Monday, April 6, 2015

Slow Down

This has been a busy week; one of the busiest weeks we have had in a while. It has been so hectic I have honestly had no time to even crack open the computer, and even less time to consider what to write. So I am sitting down in the remainder of what is left of my chaotic weekend to see if there is anything worth writing. Currently I am typing over the sound of our two-year-old son, Wesley, screaming at our six-year-old son, Sawyer. The sounds of the TV from my daughter’s room are echoing down the hallway. And our dog is barking at seemingly nothing through the crack in the living room blinds. Could there be a better atmosphere to write in? Yet with all the noise I feel at ease just being home; a place where we can all slow down and take a breath.

Before we brought Wesley home from Korea late last year, our schedule was packed to the brim. Thursdays were usually the only day we did not have anything going. We would run from one commitment to another, and barely have time to come up for air in between them all. Most of these commitments were things we loved and were passionate about; which made it very hard for us when we had to hang them up for the past few months. But in doing so we have found a wonderful new wind of fresh air that comes with rest and time together at home… a time that I am beginning to value more and more.

I am not sure when we started equating being busy to being better, but it seems in our culture the more we have on our calendar the prouder we can puff our chests. I was a victim of this mentality. In conversation, I would often list off all the commitments, appointments, and opportunities. I would wear them like a badge on my chest. My busyness validated me somehow. As if it was a sign of importance. But if I had been honest with myself and stopped for long enough to look at my life, I would have realized I was overextended, exhausted, and giving the people most important to me the scraps of what was left of my time.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not feel like I wasted my time. Most of the activities we were involved in were worth while and involved investing in the lives of others; which is never a waste. But our life was far from balanced. We have since had to start saying no more often to good opportunities. This is hard for me to do sometimes and even harder for my wife, who is a diehard people pleaser. What we have found though, is that when you say yes to everybody those closest to you get a no by default. What I mean by that is that something has to get sacrificed on the altar of always saying yes, and unfortunately it’s usually your spouse, your children, or even your own well being.

The first weekend home with Wesley from Korea was a wakeup call. I woke up that morning and realized we had nowhere to go all day. Truthfully, I felt a bit lost. When you are use to never stopping, sitting still at first seems difficult. But then I remembered an issue I had been ignoring with our water pressure at home, so I began to work on that. I realized there were a lot of things around the house I had let slip because I was not home enough to deal with them. Having Saturdays at home, I was able to start knocking some of these lingering items off of my to-do list. 

I also quickly noticed how much I had neglected one-on-one time with my wife. Korea was the first time we had had together alone in what seemed like forever. We were both so busy going every which way, that by the time our paths crossed we were too exhausted to enjoy one another. For both of us, our time in Asia was a jolt of electricity that renewed our love for one another, and, as silly as this sounds, reminded us of just how much we like each other and doing things together. Since we’ve been back we have committed to going on at least a date every other week. I have also grown fond of walking and running with her at the park down the street from us. I feel like we talk more than we ever have, and maybe it’s just because I am more available than I have ever been. I know this much, without realizing it, our busy demanding life before Korea was slowly choking out the richness and joy of our marriage. 

Having more time has also freed me up to have more intentional and meaningful time for each of my kids. This has resulted in much more time reading, playing in the backyard, or working on the tree house together. Time together is precious. I look at my daughter JulieAnna, and see how she is blossoming into a beautiful young lady and just shake my head in disbelief. Where has the past decade gone? I do not want to be so wrapped up in the busyness of life that I forfeit the memories and relationships of my own children. 

What has possibly suffered the most from my overextended lifestyle was my own well being. Just about two years ago I was at my heaviest; just about over fifty founds over weight. I felt terrible, and had no energy. The problem was, I just had no time to invest in exercising, and no will power to eat healthier. I told this to the physical trainer at my work about a year ago.

“We all make time for the things important to us,” he replied, “And we definitely make time for the things we want… you just have to want it.”

His words struck a chord in me. 

I signed up for a weight loss program and began counting my calories the following week. With my calendar more open I was also able to begin exercising early this year. I do a circuit training class three days a week, and have started working out at home as well. I feel better than I have ever felt, and have lost over thirty pounds along the way.

More so than my physical neglect, I feel my spiritual life was suffering even worse. Even though I was teaching at church multiple times a week, I felt as if I was disconnected and distant from God. Looking back, I think it was because of how I was doing things. I was so busy learning and trying to relay knowledge that I bypassed the heart. I love to teach, and I love to study, but most of the time this never results in a deeper richer relationship with God. Instead it is just some head knowledge I believe and share. But as much as I miss teaching like I did, I have found the joy and the passion of abiding in a relationship with God, and it permeates more of my day to day life.

This is not a call to drop commitments so you can sit at home and watch more television. Many of you are busy doing wonderful things you love to do and have been called to do. I am not suggesting you drop those things, but I am suggesting you take a moment to evaluate how balanced your life is, and if the most important things are getting your time. This is something that looks different for each of us. But I do believe we could all benefit from slowing down and re-prioritizing. Take a look at even the good things and ask yourself if good is good enough. I would rather do one thing great, than do a few things good, or a lot of things mediocre. 

Like I said, this week was busy. I know in life we are going to have eventful times. But it was a good reminder to me of how I was living a year ago: burned out and running on fumes. As Patience and I begin to step back into some of our old responsibilities I want to make sure to do it cautiously. I do not want to sacrifice the healthy relationships I have been restoring. I do not want to back-pedal into the demands of all the things that were keeping me from living a centered life. I want to do life well. I have no desire to sit back on my haunches, but I have even less desire to busy my hands with work that doesn’t matter. I like what Lysa TerKeurst says in her book The Best Yes, “We have to slow the rhythm of rush in our lives so the best of who we are can emerge.”

You won't know the best of who you are until you slow down enough to discover it. Take a break. Take a deep breath. And slow down. You won't regret it.

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