The Art of Being Still

10. The Art of Being Still Life Out Here

How do you find (creative) ways to be still throughout your busy day?

“350 degrees.”

“10-12 minutes.” 

In a flurried moment, these were the eye-catching numbers that told me all I needed to know about the Cherrywood Smoked Carving Ham. 

“Ten minutes for every pound, right?” Zach asked when, after ten minutes at 350,  the ham was decidedly lukewarm. 

I retreated to the cold, dark garage. 

But not to have a little cry on my little pity pot. And not to blow-off steam, though I was frustrated. In fact, for the way the day had gone, it was miraculous not to feel volcanic or to feel like crawling into the van for a long winter’s nap. 

No, I retreated to the cold, dark garage merely to grab pre-bagged goldfish buried deep in the deep diaper bag which had been pre-packed in the van the night before. Oh, the pre-packed van. In a moment of rare forethought,  I had packed it the night before to ensure an on-time arrival to an early “mask-only” church  service. It was to be our second attempt at an off-base church service since arriving in July. 

That was before the neighborhood avalanche. 

Let me back-up.

It’s April and the remaining snowpack is incredible. Layers and layers of snow dating back to those November days when the light lingered well after dinner and moose foraged amid the sugar-coated hills. Now the sun lingers five minutes longer each spring day and relentless recreators trigger avalanches all throughout Chugach State Park. Or, more commonly, it’s those balmy temperatures creating ice-sheets of old snow mixed with sticky layers of new snow and a wicked southerly wind triggering these sometimes lethal slides. I’ve looked out across our canyon each day to look for new slides and have often seen them.

We woke just early enough to rally ourselves for the hour drive to the church service in question. With our bags packed, our kids dressed, and time on our side, I was carefree in drying my hair. 

The cloaked rising of the sun revealed more snow than we’d perceived earlier. Zach thought to check the road conditions. 

Avalanche. Road blockage. A determined pick-up truck was stuck in the snow like its tires had lingered too long in wet cement. The driver posted pictures. The whole waking neighborhood waited for the Department of Transportation to pick-up the phone. I suggested a pancake breakfast and a quick family photoshoot before the holiday chaos could muss our Easter best. 

Sometime between Izaak refusing to look at the camera, the realization that I had neglected to set out the yeast rolls to prove, and retrieving pre-bagged goldfish to tide-over hungry egg hunters, I reflected upon a few key truths.

First of all, you can be the world’s best planner and have it all thwarted by a neighborhood avalanche.

Second of all. 

Well, actually, I think that’s it. That’s my big takeaway from Easter 2021. 

We all know this, don’t we? We’ve all been there. You do your best to prepare for “x,” but “y and z” follow suit as they always do. Yet, learning to anticipate “y” and “z” is not enough. Planning for the unexpected does not guarantee your spirit will stay unruffled (and, after years of learning the hard way, an unruffled spirit is what I’m really after.). In light of last year’s experience, I was hyper-focused on the candy but neglected Easter Dinner. I was hyper-focused (and successful!) at rallying the troops for church but an avalanche kept us home.

Whether it’s a crazy force of nature or your own self, you can never know what might get in your way until it’s there. That’s when the discipline of preparing your heart comes in handy. 

In the daily, maddening rush of it all, I am sweet Martha, hyperfocused on the superfluous and negligent of what is better. This is not to say I run about un-prayerful and unaware of God, but I am very good at writing to-do lists,  planning schedules, living from one task to the next with a long-term goal in mind, going over my weaknesses and creating action plans to do it better next time. I do well at overworking myself. I sometimes get antsy when I stop to pray or reflect or just be still. 

I’m not talking about mere rest; I’m talking about a more sustainable kind of stillness, and the art of being still is more of a lifestyle than one blissful moment in time. The art of being still is not so much about your ability to tune out everything and focus on the Creator. It’s more about learning how to tune in despite all the noise. It’s more about allowing his Spirit to commune with yours, an art form which requires more yielding and less initiation on our part. It’s about striving less for perfection and seeking Perfection himself. 

As a perfectionist, I can tell you my need for schooling in the art of being still will last a lifetime. My insufficiency at the art of being still is why I keep coming back to the same frantic moments in which I can either bemoan the injustice of it all or see far enough past tangible chaos to glimpse the reason for it all. 

When I chose the retrieval of pre-bagged goldfish over my pity pot, I saw a little more clearly. And when I chose to see the blessing in fussy children and a living room riddled with plastic Easter debris, I saw even more clearly why striving to be the world’s best planner is a waste of time.

How do you find (creative) ways to be still throughout your busy day? Muse over this privately, or offer your insight for polite conversation in the comments section or in the Facebook Group, Life Out Here.

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