Thursday, May 8, 2014

Redeeming Time

This is my fourth post in a series on Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. Each post will cover one of the eleven chapters of this book on seeing God and learning how to live fully... right where you are. Each post will be tagged 05/2014 and One Thousand Gifts. All quotes in italics are from the book.

Chapter 4: A Sanctuary of Time

Oh, chapter four. Chapter four had me whooping and hollering. Chapter four looked me straight in the eyes and said, "This is for you. Enjoy." Chapter four opened a gate somewhere in my fence and let me out, let me run, set me free. Chapter four is about redeeming time.

Ever since I became a mom, I feel like someone has been siphoning off my time. Surely I used to have more. Where is it going? Once my daughter arrived, this only compounded. I know our experience was strange at first; not all second-time-parents spend the first two months shuttling back and forth from the hospital. But still. Even once she was home. Even once things evened out. I just felt swamped all the time, like I was running this crazy race only to end up still behind, someone whining or crying because I couldn't bring it all together fast enough.

I tried reading about time management and strategies to get myself together a little better. That helped some. But it didn't touch the reality that so much of my life -- so much of every parent's life -- is doing for the kids. If not directly (feeding, diapering, bathing, playing, loving, soothing), then indirectly (cleaning, considering, mothering myself, sleeping). I can organize my life like I'm running a ship, but I still have to contend with all the things that need to be done -- and do them. The other day, I read a really lovely post from a blogger I enjoy in which she shared a quote from her husband's grandmother (who raised eight children): "Whether you have one child or eight, that's all you do." YES! Megan goes on to say, "My days were filled with mothering when I had only Dacey, and my days are filled with mothering now that I have a nine year old, a six year old, and a pair of one year olds to keep up with." This is me. This resonates so deeply with me.

Ever since these babies, I've been in a little war with time. I never have enough and I never know exactly how to spend the minutes I have. I needed to redeem time.

"I don't really want more time; I just want enough time... not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done -- yesterday. In a world with... its 'live in the moment' buzz phrase that none of the whirl-weary seem to know how to do, who actually knows how to take time and live with soul and body and God all in sync? ... I just want time to do my one life well."

This is where I whooped. "YES!" "YES! YES! YES! Thank you!!!!" People tell you, "Your kids grow up so fast and you'll miss it if you blink, cherish every moment" and then other people respond with, "You don't remember how hard it was to raise your kids, you don't want to cherish all these moments" and it leaves me feeling... whirled, as Ann says. So yes, tell me to "live in the moment" if you wish but I have no idea how to do that without feeling like my head might explode. Anyone can experience this, not just parents with littles. The moment is here, and then it passes. How do I live in it? How do I grasp onto it when it's a moving object? I feel like you're telling me to jump onto a moving train.

But here it is, y'all. Here is where the light bulbs all flicked on and the switches all clicked. Here is where I learned to redeem time:

"The real problem of life is never a lack of time.
The real problem of life -- in my life -- is a lack of thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying happens when I give thanks -- take the just one loaf, say it is enough, and give thanks -- and He miraculously makes more than enough... When I fully enter time's swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here... I redeem time from neglect and apathy and inattentiveness when I swell with thanks and weigh the moment down and it's giving thanks to God for this moment that multiplies the moments, time made enough."

Seriously, with all truth, with all honesty, this made me cry. With a baby nearing a year old and a two-and-a-half year old who I swear grew three inches last night, I feel like my life has been slipping away from me, numbered not in moments but in baths and diaper changes and in feeding yet another mouth. I feel like the hour glass has been poured open and I'm grasping desperately to catch all the falling sand, just to hold on for another moment, to go back, to see again, to really live. I've not known how to live in those moments, only that I feel like I should, but I couldn't get it all together, couldn't get all the pieces working as one.

