It’s a dark autumn day here. With nearly bare trees and leaves on the path, it feels spooky and mysterious. We gaze up and see a large bird swooping down and then landing in the trees high, high up. An owl? We think the wingspan indicates an owl.
Did you know that owls hoot the loudest in autumn? Apparently, everything is about finding and securing new territory. They may also begin to hoot to seek new mates.
I’m excited to listen deeply for the sounds of owls hooting in the woods behind my house.
Today I think about pacing ourselves in order to keep running the marathon that’s ahead of us–whatever that long stretch is in our own lives. We can slow down. We can pace ourselves. We have a lot of work left to do in our lives. We don’t have to do it all today.
I’m not a runner, but I do know that finding a perfect, sustainable pace deeply matters for success on a long run. You need that perfect pace.
I think of my perfect pace as challenging myself but not exhausting myself. The perfect pace means I saved energy for unexpected events, that I maintained margin for spontaneous conversation, and that created sustainable patterns for work. The perfect pace means I’m ready to engage tomorrow and the next day and the next. I’m not burning out in any area. I can enter a room and serve as an agent of peace, blessing, and joy. I can enter a room and think of what I can give, not what I need to take because I’m so depleted.
It’s taken a lifetime of knowing how to save energy, how to say no, and how to work sustainably.
PS: Correction from yesterday: Streams in the Desert is a devotional collection from Lettie Cowman whose entries each day quote other authors. Thank you for those who emailed to correct my error!
I absolutely love teaching. It brings me so much joy! But every job contains elements of drudgery or downsides we must somehow manage. For me, it’s always been grading. I love helping students improve their writing—and I generally enjoying giving helpful feedback—but with so many students and so many essays to grade, the work feels tiring, often boring, and difficult.
I’ve tried so many things to make a day of grading go well. After every five essays graded, it’s time for a walk around the block, a reward in the form of chocolate or a fun beverage, or the chance to do something fun (like watch funny videos) for 10 minutes. I’ve also tried imagining that I’m teaching others how to grade while I’m grading, like I’m on some live television show. It’s weird. I role play being the grader while I’m the grader. I’ve even tried setting timers to beat my own best record in grading an essay. I really can’t do better than 10 minutes. Mostly, I take 20 minutes per essay. If I’m reading 50 essays, it’s brutal. (You do the math; I’m grading for 16 hours just for one assignment). On days like these, I sometimes remember how little Penn State pays me. Don’t ask. You’ll be embarrassed for me. But I love teaching so much, I often say I’d do it for free. That’s a good thing because I practically am.
Treats. Theatrics. Timers.
Ugh! Next I’ll perform gymnastics in the living room or bake a soufflé. I’ll tell myself that after these next 5 essays, I can go on vacation. Anything, anything to get through this grading day!
OK: My break just ended. 5 more essays.
Today I walked around in the cold, wet neighborhood. I trudged through piles of cold, wet leaves on campus. It was cold. It was wet.
I realized I don’t mind cold, and I don’t mind wet, but I don’t like cold, wet days at all.
But the beauty of cold, wet, dreary days is that you arrive home, chilled, damp and miserable to a warm house where you can put the kettle on the stove and drink hot tea all afternoon. You can wrap up in warm sweaters and blankets and fight off the cold, wet day.
Sometimes my daughter and I sit outside to catch leaves by the fire pit. It’s such a simple game from childhood. The leaves fall from the trees, and we run around and try to catch them. It’s remarkably difficult because they twist and turn in unpredictable ways.
When I was little, we’d catch leaves and make a wish. I loved those fall days.
I loved reading this from A.W. Tozer this morning about people who practice being in the presence of God:
They know that something inside their hearts sees God. Even when they are compelled to withdraw their conscious attention in order to engage in earthly affairs, there is within them a secret communion always going on. Let their attention but be released for a moment from necessary business and it flies at once to God again. This has been the testimony of many Christians.
Tozer discusses the “inward habit of beholding God.” It doesn’t matter where we are, what’s happening, or what kind of day we’ll have; we can experience sweet communion with Jesus that lifts us from the ordinary and into the supernatural love, joy, and grace always available to us.