I’m racing about, scrubbing floors and making beds, and my cell phone rings and rings. Who has time to chat at a time like this?
Besides, it’s storming outside and my beautifully raked lawn is now a tangle of leaves and branches. Everything was supposed to be perfect as my family arrives for Thanksgiving.
Nothing is going to be perfect. I know this.
I check the voice mail and a neighbor chirps: “Go outside! There’s a rainbow sitting on top of your house!”
The phone rings again. It’s my husband. “Go outside! There’s a rainbow! Show the girls!”
We stop everything and observe this glorious display. It doesn’t matter how anything else looks right now because there’s a rainbow over me. And it’s now a double rainbow, barely visible, but there.
I marvel at that sign of God’s goodness and love, that sign of peace. It’s over me, barely visible, but there.
There’s a rainbow over you right now.
A double serving of Thanksgiving peace.
My sister texts me this morning to tell me to go to the gym. I tell her I have too much to do. Later, I call and she doesn’t say, “Hello.” Instead, she says, “I hope you’re calling me from the treadmill.”
My sister knows me. She knows that going to the gym makes me able to manage all the other stress in my life. For days, things have felt unmanageable for our family. My husband commented this morning that he’s had a revelation about what causes things to feel so out of control for him.
“It’s my desk,” he says. “I can’t handle the clutter. When my desk is clean, I can manage.”
I understand this. I can’t go to bed with dishes in the sink. If I wake up to a messy kitchen, everything feels like a disaster. Doing the nightly dishes puts everything else in order. And going to the gym keeps my mood in check.
“It’s your way to breathe,” my sister says. She explains that for her friend, keeping an organized freezer helps her breathe. Other folks need to make their beds or keep the interior of their cars clean. I suppose it’s different for everyone
Those minutes I spend on the things I need to do to breathe buy me entire days of order and elevated mood. Maybe it’s dishes and exercise. Maybe it’s an organized freezer and a clean desk. No matter what it is, I let other things wait so I can do the thing that helps me breathe.
For the first time in 9 years, I’m going to have space. Space and time. Both my daughters will attend elementary school from 8:30-3:00 PM.
Already, I’m filling up those future days. I work part time and help coordinate ministry events with my husband. I write novels and design college writing courses on the side. Saturday morning I clean the house. If you read this blog, you know that I keep busy. I’m driven by some unseen force to produce, to achieve, to be recognized. That’s my dark side.
And it’s showing up again as this new school year approaches. I’m already thinking about new projects and new campaigns. I’m wondering what group I can organize, what new courses to teach, and what new novel I’ll conceive.
My husband, the wise Eagle Scout that led me to the still water on our anniversary hike, said this:
“Just because there’s space doesn’t mean you have to fill it.”
I stare at him, mouth agape. Whatever can that mean? I don’t even know what that would look like.
This morning in church, I talk to God about my drive to fill space with as many things as I can. What am I doing? Whose affection am I trying to win? What prize am I racing toward? I ask God to show me how to be led and not driven. I ask God to show me what it would look like to have so much space in a day that I could rest, listen, and respond to my life rather than reacting in a rush of furious energy.
So I’m not filling space this fall. I’ve turned down 3 offers for more work this week. I even said “no” to a teaching offer and a writing project. Cheers! High-fives! I’m going to feed my soul and practice not filling space.
I need space to be led by God and not driven. I’m still not sure what it looks like to slow down and sit in empty space. But whatever it is, it’s a new thing. It will be my less frantic form of flair.