dismissed my juvenile woes. I can still see her distinct handwriting to this day in my mind’s eye.

A few weeks ago I was able to speak to her by phone. She smiled as she spoke. I am sure of it. And do you know what she said? She said these words me, “Oh, I know I didn’t have anything to do with it, but I’m just so proud of you.” And she said other beautiful things that I could hardly swallow through my tightened throat and tear brimmed eyes.

And I just want to say now, Mrs., that YES YOU DID. You had everything to do with it. You taught me. But you taught me in the truest sense of the word. You taught in a way that compelled me to learn. To yearn to be a seeker of knowledge, and ultimately of Truth. Thank you. Thank you for compelling me to learn. Thank you for demanding my best, but most importantly for demonstrating yours. Yours is such an incredible testimony to Truth. Of excellence and steadfast perseverance.

And Mrs. Mahuron, thank you for showing up for me. Your classroom was always a refuge and your smile always a comfort. I cannot imagine the number of students whose lives you touched in your tenure at our small school. I cannot imagine the ripple effect that flows from your influence. I only know that there is more excellence and less mediocrity in the world because you taught in it. I know there is more warmth and less arrogance, more authenticity and less pretense, more security and less confusion. Because you have taught in this world, there are more smiles and down right more joy. Your influence knows no bounds.

Para la idioma de español, muchas gracias. Para la idioma de enseñar, infinitas gracias. Tu ejemplo es un regalo muy muy precioso.

 

(By the way, Mrs., ….fragments in the above reflection are intentional and for dramatic effect.) 😉