It’s 9:45pm on a Friday night and everyone in my house is sleeping. Not a creature is stirring except my 17-pound tabby cats, Max and Sammy, who I hear making a mess of their food in the laundry room downstairs.
I’m taking advantage of this unprecedented solitude by editing my novel – a 250-page YA manuscript I penned with my sister. We started it six years ago for fun and now life has gotten in the way of actually finishing it. Well, it’s been finished multiple times, but there are always more ideas to implement, more edits to make, more pressing things to do. Like raise kids. Spend time with our friends and spouses. Read books, watch TV, or go for run. Eat. Pray. Love. Work. Sleep. Repeat.
And that’s okay. Most of the time, these are beautiful, inspiring things. A life well-lived. However, I often struggle with the endless cycle of doing. I often struggle to rest – not sleep – but rest. To allow my overactive brain to focus on only one thing. To practice being present.
It’s a challenge when you’ve conditioned yourself to maximize time to suddenly, purposely become less efficient in order to live better. But, it is necessary. It’s important to find time in your life to live.
Writing is a reflective exercise. It helps me make sense of life or, more often, cope with the nonsense of it. Yet this is my first blog post in four months. I guess you could say I was suffering from writer’s block, but really I was just suffering. This world is a broken place and inspiration can be hard to find some days. If you look for it, you’ll start to see the pain everywhere and it can take over.
So I prayed.
I’m not someone who ignores such emotions and hope they go away. I dive into them.
I love this quote from Rob Bell about prayer: “What is prayer? Prayer is ripping open your rib cage, so that your heart can breathe. Anger, rage, joy, euphoria – you name it and speak it and give words to it so that it’s not churning down there in the depths of your being. You want someone to be healed? You want someone to suffer for what they’ve done? You want clarity for a decision or destruction for an enemy or you’re grateful for the breath you just took – prayer is the practice of ruthless honesty about what is going on inside of you. The good, the violent, all that you want and all that you’re grateful for and all that you don’t want anyone to know about. You drag it all up and you vent it and confess it and give thanks for it and rant about it as you express it in all its ragged reality. Of course this changes you. How could it not?”
This is what prayer means to me. This is the experience I have with God in prayer. It’s not always pretty, but it is meaningful.
During the last few months, I’ve practiced being more present in the moments, to really feel them instead of looking past them to the next thing. I grieved the passing of a close friend. I grieved the world and all the pain in it. I mended a broken heart. I took time for myself. I took time to heal.
In order to do this, I had to carve out more time in my life. I stepped down from a leadership position at my church when my term ended. I stopped volunteering so much. I limited my social media time. I created space to reflect and grieve and be present.
While much of this year was marked by grief, there was also adventure. I visited Silicon Valley in California and scored a free Google t-shirt after presenting research there. I stood in front of five hundred people and confidently delivered a keynote address at a university homecoming. I walked down the streets of Upper Manhattan and took a stroll through Central Park. I touched the ocean for the first time in Florida.
These are beautiful memories from my 2015, but it is the moments with my family and close friends that I cherish the most. And these are the moments that sustain me.
Today, I watched my daughters play together. Like really watched them. Olivia, my feisty 2-year-old who wants to do everything herself, and Emma, my brilliant 6-year-old going on 30, built little houses with wooden Lincoln Logs and cackled as they knocked them down.
Time feels slower when you stop to just observe what’s happening around you. I don’t do that very often. I work very hard at a job I love, spend time with my family, and write whenever I can find time. While my house is rarely clean, my life is filled with laughter and purpose and love. But, it can also be very demanding. It’s important I continue to make space to just live in the moments and make them the moments that matter. That’s my New Year’s resolution.
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