I’ve been finding myself in the fast lane with life flying by at breakneck speed. A year of marriage, higher piles to sort and file in the office, the to-do list growing exponentially greater and the primary question in my life being “How will I ever get it all done?” It was starting to stress me out this morning.
In fact, when a friend recently asked, “What do you do all day?” I was startled and a little insulted. I even blogged about it here. To be fair, this person was, perhaps, genuinely curious. She has no idea what my life looks like. She is stressfully employed, hard-working, socially active, and has a significant commitment to care for and support family members. While we have a number of things in common, my life looks nothing like hers and our temperaments and priorities are very different. My reality is, I’m busy All. The. Time. and I have absolutely no idea how I didn’t totally lose my mind when I was employed.
In truth, I don’t know how I did it.
A year ago, I began sensing God leading me to “Be still and know I am God.”
Be still? I had no time to be still.
Be still? I had no time to be still.
I was working full time while still processing significant emotional fallout in the grief recovery process and making financial adjustments required due to my late husband’s suicide. I was actively engaged in a weekly cohort to become a Spiritual Director, attending women’s Bible study, overseeing necessary maintenance on my home and working out at the gym 3-4 times per week. I was giving back through mentorship of two women, assisting the choir director, speaking and singing on a semi-regular basis. I was committed to maintaining friendships, dating a new person, getting to know his friends, his family, and planning our wedding. All this, while trying to operate at peak performance in one of the most demanding positions I've ever held. The job was literally making me sick.
Through my work, I organized a “Holy Spirit Encounter” – a few days set aside to meet with God in a quiet setting in the mountains, engaging in quiet worship, learning to hear God’s voice through guided and personal meditation. During this time I sensed very clearly that I was to “Rest”. The scripture Matthew 11:28-30 spoke very clearly: "Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." I love how The Message translates this:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.I asked how this would be possible given my circumstances and the reply came “Don’t worry. Tell God what you need, be thankful for all He's already done and peace will follow,” (my loose paraphrase of Philippians 4:6-7).
God was saying, “I’ve got you.”
Within three weeks, after much prayer and discussion with my new husband, I resigned my paid job and gave up my seat in the Spiritual Direction cohort. For a few months, I rested and waited. It was the greatest relief of my life. I “worked” at getting healthy and being "still" - no easy task for one who battles adult A.D.D.
After a time, I was drawn to take a writing class – not "work" at all, but rather re-creation. Within a few weeks of the class commencing, I felt a clear and compelling “call” to write a book – something I never wanted to do, nor ever dreamed of doing. In fact, I often joked I "didn’t have the attention span" to write a book, but God countered with, “You can write it, one word at a time.” I began to set long term and short term goals. And if it takes seven years, like one successful author I recently encountered, then, that’s still okay.
Yesterday, while attending a picnic, I spoke with a couple women who work at my church. One suggested a possible role in which I could volunteer and my response was, “I’m saying ‘No’ automatically to anything new,” (as this has been my determination since realizing how busy I am), but then I flippantly added, “unless money is involved.”
I don’t know why I added that.
I’ve always believed, “If money is the primary motivation, it’s likely that I’ll make the wrong decision.” It comes out of the scripture that teaches “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Not money itself, but the love of it. The preoccupation with money or with the lack of money. The reality for most of us is this: we don’t love money but we require it to obtain the things we need (food, clothing, transportation, education) and to do the things we enjoy (recreation, travel, entertainment) and so on. Oh, I know there are some who do love money, but that’s not what this post is about.
From the moment I first became a widow, I sensed God saying, “I am your Provider.” And this is clearly evident to me – in every arena, not just financial – God provides. God has always provided, from my earliest childhood memories until today. Not just financially, but physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. It gives flesh and bones to the command that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart (emotions), soul (spirit), mind (intellect/philosophy), and strength (physical body). As I surrender all of me, God fills me in all these areas. As I spill my most precious things, my “alabaster jar” given out of love, God takes care of my needs. I empty myself to be filled up with God.
My off-hand remark about money yesterday was based in the question every artist faces: when do I give away my work, time or skills and when do I set a monetary value on them? This is a question every artist has to determine for themselves. The answer lies in relation to what I have budgeted, what I can afford or how I feel God is directing me to spend my resources. Sometimes it comes down to giving all you have, like the example Jesus gave of the widow’s mite. Others may be able to give much more out of their wealth, but she gave everything she had, and therefore, she gave more than anyone.
I know and understand why an organization sometimes hires staff to meet needs and sometimes they recruit unpaid volunteers. The church and many non-profit organizations are very dependent on members donating their time, skills, intelligence, ability, gifts – these are all valuable and irreplaceable – and most organizations cannot exist without them.
My responsibility is to budget how I spend my money and my time, how I give out of my "wealth" or "poverty". If I’m asked to volunteer, it’s a completely different question from being asked to do a job that pays. I donate my time and talents in many areas. I have no problem “working for free”. But when my time is already allocated and a new opportunity is presented, then saying “Yes” means I have to say “No” to something else. It’s a case-by-case decision.
As it stands right now, my resources (time, money, talents) are fully committed, fully offered to the things I believe God has called me to do. I say “No” to new requests (paid or unpaid) so that I am able to continue saying “Yes” to what I’ve already determined is God’s will for my life at this time. And I know God can change it at any moment, so I hold my schedule loosely, with open hands.
So what do I do all day? Every day?
I say “Yes” to what's in front of me and do the next thing. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Photo credit: depositphotos.com #25224381, standard license