Staring at my calendar, all of the red and green boxes marking appointments and schedules make it seem like Christmas has come in October.
I mean, I know I took the day off today, but I don’t have to leave for my flight until 1 pm, so I’ll pack when I get home at 10pm, then if I wake up at 7, I can get in a half a days work, have time to grab lunch, cut my own bangs since I haven’t cut my hair in months, go on a walk with the dogs, and clean my entire apartment before I leave, right?!
This was seriously the thought process in my head a couple of weeks ago. Logical, right?
And I know this. Logically, really, I do. And yet, before I know it, every day for the next three months is filled to the max with work and events and expectations of things that people NEED me for.
The people pleaser in me is reveling. Nevermind the fact that this process for endless weeks and months at a time leaves my soul shriveled like a raisin.
I’ve never been very good at being still.
I come from a family of movers and shakers. For those of you who’ve met my mom, you know I’m not lying. The woman wakes up at 6am and by 1am when she’s finally back in bed has accomplished more than some people may accomplish in three weeks time. And she does this every day. Monday through Sunday. Without fail. Both of my parents are hard-working, self-motivated, go-getters.
And that’s a great thing.
But God has been teaching me some new old things lately. I say new old, because it’s not that I haven’t heard it before. Maybe before I brushed it off as “not my issue.” Let’s be real…I was just in denial.
I always think I have more time than I do. I always think I can fit just one more thing into my day. I always think “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” And I NEVER want to say no.
I’m always running, always striving, always going.
And some times that’s great. I love this crazy, beautiful, busy life of mine. God gave me this one life and I want to soak up every little bit of it that I can. I want to see historic landmarks, and visit museums, and climb mountains, and eat food so good it brings tears to my eyes, and drink great wine, and breathe fresh air, and appreciate quality films, and dance at concerts of my favorite bands, and drive with the windows down singing at the top of my lungs, and travel to foreign countries, and sit in backyards and BBQ with friends. I want to laugh more than I cry and I want to love people where they are. I want to make moments that matter.
But sometimes I get so caught up in the bustle and the excitement of it all, that I miss experiencing these things fully and deeply.
And lately I’ve found that when I run so much, I’m just running for the sake of running. Because it’s what I’ve always done, or because I don’t know what else to do. Because who would I be if I wasn’t running, achieving, doing.
And sure, there are some things I want to run from feeling deeply. There are some things I think, if I do enough things, I won’t have to feel this way. I run from fear and rejection and pain and loneliness and frustration and anxiety…you name it. Maybe I’m the only one, but I doubt it.
The unfortunate part is that when I run from these things I also run from joy and peace and truth and community and love. I run from the lessons the Lord is trying to teach me. I run from experiencing the deep, tough work He is doing in my heart. I’m running from Him.
And then after maybe days, or weeks, or months of running I find a tired, wrung-out, frustrated and frayed Elissa. I find a person who isn’t living out of a place of wholeness, but is scrambling to hold the broken pieces together before someone notices.
And in the moments when I come to this realization, I find myself sinking in an ocean of grace again. Because, oh how He loves. Oh how He pursues. Oh how He sees me even when I do my best to move so fast I think no one will notice.
And the words He has been speaking to me over the last three months have been the same over and over.
Yes, be still.
“Be still and know that I am God” is what the scripture says.
And it’s going to take practice, this act of stillness. Taking days, or moments, of Sabbath requires discipline. In a book I recently read, Dallas Willard says this of rest and Sabbath:
“This will be pretty scary at first for most of us. But we must not try to get God to “do something” to fill up our time. That will only throw us back into work. The command is ‘Do no work.’ Just make space. Attend to what is around you. Learn that you don’t have to do to be. Accept the grace of doing nothing. Stay with it until you stop jerking and squirming.
Solitude well practiced will break the power of busyness, haste, isolation and loneliness. You will see that the world is not on your shoulders after all. You will find yourself, and God will find you in new ways. Joy and peace will begin to bubble up within you. Praise and prayer will come to you and from within you. With practice, the ‘soul anchor’ established in solitude will remain solid when you return to your ordinary life with others.” (The Great Omission)
Stillness requires a lot of things that are challenging to me, to say the least. It requires patience. It requires finding beauty in the pain, and joy in the waiting.
Stillness requires leaning in to all of it. Opening myself to the full range of pain and joy and anxiety and peace and everything in between.
But it doesn’t require me to do any of this on my own, no matter how many times Satan whispers that lie into my ear.
Stillness, above all, requires leaning into Him and knowing who He is. It means trusting above all that the Lord is faithful. He is the God who sees. He fulfills His promises. He is good. And He is sovereign.
I recently was doing a devotional and the statement that stood out was from the writer’s bio at the bottom:
“She is a productive lady, but that is not what defines her—[her] heart beats for Jesus and His daughters, and that’s what makes her incredible.”
I love that. I hope people can say that about me. I don’t want to be a frayed and frazzled person my whole life. I want to be someone who is passionate about life and loving other people. Someone who can handle the chaos AND the silence with grace and charisma. As my favorite author, Shauna Niequist says, a person who is “present over perfect.” And what better time to start then now?