October 9, 2007

Full Calendars, Full Lives?

It's almost 4:30pm, which is that inevitable time of day when I suddenly remember that I should probably make dinner. Or at the very least start thinking about what I could make. Or something.

This is why we eat so much spaghetti.

The day has been lazy and wonderful- a trip to the library and the park in the brisk fall morning air. A nap that is going on three and a half hours.

I've been wandering around the house today, attempting to get things in order for our guests who are arriving tomorrow. As I move from room to room, straightening and making mental notes of things I don't have the motivation to do today but will most definitely have the motivation to do tomorrow because it is the very last possible day to do them before our friends get here, I have been in nearly constant thought about my purpose here on this earth.

As a stay at home mother to one little boy who is pretty easy breezy for the most part, I often feel like I'm not doing enough. Like my life doesn't have any purpose unless I'm running around at a million miles an hour wanting to pull my hair out. And the question I keep returning to is this:

Does a full calendar equal a full life?

The obvious answer, I'm sure all would agree, is NO. But obvious answers are often the most difficult to accept. It is true that on the rare day that I am really busy doing this or that, I feel more alive. I feel good at the end of the day. I feel like I've accomplished something and I take pleasure in declaring how utterly tired I am to my husband who works hard day after day- like, see? I was busy today and now I have a valid reason to be so tired too! See?

And as harmless as this would all seem, I can't help but be troubled by it to some degree. Because if I am truly feeling like my life has more purpose when I'm running around being busy all day, aren't I answering my previous question with a heartfelt YES? I may claim that a busy life doesn't make a purposeful one, but deep down I think I've been trained to believe otherwise.

Has anyone else noticed how our society doesn't seem to value REST? True rest? The rest that does absolutely nothing all day? Sabbath rest? Rest that doesn't get up to clean the house or rest that doesn't require some form of entertainment to pass the hours? God repeatedly tells us to rest. Because he knows us.

So, here's a new question to ask myself:

Do I believe that God shows His love for me by how much he uses me? Because if I do believe that (and I most certainly do at this point), I am way off base. My worth doesn't come from ink markings in a day planner. The seasons of silence and inactivity in life are just as important as the busy ones. It is during those times God often focuses on relationship and intimacy with Him. (Ummm, super-mega important, no?)

I was outside earlier today trimming my rose bushes and thinking about all of this stuff. Trimming rose bushes is a task that the world might not think has much "purpose" or "worth" in, but I was enjoying myself immensely. I was stepping back to contemplate which branch I should prune next, when I heard the crunch of a dry leaf behind me. I turned to see a woman standing there who had deep scars and markings covering the lower half of her face. I was startled by her presence; I didn't know how long she'd been standing there. As she saw me turn to look at her, she took a few steps closer. I took a few steps towards her as well until we met in the middle of my lawn with a smile and a handshake.

She told me that she was my neighbor. The neighbor that I'd never met or even seen. She apologized for taking so long to introduce herself and welcome us to the neighborhood. She'd just finished another round of extensive chemotherapy and had been unable to do much for some time. The lower left portion of her face was sunken in and the fresh red scars traveled down her neck as well where her lymph nodes had been removed. She told me that she'd battled eight different kinds of cancer over the last fifteen years. She had some trouble speaking- she was missing her upper and lower teeth in the left side of her mouth.

We talked for awhile about little things- about how cute Ezra was and how we both enjoyed the neighborhood so much. She told me how her husband of 40 years decided a couple of years ago that he didn't want to be married anymore and filed for divorce. She said he'd been going through an identity crisis, but how recently he's been coming back around again and has been a tremendous help to her in her time of illness. She told me how she had one daughter, but there was pain in her eyes as she spoke of her.

She lives alone.

I told her I was so very glad to meet her, and that I was around during the days if she ever needed anything at all- that Chris and I would absolutely love to help her in anyway we could. She asked us to pray for her. I told her that we certainly would, and she seemed comforted by this. I felt God stirring my heart while I was speaking to her.

God is amazing. And when I finally take the time to PAUSE and stop freaking out about what I should be doing or not doing and how much I think He's using me or not using me and why or why not that might be, He finally gets a chance to speak to me in the simplest yet most profound ways. Today I felt like he told me, "Just be a neighbor." Simple, yet huge.


Bethy said...

Beautiful, Emery. Your words warm me. I will pray for your neighbor too.

AHS Photography said...

Wow Emery. What a great post. Lately I find myself so stir crazy wondering what my purpose is and what God's plan is for my life, having tons of dreams but no means to get there. But I've realized that today is God's plan for me right now.

