A Sanctuary of Time
This time I am going to use the questions to guide my thoughts from the one thousand gifts: readers’ guide because I have been finding my ramblings to not amount to enough to be inspirational to me, let alone make any sense to anyone else.
Right now I am really in a strange position for a mother of 4 (well 5) children. Not many people “get” to lay in bed for six months, especially mom’s of 4 children (three who have special needs – actually, they ALL do: celiac, FASD, toddlerhood). So I have time poured out in front of me during this “waiting” or advent of the child who will be entering the outer world within the next 3 months. And I have tried to make “decent” use of this time, but I have no idea what to do with what I am allowed to do.
So my thinking is tainted a bit. And a little forlorn maybe? I thought using the readers’ guide might help me stay focused on the What Is Really Important while I’m reading – instead of being drawn into communion with life in the Spirit, I get a little, uh, self-focused. That never happens to the rest of you, right? I mean, yeah, it’s really cool when you are reading something and it seems to speak RIGHT into your life this moment. But I could read the white pages and feel that right now. I’m a little self-absorbed these days (and yes, I do a LOT of navel gazing as well).
As I read through the questions, of course what the questions asked were already well marked up in the book with pencil and highlighter and notes in the margin, so maybe it will keep me from rambling too much (uh, like I already have).
I’ll post the questions from the readers’ guide in italics, quotes from the book in the quote boxes and my responses in “typical” format.
1. The narrative in this chapter is anchored in a series of ordinary moments – washing dishes, doing household chores, setting a table, comforting a child, eating a family meal. These are the kinds of things that can make “a life so full it can seem empty” (p. 63). As you imagine yourself in ordinary moments, what three words would you use to describe yourself?
Honestly, I don’t want to answer this question. It’s shameful how infrequently I feel like I “want” to feel during these moments. My typical three words would be – annoyed, frazzled, frustrated. And every last one of them is related to guilt for not being the perfect parent I imagined I would be. Even Ann’s description of what she was doing included making delicious treats for the kids to enjoy. Something I thought would be an almost daily occurance in my life when I imagined parenthood. And not only is it not a reality now (I can’t stand up) but it never has been. The days I have been able to “meet” that “perfect” goal, I have felt full, joyful, grateful – but those are very few and very far between. I spend too much time on the “harried” stuff to do what feeds my soul.
2. “On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur” (Evelyn Underhill, p. 66). How do you respond to this statement? On the “pain scale” below, which statement best describes your response:
Pfft, didn’t feel a thing – – – – – – – – – – – -Ouch! – – – – – – – – – MEDIC!
Take a deep breath. Share the reason for your response.
Really? Okay, guess I should have realized the last question would lead to this quote. Kind of forgot about it. I’m definitely at an 8/10 on this one. Maybe needing a bandaid, a tylenol and a cold pack.
Well, already I’ve stated, my unattainable “goals” are not focused on my graces (children especially) but on what I have yet to achieve. I have kids with extraordinary abilities (climbing walls, fearless, very strong-willed) and instead of being JOYFUL and finding the best of these strengths I try to master them into MY WILL – so that MY WILL can be done (and in the end crushing their beautiful spirits – leading to more momma guilt). Such an idea to think about the difference between an amateur and professional in the realm of living. A professional has reached the recognition – the reward – an amateur is paying to be recognized.
If I think of myself as a professional, I’m not trying so hard to meet the expectations of what I think everyone else expects of me. And if I’m honest before God, (and maybe even you) I am very judgmental and I can think of a dozen ways things could be done better if only everyone else would live up to my demands/expectations. Hmmm. I’m sensing guilt moving over into blame. (see how quickly I get sidetracked and start to ramble?) Wow. I maybe should change my answer to “Medic!” My heart is currently in my throat throbbing and I’m feeling a big confession time coming up. Don’t worry. It won’t be here. I’m too prideful to share how much I have failed as a wife and lover, friend and sister, mother and mentor…
BUT, I’m guessing I’m not alone in this either. Otherwise Ann would not have been on the best sellers lists for half a year and featured as a favorite thing by TV Celebrities. How do we move from “amateur judgmentalism and harriedness” to “professional lover of life?”
3. Ann realizes she doesn’t really want more time; she wants enough time: “I just want time to do my one life well” (p. 68). How would you explain the difference between having more time and enough time? Thinking back over the last few days or weeks, what experiences have you had that made you feel you were doing your one life well?
