More is Not More

I am in a constant battle against busyness. Let me define what busyness means to me. It’s any time I have to leave my house. Yep. That’s about it. If I can be home all day, working on chores, hanging out with family, cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, wiping noses, breaking up fights, reading books out loud, basically non-stop activity from the time I get up till I go to bed…as long as I didn’t have to leave the house, it was not a busy day. 

 

Then I have days like today. The kids had the day off from school. Yay! So, at 11am I had to take one daughter to the dentist. Her tooth chipped while eating a hamburger at school. A big chunk came off. The dentist is baffled, it shouldn’t have happened, it’s in an odd location, none of it makes sense. She will now have to get a crown on her tooth. Good grief. So, we finished that appointment then came home. Then at 1:30pm I had to take an older daughter to a doctor’s appointment for what turned out to be bronchitis. Fun. Then, on the way home we stopped at the store. Got home, announced I was now ready to make the library run that everyone had been pestering me about all day. Loaded up five kids into the car and ran down to the library. Came home. Then an hour later, had to to drive my daughter to her job. Then three hours later, had to go pick her up from her job. (This child needs to turn sixteen and get her license!). And then, of course, we had to stop at the pharmacy on the way home to get the prescribed medicine from the earlier appointments. 

 

It’s these kind of days that wear me out. 

 

Everyone I know is busy. And most of them don’t seem to be overly happy about it. Maybe it’s a matter of our time-saving devices actually, in the end, not saving us very much time. Just think about it, if we didn’t have cars that we could zoom all over the place with, we would no longer be zooming all over the place. I know, cars aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but there is a definite appeal to a slower lifestyle. 

 

I have found that simply raising my family is about all I can handle. I’ve been on a long journey of saying No. No, we don’t have the time to do sports. No, I can’t sign up to help in this ministry. No, I will not be able to be a key person in this project. No, I can’t volunteer this weekend. No, we aren’t going to sign our kids up for the extra curricular activities. No.

 

As my kids have gotten older, they have wanted to be involved in more things. That’s fine. Our high school is only a couple blocks away. If my kids want to stay after school to be in a club or sport or band or anything, they can simply walk home afterwards. Our middle school has a free after-school program that offers all kinds of clubs and they bus the kids home afterwards. I can handle that. It doesn’t involve me getting in my car and driving anywhere. 

 

Here’s the thing. When I’m busy, I don’t have time to think and ponder. When I’m busy I tend to operate at a much higher stress level. When I’m busy I forget to be thankful. When I’m busy, I tend to get cranky and irritable. When I’m busy, I miss out on all the little moments. Moments like sitting quietly in front of the fireplace, just watching the flames. Sitting on the edge of my daughter’s bed while she gets ready to go to sleep, hearing her excited chatter about all the things she’s going to do tomorrow. Stopping what I’m doing so I can watch my two year old show me his “trick” of rolling his toy car really really really fast! Or maybe, stepping out on my porch to get the mail, and noticing the birds flying overhead. 

 

I find that when I take life at a slower pace, it’s a lot richer. It’s kind of like the difference between skimming through a Shakespeare play in an hour, or taking a semester long class that spends the entire time analyzing the play. I can zoom through a day, crashing into bed at the end, exhausted and soul-weary. Or, I can meander my way through the day, stopping along the way to enjoy the view, discover some hidden gems, spend some quality time with loved ones…ending the day with a heart of thankfulness and peaceful sleep. I, for one, prefer the latter. 

 

Yes, life sometimes does get busy, and it’s beyond your control. Stuff happens and you have to deal with it. But, I think it’s worth it to keep on fighting for a peaceful, slower life. We can say No. When it comes to busyness, More is not More. It’s less. 

 

God Didn’t Make Me a Nun

It’s been a long crazy week, and we’re only on Wednesday. School is out this week for a break and so, on top of the normal chores, normal baby care etc, we have also thrown into the mix, playdates, sleepovers, dentist appointments, volunteer work, and some babysitting. Today I felt like the world was spinning twice as fast as normal and I couldn’t quite keep up with anything. In the midst of all of that, this evening I found myself thinking about intimacy with God.

So here is my thought for the day.. How do we become intimate with God? What does that even mean?  When I think of intimacy with God I think about having long hours of silence and contemplation, maybe some private worship time. I have always had a bit of envy for nuns and monks who spend their days in quiet and devotion and service. That seems like a bit of heaven from where I’m standing. I will point out the obvious though, God didn’t make me a nun. So how does someone who is super-busy all the time and fully immersed in the world become intimate with God?

