be busy and hurry not

            I am having a hard time keeping up.  I’m not talking about keeping up with the Joneses or the Kardashians or current events.  I am talking about keeping up with work, with the house, with the grocery shopping and laundry.  (We are out of napkins and Band-Aids, and I went to the store yesterday.  And two days before that.) I’m talking about keeping up with my kids’ activities and let me be honest – I don’t even know most of what they are doing at school and on their iPads.  But I should be checking their iPads and phones because I recently heard a story on the news about a type of “ghost” app that looks like a calculator, but when you click on it and enter a password it opens up a program that is very dark and destructive.  But, again, let me be honest – I don’t know how to use their iPads and phones.

            I am pretty diligent about not over-committing; I regularly say no to people and activities because I’ve learned that over-extending myself is a big mistake.  But all of this stuff I’m talking about is just normal life – things that you can’t really eliminate.   Throw in a power outage here and there, a broken dishwasher, a couple of upper respiratory viruses, an overflowing toilet, a strained back or an injury of some kind, and you’ve got…everyday life for most people.

Image result for slow sign
            Enter December.  The Holiday Season.  The Most Wonderful Time of the Year when our lists get longer and everyone around us seems to be in a continual state of frenzy.  The busyness of ordinary life is magnified and multiplied along with our emotions, our joys, and our sorrows.  If we are wise we will slow down and give attention to what matters.
            On a good morning, when I make time for it, I sit in my mom’s blue winged-back chair with my coffee and journal.  I prayerfully assess where I’m at.  What’s on my agenda for today?  What am I grateful for?  Who/what is on my mind?  How’s my heart?  One morning not long ago, as I looked over my list of all that I had to do and prayed for God to give me strength and direct my path, these thoughts came to mind:  You may be busy, but you don’t have to hurry.  You may be busy, but you don’t have to be frazzled.  Don’t rush.  Take one thing at a time, and choose not to hurry. Practice this today.

            I headed to work wondering how this would translate into my job.  I work as a prep-chef in a kitchen, and this is our busiest time of the year.  We have lots of orders to fill.  But I was mindful about not hurrying.   I worked at a pace that was productive but not frazzled.  I reminded myself not to rush.  When customers came in, I tried to enjoy my interactions with them instead of feeling irritated because my work had been interrupted.  When I came home from work (a few minutes late), I told myself that if dinner was a little late, it was OK.  I refused to rush throughout the evening, and as I folded the last of the laundry while watching Jimmy Fallon before heading to bed, I realized that I had enjoyed my day a lot.  I had enjoyed my work and the people I encountered throughout my day.

            John Ortberg, author of Soul Keeping, writes, “Hurry is the great enemy of souls in our day. Being busy is a condition of our outer world (having many things to do). Being hurried is a problem of the soul. It’s being so preoccupied with myself and what myself has to do that I am no longer able to be fully present with God and fully present with people. There is no way a soul can thrive when it is hurried.

            As I have been intentional about not hurrying, I’ve found that I have to make different choices.  I can’t squeeze in one more errand before picking up my daughter from school.  I need to leave five minutes earlier for work so that I get there on time without speeding.  I’ve told my kids that they may need to wait for me for a few minutes if I’m not exactly on time, because I am not going to hurry.  And this has been very good for my soul.  Don’t you love it when someone says, “Take your time – no rush?”  Well, I’ve been telling myself, take your time, Becky.  Slow down.  Be busy, but don’t hurry.

            Not rushing and taking my time will be especially challenging over the next month because everyone around me will be in a hurry.   Slowing my pace is going to feel a lot like driving 55 mph on a highway where everyone else is going 75.  People will honk at me, walk in front of me to get in line first, and maybe even be irritated with me.  But that’s OK, because no other time of the year offers so many opportunities to connect with God as at Christmas.
            While waiting in traffic I can take a few moments to pray for loved ones that are miles away this year. While waiting in line at Kohl’s or TJ Maxx I can reflect on the lyrics of Christmas songs like O Holy Night

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels' voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night
O night divine

Image result for snow covered branches            I can breathe in the beauty of freshly fallen snow and pay attention to the way the bare trees extend their arms up to heaven.  When sadness and feelings of loss bubble up with memories of loved ones who are no longer here, I can invite Emmanuel into those moments, into those tender places in my heart, and receive comfort and joy.  And when I hear about the turmoil and suffering in our broken world I can pray for peace on earth.

            This Christmas season, may we be busy and hurry not.  May we have eyes that see the Light of the world. May we have ears that hear all heaven and nature sing.  And may we have hearts that daily prepare Him room.