Are you tired? Worn out? Overwhelmed beyond fathom? Feeling like you are lacking something? Then, do more things.
Wait a second (insert terrible DJ scratch sound here circa 1999). That’s definitely not what the Bible verse says.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
This is Jesus talking to us. He asks if we are tired and burned out, and I’m betting if you’re anything like me, you probably could give a resounding “YES” as your answer.
But, the antidote that He gives us to our exhaustion can feel like some intangible notion or idea. I love how The Message version of this verse phrases Jesus’ direction, “...watch how I do it..” This feels tangible. This is doable. I can read through the gospels and see how Jesus lived. What did he value? How did he spend his time? What did he do day in and day out?
I might not live in Israel 2000 or so years ago, but I can certainly deduct what was valuable to Jesus. One thing that he valued without a doubt is simplicity - in His time, in his possessions, and in his relationships.
I want to focus on one aspect of that simplicity today: Simplicity of time. It can be so tempting to feel like adding more to your schedule will make things better. Or maybe you don’t feel like this, but you don’t know how to say no to adding another thing that seems good. Or maybe you have big goals for life and you don’t want to miss out on achieving them.
Here’s the truth: having more space in your schedule makes you more available for what really matters. When I look at Jesus and how he treated the time that he had, I see that he was always available for interruption. He made time for the important things, and he didn’t fill his schedule so full that any interruption made him go berserk.
If I don’t make space in my schedule, an interruption or unplanned neighbor stopping by or the need to go comfort a friend unexpectedly makes me go berserk. I want to be available to take care of my needs, comfort my friend, or chat with my neighbor. These are the kinds of things that I see in Jesus’ time. If I’m watching how he does it and following his example, I need to have space and capacity for interruption.
This is something that I have been learning and figuring out the past few years. How can I build a life that has holes in its schedule. It feels like everything and everyone around me is trying to reach in and snag a spot on that schedule. If I’m not careful, my calendar could be bursting at the seams clear until 2022.
I’ve learned some practical steps that have helped me structure a schedule that has built in space. I’m not perfect at it, and I don’t always get it right, but these are some habits and practices that work in my life right now to help me create a simpler schedule.
Following rules for my time
I am an introvert, so whether I want to admit it or not, spending too much time with people makes me tired. Even if I am spending time with people whom I love, I need to carve out space in my week to have time alone in order to be available mentally and emotionally for those unexpected moments.
Making rules for my time has helped me to do this well. For example, I only allow 2 planned social events throughout my week. If it is for a special occasion, 3 social events are allowed. I know for some of you extroverts out there, this sounds like your own version of a living hell. However, I like to follow this rule for my week, so that if someone stops by my house unexpectedly, I am not already at the end of my social rope.
Saying “no” to good things
I’ve heard it said that sometimes you have to say no to good things, in order to say yes to great things. I totally agree. If I say yes to every opportunity or experience that comes my way, I would leave no space for anything else.
I am learning to be ok with saying “no” to something even if I don’t have another commitment. It might not seem like I have reason to pass on something, but it is reason enough for me that I am making space and cultivating a simpler schedule.
This doesn’t mean that I always say “no” if I’m not feeling something. We all have to do things we don't like or don’t want to, and sometimes important events or occasions aren’t my top choice, but they are necessary.
Scheduling the things I want to do
My life is organized by my Google calendar. Once a week, my husband and I sit down and make sure our calendars are accurate with how we want to spend the week, and touch base with each other on our events.
I have found that scheduling things that are important but don’t seem like traditional “events” is helpful. This means things like grocery trips, time alone, and sometimes even going on walks are scheduled. If we don’t put things on the schedule, they often don’t happen.
A simpler schedule doesn’t just happen. We have to intentionally shape it. One way I am learning to be more like Jesus these days is finding the practices that help me to form a life that has space for interruption.
How do you make space for interruption?
Perfect plant moms are called “green thumbs.” Those who can’t grow anything are called “brown thumbs.” I’m still trying to figure out what color thumb I get to have, but I’m learning some things in the process.
I haven’t really gotten on the growing kick until the past year or so. Growing up, my mom always had a garden (And still does - go Mom!), but throwing some dirt and seeds and water together to make plants always kind of seemed like a mystery to me.
Over the past year or so, I slowly started gathering a few houseplants, killed a few, and kept a few alive. Just this spring, I decided to start my very first plants from seeds. I’m growing some cut flowers, tomatoes, herbs, and zucchini. So far, I have picked up a lot more than just basic gardening knowledge.
