Living an Unhurried Life

What would it look like to live life unhurried?

When I thought of 2019 I had this question come to my mind, especially the last word. I haven’t made New Year’s resolutions in a hot minute but I was willing to consider this.

I wanted my second year of seminary to be different. I wanted to avoid burnout at all costs. Now a couple weeks into January and half way through this second year I’ve already been tempted to jump 3 steps ahead of myself. My graduation date is set and my mind can only think of all the factors involved for a post-grad move, the next apartment, the next job, the next set of bills, and so on. I ended up writing down all the things I wasn’t allowed to worry about on a post-it note and stuck it on the fridge.

If I rush through my classes, or dinner, or my conversation with a friend, then I’m really not allowing myself to enjoy that person or meal in front of me, no matter how simple the interaction seems. I want to be present with those I’m with and in the work I do, otherwise it’s all meaningless. Living unhurried is trusting God’s timing and faithfulness over my own.

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Photo: Morgan Sessions

This isn’t to say you won’t find me late and rushing to a meeting or procrastinating from day to day. (My entire life!) My point in this is to say that life is quick. We’re finite creatures. I don’t want to get so busy or overwhelmed that I miss what God put right in front of me.

It takes serious discipline to tame all the worries and focus on the task at hand. And it certainly doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a muscle you have to continue to strengthen over the course of your life since there will always be new things to do and people to see.

I working on using some of these habits to slow down and savor where I’m at. I’m not perfect at any of them, but I invite you to try them with me.

  • Going on a walk outside. (Or a few minutes of stretching. Because New England winters.) Fresh air is underrated, especially on cooler days.
  • Setting aside social media for a period of time. I deleted the Instagram app off my phone at the beginning of January. Before that I combed through my followers/following and deleted over 400 accounts that did not “spark joy” as Marie Kondo would say. It felt good. I kept Facebook, which is the next app I’ll work on separating myself from. Maybe for Lent.
  • Practicing a consistent Sabbath. Everything is finished on Saturday or I won’t look at it until Monday. Sundays are now a favorite of mine. I look forward to spending a full day unhurried with Aaron and engaging with our church community.
  • Call a friend on the phone. Yes, the actual telephone! Aaron is much better at this than I am, but I’ll get there. A perfectly good substitution for a phone call is a handwritten note.
  • Carefully crafting my week. My explanation is oversimplified and it takes some tweaking, but I started to visually organize my weeks in a way that allows me to focus on a task at a time and balances the priorities in my life. My mind and body are way more focused and I feel more “productive,” which really means I’m more satisfied with the quality of work I produce, not the amount.
  • Grocery shopping with a purpose. Since the new year our kitchen has been primary Paleo and meal planning has become even more important. It’s been a kick in the pants to plan ahead. (Have you heard the phrase, fail to plan or plan to fail?)
  • Reading book in the evening. Screens are awful. News is not a bedtime story. Get off the phone, Elizabeth. Read a damn book.

…and a (responsible) glass of wine at the end of a long day might not hurt either.

What helps you slow down?

 

A Year of Bravery

This year has been one to remember.

2018 has felt almost like a desert with long dry patches of loneliness and heartache, stress and uncertainty. There have been moments of peace, like the day Aaron came home or time spent with family. These past 12 months have pushed me to redefine what success looks like and to reconsider what my faith in God looks like in the ordinary day to day. I’ve learned more about what I cannot do, rather than what I am able to do. (I have the hunch that this is all life ever teaches us and perhaps success is found where we least expect it.)

I’d like to think that I have been brave throughout most of my life so far, but this year held a few more opportunities to test that and this was also reflected in the books I read. (This is not to say the challenges in my life are anywhere near comparable to the stories of Dorothy Day or Howard Thurman, but they have been excellent examples of strength and courage.)

Here is a complete list of the 60 some books I read this year. (Isn’t Goodreads cool?) Sixty is quite a few, averaging a little more than a book a week, but I sure didn’t keep that pace. I reread several books. I fell deeper in love with the Chronicles of Narnia and Liturgy of the Ordinary and my perspective and understanding of Divided by Faith’s message and methodology shifted. Below are some books that really caught my attention.