I am no expert so I’m just going to put out an idea. What if being intimate with God simply means being aware of him more and more. He is, after all, everywhere. If we aren’t feeling his presence, it’s not because he went somewhere, it’s because we aren’t tuned in.  As you become aware of him more and more, maybe being intimate with God means including him in your day to day decisions. Perhaps it means learning to notice him enough to say thank you as you see wonderful little things hidden in the chaos of your day…a child’s grin, a hug, a sunray shining onto your face. Maybe intimacy with God is sending out prayers to him all day long for patience, for willpower to make good decisions, or sending out prayers of intercession as you think about various friends. Perhaps being intimate with God means that you think about his Word throughout the day, not just read something and then forget about it as soon as you step away from the Bible.  

How does this play out in Real Life? I know that I have heard over and over that you should get up really early in the morning and spend time reading God’s word and praying. This is really hard for me, and often impractical as I am still in the stage of life where my nights are regularly interrupted by little children who need their Mama. Though I still want to carve out that time, it hasn’t happened in quite a while, but in the past couple months God has lead me to start memorizing Bible verses with the kids. We focus on one verse a week. It has been a really good experience because I find myself thinking about the verse all week, pondering on it, meditating on it. It’s easy because I don’t have to find a Bible or a quiet place to read, it’s already in my head. I find also that God uses those verses to speak to me too, bringing them to mind at appropriate times.

How do I involve God in the daily things? Well, the other day I was trying to leave the house to go to the store and I was in a hurry and I couldn’t find my handbag. I searched all the normal places several times and I was starting to get a bit frantic and then I stopped and just spoke out loud,

Ok God, you know where my bag is, I don’t, I’d really appreciate it if you could just show me.

I was kind of frozen in one place as I said all this and then I glanced down and there was my handbag, tucked away in a corner where I had never put it before.

Thank you Lord!

I grabbed my bag and headed out the door and it occurred to me that I had just asked the Creator of the Universe, God Almighty, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, to help me find my handbag. (ok, I admit I regularly ask him for help to find things, but this was the first time that I really thought about the implications) I stopped mid-stride and kind of glanced up to the heavens, almost wondering if a bolt of lightning was going to appear and strike me down. I mean, really, wasn’t that disrespectful? I apologized, out loud.

Sorry Lord, I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, I’m sure you have better things to do than find my handbag for me..

Except that he DID find my handbag for me, and for some reason I think he probably found it amusing.

Ah yes, Esther, I made her especially absentminded, she can never find her bag, her keys, her phone. I can’t keep track of how many times I’ve helped her find something.

It’s not something I understand, but somehow the God of the Universe loves me and actually wants to be involved in every single part of my life. And I’m not sure why, but he isn’t displeased when I ask him for help with little things, it actually makes him happy. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7 that we should cast all of our anxieties on him because he cares for us.

It doesn’t say to cast only the really big burdens, the ones that you can’t handle. No, it says to cast ALL of our anxieties on him. Losing things makes me anxious, it gets me upset. When I ask God for help to find my things, I’m casting my anxiety on Him. And it’s ok because He cares for me.

I’ve made lots of mistakes and I’m due for a million or so more in my in my life time, I’m sure, but that doesn’t have to stop me from growing in intimacy with God. If I’m keeping him involved in every aspect of my life then it will probably be easier for me to hear his voice when he tries to counteract some of my foolishness. Being in the habit of turning to him all the time also makes it easier for me to repent, apologize, ask for forgiveness because I’m just used to bringing everything to him. I don’t have to go looking for him so that I can “Make things right with God”, we’re already talking every day and it just becomes part of the every-day conversation. This happens all the time for me. I yell at one of my children, lose my temper, allow myself to say something that I shouldn’t have said, and God’s right there, shaking his head (in a metaphorical sense) and I feel convicted and apologize to him, and then he waits (again metaphorically) and I finally make myself go seek out the person I just wronged and apologize to them as well.

This is not to say that I have reached some amazing level of intimacy with God. No. I have great days where I’m really aware of him and then I have other days where I hit evening and realize I haven’t noticed him all day. But this is what I want for my life. This is the goal, the dream, the thing to pursue. Spending every day with God, making him such an integral part of my life that I can’t imagine ignoring him. And maybe I can achieve this, even outside a convent.