Yesterday I walked barefoot out the back door and into the yard to cut a flower from a bush growing along the fence. I put the pretty pinkish white bloom in a small vase and stuck the arrangement on my nightstand. I had spent some time earlier that day unpacking my suitcase completely, carefully finding a place for each little thing. I zipped it up and put it away. And then marched outside to get the flower.
The home I’m living in right now (as I wait until I get married and move into a new home with my soon-to-be husband) has the most beautiful garden and the best smelling flowers. When I’ve been my most stressed I’ve gone outside and just sat on the porch or in the grass. My gracious hostess even pulled out her hammock and I have spent several hours just laying in the sun letting nature heal my tired soul. I’ve longed to bring in one of those little flowers and put it on my nightstand so that I would get to see and smell it first thing in the morning and last thing at night. But I’ve kept myself from doing it because I knew that no sooner had I cut it and set it out then I would have to re-pack my suitcase and leave again.
I have spent the past three years on the road driving between work, seminary, family, and friends. When I got my car 2 months before school started it had 3 miles on it. My first brand new car. As of today it has 83,172 miles on it.
But now the semester, my last semester of classes, is done.
About a year ago I began to realize that all the travel and multi-tasking had somehow altered the way I thought and operated. In moments of stillness I had one of two reactions. I either fell into a deep, exhausted sleep for hours (or even days) or I quickly found other things to do. Great things, to be sure. I would organize dinner parties, go on quick weekend trips to visit friends or family, or paint a room in my house. I’d decide it was the perfect weekend to clean the garage or re-plant the flowerbed. Busyness had rewired my brain until I was fully addicted. And it scared me.
I began to read books and blogs about Sabbath and stillness and choosing slowness. My heart sang out! This was exactly what I needed! These words spoke of the idolatry and illness of constant busyness and how, over time, it robbed you of the joy of connection and peace. Every line on every page felt like it was written about me, about the way I had been building my life. And I knew I wanted to change.
I think that at the heart of busyness is an inability to believe that it’s ok to rest and trust God. We believe that we are worth what we contribute, what we create. And so we toil and toil. And we place such small value on who we are that we believe we must construct something better, shinier, more efficient. So we work hard, strive, and fill our lives with busyness. We are so busy showing how awesome and capable we are because if we stop we will have to accept ourselves just as we are, flaws and all. And that seems painful. It IS painful. So instead we work harder. We keep busy.
One of my absolute favorite author’s, Shauna Niequest, in her book Perfect Over Present, uses a metaphor of filling up a little red wagon with responsibilities and deadlines and commitments and then having to haul that wagon with her everywhere she goes. She describes the physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion that goes along with hauling all that junk around and her desire to just stop and let it go. As I was reading her beautiful book for the first time last September I thought yes, that’s exactly what it’s like. I called my fiancé and told him about the book and her analogy. “Why don’t you just stop pulling it then? Or at least take some things out of it?” , he said very lovingly. “I can’t,” I said, “Everything has been superglued to the wagon…and I’m chained to the wagon.” As much as I wanted to stop and let go, I knew that the process of releasing busyness wasn’t something I could do overnight. It wasn’t as simple as walking away. I was going to have to learn how to unchain myself and then take things out of the wagon one by one.
And so that’s what I’ve been doing. I stopped writing blogs because I had to be writing papers for school and I couldn’t find time or energy for both. In October I took a part-time appointment close to my fiancé so that we wouldn’t see each other just once a month. Because I needed to finish school before I could make any other schedule changes, I put school as my priority and carved out specific weekends that were off-limits to anything but schoolwork. I actively worked on letting it be ok to make a B or even *gulp* a C if that meant I got to sleep more than 4 hours a night.
This of course makes it sound like I made huge strides towards a less busy life with less anxiety. And that is absolute nonsense. I mean, I tried, believe me I tried. But more often than not I still had far too much on my plate. And what seemed like it would be manageable in December felt like the Herculean labors in February. I cannot even begin to count how many hours I talked to friends and family trying to process my anxiety and exhaustion. And sometimes I did ok. Sometimes I felt more normal. But, especially at the beginning and end of the semester, it felt like more than I could handle and there were lots of tears. Thank God for my patient and thoughtful Steven, and all the people who held me up when I felt like I couldn’t go one more day or one more mile.
But I’ve made it. I have one paper left and one final. I think Steven and I have grown even closer and I think I’ve learned a lot more about what matters to me and what doesn’t. What matters is people. Making time for phone calls and visits and meals with people. People I’ve known and loved for years and people I’m meeting for the first time. Being present with people and being sure to hear and see them.
And what matters more than anything else is my relationship with God. Augustine said that our souls are restless until they find rest in God. I believe that. And I’ve been restless and filling up my days, sometimes in pursuit of trying to understand God, when what I should have been doing was stopping and smelling the little flowers. Letting the sun shine on my face and fill me up with light. Feeling the abundant love God has for me, just as I am without having to prove or be anything, through the world and people around me.
My life has changed a lot in the last few years. I have learned so much, grown so much, and discovered that God’s goodness is so much greater than I ever could have imagined. In this new chapter of my life, I want to let God write a story that is full of love, joy, peace, faith, and grace. And I think all of that starts with resting. So that’s what I’m doing now. Resting in the sure and certain promise that God is love. And that, if I will slow down, if I will let God rewrite the busyness addicted parts of my brain, I will be able to see and feel that love of God in the every day stuff of life. And that is, after all, what this blog was always supposed to be about. The way that the Divine works in the ordinary, daily stuff.
So let’s try this again, shall we? I’m Becca. This is my blog. It’s about the stuff of everyday life- mine and yours. And it’s about the way that God shows up every day in beautiful and powerful ways.