Just Because There’s Space Doesn’t Mean You Have to Fill It

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.

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  1. Things to do with time include prayer, meal planning, availability for when children want to talk, conserving energy for romance, and journaling.

  2. I will enjoy hearing how this looks for you. It's a lesson that I've been learning for the last 3 years since we moved.

  3. Somebody just approached me to take on another project this fall. I actually interrupted the person to say, “No thank you.” I felt guilty for a second, but then I remembered what I blogged about! Anybody else say “no thank you” today?

  4. I am in awe of you ability to say no. I am always afraid that if I say “no” then no other opportunity will ever come my way again and my family will become destitute (which is probably why I am teaching 9 different classes this year).

    I have decided that this is definitely a lack of faith on my part. I am afraid that God will not provide, so I must work hard to fill in the gaps. I am not proud of this discovery – and have decided that I need to cultivate faith – and the fine art of saying “no” during this academic school year.

  5. I love Molly's comment that saying “yes” so much might be a lack of faith. When you put it that way, it makes it seem OK to say no.

  6. It's so hard, isn't it? I've struggled with that ever since deciding to stay home with Fiona full-time. I have to really push myself not to try and build my resume all the time, at leastwith community/volunteer commitments, and sometimes just hang out with my kid in the back yard. And it's even harder not to have some 5 year plan for what I'm doing next, but just having faith that God has some (yet unknown-to-me) plan for that period of time for me. Good luck!

  7. I love it and the comments. It reminds me of a book I read by Tim story and it said just because its good doesn't mean its god or gods plan for you at that time or anymore. We have to learn to say no to things no matter how good they sound, because being busy just to be busy and fill in the gaps is not the same as being fruitful and being lead by god on how to best use your time. Sometimes saying no to others can leave time to say yes to god

  8. Such a great quote above–Being busy “is not the same as being fruitful.” That's just wise! Perfect for me to remember. Thanks, Anonymous!

  9. Yay for you! I think you will find it very rewarding … in ways you can't even imagine yet.

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