Remember what I said about gardening being a mystery? Now that I’ve stepped behind the curtain, it still is. I know a lot about what to do to get plants to grow (plant seed, insert water and sunlight, wait…), but every time I see a spot of green peep out from the soil, it feels like a little bit of magic right on my back porch.
It’s the kind of magic that makes your heart do a flip. The kind of magic that makes you go, “Holy cow! Did that really happen?!” The kind of magic that inspires joy and cultivates whimsy.
Have you ever met an avid gardener and felt like they have a few extra life secrets figured out? And they have this (seemingly supernatural) calming presence to them? I’m starting to realize where they get this. I think this might be because they’ve learned to live with the mystery of our world a little better than the rest of us.
You see, you have to do some things to grow a plant. You have to water it. You have to put the seed in the soil. You have to make sure it gets some light. But, at the end of the day, the inner workings of how to grow something is basically a big ol’ mystery. You do all this work and then you have to wait (a little too much for my impatient soul). Then, one day the plant just shoots up out of nowhere. Gardeners get a front row seat to this magic and mystery and awe-inspiring everyday beauty, and I wonder if this gives gardeners a leg up on the rest of us when it comes to living alongside mystery.
Living alongside the mystery teaches us wonder. It teaches us that we don’t have to figure it all out. It teaches us that we can be a spectator and knowledge-seeker of something beautiful and wonderful and great without having to master that thing. Life is worth living even if I don’t have it all figured out. In fact, the mystery makes for a great story, a wonderful surprise, and a practice of living in the unknown.
Growing plants has awakened the wonder in my soul and given me an everyday excitement. It teaches me to live alongside the mystery and to not be so concerned about figuring it all out right now because when I just water and nurture and care for my plants, they grow. I don’t have to know how it all works.
So this year I hope to become a little more like some of those avid gardeners I know, living at peace with the mysteries God plants in my life.
What awakens the wonder in your soul?
“You’re not good enough” That’s what I heard the minute I started reading an email from one of my editors. The email was a response to my latest article.
The truth of the matter is this: the email never once strung together the phrase that I heard, but I’ve become so accustomed to letting these words ring through my head, that my discombobulated translator read an email of edits and changes to an article and spat out the other side this simple phrase that can be oh so damaging to any creator.
Yes, I want to get better. Yes, I love having someone to help me refine my writing. Double yes, feedback is essential to improving. So, why is it that I can’t seem to find a healthy response to critique of my writing.
Not once in that email did my editor call into question my ability to write well. Not once did they tell me, “Well, that’s it, we’re done.” Not once did they criticize my character. But, I took the words deep. My heart sunk. Anger started to churn in the pit of my stomach. I was ready to fire back an email carefully crafted to hit them hard with criticism and make them feel small just like I did.
But, did my feelings of smallness really have anything to do with them? Or was that just a result of the aforementioned discombobulated translator in my head?
Here’s what I think really happened (cue the rewind sound in the movie of my mind). I wrote an article assigned to me and had some great moments, but as is often the case, the first draft wasn’t the best I could do. I sent this first draft to my editor. My editor looked at the article and hacked and pushed and moved and flourished (as is their job), and sent all their feedback to me. Instead of receiving this feedback and criticism as helpful and beneficial to my work, I chose to take it personally.
All of these things are part of the writing process. EXCEPT one little thing. My decision to take the feedback personally is not a necessary (or beneficial) step to writing well.
Knowing how to receive feedback and criticism is key to growth. In writing (and every facet of life) this is true. Knowing how to receive feedback is a skill. It’s a skill that I’m still learning.
I must learn how to reject the stubborn heart and jerk reactions inside of me. I need to learn how to hear criticism of my writing and not take it as an attack on my character. I must learn to accept that my first draft usually isn’t a refined masterpiece.
How do I learn this? To be honest, I’m not sure of a five-step plan, but I know that today, I will go back to my editor’s email, look at their comments with an open mind, and carefully create a second draft that is cleaner and better and more refined than the first one.
For today, that’s a big step, and it’s enough. Maybe tomorrow I’ll work on that five-step plan...
Hi, I'm Emma!
A Maryland girl who moved to Washington state seeking adventure, I adore writing and delight in sharing my favorite things. I celebrate whimsy and you can find me doing a happy dance when something really strikes my fancy.