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Photo: Joyce McCown

 

In no particular order, these books shaped my 2018.

Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

This is a small, but powerful book that helped continue to shape my understanding of racial reconciliation. I recommend this to anyone and everyone.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom’s brave journey through the Holocaust emphasized human dignity, prayer, and forgiveness. I read it in one sitting.

The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day

I wrote a paper on Dorothy Day’s spirituality this past semester knowing little to nothing about her. She is one of my new heroines; she was incredible! This book is her autobiography. She wrote for a living, so just in case you fall in love with her, there are so many more chances to read about her life and faith.

The Story of Christianity, Volumes 1 and 2 by Justo Gonzalez

I believe studying church history made the difference for my faith. These books are easy to read volumes that are very engaging and well written. The chapters are pretty short, which I found helpful.

The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen by Lisa Gungor

I love just about anything put out by the Gungors. Lisa’s story is so beautifully written. I cried and laughed. In some ways it felt like she had been writing to me. I also read this in one evening. I couldn’t put it down.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

This book made more sense after getting married and walking through some other pain.  I sobbed all the way through. In contrast to The Problem of Pain, this book doesn’t try to make reasonable arguments about suffering. (Pain isn’t reasonable.) This story reveals how Lewis understood and handled his own grief after losing his wife.

Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism by Deborah Jian Lee

These stories are more common than white evangelicals might like to acknowledge. Lee’s book validated my own experience as a woman in the church. (!!!) The stories she presents are real and worth your time.

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

This book is important. There is also a documentary based on this book, as well as another book written in response titled Half the Church.

The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah

If you have not yet critiqued your Christian faith, or perhaps you have lost hope for evangelical Christianity, I would recommend this book. Rah is convicting, but also hopeful.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This is a fictional story that captured my attention from the start. I haven’t read other books by this author, but I would dare believe this is her best book. This book made me squirm and at some points I wanted to throw my book across the room. This story is incredibly moving and all too real. The ending is unexpected, but worth it. Easily one of my favorites.

There are many other books I could have listed, but selected just a few that impacted me in specific ways. Each story was full of courage, despite the cost of sharing their experience or the pain of loss in their lives. Their examples dared me to be brave. Challenge yourself to read something out of the box in 2019 or find a reading challenge that keeps your eyes open for authors of color and stories of a different culture or ideology. Let me know what you find!

What did you read this year? 

Grateful

Thanksgiving can be a complicated holiday to celebrate. I’ll keep it simple. Here are 10 things I’m grateful for.

  1. My faith, which has more questions than answers these days.
  2. Aaron’s presence at home. Last year we weren’t as lucky.
  3. A family who embraces our polished & raw sides and still says, “I’m proud of you.”
  4. Books, books, books! Reading has been transformational for me this year. (Again.)
  5. Morning light.
  6. Meals shared with friends or family.
  7. A New England fall and the associated cozy, wool socks.
  8. Photo albums at Grandma’s house.
  9. Free laundry machines.
  10. My application to graduate has been submitted. The end is almost in sight!

What are you thankful for?

We spent our Thanksgiving holiday in California and Arizona. It was smokey from the fires, but we still explored Sacramento, Sequoia National Park and (somewhat) enjoyed the 10 hour drive to Phoenix. I’m happy Aaron was able to meet several of my cousins and almost all my aunts and uncles during this trip. For a fairly last minute decision, it worked out well.

As a wrap up this fall semester in the next couple weeks, I’m amazed at how fast these classes flew by. I’m working through one of my final projects, research on Dorothy Day’s spirituality, so please keep me in your prayers as I complete all the things on my metaphorical desk! I recently applied to graduate, which means spring graduation is right around the corner. I’m so grateful I’ve been able to work through these subjects and study in such a beautiful place.

Grace and peace,

Elizabeth

 

Shalom No. 2

This summer we took a hard look at our life and decided to make some adjustments so we’d have the space to rest and reconnect after Aaron’s long absence. (Read a little more about those adjustments here.) One of our priorities was rest, which involved a change in our spirituality.

