Seeking the Speed of Soul

While Dallas Willard is correct in saying that “reality is what you run into when you’re wrong,”[1] sometimes it feels more like a sneak attack than a running into.

In our current season of life, life looks like busyness. I have studied the dangers of busyness, written about the dangers of busyness and professed never to fall into the camp of busyness, but here we are. I confess, we are busy.

“However,” I argue with myself, “these things we are doing are good.” Soccer-good. Orchestra- good. Seminary-good. School-good. Track- good. Piano- good. Violin- good. Worship team- good. Community-good. Spiritual direction- good. Goats- good.

All- good.

The sneak attack came one Tuesday evening as I sat to center down and engage in Ignatian Examen of my soul.

“For what was I most grateful today?” Like looking for lost keys, I began rummaging around my memory for the events of the day. I had a hard time coming up with concrete details for a solid something. Sure I was grateful for my kids, but what specifically for today? What did we do today?

Perhaps a different question, “For what was I least grateful today?” I could always go for the finitude of the human person, but maybe there was something deeper going on?

Next question, “When did I most connect with God and others, or myself?”

And there it was. Busyness, good or bad aside, lacks the power to connect. I couldn’t answer any of the questions; because although I was there physically my other bits were absent- in fact we might say I wasn’t even aware that my body was having a Tuesday.

The parts of us are interconnected, influencing each other and guided by our spirit connected to the Spirit. In the state of busyness, these parts disconnect and go on autopilot. While we can be thankful that breathing is on autopilot, we can easily slip from present to absent. My body can show up, but the rest is out to lunch or more accurately on to the next task or managing my To Do list.

In the past I’ve had a great desire to find hard and fast rules of simplicity. I’ve had trouble nailing down those that don’t lead me into legalism when it comes to time, until the sneak attack.

Perhaps presence is a good thermostat for busyness.

Today, the number of items on my list is determined by my capacity to show up to them. Really show up with all my parts.

I am present at my daughter’s soccer game in body, feeling the grass under my feet the sun on my face and using my voice to cheer her on. I am present in mind and heart as I listen when a parent tells of their struggle with the school system. I am present to the Spirit as she whispers in the wind her great love for every child on the field.

Perhaps this is the speed of the soul.

May the peace and pace of Christ guide us.

[1] http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=66

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I can’t do it all.

I’m asked pretty frequently, “How do you do it all?”

It is true, I am a DMIN student at George Fox Evangelical Seminary. It is true, I homeschool my two daughters. orchestra, piano, violin, soccer practice, yes.  It is true I serve as a spiritual director with children. Yep, I garden, yep, we’ve got some chickens, yep, I do some writing, and some speaking. That is all true. Mostly when I hear this I want to say, “You don’t have the whole story.”

The whole story is that I don’t do it all. The whole story has at least two more parts. One is that I have learned to say, “No.” The tasks I am engaged in are things I have thought about and prayed about. I do not do them because I have been manipulated into doing them. I do not do them because I feel some sort of external or internal pressure to do them.  I am not climbing ladders, and I am not trying to please the crowd. And in fact I am not overly busy. I have time to enjoy a glass of port almost every evening. I have time to have at least one long chat with my Dad everyday. I have learned to say “No” to TV, “No” to hours on social media, and “No” to time sucking gossip.  Granted the tasks that make up my day are not all unicorns and rainbows, but they are ones I have discerned where  I can work in sync with the Kingdom with effectiveness and joy.  When I am asked to add another “to do”, I pass the invitation through this lens. It has helped me to remember that just because I have the skills or an open space of time does not warrant saying, “Yes.”

The second part is that I do not do any of these things alone. I am not a one woman band. I have a fleet of excellent professors and advisers at George Fox, they believe I can do this and they support me along the way. My husband is one of the smartest men I know, he takes the hard math and science questions. Over the years my parents have become tremendous support.  I am a member of a small group that has been meeting for two years, we are multigenerational and the sustenance we offer one another is paramount. It was for certain paramount last Sunday, when they gently reminded me that I cannot do it all and further I’m not even expected to.  I constantly draw insight and intelligence from my spiritual direction with children colleagues. I meet with a spiritual director regularly. Really this list could go on for days.

My confession is that sometimes I do feel overwhelmed.  I, now, understand that when I feel this way; it is time to take a look at my life.  It’s time to take a break and discern if I have bought into the lie that I can do it all.

The truth of the matter is that life is better lived intentionally. Prevalent joy in our work, even difficult work, can be had when we are intentional.  A “boot strap” life is lonely and frankly I could never pull it off. (Think about that a minute.) As I grow older I much prefer the “Birkenstock life*.” Indulge me here…I can’t run in Birkenstocks. If I try they will fly off and hit the nearest child.  Just saying. Further, when walking in Birkenstocks on a dirt road, rocks frequently sneak into my shoes, just to get me to stop and look around a bit.  But if I need a shoe that will help me walk a steady, intentional, no frills, pace with others, this is a good choice.

So how about you? What’s your current shoe choice? (metaphorically speaking) What does this say about your life? Time to take a discerning look at your life, your use of time, your commitments?

 

*Birkenstocks is the metaphor I’m using for the “going slowly and intentionally life.”