Living Between

living between the weekends

I often find myself living for the weekends and vacations, neglecting the time between.  I don’t even really look forward to the time before/after work each day, just the time when I’m totally off.

But how silly.  How wasteful.

Right now I work 6 days a week, so that means I basically waste 144 hours/week with a bad attitude, and spend 24 hours enjoying myself.  If I worked 5 days a week, I’d spend a whopping 48 hours with a good attitude, only neglecting 120 hours.

And what do I look forward to the most?

Sleeping in, getting caught up on projects, exercising at my leisure, maybe meeting up with a friend?

Really? That’s it?  That is what I live for?

What would it take for me to enjoy life between the weekends and vacations? What would it take for me to really be living between?

I’d challenge you to ponder the same question for yourself, but for me I think it would take an attitude adjustment.  It would take looking for things I enjoy, even while I’m doing things I don’t.

This year I’ve learned a lot about fantasy.  God gave us brains with incredible power.  We are able to fantasize and create in ways that other living things cannot.  We were created with imaginations.  I’m not advising that we live in a fantasy land, or we completely escape the world around us.  But I think the Lord can powerfully use our imaginations to help us enjoy where we are to the fullest.

Let me give you an example.

I spend  a lot of time reading.  Some of the books are interesting and don’t require any extra attention, but some of them are difficult to complete.  Sometimes it seems impossible to actually enjoy these books.  Yet, when I use my imagination a little, sometimes I can shift my attitude about the book.  I can think about how God created every number, or how each truth belongs to Him.  I can imagine how He’s used each fact or figure in the lives of different people to bring Him glory.

Another example (just in case you aren’t stuck reading textbooks regularly) is when I have to proofread or log meticulous assignments at work.  Boring, repetitive tasks are the worst for me.  These are the kind of tasks where my imagination is more necessary to produce any sort of enjoyment.  Sometimes I imagine tasks that God does (or did) that may seem a little tedious to me.  I wonder if checking the number of sources someone has in a dissertation is similar to God counting each hair on my head (Luke 12:7).  I wonder if logging the assignments a students submitted is like God collecting my tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).

I know those examples may seem silly, but they are just another way God helps me focus on Him in between the times I long to enjoy.  Of course, scheduling enjoyable weekend-like tasks in the week would be a really obvious improvement.  But I hope the Lord uses fantasy and imagination for good during the inevitably mundane tasks we so often face.

Word Spit-Up

word vomit

We’ve all heard the phrase “word vomit.”  I’m not sure who coined it, but I’ve definitely used it a lot.  It describes something I do often, basically not controlling my tongue until I realize I’ve said too much, made a mess, or said nothing of value.  It’s basically words that just come out.  Despite my use of this phrase, I was recently thinking that it doesn’t quite nail my most frequent “word vomit” experience.  I think “word spit-up” actually describes what I mean a little better.

You see, when someone vomits there seems to be a little more control.  We usually have a little advanced warning (though not always), and we can prepare for it to some degree.  Sometimes it’s even possible to prevent it.  It’s also not something that happens regularly in most seasons.  But spit-up really does just happen.  It’s out of the baby’s control.  And it happens a lot.

Similarly, word spit-up just kind of comes up.  It’s just part of my natural routine.  I might as well wear a bib wherever I go and carry a burp cloth in my purse.  Being in a counseling program, I am continuously critiqued for my words with clients.  Each day I am made more aware of just how often I spit-up.  My most common spit-ups right now are:

  • “I understand” – Even looking at this phrase, makes me want to stick a bar of soap in my mouth.  In a counseling situation, it just never helps to say “I understand.” Chances are I don’t anyway, but it’s better to show I understand than say it.  Asking or naming a person’s feeling is a whole lot more helpful and loving.
  • “At least” – If I could remove this phrase from my vocabulary altogether, I would be a much better intern, friend, and Christ follower.  Rather than running from hurt with optimism, I would truly listen and love.
  • “Why?” – My professors and supervisors tell me all the time to STOP using this word.  It always come off judgmentally, like an accusation.  Like spit-up, I often catch it coming out of my mouth before it’s too late.

Despite being baby incompetent,  even I have experienced spit-up.  Babies are the only ones that can do something that gross and look cute while they do it.  They often smile and coo as they have this gross goo dripping down their chins.  Moms wipe their baby’s chin with a smile and love (often cooing back), knowing it’s not their little one’s fault.  If I spit-up regularly, it would not be cute.  My mom is pretty loving, but I don’t think she would smile (or coo) at me if I did this.  She might wipe my chin and she would do it in love (my mom is exceptionally sweet), but she’d also be pretty disgusted.

I imagine God’s reaction to my uncontrolled tongue, my word spit-up, is similar.  While He loves me and is willing to clean up after me, the spit-up itself disgusts Him.  So, how can I, a follower of Christ trying to become more like my Savior, look at my my word spit-up with anything but disgust?

After all, the Bible is pretty clear that we are supposed to grow up, and stop acting like babies:

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.  1 Corinthians 14:20 (ESV)

for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  Hebrews 5:13 (ESV)

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 1 Peter 2:2 (ESV)

so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness indeceitful schemes.  Ephesians 4:14 (ESV)

My prayer for me and my prayer for you is that we’d seek the Lord proactively enough to prevent word spit-up before it starts, growing into maturity in our speech and love for one another.

Shifting Gears

SHIFTING GEARS

Have you ever ridden with someone that drives a vehicle with a standard transmission, but can’t really drive a standard? Your entire body jerks back and forth with the car.  It reminds me of an amusement park ride designed to start and stop abruptly.  Yet, the “thrill” isn’t quite the same…

Every day feels a lot like one of these car rides for me.  My life consists of abruptly switching from one activity to the next, and my activities are starkly different.  While most of my activities involve sitting, my brain has to shift fast and fully many times a day.  Even shifting between counseling sessions is challenging, but adding work and class makes that all the more difficult.  I constantly feel like I’m being bounced around.

Decembers bring similar feelings for most people.  No day is automatic.  Each drive consists of many fast, abrupt shifts.  Everything is tight: our time, our budgets, our pants… We try to fit in as much as possible into each day.

People say this all the time, but it’s true: Americans kill the season with our busyness.  We may be among the people that “keep Christ in Christmas,” but our schedules and activities don’t reflect His joy or peace.  We don’t take time to rest.  We can’t remember our last “Silent Night” or “Holy Night.”  We can’t fathom setting a night apart, forgetting the definition of “holy” altogether.  The season our joy and peace should be most evident, it seems that it’s the most squelched.

Oddly, I think one of the primary reasons this happens is because we set our standards too high.  We expect this season to be perfect.  We idolize perfection, forgetting our source of grace (Who also happens to be the reason we celebrate in the first place).  We idolize family, friends, food, and activities, intertwining these blessings too much with the joy and peace that comes from Jesus alone.  In the midst of shifting gears, we forget why we shift.  We forget the road less traveled.  We forget the Creator of the path.  We forget the giver of the car.

Let’s truly take this season back from the world, not focusing our change and frustrations on secular Christmas movies or the color of cups.  Instead, let’s work on changing ourselves.  Let’s work on changing the church.  Let’s act like we have a reason to celebrate, and show His love to the world.  After all, we really do have a gift worth celebrating this season.  From one gear-shifter to another, may your Decembers be filled with true joy and peace.