When You Fear You’ve Been Found Out {Day 23}

by | Oct 23, 2013 | Uncategorized


Sitting outside on our back porch in a swath of unusually cool air, H and I were lingering in early evening darkness with our books and laptops. After I finished The Great Gatsby I posted this picture through my Instagram feed onto Facebook, adding this update: Reading outside with the crickets. #coolnights. And this was the response I received from one person who commented:

I want your life. No chaos. Just reading. Writing. Quietness.

My first reaction? Fear I’d been found out. I’m not busy, which means I’m a loser, I thought. I literally felt heat on my cheeks and my heart began racing.

A few minutes later, a good friend came to my defense: I hate to break it to you, but no one in the 21st century has a life of just reading, writing, quiet and no chaos (well, maybe a monk). Moments of no chaos, maybe. But a life? No. Especially a mom with kids, even older kids.

I thought about it while agreeing with what she said and then I responded.

I am enjoying a season of peaceful quiet as my kids grow up however, it comes with the excruciating ache of loneliness, which in my opinion is worse than busy chaos. I’m thinking about starting a FB Campaign to debunk the myths we create with our idealistic status updates. Want to join me anyone?

I haven’t started that campaign yet but the feeling of being found out about my un-busyness, it drifts into more situations than just Facebook. I feel oddly out of place in small group discussions with other mothers as my kids grow up. Women talk about how frazzled they are, complaining about the lack of family dinners with everyone present around the table; stressed out with their lists of volunteer commitments.

I usually keep my mouth shut.

Because busyness isn’t a badge of honor for me, it’s a two hundred pound weight. Our lives are meaningful and full with responsibility, but our house is mostly quiet and peaceful. I know.  I’m tragically out of place, right?

In the early years of my kid’s lives, I spent most days feeling like I needed a nap but as they grew up and found their places of belonging, motherhood excluded logging miles on my mini-van, spending weekends seated in folding chairs in the grass or running copies in the school office.

Though I do, at times, struggle with feeling left out of the community aspect of my children’s lives that I enjoyed during their adolescence, I’ve come to terms with the fact that the trajectory of their lives and my own isn’t conformity. God didn’t make us like that.

There is an old part of myself puddled in fear that rises to the surface when I think about sharing this post with you. The part that fears no one will relate to an un-busy lifestyle which will confirm that I am, indeed, a loser. But my new self, the one that cares about an audience of One more than the masses, I’m okay with the possible embarrassment that comes with revealing my true self.

Perhaps in the early days of motherhood, –wearing the weight of weariness around my waist and living in the tension between responsibility and passions I pushed off — was a longing for quietness to hear my soul think. The fact that I’ve arrived at that destination is a gift, not an embarrassment.

I think every season of life has its hardships and hurdles but you know, that is the very thing that gives us hope. And hope pulls us into the future. Without adversity, we have nothing to become brave for . . . that’s how I ended our conversation on Facebook.

And the cricket choir chirps on in the darkness.

Have you ever felt guilty for not being busy “enough?”

rb31daysdeepbutton2Join us in the comments and for further discussion at Redemptions Beauty Book Club on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown as we talk this week about Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol & Productivity as Self-Worth  and  Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle. This is day 22 of 31 Days of Letting Go in the Deep End. Find out more here and join us for daily posts delivered to your inbox by adding your email address to Subscribe in the sidebar. It only takes a few seconds and it’s painless, I promise.

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  1. kelli woodford

    I love that you’re pushing past the fear and ‘going there,’ Shelly. You know me well enough to know that’s NOT the season I’m in, but I am all about respecting the swath (what a great word, eh?) of land your feet are finding TODAY. And letting it be enough.

    It has been far too long since I’ve been here. Love reading your heart. Always.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Kelli, sometimes I worry it is too much. There is a balance, hoping I have found it even though it feels uncomfortable.

  2. pastordt

    Love this, love this, love this. YES, it’s a gift to be able to say, “I’m not too busy just now.” Everybody, even moms with a houseful of young kids, needs to find moments like these somehow, someway. Hang onto this powerful truth, Shelly. It’s the very best place to be. (And BTW, you WERE busy – you were busy reading, resting, and being companionable. Sounds plenty busy to me).

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you for the encouragement Diana, it is a gift you know?

  3. Laura Lynn Brown

    When someone has spent the year creating and savoring Sabbath time (and encouraging others toward the same), as you have, I would expect some of that practice of quiet and peace to spread through the rest of the week. As for not being busy, reading and writing count as activity, don’t they? I understand the “Uh-oh” you felt, but maybe that person was trying to say, “I’m too busy, and you’re showing me the attractiveness of a less-busy season.”

    And yes, I’ve felt guilty about not being busy enough. When I’m too busy, though, my body lets me know.

    I don’t hear the cricket choir where I am tonight, but it gives me a moment of peace to be told that you do and to imagine them. What’s the point of them giving that concert if there aren’t people who have time to sit in stillness and be their audience? Thanks for sharing this.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for your encouragement Laura, everything you said is a gift. I know there is such a thing God does with leaders called isolation processing. I’m just ready to be finished now, but God will let me know when its enough. I’m thankful He reassures me with words like yours and in the quiet whispers of quietness that this is right, for right now.

  4. Natalie

    One of the greatest blessing that you generously share with me as your reader is the simple knowledge that, yes, there is another (Others-she’s gathered a society.) who has the courage to walk a different path, to step to a different pace and to stand in the face of feeling out of place. This fellowship breeds courage. Thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m so happy to know you feel that way Natalie. It goes along with my tagline, “stories that help people think differently”. Your words are evidence of God’s blessing, thank you.