Amy said...

Yes, huge indeed.

secret agent mama said...

He spoke to you today, so loud, so clear, so profoundly! You are lucky to have heard it.

Enjoy your company and your neighbor!!

Auntie Candace said...

Wow.....i don't know if there is much else to say.

Anna Peterson said...

I think you are most definitely not alone...a lot of people, including a lot of Christians (me included!) find it so hard to feel validated when we haven't done anything to earn it. I think it goes beyond just being able to rest and still know that we are wholly approved of, but way deeper to the fact that Jesus died for us when we didn't do anything for Him...it's such an awesome thing to learn! It's such a blessing to hear how it is in your life. You are not alone! =)

p.s. thank you SO much for your comment on my blog - I've never actually met you face to face, but I think you are amazingly sweet person =)

dawn224 said...

You are right... you are just so right on.

randomdtd said...

Such an encouraging post! It's so easy to look at others and think we're just not doing enough or we're not good enough, but then God reminds us that He can use anyone in any situation and we're good enough b/c we're His child. thanks for sharing with us and reminding us of this! And thanks for commenting on my blog. At least one person has read it now :)

bravenec said...

i am learning and experiencing the the same thing with my new neighbors. That's ministry!

Anonymous said...

And who'd say that trimming roses wasn't a profoundly purposeful activity? It sounds like God was able to remind you today that you are a gift that He wants to share with the world...not because you're required to be, but because He just loves you so much. it's like you with Ezra; regardless of what he does or doesn't do, you love him and because of that you brag about him and share all the stories of his life. God is with you EmeryJo....wherever, whenever. Keep trimming those roses. ps. I want to meet your neighbor and hug her.

Flo Oakes said...

I am constantly having to be reminded that God's favor rests on no other fact than the fact that I am his child.
No amount of bible reading, committee planning, worship team leading, can change that...not even when I lose the "passion" and my emotions swing back and forth and my faith is shaken.
It all lies in his Grace and the fact that he sees me as his child.
Think about how much you love Ezra.
It doesn't matter if he throws a tantrum or gives you a hug, it didn't matter when he was a baby just poopin' his diaper or if he were older and reciting arithmetic, you are always proud of him, and you always love him, and you would give your life for him in a second.
That's what we have with our father.
Amazing grace. Hallelujah!

Rimarama said...

God sure does value rest. It's when He speaks to us the loudest.

Your posts always give me pause, Emery Jo! Thank you.

Court said...

Love this post! God is so good.

Hunny Bee May said...

Same boat, same struggle, same questions asked. And coming to the same conclusion, though you put it so much more beautifully than I could. It's amazing to see how we are all so spread out, in different places and situations and yet we all are so much the same too. And everyday we have the opportunity to share our rest and peace with others who can't seem to find it. May God bless you in your pursuit to bless others around you.

PneumaProject said...

WORD sista!

oakie joel said...

yes yes yes. i have tears for your neighbor and a sense that i should take some time to meet my neighbors and love them with a simple love. can't wait to hang with you & chris and cam & anna and my bro. thanks for sharing friend.

Hannah said...

I heard a sermon a while back. It's main message was "where ever you are, be all there" God has put us each in specific places for specific purpose. We have ministries in our lives that may seem so trivial to us but God knows of their importance. I realy believe that your neighbor is one of your ministries. It seems like she has a lot of pain that needs healing and I'm not just talking about the cancer.

You are so encouraging to me Emery!

Stephanie said...

You are such an amazing person Emery!

piper of love said...

emery of love, you are such a blessing...such a great writer...such an inspiration!

Anonymous said...

beautiful, simply beautiful.

3 1/2 hour naps??? What is your secret?


Momo Fali said...

That was beautiful. And, what I find most amazing is how God puts us where He wants us to be. He had you out there pruning for a reason. You're life has more purpose than you'll ever know!

Maggie said...

it seems like almost every time i'm feeling really blah and thinking too much and feeling sorry for myself, you write about something that makes me go, YES! that's it!! THANK YOU for finding a way to put my abstract thoughts into words.

Kerry said...

Well said Emery. I have been feeling burdened to reach out to my neighbors but just don't know how to go about it somedays. Just tonight while driving in the car God put someone on my mind to invite over for dinner. It scares me a little but I pray I have the courage to follow through and obey God's leading.

And I also can relate to your struggle to find purpose. Especially as a SAHM. It's been on my mind a lot more lately as I feel like there's more to my life than playdates and diapers.