At the heart of this for me is a thoughtfulness. I can't live my days unengaged. I can't spend my time frivolously. It drives me bonkers. I have to know what I am doing with myself. And I have to know why. The real problem in my struggle with time is that my control freak nature did not know how to receive. I thought my problem was ordering, that I needed to name all my ducks and put them in their rows and suddenly I would have enough time; I would be able to live well. No. Instead, I needed to receive my time from God, see Him in my moments, and thank Him for every one. This is my what: giving thanks to God. And this is my why: to bring glory to Him. I thank God for the coffee my husband brewed me and I bring glory to Him. I thank God for fresh vegetables and give glory to Him. I thank God for the clover in the cracks of our sidewalk and I bring glory to Him. I know my what and my why. I have redeemed time.

"It's not the gifts that fulfill, but the holiness of the space. The God in it."

When you stand before God, hands open, ready to receive, God gives and gives and gives and gives. And the gifts are wonderful. Coffee, sweet peppers, life growing in hard places. They are beautiful and tantalizing and heart-swelling. But ultimately, they are from God. And that gives them worth. That gives them value and weight and necessity. We have to spend our lives hands open and waiting because "here is the only place I can love Him." 

"Life is not an emergency. Life is eucharisteo... 'Wherever you are, be all there' is only possible in the posture of eucharisteo. I want to slow down and taste life, give thanks, and see God."

I have redeemed time. And now, I have so many moments. Open-handed, I receive the gift, I name the gift, I thank God for it, and I offer it back to Him. It was not mine to begin with, and it is not mine to end with. But this process, this eyes- and hands-open waiting, this seeing and naming, this thanking: it redeems time from "neglect and apathy and inattentiveness" and it gives me back my moments. When I read back over my journal of gifts, I am transported. I am taken back to those moments and I can see them again as if I were standing there. Instead of trying to hang on to those pieces like clinging to the back of a moving train, I offer those moments back to God and the gift of my true presence there, the "reward" for my offering, is the honor of seeing God and the joy of remembering Him there.

Living "in the moment" absent of finding God there can only be fulfilling for so long. I can only swell with existence in the same place so many times. I can only appreciate the same people and trees and flowers so many times. But when each seeing and feeling and being is an opportunity to meet God in the moment -- it never gets old. We never tire of meeting God. It is our heart's deepest and most real desire. I can see my son's serious shaking head as he tells me, "No hold punder (thunder)" and I can feel my heart laughing at his sweet two-year-old mind, the creativity and the life that God has given him. "You don't have to hold the thunder, baby." I can see the clouds rolling in through the sky, heavy and dark, and remember the exact smell of the air before they opened up, and I marvel -- again and again -- at the majesty of God. I can remember that bunny rabbit hopping through our yard as the woman on the other line delivered me strange and scary news, and I can remember thinking, "Thank you, God, for bunny rabbits and for strange and scary news," and I can feel my heart drop and soar and wait, hands-open, for what God will give next.

I get to feel this life. I get to live it! No, I don't receive every moment like this. I forget and get hurried and flustered and worried. But then I remember and I stop. And I smell my hungry toddler's clean head and I give thanks for him. The frustration in the room melts away and I feed him with a smile of true gratitude. I wipe my angry baby's tears and I thank God for her tenacity (without which she might not still be with us) and I hold her with an open heart. I apologize to my husband and I thank God for the security of our marriage covenant, knowing that he will forgive me because he promised (nearly six years ago) that he always would, and we repair the wounds that life brings between us and we see each other as gifts.

It's not that suddenly my days are all sunshine and roses without a problem or care in the world. It's that suddenly, God is in every moment of my day. And His holiness fills my life like air and I breathe Him in until I can't any more. And then I exhale with total thankfulness, and breathe Him in all over again. This is life. This is living. This is how we redeem time.

"This is where God is. In the present. I AM -- His very name. I want to take shoes off. I AM, so full of the weight of the present, that time's river slows to a still... and God Himself is timeless... This is supreme gift, time, God Himself framed in moment. I hardly breathe... and time is of the essence, because time is the essence of God, I AM. This I need to consecrate: time."

Tune back in on Saturday, 5/10, for my post on Chapter 5: What in the World, In All This World, Is Grace?

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