Fighting "Still"—and Other Struggles of the SeasonDec 10, 2017 05:59AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
I am not very good at keeping still. In fact, I turn still into a such a multitasking event that I defeat its entire purpose. Last night, for example, I sat down to watch The Peanuts Movie with my youngest son, and I turned it into a moment of buying a subscription to a creation science magazine for my oldest child for Christmas.
I was always the child who had to play a board game with myself or work on a scrapbook project while watching television. Even when my friends would come over to play Barbies, I would sing commercial ditties or manage multiple tasks at once. Ask any one of my childhood friends, and she will tell you I drove her nuts! Being at rest is not a concept I have ever understood. I have always been driven and project-focused. The night of my bridal shower, I stayed up late for hours to make sure all thank-you notes were immediately written, stamped, and addressed.
For a long time, I chalked it up to an amazing work ethic. I was the ant of Proverbs 6—and proud of it!
Proverbs 6:6-9, ESV
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?
Right now, for example, I am writing an email reply to my mother while
looking for dressy heels for my daughter at Famous Footwear online,
writing this article,
checking on the dogs,
and thinking about the school evaluation forms I have to fill out and promptly sign and return to special education office in the school district.
I also might stop and wrap one present.
I might be productive, but I certainly am not focused.
What does still mean for you?
My still consists of the few moments several times a day when I visit my hot drink machines and crank out espresso yumminess, mix a cayenne pepper hot chocolate, or boil water for loose tea. I try to make that a time when I force my mind to stop racing. I sit down for the first few sips and get quiet with God. On my better days, that includes reading from a Bible study book or a few verses of the Bible. Approaching my little café station in the kitchen is my cue to silence the madness in my head and to approach the throne of grace.
Hebrews 4:16, ESV
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
When I sit at our kitchen table with a warm drink in hand, I pause in a day that is otherwise full of disruption and interruptions. My husband has been overseas for a few weeks, and I know that when 2:00 PM rolls around every day, my school-aged children start returning home, and with taxi-ing kids to activities, meals, teen angst, and all other interactions, it will likely be 10:00 PM before I can return to my work or even a sense of quiet. I used to fight this, full of resentment that a traveling husband often meant no break for me. Now, I realize that it’s all about expectations. I expect noise and busyness for afternoon and evenings, and I am therefore present.
And at that magical bedtime hour when the other human and animal inhabitants of the house settle down—the frogs, dogs, and bunny are fed and finding a comfortable spot on a driftwood limb, warm spot in their crates, or a hideaway to nest in, respectively—I start the essential oil diffusers going in the bedrooms and sit down again for that amazing still.
The best part is that Christmas means Immanuel has come. God is always with us when we place our trust in Him.
Psalm 46:10, ESV
Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
This sounds so easy, right? But what about the moments when still is seemingly far from us—and life is not quiet or calm? What about the storms on the sea where were are still rocking ourselves in comfort on a boat that is battered by oncoming surges of water, and we can’t see the Savior walking toward us yet?
Yeah, Bonnie, what about that?
I had few days like that recently. My husband had been gone a week already, and a child was starting to process a scary trip to the ER that almost took us to emergency surgery the week before. Another child had received some very discouraging news that threatened to start a downward spiral. I knew that my husband was unreachable and wasn’t sure when that would change. And I panicked. I thought:
How am I going to manage this alone? I have major decisions to make. Intense parenting to do. Where am I going to find the words to speak? The ability to soothe? How do I find hope and then convey it when I’m not feeling it myself right now?
And then came my crying out to God:
“I’m at the end of my resources, here. What do I do next?”
The answer wasn’t immediate, but the peace, the still, was. Why? Because I asked my Father in heaven for an answer, and He is always Immanuel, God with me, so I knew He heard and would calm my storm. I trust Him.
And then FaceTime happened. (If you know me, you know I hate how invasive FaceTime is). But it didn’t happen to me. Without knowing any of our current woes, my husband suddenly FaceTimed the child who was processing difficult news. My husband is obviously not Jesus, but I view that moment as Jesus walking on water toward us while quieting our sea.
I had to be still to find that moment. It was in the quieting of my spirit, the focusing on the Deliverer, my Christ, that I could approach the throne of grace that the author of Hebrews referred to and truly
know that God is God.
So, I ask you, and I ask me:
Are we thrashing against Advent, bustling around, punching at the air, while we wrap, write cards, finish end-of-year work projects, plan holiday events, and carry on with everyday affairs,
are we grabbing a cuppa and sitting across the table with Jesus?
I don’t want to be the child who only cries out in the storm. How about you?
I want to find the stillness of Immanuel at my table each and every day.
What would help you remember the peace that Christ brings? How can you best know that He is God this season?
I’d love to hear from you!
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.