Producing Rest

Produce. The proof of value, the proof of contribution, the proof of validity, the essence and the reason for being. Produce. The purest form of nutrition, sustenance, refreshment, energy.

On an endless quest for production, I cycle through days of contentment with life. I find joy in the quiet days, energy in the activity and simplicity in the evenings of rest. Those days are delicious. Like the pop of fresh grapes between my teeth, they squirt excitement over days to come and fondness over memories shortly behind. Like the lingering bite of citrus, they chastise me with longing when I impatiently run ahead of contentment into chaos.

Chaotic days are filled with raucous questions. They flap wildly in my mind, interrogating my heart, “Why do you do what you do? What are you actually producing? What value are  you? Whose memory will you be? Aren’t you wasting your life?”

Most days are filled with uncomplicated habits. Two mornings a week I co-lead an exercise bootcamp with a friend. On Wednesday afternoons, I coordinate a Bible study in my home. I write. I manage my home, help at my church, workout, feed my family. But? What? Good? Is? That?

I’m not sure what spurs this anxiety. It seems to stem from a lack of self-assurance. Isn’t that the modern plague – insecurity? Like a graveyard for joy, society dumps discontentment, anger and hurt on low self-esteem. But I can’t accept that diagnosis for myself. It seems like the coward’s way out; like gulping down a little pink capsule and patting myself on the back in consolation. “Everyone feels this way, Dear. You’re OK, in fact, you’re amazing, give yourself some credit.”

The reverse might be more true. I’m tangled in disappointment because I expect more of myself than I can possibly produce. Maybe, I’m not Superwoman and I was’t meant to be Superwoman, and I really only want to be Superwoman because I think she’s amazing and then I could be legitimately proud of myself. Maybe I was created frail and helpless, needy and incomplete.

When I peel away of my excuses and peer into my motives I discover a determination to be self-sufficient, needless. Chasing this, I fail. I fail. I fall.

I brought my pain to Abba’s throne. Maybe it’s the recent Olympics that framed my prayer in sports vernacular.

“Jesus, I am waiting for you. I am so tired of running a lap-less, endless race.”

I don’t get frequent visions, and I would never put the images of my mind on par with Joseph’s dreams in the Old Testament, but as I prayed, I saw, as clearly as I have ever heard, Jesus answer me.

I stood inside a boxing ring. I couldn’t even see my opponent. I was my own opponent. Quietly, Jesus walked into the ring where I fought – bloodied, bruised and beginning to swing in wild panic. Jesus wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and led me away from the ring. As we reached the floor, He lifted my hand in victory.

Three times during the final week of July, Abba confronted me with the concept of rest. His final tap on my spirit came as She Loves chose, “Rest: Learning the Unforced Rhythms of Grace,” as the theme for the month of August.

Have you ever tried so hard to quiet your mind and pinch your eyes closed that you kept yourself from sleeping? My hardest struggle is trying too hard to rest. I schedule my leisure, plan my deep breaths and hurry past them. If rest doesn’t arrive on time, it is simply too late.

But rest, peace, isn’t my responsibility. I can’t make rest happen any more than I can make the sun shine, the grass stop growing, the night last longer.

Abba, you give me peace when I think on you, because I trust you. I trust you with my work as well as with my rest. You, Oh Lord, are everlasting, never sleeping. I will wait for you in the place where you make all decisions, where you orchestrate the rotations of the earth. I will remember your faithfulness with assurance and know that you will produce all that happens in the next seconds and years of my life without my help. My soul yearns for you in the night, when my head is on my pillow you continue to move quietly, letting me rest. (personal paraphrase of Isaiah 26:3,8,9 and Ps. 121:3)

 

Oh Lord, you have ordained peace for [me], for you have indeed done for [me] all [my] works.” Isaiah 26:12

 

 

The Flip-side of Mentorship

I stumbled across two of my most precious mentors entirely by accident. In fact, I was supposed to assisting them.

Nanny was approaching 90, and she lived with her 70+ year-old daughter, Katherine. Make no mistake – Katherine was and is completely capable of absolutely anything. In her multi-facted role of grandma, sister, housekeeper, mother, caring daughter, community volunteer, active church member and widow, she never dropped a ball. Not a crumb landed on her polished floor. Not a dog hair lingered on her couch. Her lawn was never too long.

But Nanny was approaching 90 and her health was supposed to be failing. Hospice entered the picture and began to send a nurse out a couple times per week to help with bathing, medication, etc. And I was a hospice volunteer, assigned to Nanny for companionship and to stay with her occasionally for Katherine to have a few hours off. That never happened.

Once or twice, I “kidnapped” Nanny, and we would get a pedicure or go to the mall or drive around old-town Columbus and she would tell me stories of growing up in the old south. Then, we would come home, hoping that Katherine had taken a nap or read a book, only to find that every single time she put herself to another task. Katherine cooked for her whole extended family, managed her children’s finances, raised her granddaughter, spoke at church, volunteered in the community, and cared for her dying brother. Never, never, never did I see her relax. Never, never, never did I hear her complain.

