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!
A friend sent me a quote from Hannah Whitall Smith that I had never read before. (Thank you, Steve!) I just love it! I wish I had this quote when I wrote Seated with Christ because it conceptualizes so well my thoughts on Ephesians 2:6.
The quote comes from a quote in Streams In The Desert (published in 1925 by Lettie Cowman) devotional from October 28. She writes this on Ephesians 2 and encourages us to “sit down”:
This is our rightful place—“seated . . . with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” yet seated and still. But how few of us actually experience this! In fact, most of us believe it is impossible to sit still “in the heavenly realms” while living our everyday life in a world so full of turmoil.
She continues to discuss what it will feel in our spirit to know we are seated with Christ. She writes:
A quiet spirit is of priceless value when performing outward activities. Nothing so greatly hinders the work of God’s unseen spiritual forces, upon which our success in everything truly depends, as the spirit of unrest and anxiety. There is tremendous power in stillness. A great believer once said, “All things come to him who knows how to trust and to be silent.” This fact is rich with meaning, and a true understanding of it would greatly change our ways of working. Instead of continuing our restless striving, we would “sit down” inwardly before the Lord, allowing the divine forces of His Spirit to silently work out the means to accomplish our goals and aspirations.
I think about sitting down with the Lord in a fresh way today.
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.
It’s always a good idea to let your writing sit for a few days to see what new ideas might form or new revision ideas might bubble to the surface.
Let the text marinate without you for a while. You’ll find you wake up with an idea or you’ll remember something you wanted to add here or there. I wait 2-3 days before I send “finished writing” on to an agent or publisher. I make sure I have time to think apart from the text.
Sure enough, in the middle of the night, I’ll remember something I wanted to add or something I could correct. These thoughts come with separation from a story or a nonfiction piece.
This advice helps when it comes to deadlines. It’s good to finish a piece of writing well before the deadline so it can sit for a bit. And you can sit for a bit. You can come back to it and remember things you’d never think about when you were in the thick of a creative moment.
So while I wanted to turn in a project on Friday, I’ll wait till Monday to see what thoughts come up as I let the writing sit.Before you send writing along to agents or publishers, let it sit for 2-3 days. You'll consider edits in the middle of the night or early morning that you couldn't access in the thick of creativity. #amwriting #writingadvice Click To Tweet
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.
Last night I listened to a wise man share his time management system. He blocks off his day into 30 minute segments, and week-by-week he fills in what he must do (work, sleeping, eating, appointments) and then what he wants to do (activities, projects, etc).
I’m amazed at how much time he had leftover once he filled out his weekly schedule. His point? We actually have much more time than we think we have. He encouraged us to review the week and take a look at when and how we wasted the most time so we can make adjustments for the next week. We can take inventory of where our time actually goes.
When I’m tempted to say, “I just don’t have the time,” I can look at my schedule and know if that’s really true.