When we first got home from our family trip, I was determined to take my sweet Texas time … to really learn, as Dallas Willard said, to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” in Los Angeles. I am finding that is easier said than done.
There is an internal rush within me even when I close the doors and should be secluded from the hurry. Truly slowing down is more than just a decision and maybe for me, the only reason I accomplish this in Texas is because I have nothing that I really have to do.
Now that I’m home I’m realizing that hurry isn’t a switch. I can’t turn it off or on to suit the occasion. Taking my sweet Texas time at home in California is a decision I am trying to make moment by moment.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to our pastor before church about how much slower life is in Texas, and being a native Californian, he asked “Do you think it’s Texas, or vacation?” Like Matt and me, he and his wife talk about what is different on vacation — what do we give up when we get home and why do we give it up? And how do we hold onto it?
And what is it?
For me, it is placing relationship over accomplishment; relishing the quiet moments of ordinary, understanding that miracles happen in the mundane everyday; it is laughing at myself when I make mistakes instead of grumbling over the time I wasted when I didn’t get it right the first time.
So I have to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life.
This weekend I was confronted with hurry several times. When you have four kids it is bound to happen, and if I don’t seize it, hurry will control my life.
I’m learning that to remove this rush from my days, I have to remain true to the things that give rhythm to my life — to our home and our family. We live completely isolated from all our relatives. My kids don’t have things like a weekly meal at their grandparents’ house that they look forward to; they don’t play with cousins regularly. They don’t even have a home that has been theirs for the whole of their lives, but they do have traditions.
When Matt was first starting out in vocational ministry, I was a full time teacher and mother, and we were blessed to live on the high school campus where I taught. Wednesday evenings, Matt was at work and I was at home with a tiny Lucas. Those were special times. I would make home-made mac and cheese and we would read extra books and sing extra songs and cuddle a little longer before bed.
When I was pregnant with Bethany, I would pick Lucas up from the babysitter, and we would drive through Jack ‘n the Box and get a milkshake to split, head over to the church and eat with Daddy and the student ministry volunteers, and then enjoy worship before going up to Matt’s office to rock and sing until Luke fell asleep.
As we had more children and Matt’s position changed and changed again at the church, our traditions have evolved. When Matt worked Sunday evenings, snack night replaced dinner as we watched a movie before bed. As the kids got older and hungrier Sunday became pizza and salad night, and to this day on Sunday afternoon you will find me making pizza dough and preparing toppings, toasting home made croutons and whisking up my favorite salad dressing.
We now have Mexican food on Tuesdays, slow cooker meals on Wednesdays, Kids’ Choice (and take out for the parents for in-house date night) on Thursdays, Pasta Bowl Fridays, Homemade muffins on Saturday mornings, and Pizza and Salad Night on Sundays, not to mention the meals and special events that signal the beginning of holiday season for the kids.
Routine helps me plan.
Rhythms help us slow down.
I grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada, eating fried rice, and drinking a “brown cow” every Saturday night, but until a couple years ago we never did anything like that with our family. So I decided that during college football season, we would watch the Texas A & M game, enjoy a fun meal , and we would whoop and gig ’em every Saturday afternoon.
This weekend, I took a vote and the kids decided on calzones to go with our Aggie festivities. Now if you’ve ever been with young kids and invited them to help in your kitchen, this is a recipe for slowing down.
I spent a lot of time on Saturday getting all the fillings ready, and as the game was winding (disappointingly) down, I called the kids into the dining room and we made our own calzones.
The Aggies lost the game, but something about joining together in cheering on a common cause … about the jumping and dancing at the high points, and the “you’ve got to be kidding me” at the low points, brings us together. There is something so valuable about getting all the have to’s done early in the day, so that we can just be in the afternoon. It refreshes and satisfies and builds community right within our home.
Then Sunday came and we rushed to get ready for the morning. We got back from church and I made and served lunch. I got the dishes done and made coffee and tried slowing down, but there were kids demanding things and being impatient and there was an exhausted pastor willing himself to nap on the sofa, and there was a mama in her room, trying to pretend none of it was happening.
As the afternoon was blowing up, I was so tempted to just make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches … to take a break, thinking it would be better to just get something in the kids’ stomachs and get them in bed, than to take time for tradition. But as Matt took the kids out to play, I felt a gentle nudge — if peace was going to re-enter this home, it needed to begin in me.
I can’t help but notice that God is a celebratory God. “Celebrate a festival in My honor three times a year” (Exodus 23:14, HCSB). Right from the beginning, He has his children work festivals into their calendar.
Jesus’ first miracle was turning the water into wine at a wedding …
During His last supper He likens Himself to bread and wine …
Our food, our celebrations, our traditions, they aren’t just what they seem. Food doesn’t just nourish our bodies. A call to celebrate isn’t happenstance. Our traditions are not accidental. When we slow down and we recognize His provision and when we notice His creativity in the variety of food He made, we recognize His very presence and love in what we are eating.
When we celebrate, whether a holiday or a birthday or for the sole purpose of getting together with friends, we see that we were made for community by a God that didn’t want us to be alone (Genesis 2:18). When we take the time to practice traditions, to create dependable rhythms, we become a little more like a Maker who did and made all things good, and then He rested (Genesis 2:3).
What if the very food we make and eat is a call to slow down … to ruthlessly eliminate hurry in something so vital to living?
So I vacuumed a little and I prayed and asked God to help me slow down — to realize that eating dinner late as a family and upholding our little pizza/movie night tradition would be more valuable because of relationship than just finishing the task of eating and getting kids in bed.
I lit a candle and turned on some worship music and began making pizza dough, knowing it would take an hour to rise, but asked God to speak to me in that hour. And God — the God who made the universe and made me and made you — He knows me.
He knows that when I slice tomatoes as thinly as I can, chiffonade basil, mince garlic or grate mozzarella cheese (and taste a few shreds here and there), when I toss bread crumbs with olive oil and salt and pepper and let the heat of the oven create croutons, that I will meet Him there. As I slow down in the kitchen and take in all the aromas, the magic of a sauté pan, as I emulsify salad dressing with a whisk, He speaks to me.
As a mom, I very often have moments of exhaustion. I can live in a state of “I have to get this done!” But I can also choose to slow down; to make sitting with my kids while watching a cartoon during Sunday night dinner more important than getting the dishes done.
When I choose tradition over obligation, when I choose relationship over accomplishment, not only do I slow down, but we win and I think our relational God is honored.
The kids reentered the home much calmer than they left and exclaimed “It smells great in here!”
And then I talked to my kids who thought I was in too much of a tizzy to make pizza, and I explained what God had been whispering to my heart for the last hour … through His Word and His Spirit and the lyrics of the music I was listening to. Sometimes we just need to slow down.
What I thought was too much work on this particular Sunday night was just the thing we needed to bring our life and home and spirits back into order. As the pizza was baking, we bathed the kids and got them ready for bed. I chose a movie and spread out a blanket for them to sit on and we settled in and down.
Traditions look different in every home and family, but it is no accident that God called his people to slow down, to celebrate, to hold festivals that would bring rhythm to our lives.
Take a deep breath in and ask God where He might be calling you to slow down. In my experience, it is often in the areas that cause us to feel rushed that God is trying to speak.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11:28-30, The Message
The Voice of God, 4HIM, Benson Music Group, Inc. 1992