On many occasions, Nanny and I simply sat outside on the back porch with her dachshund, Prissy, and thumbed through old photo albums. Sometimes, Katherine would pour a rich glass of southern-sweet tea and join us. Katherine was bold about her love for Jesus, and so was Nanny. In fact, the first time I met them, Nanny told me, “Don’t expect to visit me for too long, I hope Jesus calls me home soon!”

The love in Katherine and Nanny’s home met every visitor at the door. It swept me up and carried me inside. Katherine imparted wisdom to me incidentally. In her I saw diligence, commitment, sacrifice, service, boldness and hope. Katherine proof read some of my articles and offered godly criticism.

Nanny taught me about marriage in the stories of her deceased husband. She had married at the age of 15-16. A girl can hardly have determined her love interests by that age, but Nanny had determined her commitment before the Lord. She told me of discovering their differences and similarities.

During this time, I was slipping back into an old, destructive habit of compulsive, excessive exercise. No one I knew called me on it. None of my running buddies mentioned my obsession. None of my family lived close enough to see the decline. No one seemed concerned that I was losing weight. No one but Katherine and Nanny. Suddenly, my weekly visit to care for their needs flipped to a weekly accountability check-up.

I doubt that I was as good for Nanny and Katherine as they were for me. But God was good, and before I moved, hospice had to drop Nanny because she was no longer declining.

Sorry, Nanny. God continues to share you with us one day at a time! But I am confident, that when you do go home both you and Katherine will be rewarded as a “good and faithful servants.”

Busy Being Busy

Fingers stuck in every pie,

A sticky mess, I don’t know why.

Got to be needed, have my say,

So stir, and add and quickly pray.

On to the next, must add my touch,

Never mind I’m doing too much.

I’ll forget something, I’m sure.

The salt, or sugar, forget to stir.

Or worst of all, if it all gets done,

I’ll forget to serve someone.

Is the Paycheck Important

We all know it isn’t true. We all KNOW we are valuable to God and mean something to someone somewhere – right? Then why does the lie roll around in our heads, periodically coming to the forefront of our minds: What good are you?

Is it a woman thing? Is it a me thing? Is it a generational thing? Men are allowed their midlife crisis, am I allowed a midlife identity crisis? I don’t know what my purpose is and I’m searching valiantly for some way to quantify, validate, earn my existence. Preferably a monetary means.

 

I went to college – because every self-respecting woman does. I mean, after women’s liberation, how could I possibly despise the opportunity to further my education. I could afford it. So I picked a topic that sounded interesting and invested four and half years of my life into earning a manilla-colored piece of paper that declares I met the subjective standards erected by an institution called a university.

 

Honestly, I don’t even know where that piece of paper is right now. Since that time I have held myriad part-time jobs. I have thoroughly enjoyed each of them for the time and place they held. Only one utilized the four and half year expense, but each of them provided a meager monetary sum that told the world, and especially my ego, that I was worth something.

 

Now, I’m in a new place. Because right after college, I committed to following a man and his career, I explore some home every couple years. My transient life doesn’t lend itself to longterm anything, much less employment. That’s probably OK, because I seem to have a very short attention span.

 

So is something wrong with me? Do I lack commitment since I have never held a real job longer than 2 years? Or do I exhibit uncommon commitment because I four times I have uprooted my little life, packed my dreams into his baggage and traveled to a new temporary home?

 

Now I am wondering if I am lazy, inept, unaware, dependent – essentially a loser, because I don’t even have the ambition to bring home a measly paycheck. I don’t have the energy to brew coffee for gainfully employed businessmen on a 30 minute timer anymore. I simply don’t want to scrape nickels and dimes off of wooden tables after diners spread their crumbs – even if it does earn a decent wage. I can’t abide the thought of folding sloppy shoppers discarded items over and over and over again.

 

What’s wrong with me? Because even as I discount the above suggestions, I don’t feel worthy in my current occupation. Currently, I volunteer with the Park Authority, serve at my church, attend three writers’ clubs, study the Bible, clean the house, care for the cars, pay the bills, tend the yard, walk the dog, fix the meals…

 

But, gee, the title “housewife” doesn’t even offer a measly paycheck.

It’s All In the Numbers

Collectively, Capital Bikeshare participants have burned roughly 382,499,362 calories since September 2010. How do I know that? Recently, the D.C. based effort to reduce its carbon footprint and shrink America’s waistline, introduced the technology to calculate the calories burned each time someone mounts a Bikeshare bike. The bike uses 180 lbs. as the average size adult to make its calculations, although you can change the data to your specifications. Using information beyond my reach, the bikes also indicate how much CO2 each rider spares the atmosphere.

