I don’t do “still” well.
I never have. Back in school, my notebooks and binders were full of doodles and drawings I would create while the professor or teacher taught on whatever subject. The margins of my notes were filled with swirls and faces and balloon letters. It wasn’t that I was bored or uninterested in the lecture topic. It was all about my inability to sit still and listen.
Even now, my family can attest that if I don’t have my phone or my needlework in hand, I will easily drift off to sleep in the middle of the most action-packed, suspense-filled movie. My church bulletin most likely will have all the little openings of the letters shaded in by my pencil. Any time my husband drives our family anywhere, I like to have something to keep my attention. It isn’t that I don’t value my company, I just have a really hard time sitting still.
Quiet is hard too.
There is something about the stillness there too. At home, whether I am there alone or with my daughters, I often keep the television on for background noise. I appreciate music or podcasts or talk radio or whatever in the car. On long drives, if there isn’t something “playing” I had better not be driving. The quiet combined with the moving of the car puts me to sleep. My eyelids weigh 40 tons and I just can’t keep them open. Even while reading, I like to have something on in the background to force my thoughts to truly focus on what’s on the page before me.
I like a planned day – where I go from scheduled routine to expected project. I appreciate having identifying markers in my week so to make Monday feel like a Monday because I took the girls to their piano lessons that afternoon. My calendar is usually full keeping up with work, daughters, church and friends. It is a true juggling act keeping all the balls in the air. As a result there is typically no time to sit, no time for quiet, and definitely no time to be still.
But nothing is “typical” these days . . .
Over the first few months of this quarantine, social-distancing season, I busied myself in procrastinated projects at home and in wrapping up the program year at work. The basement and garage are now cleaned and organized. My bedroom and bathroom are painted with the towel racks and knickknacks hung on the walls. I planted three tomato vines and one jalapeño pepper plant. There are flowers in the pots on the front porch. My daughters’ closets have been cleaned out and rooms organized. Likewise, I have watched my to-do list at work steadily dwindle as well.
I have also taken time to enjoy family, find a new appreciation for cooking and get caught up on some much needed sleep. We’ve watched all the Marvel movies, worked puzzles and played games. I have finally mastered scratch-made, buttermilk biscuits and enjoyed experimenting with new recipes, finding several new regulars to work into the rotation. What does my alarm clock sound like? Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I set it.
Yet, I have been intentional to get up and get going in the mornings, fixing my hair and putting on my face. I know structure is important and, for me, necessary. At the end of the day, I want to put my head to the pillow feeling as if I have accomplished something. This feeling does not typically come from “still” days and I have done my best not to have any “still” days during this season. I have literally feared wasting these days and not getting these projects done. I have desired having something to show for it. I have wrestled with guilt from not doing, from being still.
When I do find myself still, I find myself antsy and restless. I want to go somewhere, do something, meet up with someone. I don’t like the stillness and the quiet that accompanies it can be deafening, as my mind rebels against the call to be still.
Being alone in my thoughts is something I have never enjoyed or wanted to indulge. One thought can create an avalanche of additional thoughts. Whether the original thought was rational or not, the subsequent ones most likely won’t be and soon I am swamped in a flood of feelings that could have been completely avoided had I not been quiet or still.
My calendar is blank. There are no typical summer activities to plan and prep for. The public pools remain closed. Even the annual return to school in August is foggy and impossible to define. My job is tangled in the decisions of the public school system to a large degree, so there is more uncertainty there too. All of these are reasons for me to avoid being quiet, to avoid being still.
Here is where I am.
Here is where my thoughts and feelings wrestle the truths of God’s word and what my faith tells me what is true. It is hard to confess that “I don’t know” and to cease striving to control my worlds. This is a hard place to be.
I want to have answers and to make plans and to know what to expect. I miss seeing family and I mourn events that “should’ve been” but were canceled. Around the country and all over my social media feeds there are rightful, needed cries for justice and change. This is a hard place to be.
I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know what to say. In many situations and circumstances right now I don’t know what to do. And I am honestly tired and weary of not knowing. This is a hard place to be.
Easy is the place where I throw myself into another project, escape into a movie or novel or “do” anything to keep from being still and . . . .
. . . allowing God to move.
. . . giving Him the room to do the hard work in and around and through me.
. . . acknowledging who He is and who I am not.
Yes, I am restless and wrestling. Yet, He is gentle and is persistently calling me to stop, to be still and just be before Him. I may be in some hard places right now, but He is here with me, wanting and waiting to do the heavy lifting.
Being still today looks different than it did yesterday, but I can say that as I learn to release and relax His peace prevails, there is joy in the uncertainty and contentment comes.
My next quarantine project? To learn and to do “still.”
I am starting with memorizing Psalm 46. God kept showing it to me this week. Here, He doesn’t suggest, but rather commands that we “be still and know that He is God.”
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