Aaron and I have long discussed our own understandings of theology and what that might look like in our home and our community. (One of the most interesting conversations we had happened a few days into married life when we discovered we had opposite views on child dedication vs. baptism. It was not the most inspiring conversation, I’ll tell you that much. At one point I even swore I would never become Anglican.) After a year in seminary and additional conversations in regards to communion, baptism, music, liturgy, doctrine, social justice, ordination — we’ve finally reached some common ground.

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An example of how stained glass windows in a church can tell the Story of Christ. 

That being said, we’ve found immense value in the Anglican tradition. Aaron’s been Anglican for a number of years, so the transition was made that much easier. A liturgical tradition (or denomination) is very different than either of us grew up with, but throughout college and further study we grew to love the new elements of worship. There are several types of liturgical traditions and a few different styles of Anglican worship. Our church is associated with Anglican Church in North America. Charismatic or more reserved, conservative or liberal, contemporary or traditional — there’s room for anyone.

One of the most significant themes that drew me to this decision was the emphasis on our small space in a much larger Story. The rhythm of the church calendar, the centrality of the eucharist, the hymns (and contemporary music!), the weekly teachings, and the missional outreach of the tradition invited us into take part in an ancient narrative.

“Participating in the liturgy of the worldwide Christian community, whether on a Sunday morning or at another time, is more than attending a service or a prayer meeting. It is about entering a story. It is about orienting our lives around what God has been doing throughout history. And it is about being sent forth into the world to help write the next chapter of that story.” — Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

I was hesitant to embrace liturgy at first because it appeared to be repetitive and stale. But it made sense as I thought of the daily rhythms we engage in: making meals, greeting each other after a long day, or the way we get dressed in the morning. These things happen every day, but they are life-giving times that vary in expression all the time. They provide needed structure and help us remember the faithfulness of our Provider, to love those around us, and to care for ourselves. These are not stale or powerless activities, but the very life we live and breathe, activities that hold immense meaning. The repetitive nature is very helpful since humans so easily forget the Story they’re apart of.

Speaking the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed, passing the peace, confessing corporate and personal sin, and receiving the eucharist each week is new to me, but it’s beautiful. We’ve most often attended a contemporary Anglican service, but the traditional service that includes a choir, bells, and incense is incredible to be a part of. Each portion of either service invites participation with all senses.

“The incarnation and resurrection of Jesus show us that God takes our physical selves very seriously. We are spiritual beings, but we are also soul and body…In liturgical worship, you have many opportunities to use your body. You’ll get to use your mouth, lungs, and voice…All the senses are involved in worship because God designed us to experience the world in all of these ways.” — Thomas McKenzie, The Anglican Way

We recognize our time and space to worship is important outside the church walls too. Worship takes many forms. Sabbath is one example of this. We’ve consistently kept Sunday as a Sabbath for the past few months, meaning there’s no school work or side jobs on the agenda. The morning is spent at church and our afternoon and evening is open to take a walk, sit in a coffee shop, read a book, watch a movie, sleep, etc. We spend time with each other, often times with friends. We prioritize this time because we have experienced the burnout that comes without rest.

“What is the Sabbath? Spirit in the form of time. With out bodies we belong to space; our spirit, our souls, soar to eternity, aspire to the holy. The Sabbath is an ascent to the summit. It gives us the opportunity to sanctify time, to raise the good to the level of the holy, to behold the holy by abstaining from profanity.” — Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

Heschel taught from a Jewish perspective, but his thoughts on the Sabbath are still relevant to us as Christians. In his book, The Sabbath, he eloquently explains the meaning and purpose of the seventh day. (He articulates it much better than I could do here, so I encourage you to pick up a copy.) Just as our church services seek to connect us to a larger Story through a type of Christian liturgy, the Sabbath is the piece of this story embodied in our physical, emotional, spiritual activity and calendar rhythms.

For this season, Anglicanism suits us well! We have been really encouraged. It’s brought a certain clarity we didn’t quite have before. Our schedules are just as full, but we know our efforts on the first six days are more likely to be sustainable when we choose to consistently engage in the Sabbath (and associated liturgy) with each part of who we are.

Do you keep a day for Sabbath or rest?

