Philippians 4:8 – And now, brothers, as I close this letter, let me say this one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.
A few years ago, I was convicted that my too often out-of-control life was not best for me. After some heart-to-heart conversations with God, I stepped back from full-time ministry work. I had been serving two small churches plus working a part-time non-ministry job. We had moved into a beautiful old house that needed a lot of work. Hubby Rick and I were helping care for his Dad and my Mom. Part of the sandwich generation, we also provided backup for our grandkids as called upon and were available.
Hubby Rick and I only saw each other a few days a week because he stayed with his Dad in-between his work shifts. We seldom had disagreements because the time together was simply too precious to spend valuable minutes focusing on what we did not agree upon. It was a full time in our lives.
The main motivation for stepping back from serving churches was so I could write a book that had been placed squarely on my heart. It’s based on the biblical story of Ms. Busy-body Martha and her sister, Mary. After Jesus arrives at their house, Martha is running around making sure everything is just so. Meanwhile, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to his every word. Martha gets her panties in a bundle and asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Martha never expected Jesus to suggest that Mary had the more appropriate attitude. Mary was focused on what was really most important: simply being with Jesus.
Out of this came my book, The Mary Experiment: When Doing and Being Collide. As a dyed-in-the-wool Martha, I am convinced there are a bunch of Martha’s in this world who yearn for a bit of Mary. For a variety of reasons, they cannot let themselves relish in feeding their hearts and souls more than checking things off of their to-do lists. Their flurry of activity feels more important than caring for their tired and over-extended souls.
It is not realistic to expect the Martha’s of the world to stop being so busy. “Who will get things done,” they wonder. My suggestion is that somehow, we simply must find more opportunities to hit the pause button in our lives. Make sure we are feeding our hearts and souls with the best things and not simply another never-ending round of activity that may or may not be what the Lord would prefer for our lives.
Fast forward three years later. How am I doing with the real-life Mary experiment in my life? Some days I do OK. Other days, I fail miserably. Too often lately, I am in the “fail miserably” category.
I could list all of the reasons why I can justify these actions. The holidays were quickly followed by two trips I had planned a few months earlier, which bookended moving from one house and location to a new-to-us house and location. Of course, I had big dreams of projects that would get accomplished in the house we moved into BEFORE we moved.
My expectations are not always realistic.
When Today Feels Overwhelming
As I sit at my computer writing these words, I have just cleaned out a couple hundred emails that have been patiently waiting in my inboxes. Some of them were quick “deletes.” Others needed more attention. My office has yet to be unpacked. It is blanked with and paper piles that will need to be dealt with “someday.” My heart is tired. My mind is over stimulated. I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in several days, which is how my sleep patterns roll. I keep trying to plunge through the “stuff” when what I probably really need to do is hit pause.
Pause. Such an easy world to say to someone else but much more difficult to implement or enact in one’s own life. Especially when you are too much of a Martha.
Yet, this is really what is best for my heart. My soul. My sanity. Too often, we push, push, push when maybe we need to pause, pause, pause.
Years ago, I discovered that doing too much can be just as much of a sin as doing too little. It’s not very fashionable to speak about sin. But when we choose to ignore how God might be speaking into our lives and plunge ahead with our own agendas, we allow things of this world to become more important that God’s place in our lives. This, my friends, is a breech of trust between God and us.
Allowing Ourselves to Pause
How do we hit pause when we feel like we must keep going? How do we allow the being side of our lives to collide gracefully with the insistent doing we feel is necessary? Here are a few suggestions:
- Hitting pause can be for a minute, an hour, a few hours or longer. Maybe we just need to watch the snow fall for a few minutes with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Or close our eyes and take a few deep breaths. Grant yourself these moments of respite in the middle of a busy or taxing day or week. Sometimes, we just need a few minutes.
- Make a gratitude list. I have a daily practice of listing three things for which I grateful that happened in the last 24 hours. Gratitude can change our thoughts and our lives. This begins by practicing it daily.
- Get outside and go for a walk. Do 15 minutes of your favorite form of exercise. Moving your body is a great way to reset your mind.
- Reach out to someone. A dear friend just sent me a text message and asked how I was doing. Thank you, girlfriend! Her simple text helped me regain perspective! She has something going on in her life right now. Yet, she took the time to see how I am doing. Be both a giver and a receiver. Even a little interaction with someone you care for can lift your spirits. Maybe even both of your spirits!
- Keep perspective. There are certain seasons of our lives that are more demanding than others. If you are in the midst of one of those seasons, allow yourself to anticipate when things will be different. Yet, also realize that one season can quickly lead into another. Too often we think, “When XYZ is done,” or “Starting Monday” or “In a month, I’ll make sure and …” While these intentions sound good, we may not be dealing with the real underlying issues of our hearts and minds.
- Finally, keep close to God. Keep in the forefront of your mind that there are lots of great things to celebrate in your life. Things that are true and good and right. I have much to praise God for and to be glad about, as Paul writes in his letter to the church in Philippi. At the end of the day, most of my “problems” are really first-world problems. I have everything that I need and then some! Gentle reminders of this keeps the rest of the distractions in perspective.
No matter what is going on in your life today, can you allow yourself to hit the “pause” button? We feed our bodies to sustain them. I often ask myself, “What am I doing to feed my heart and soul?” This includes intentionally allowing myself to pause my day, week or month and letting the doing wait.
Dear friend – when you feel a bit ragged or tired or distracted or overwhelmed, please give yourself permission to hit pause. If life feels really good right now, celebrate it by granting yourself time and space to give thanks and express gratitude. Allow your doing and being to collide. This helps keep ourselves more dependent upon God than we are upon ourselves.
For the reminder to hit pause regularly, I am grateful.
Holy God – Sometimes, we become distracted and assume that everything within our reach requires our time and attention. Sometimes it does. And sometimes, it doesn’t. If I am feeling a bit overwhelmed today, help slow down my heart and soul and allow myself space to pause with You. May my doing and my being collide within Your presence. Amen.
If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it. Learn more about “The Mary Experiment” here.
A few other bloggers are also reflecting upon the word “Pause” today. Please read along with us!
Pause: How to Take an Adult Time Out by Amy Cobb
Pause in His Presence by Sharla Hallett
Power of the Pause by Ashley Olivine
Don’t Stress, Pause and Refresh by Regina Marcazzo-Skarka
The Pause that Creates by MelAnn