Christian Living

Staying Balanced

One of my friends recently posted something on Facebook along the lines of “I wonder what the people who use ‘u’ and ‘ur’ are doing with all their extra time.” My husband and I chuckled over it, but then we started talking about technology and how it’s all supposed to save us time. Unfortunately, all that extra time never seems to materialize.

I’ve been thinking about that this week because my phone died unexpectedly. Three days of phonelessness has been… eye-opening and difficult. I’m surprised by how cut off I feel even though I still have my computer. I’ve also been surprised by how many times a day I reach for my phone to check something–our bank accounts, the weather, how platypuses lay eggs (or other school-related queries), my texts… well, you get the picture.

I know I am always trying to come up with ways to save time. I often rush through my day so I’ll have more time at the end. Granted, having more time to work my novel almost always puts a smile on my face. But, on the other hand, why rush? I’m frantically trying to finish my fantasy novel so I can start writing my next book next year. It’s a little silly.

In Tools of Titans, Derek Silvers talked with Tim Ferriss about his experience riding his bike (190). He would ride his bike on this path that was by the ocean every day. He’d pedal as hard as he could and then turn around and rush back and it always took him 43 minutes. But after a while, he started to hate his ride–which wasn’t what he wanted. So, he decided to just enjoy his ride. He watched the seagulls and other ocean life. He paused when he got to his turn around point. He enjoyed his ride back. And then he checked the time and discovered it only took him 45 minutes.

We live in a society where it’s acceptable and expected to rush, but are we really accomplishing that much with all our rushing? Does all our technology really add that much time to our lives?

I’ve definitely found that I’m more productive when I’m calm vs. rushing. I’m also finding that being phone-less has forced me to  be more intentional about what information I’m looking up. I’ve gotten so used to having the internet at my fingertips. But now, sharing one computer between the four of us, I have to weigh whether it’s really worth it or not to remember to look something up later and take the time to do it.

I recently started Beth Moore’s study Entrusted: 2 Timothy. I’m really enjoying it! One thing that struck me about 2 Timothy 3:1-5 is that the world is going crazy and will only get crazier. It’s easy to get weighed down in the current insanity that’s politics in our country or all the “wars and rumors of wars” or the small stressors that are closer to home (like having to buy a new phone). But we’re called to stand (Eph. 6:13) in the middle of that–not to get sucked into the busy, rushing, crazy.

I love that! I mean, it’s one of those things that’s easy to say and hard to do, but I love that we aren’t supposed to run around and fix things. We just have to hang onto our own balance. Physically, we have about three inches of space where we’re balanced. Balance is not hanging onto acres of area around us–or even the amount of space most of us have for our personal bubble. Spiritually, balance is all about hanging onto who God is and who we are in Him.

So how about you guys? What do you do to hang onto balance and/or keep from being sucked into rushing?


The Trial of Busy-ness

June has been so busy. Like, ridiculously so. For some reason, summer tends to be that way for a lot of people. You’d think we’d have less to do since it’s sort of “vacation time”–but sadly, no. Although maybe it’s just a different busy. I’m not sure I know anyone who doesn’t think their lives are busy during the summer and busy during the fall as their kids go back to school and busy with the winter holidays and busy with spring break and spring yard work, etc., etc., etc.

I talked last time about how being in a hurry precludes our loving anyone. I’m realizing that anyone includes myself. I’ve been too busy to sleep enough many days. Because of my chronic illness, I really need 10-12 hours of sleep per night. But I feel like I just don’t have time for that. Sadly, I’m starting to get sicker again–pretty sure I need to re-think the whole only sleeping for 8 hours thing. I’ve been so happy that I have energy to cook and clean and write and school my children that I’m running myself ragged again. It’s made me think about Psalm 127:1-2: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat–for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (NIV)

I’ve been thinking about how, in a lot of ways, busy-ness is just as much a trial as suffering. It’s exhausting. I love in verse two, where the Psalmist says “in vain you rise early and stay up late”–how often do we Americans do that? We’re always burning the candle at both ends.

In my Bible study last week, we covered Psalm 123: “I lift my eyes to You, the One enthroned in heaven. Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the LORD our God, until He shows us favor. Show us favor, LORD, show us favor, for we’ve had more than enough contempt. We’ve had more than enough scorn from the arrogant and contempt from the proud.” (HCSB)

I love this Psalm, for lots and lots of reasons. It hit me in a new way though as I was thinking about how nuts June has already been and how busy the rest of it is shaping up to be. Beth Moore has this great little chart in her section on Psalm 123: Where I look–> What I hear–> What I feel–> What I expect (Stepping Up, 43).

I’ve been thinking about that with my busy-ness this past week. Being busy typically is not a trigger for me to think: “man, I’m going to need extra time with God.” Or even to think: “Is this really what God’s calling me to do or am I trying to force something?” (a la Psalm 127).  But I want to be the kind of person who consistently keeps my focus on God. I want to have expectations that are in line with who God is and what He’s doing in my life.

For instance, I’ve noticed I’m getting a little overprotective of my writing time. Part of it is because I have goals: I want to finish the first 300 pages of my fantasy novel (or series if it gets too long) by the end of this year. But when I’m stressed and rushed in my writing, I actually write less. It’ll take me an hour to an hour and a half to write the amount of pages I aim for daily vs. half an hour. It goes back to that “unless the LORD…. you labor in vain” thing. I’m convinced it’s what I’m supposed to be finishing next in my writing projects, but if I’m overexerting, it doesn’t mean more results–it means tireder Liz.

And overexerting is always a waste anyway. Isn’t that so interesting? I was raised that the essence of success is trying harder and if you fail, it’s because you didn’t try hard enough–not because you didn’t try smart enough, not because you were trying the wrong thing, not because maybe it wasn’t in God’s plan for you. But I’ve since learned that that is a lie. In my Tai Chi class, we talk a lot about the less relaxed you are, the less results you have–i.e., the more tense you are when you do something, the more likely you are to fail.

If we’re God’s children, we’re already favored by Him. Stop. Think about that. We’re already favored.  There’s no reason to overexert because God is the one building the house. God is the one watching the city. Faithfulness means working hard, but it doesn’t mean burning the candle at both ends–or rushing.

Which brings me back around to what my expectations are. I am already favored by God. I am doing what I believe God is calling me to do. But because I’m focused on all I’ve got going on, my expectation is that I can’t do everything I need to do and still have time to sleep. Pretty crazy, huh? If God made my body to need a certain amount of sleep and the responsible thing to do is to get that sleep, if I really believe that God is faithful and can smooth my way through all the things on my to-do list, I think my expectations would be quite a bit different.

Book update: We’re looking for folks to be guinea–er, testers for the Bible study that goes along with my book “To Push on the Rock.” It’s designed for small groups, but we also want some people to test it individually (mainly because that’s how I utilize my Bible studies because of my health issues so we want it to be useful to individuals as well as groups). The homework is fairly flexible–it can be as much as a daily study or as little as a once a week study. If you’re interested, please let me know.