Friday, February 28, 2014

Balancing Slow

Yesterday, I ended with this question:

How do I reconcile productivity and slowing?

And, as I pondered that - God brought it to mind to go back to Genesis and read the Creation account. Here it is if you want to go read it right now: Genesis 1:1-2:3.

Let's face it: as women - wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend and more - we have a lot to do. We also have a lot more we could do and we must learn to prioritize and balance what we need to get done vs. what we want to get done.

I'm so thankful that we have God's Word and a beautiful example before us in God Himself and in His Son Jesus for how we can balance slow and productivity. Today, I'm looking at God the Father through the lens of Creation.

Lessons learned from God:

* He took time to enjoy and appreciate what He accomplished each day. At the end of every day, He paused and reminded us what He had created that day and said it was good. I don't know about you - but I am notorious for moving on to the next thing{s} without appreciating the satisfaction of completing the thing{s} before. This is the downside of always working ahead - I'm always thinking to what I need to do next so that as soon as I finish one thing, I know what to move on to.

* He was under committed each day, He worked under His potential. God modeled for us how to choose one or two things to focus on each day. The thing is that if He wanted to - He could've created the entire world into existence in less than a fraction of the blink of an eye. But, He did not. He went about it methodically, slowly, with balance and moderation. Oh, what I could learn from that. I've talked recently about being under committed - God was not looking to maximize every productive waking moment of every single day. He chose to focus on one or two things, do them well and with excellence and then enjoy the accomplishment and reflection of a job well done.

* He modeled rest. Not only did He fill each day with a mile long list of tasks to finish and no time to take a breath, He is the author of the very first Slow Day: the Sabbath. We observe the Sabbath in our home, but also an additional Slow Day where we definitely do work, but also strive to bring the pace down, expect less in terms of productivity and worship God throughout. I think He also modeled rest by not filling every day to maximum capacity. And, by creating evening and morning - different times of day for different needs.

* Did not model multi-tasking. As already mentioned above {but worth mentioning again!} God did not model cramming tasks together and emphasize huge amounts of productivity, but chose one or two things to focus on for each day. How would this transform my life if I focused on a few quality things: my walk with God, schooling my children, family and a moderate amount of maintaining our home.

* Finish. God modeled for us how to stick with that one thing until it is finished rather than flit from thing to thing never really finishing anything. I know you've all been there - you get up to go put your glass away in the kitchen. On the way, you see a sock that needs to go in the dirty clothes - so you deliver that. While in that area, you see a shelf that needs organizing or towels that are not folded neatly so you stop and take care of that. Next, the phone rings, a child asks for something or someone comes to the door or even all of those things at once and you are still carrying your glass around who knows how much later. Are you smiling out of identifying with that?! One time when my Mom was here, we were talking about how hard it is to get things done in the season of life with young children. She observed that I had trouble finishing one thing and had multiple things going at once. I have really tried to take this to heart and finish one thing before starting another - it is hard to do but it is worth the effort of attempting to make it more and more of a habit.

* Worked with an end goal in mind and worked toward that in daily sized chunks. I love also that God had a beautiful end result in mind when He began His work of creating the world. He knew there would be trees, flowers, animals, people, seasons, planets and more. Then, He methodically worked through the days in a chosen order until the desired results were accomplished. This is a good reminder for me to consider what my end goals are and how my daily investments of time and energy are contributing.

I feel like the more I look in God's Word the more examples I will find of balancing slow and productivity. This is just the first place I've looked so far. And, there is so much to glean.

To sum it up, God sets a beautiful example of not cramming every day to the full. He shows me how to balance productivity and slow, how to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and leave room for His opportunities that arise each day. He models being under committed and savoring the gift of rest.

What one thing will you take from God's example and begin to prayerfully implement into your slowing?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Unbalance of Slow

I am typically efficient with my time and a very productive worker. But, I have found that the more efficiently I work, the more I want to get done and the harder for me to slow down.

It's like a frenzy that feeds itself and generates a vicious cycle. It goes something like this: I may be feeling overwhelmed and want to get more organized and on a better routine. I will plan out my day and get up early and get going. Crossing things off my list feels great and I have a productive day hoping days like this will never end. I think of how much I can get done if I can maintain this level of speed and efficiency, but let's face it - I do not allow room for slowing on my "list."

I may have a few good days like that and pretty soon I'm getting tired sooner than I used to. I'm starting to get discouraged and get less done and it isn't long before half of my list may still be staring at me before the end of the day. After that, I give up the list and just start letting the days flow the way they will.

This is more relaxing, but I find that I get less done beginning to feel overwhelmed and so the cycle has come full circle and starts all over again.

On the other side, I've found that if I slow down too much - it feeds this desire to slow down too much. You know how that works, right? My kids are playing great and I'm on the couch reading a book for example, I realize we should get on to the next chore or piece of business to keep our day flowing smoothly. This is a tricky spot to be caught because on one hand I will think there is no way I'm messing with it while they are happily engaged playing with one another so I might just read some more on my book.

Frequently when I do that though, I find that those extra minutes can be when the sweet spot we were in goes sour. An argument will break out among the young ranks of my home or they will just get tired of getting along. If I had intervened before things got to this point, it would've served me well - but slowing was calling also.

This is proof positive that slow is a balance. We can neither ignore slow completely nor give in to it completely. Like so much of life isn't it?!

Here is a real list I wrote for myself {and I am not encouraging this!} one day recently and I did get every single thing done - but to what end? I was probably a drill sargent marching out orders to all of my little soldiers and I can pretty well guarantee that I did not spend much quality time with them.

So, how can I reconcile productivity with slowing? This is a question I have savored and thought about a lot - and will probably continue to process and wrangle with. 

God brought to mind a passage of Scripture right away that I studied for some perspective - I'll share that tomorrow.

** Burlap bird: I can't believe I haven't taken a photo of this yet! My littles picked this out on their own for me for Christmas. Love.Love.Love.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Slow Day

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Slow's Bookends

Are you getting tired of hearing about slow yet? I hope not, because I am nowhere near done processing this idea and lifestyle. I've come across a couple of books about living slow but they are not from a Biblical or Christian lifestyle perspective - so not a big fan so far though I do love the slowing regardless.

As I have been thinking about slow, and processing it in light of these words: surrender, less, order and worship - it dawned on me that the two bookend words are really what I want to bookend my days.


Surrender to what God has in store for the day even if it is not on my to-do list or throws a huge wrench in my list. Surrender to His plan being greater than mine. Surrender to whimsy and serendipity and being flexible. Surrender to the fact that life happens and things change.

And, then to cap off the day with worship. Having these two supporting ends can and does hold a host of things in between, but these are the supports, the weight-bearers if you will.

I had fun creating this ink and paper art to sort of illustrate my vision for this - the lower shelf contains supporting volumes surrender and worship while the middle volumes are less and order with love in the very middle. And, yes - I did get a bit heavy handed with grunging it up with ink splatters!

If all I am doing is not bathed in love, motivated by love, overflowing with love - it will be worthless. Remember 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but have not love, I gain nothing."

The top shelf is more of what is birthed out of putting this lower shelf in action: faith, family, memories, beauty ~ we can still have these things without living with surrender, less, order and worship. But, I think it blesses those areas when we do.

What if I literally started my day by surrendering it to Him and His plans and ended my day in worshiping God for how He was glorified through my day and accomplishing His work in me?