Books mentioned in this post (and couple bonus reads!):

Woman

I’m writing this post mainly as a means to share this Dorothy Sayers quote. I’ve read it multiple times and it still moves me each time.

“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.” ― Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society

I was in college before I realized what “minority” actually meant in today’s world. It’s often used with a foundation in technical, numerical data, but more often than not it’s used to describe voices that may be considered to be less meaningful than the authority of a white male “majority.” In America immigrants, refugees, LGBT+, non-white persons, and women historically and presently (!!) have found their place in the “minority.” As a white evangelical woman raised in the US I find myself at an intersection of privilege and silence. So here I am with a few biases I’m trying to shake and a few discoveries I’m still processing. Walk with me.

A quick google search of “women” in the news category highlights themes of sexual assault, motherhood, pushes for gender equality in sports, business leadership, and the military, among other health and social issues. A generic google search yields a few links to dictionary definitions, but noticeably third on the list is GQ’s shortcut to “Sexy Women: Photos and Videos of Hot Actresses.” A telling (and repulsive) result to land amongst the definition of the term. Yet, not surprising. Women and girls have been reduced to sexual objects for centuries.

I say all this to simply bring your attention to your very own friends, your momma and your sisters, your neighbors, the cranky woman in the check out line, or the lady at work that looks or speaks a little differently. One in three have experienced sexual violence. One in four girls have been sexually abused. (These are statistics based on those who have reported their experiences. This is significant. More information on sexual violence for both men and women can be found here.)

How many more have received unwanted comments about their clothes or bodies? How many more are paid less than male counterparts? How many more don’t have access to education, healthcare, or land ownership? Saudi Arabia just lifted it’s driving restrictions for women. The glass ceiling might have been shattered by a few courageous women over the years, but we still have work to do. Token representation won’t do. Double standards aren’t cutting it. Is it any wonder women are speaking up?

 “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” ― Arundhati Roy, Sydney Peace Prize Lecture

Perhaps you think the #metoo movement or the women’s march are too dramatic or overly political (and sometimes agendas DO overwhelm the message, but everyone has agendas…), maybe you’ve never witnessed the women in your life make choices to protect themselves (from pepper spray to modesty) or you’ve never been personally targeted on the street or in the workplace (comments made in “jest” and catcalls included) — I’d suggest you may not be looking hard enough and you might be perpetuating a system of inequality.

These hashtags and stories and the movements and headlines aren’t meant to be a threat to men as much as they are a threat to the systems of thought and behavior that have come to be accepted in that women have limited value and are to be controlled and directed by men, strangers, co-workers or husbands alike. Men need women who are strong and full of life and grace, boldness and truth. Likewise, women need men!

 “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” – Audre Lorde

The first few thoughts that come to mind when I think of women, specifically the women around me: incredibly strong, yet tender and kind, both intelligent and beautiful, bold, loyal, clever, and worthy of respect. Women have fed me physically and spiritually, they’ve gone before and pioneered a path for me, they’ve taught me to take seemingly desolate or plain spaces and turn them into a place of healing and hope, and to stand up in the city hall for justice, even when my knees shake.

It’s because of the tenacity and boldness of women before and around me that I naively entered the man’s world of an evangelical seminary thinking it wasn’t something to write home about. Come to find out, I am one of the few exceptions to the rule. (Sometimes if you walk in like you know what you’re doing no one says anything…) Courage, endurance, leadership, joy — these are characteristics of women (humans) worldwide.

If you notice similar attributes in your family or community don’t be shy! Speak up and recognize women (and most certainly men!) who are making equality the norm. Donate and/or volunteer to non-profits/organizations that advocate for women’s rights, health, or education. Give your kiddos lots of examples for healthy friendships/intimate relationships. Talk about consent for Pete’s sake!

As it’s been said before, inequality hurts both sides.

“Women hold up half the sky.” — Chinese Proverb

If you’re up for adding something to your reading list, I liked these:

  • Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • Forgive Us by Lisa Harper, Mae Elise Cannon, Soong-Chan Rah, and Troy Jackson
  • Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

You know me, always open to read your favorites too!