This was highlighted and starred in my book. It’s hard for me to say as I’ve read this book 2x while on bed rest. I don’t know if it’s feasibly possible to feel like I’m “doing my life well” when the doing aspect has been completely removed from my life. The only “doing” that I am able to participate in is thinking about be-ing. Taking the moments that I AM given and delighting in my children, rejoicing in their accomplishments, holding them in their hurts, snuggling with them before bedtime. Taking those moments and recognizing that VERY SOON I’ll have another baby in my arms and I won’t be able to gather them with both arms and do these things. And VERY SOON they won’t want me to. Maybe it should be a daily prayer to take the opportunity to live WELL. For The Master, for my family. Not meaning doing more, or even doing it “well” (which of course gets translated into perfectionism paralysis) but enjoying it well. Ah, maybe so. Maybe this is part of the point?
We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul – not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.
– Colossians 1:10-12, The Message
4. If giving thanks is “an invitation to slow time down with the weight of full attention,” would you say you have accepted the invitation, declined it, or are still thinking about it? In which situations or circumstances do you find it easiest to be fully present? In which do you find it most difficult?
I am definitely still thinking about accepting the invitation to slow time down. SO much to be done. And so much that has to be done once I can get out of bed. It’s hard to imagine life right now without all the lists.
Being fully present is a continual struggle for me. Even when I am conversing with someone who has my rapt attention, I start to think of how I can impress them as much as they impress upon me. How I can share MY story so they know I get it – and miss what they are really saying.
Even with (maybe especially with) my children. The 13 year-old importance of popularity seems so “shallow” to me now, but if I take the time to realize how much it means to her that she has 178 facebook friends (in less than a month) and that people tell her she is pretty (even with the dogbite scar on her cheek) and that boys stop and gawk at her (no please NO, maybe Dear Husband NEEDS to buy a shotgun). And my 5 year-old who has intense fear of dying after a near-death experience last year (almost drowned) who has a million questions about Jesus. And my 7 year-old who thinks he is stupid because he can’t remember things very well. It isn’t his fault his working memory is severly damaged, and when he can stay on task, he performs very well, with much pride – but when our frustration with the 20th reminder starts to show, so does his low self-esteem. I know that my kids need my rapt attention, and yet I am working hard at trying to fix their problems, finding wise words to give them to let go of all the things that I still cannot let go of myself. I don’t know HOW to stop “hurrying” and just BE all there with them. For them. Around them.
5. “It takes a full twenty minutes after your stomach is full for your brain to register satiation. How long does it take your soul to realize your life is full?” (p. 76). What is your response to the author’s compelling analogy and to her question? How do you think you will know when your life is full?
Full? I have no idea what that means. Does that mean, when I don’t have anymore wants? Any more lists? Or when I can be content Right Here. Right Now. Oh yeah, the last chapter…the whole learning and practice bit may come in here? I think I KNOW my life is full (yes, my hands are), but I am not sure when I’ll start LIVING that way. I have more than I’ve ever asked for, even if I am not the best steward of it all, and how could I dare ask for more? Yet, I think of more and more that I want to “make my life easier” so I could have “more time” to “enjoy” what I have already been given. What an oxymoron eh?
…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
– Philippians 4:11-12
I want to slow down and taste life, give thanks, and see God. (p. 77)
Please PLEASE read this book. If the language is “too flowery” for you, read it aloud. I think she writes like she is really speaking to you, so there may be sentence fragments or sentences that are full of emphasis stops. Slow down. Re-read the passage aloud, like a friend is sharing with you what is on her heart, what she is learning. And DO NOT, I repeat, DO. NOT. read it quickly. Read no more than a chapter a day. Take time to let the thoughts seep through. Read the passages she quotes from the Bible to fully “get” the perspective. Imagine your slippered feet on the floor planks with a rush of children coming in for oatmeal after helping daddy feed the pigs. The first time I read it I was so moved with thought that I couldn’t talk. Now I’m talking – and forcing myself to because it’s been SO amazing for me (especially in this state of a lot of thinking time) to find things to rejoice in. If you want to borrow my marked up copy in a few weeks, you can. I know that the libraries have long waits for it – and every so often the big Christian book sellers in the states have sales on it if you are needing to pinch pennies (as probably all of us are). Read the first chapter at the One Thousand Gifts website, subscribe to Ann’s Blog and be blown away by her images, her encouragement, and her free-printables.
And let your life be changed from the inside.
He loves you. He IS showing you. Ask Him to help you SEE His Love – written in the clouds, in the trees, in the sink full of rainbow-y bubbles.