Most of you know I spend a great deal of time reading about “mission,” what with being a Mission Pastor & all. On Mondays, I try to get your thoughts going about stuff I read. Today’s thoughts come from by Tsh Oxenreider in her book Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.
I loved the dinner table. Both the physical table and the intangible effect of making our house a home.
We got the table my great-aunt purchased after World War II in a confluence of her demise and our wedding. Since I was the youngest of my cousins to get married they already had dining room tables, so they moved on to other pretty cool antiques as the estate was divvied up.
Our family was committed to the dinner hour around that very table. Everyone living in our house (which included teens who wound up living with us for a time–a youth ministry occupational hazard) and anyone who was visiting had to sit and eat and play “Highs & Lows.” Pretty simple, really. After work, school or Mother’s Day Out or whatever, in between homework and bed/bath time, just talk about the best part & worst part of your day.
Kid1 stayed pretty true to first-born pattern of dutiful reporting on them. Kid2 stayed pretty true to creativity and innovation by never having a low and listing about 5 high points. The teenagers played along. The guests played along. More often than not, each report garnered questions or comments or a story that related to whatever the highs and lows were. A lot of laughs happened around that table, for sure. A few serious times, too.
And then it drifted away as the kids got older. Teams required practices. Dance required diligence. The social life wasn’t gonna tend to itself. Study groups and study breaks. Driver’s licenses and loud music with windows down happened. We were lucky if we could have dinner once a week around that table and we tried to make it happen as often as we could.
But the reason it worked (and later drifted to morning coffee dates with Kid1 & Kid2) was because we were committed to it. By intent. It was a rule. We wanted to slow down at some point in the late-middle of the day and check-in. See how things were going. A nice meal that took some time to prepare meant the missus & I had a few moments in the kitchen to touch base beforehand. Time lingering over the table. Those things were valuable.
I wrestled with the tension in losing it, too. I was making trades in values because if I stood on my principle, my kid would be the one who suffered. Miss practice because of dinner? Rehearsal for the company spots lost because I wanted my lemon chicken with yellow rice? Not going to the meet the teacher nights? Even telling the 16-year-old she had to eat with the parents instead of her friends before the recital/game/show/movie (hey, I was 16 3 decades ago, right)?
Conversations with all the parents I knew usually involved that tension, too. They all involved the same ingredients: a teen involved in something they loved, an inflexible schedule imposed by the head of the thing they loved, school responsibilities, work responsibilities, and a love/longing for the next school holiday or weather event that would allow the family some down time. Down time usually defined by binge-watching and staying in the house in comfy clothes.
We all wanted the same things.
We all wanted to be still…even though the busy comes from good things, right? Just some margin, right? Not full-blown lazy but just enough time to slow it all down and be about what we’re supposed to be about, right?
And, Tsh Oxenreider put these things into words on page 21 & 22 of her newest book (tip of the hat to Amber Black for the recommendation):
Perhaps none of us were actually made to live a hurried life. Perhaps a desire to live slowly and intentionally resonated deeply in the core DNA of just about all of us…almost everybody in my life stage–parents with kids at home–craved a slower life. They, too, craved a more meaningful life, a life that made margin for doing nothing, for not bowing down to calendars, for saying yes to long walks with the kids and cooking seasonally from scratch because there was time. With few exceptions, we all wanted the same things…One thing was apparent: going with the flow and living like everyone else does not automatically guarantee a slower life. My nudge from God was true; living slower requires living with intention. And to live with intention means to make little daily choices that resonate deeply in our souls–that make sense deep in our being and ring true.
Tsh hits on it. We crave a more meaningful life. We’re all tired of bowing down to calendars.
Then she hits on the hard part: We’re going to have to live by intent and make a series of little choices. The dinner table highs & lows will drift and morph if we don’t make them, man. Will they ever.
I’ve found that living on mission requires that very reality, too. Want to meet the neighbors who come in through the garage and sit behind privacy fences? Gonna have to decide to walk the dog instead of coming in through my own garage and vegging-out in front of the game. Want to think deep thoughts? Gotta pick good books and read and reflect instead of losing an hour to social media. Wanna get in shape? Gonna have to be disciplined about the diet and carve out some time to exercise. Wanna have some quiet time to think through who you are and what you’re about? May have to journal and wake up earlier before the house gets revved up.
Wanna have that time to be still and know he’s God? Crave a more meaningful life? Make sense deep in our being and ring true?
…so today, what little choice should be made to create margin for doing what’s really important to us (including time to do nothing)?