I love working out. Honestly, I am more committed to tomorrow morning’s workout than I am to things I should probably esteem more highly than jumping jacks. But, I am also hyper aware of the numbers plague. This is an insidious disease that attacks indiscriminately, but prefers young women.

It begins with the fine print on the side of a box of Cheerios. Then, suddenly it can be seen glaring from a menu board at McDonald’s, peering up from watch bands, blaring from billboards and murmured by fearful friends. “How many calories are in that pretzel?”

“Seriously, I have to go running (bike riding) so I can burn off my 400 calorie lunch!”

Do you think it’s a good thing that public transportation now measures the success of your commute by how many calories you burn?

But wait! You don’t have to count calories anymore – you can count your bites!  I have serious doubts about the accuracy, but this new little gizmo will tally how many times you use that special wrist movement called “fork to mouth.” Apparently, we humans are so finely tuned that we use the same special movement whether we are eating with a spoon, a fork or our hands. Even eating a whole apple involves this wrist twist. Just don’t stoop to mimicking your dog when you eat – you’ll confuse the bite-o’meter (maybe that’s the point).

Using technology designed to help the military track repetitive body movements involved in clearing buildings in Iraq, (a much more noble pursuit) your new watch can record each 25 calorie bite. There’s the subjectivity – the counter assumes that each bite you take is an average of 25 calories.

In and of themselves, there’s nothing wrong with these clever new inventions. I do wonder though, given the state of our floundering economy: How much in government grants went toward research and development?

The only lie I am uncovering here is the repetitive insinuation that we must count our output, tally our intake and monitor our measurements. Are we ever just OK? Is it possible to simply enjoy deeply breathing fresh air while biking to work? (Probably not in D.C.) What if you chew too much? Will your new gadget condemn you for excessive mastication?

Stolen

From Oswald Chambers:

“To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God’s will even if it means suffering is a very different thing.   No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not.”

My Utmost For His Highest pg. 223

“Jesus never estimated His life along the line of the greatest use.  God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is.”

Isn’t that amazing?  Both thoughts.  I get so stuck on how much I am suffering, sometimes.  Then Abby-the-Martyr kicks in and I start to consider choosing to suffer so that I can boast in myself.  That’s not Christ’s way.  Jesus chooses the Father’s will above all else – be that blessing or pain.  Jesus entrusted himself fully to the Father with the confidence that God’s nature is good and He himself is loving.

The other half the time, I am stuck in a cycle of measuring my productivity.  On nearly any spectrum, I’m not all that successful – no career, no kids, no publishing recognition, nothing to claim as my own – but Jesus.  Who am I to determine where God should place me and how I am of the greatest use to Him?

Father, make me more useful to you daily.  Let me decrease that you might increase.  Make Jesus the consuming passion of my life. 

From my journal – August 8, 2008

The cashier is screaming at me.

She can’t see the tears streaming down my face, or she might stop.

“You idiot!  My time is more significant than yours and apparently I’m a lot smarter too.”

She has a job, she’s doing something productive with the minutes of her day.

She counts for something to someone.

I feel stupid, and insignificant.

A pretty shelf decoration, unneeded, unless on rare occasion

I’m strong enough to hold up someone’s book of knowledge.

Maybe I’m not even that pretty.

My mind starts screaming at me.

Your blinds have no excuse to be dusty –

That’s the most important, only responsibility you have and you can’t even do that.

Why in the world is there a dust spot from dissolved snow on your floor,

what else do you have to do?

Are you stupid? Or maybe you’re tired, though I have no idea why –

What taxed your energy?  Oh, I forget, you work out, whew, don’t work that brain too hard.

P.S. Enjoy this post by an author that I enjoy!  Peach Friedman: Wistful

Enoughness

A few weeks ago, I confessed to you that I struggle with the lie that I am not good enough.  I know I’m not the only woman who feels this way.  However, I was so relieved to peak into someone else’s journal and read my very own thoughts on her page.

Actually, it was her blog, but often these public pages become vulnerable journals before we even realize it.  It takes care not to reveal too much, but at the same time, I am immensely encouraged by Lee Blum’s humility.  I hope you take courage from my truth-telling, and from Lee’s post.  Enjoy!

Am I Enough?

How Does a Christian Say “NO”?

How does one experience margin?

When patience, composure are wearing thin?

Exhausted, agreeable, everything’s doable.

To tell someone “No” is the greatest of sin.

How does a Christian say “No”?

Just grin and grit with cheeks aglow.

It’s not allowed in good-girl land.

She’s no recourse to take her stand.

She must concede her Christ to show.

“Would you mind? May I please borrow?”

“You’ll help me out, please, tomorrow?”

She will always lower her flag, extend her hand.

How does a Christian say “No”?

She’s tired, someone says, “I told you so.

“Sometimes you simply must say ‘No.'”

They are next to ask her to lend a hand.

Their pleading words, a cloaked demand.

Her resolve will rarely withstand the blow.

How does a Christian say “No”?