    • Valorie MacDonald

      “Stand in the face of feeling out of place.” Beautiful, Natalie! I have felt that out.of.place feeling many times. And had to learn to make the choice to stand. This fellowship DOES breed courage. It’s doing that work even now:)

  5. Elizabeth Stewart

    Busy times come and go, but in general I’m less busy than I used to be, by choice. I want a life with time to write and create and am blessed to have that much of the time.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think one of the gifts of maturing is the ability to choose, to say no with confidence and lean into deeper intimacy with Christ.

  6. DeanneMoore

    I really struggle with this at times…but the last couple of years I have slowly let quietness become a companion. With two down and one to go, not as much to do as in the early days of parenting…but my prayer life has grown and I finding out who I really am because I spend a lot of time with me. Yes, I am lonely sometimes but I often see others using busy-ness as a way of not dealing with things—a way to numb what they don’t want to think about. Bet their thinking about it anyway…

    • Shelly Miller

      I think you are so right Dea, about numbing with busyness. I used to be one of the those, now my numbing looks different and even in that, I’m becoming more aware of it and choosing to press into Christ. It’s a glorious, painfully beautiful journey isn’t it?

  7. Amy Hunt

    I soooooo get this, Shelly! I get you!

    We’re homeschooling our son (well, my husband is) and it’s really de-frazzled our family and brought us to a simpler life. We have our moments of chaos, but it’s really not like I see all around me. I have a professional job that’s a tad bit demanding and right now I’m feeling overwhelmed just from the pull and strain to work hard (though not too hard) and be engaged with my family. My life is super easy, really. My husband and I share responsibilities and the goal is always to not life so stressed out and live in peace, and to be engaged in life and each other. It sounds so spacey-like sometimes and I worry that I sound “too much” and “not enough” all at once. But, this “different” and “simpler” and “engaged” life is what reminds me that God matters more than anything, and this is where I see Him. He’s bringing me to a place where my “Sabbath” is in my everyday and this is huge.

    • Shelly Miller

      Your empathy is quite a gift Amy. Thank you for your kindness. It matters to me.

  8. Leslie Durham

    I can really relate to this. When people say, “well I know you are busy,” I almost want to tuck my head and say actually I’m not. But that would seem to admit some fault on my part. But mostly I try to let them think what they want and enjoy the time to do what I want. A luxurious selfishness that I sometimes feel guilty for enjoying.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m so ready to shed the guilt aren’t you Leslie? Life is too short to be guilt-ridden about what makes our heart sing and dance.

  9. Christie Purifoy

    What would this world be like if no one took on the important job of standing still and listening? I may be “busy” changing diapers and feeding young children, but I am doing my best to stand there with you on the edges of everything – to be still, to listen, and to share what I hear. I’m grateful not to stand alone.

    • Shelly Miller

      Very good point Christie. I think every season has its hardships and joys don’t you? You are one wise woman I might add. Glad to know you.

  10. Louise Hughes

    Well said, Shelly. Thankfully, life has different seasons. Each one is a gift with different struggles and blessings.
    I sometimes struggle with guilt for seizing that time in the middle of the day when my two year old is napping and my older children are at school to rest in the presence of the Lord with my worship music, grab one of my books that nourishes my soul and spirit from the stack on my bedside table. In a house with 4 extroverted sons and an extroverted husband and days that begin at 6:30 am with my family and end at 9:30 pm, I know I need that time so that I can be a grace filled mother and wife versus a frazzled, impatient mother and wife.
    Remember CS Lewis’ Wormwood, the demon whose goal it is to distract us from God’s presence with busyness? I say enjoy those moments that are gifts from God to renew your soul and spirit with no guilt!

    • Shelly Miller

      I think it is quite admirable that you love yourself like that Louise. In those busy years, I never allowed myself to do that. It’s one of my biggest regrets, that I didn’t do that more. I was overly concerned about cleaning up messes. Now I could care less about that. I love that book by CS Lewis. It made a huge impression on me and I think about it often. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Jillie

    Oh Shelly, I absolutely LOVE this! There is a line in the old movie, ‘Baby Boom’, where Diane Keaton has decided to give up her corporate career to stay in her beautiful, old home in Connecticut to raise her ‘inherited’ daughter, Elizabeth. She tells her corporate board that “The rat-race is just going to have to get along with one less rat!” I have always loved that line, and tried to live my life accordingly.
    I’ve also heard it said, by a Pastor, that the enemy’s best strategy of this century, is to keep the Church “busy”; so busy “doing” that we veer from the “being”. Being quiet. Being still and knowing. Being silent in order to hear the True Voice within us. satan loves that!
    I am, quite honestly, tired of Christian women who think I’ve done nothing with my life by staying home and raising my two to honourable adulthood! Recently, I was asked, by a woman I admire and respect, “What are you doing now?”, seeing as my two are off and married. I said, “Just what I’ve always done. I am ‘Keeper of Home.’ ” She grunted an “Oh” and left the table. I could have come home and cried my heart out, but instead, I got angry. I have had more people in the Church treat me this way than anywhere else. It appears that Christian women, at least the ones I know, wear their ‘Busy Badge of Honour’ everywhere they go. And, often, I have asked myself if my life has been for naught. I have had some treat me with pity.
    Shelly, enjoy these years, tremendously and with gusto. We are living our lives “for an audience of One”. It matters not what ANYONE ELSE deems worthy. I’ll take my uncluttered, quiet, little old life ANY DAY!

    • Shelly Miller

      Love the way God made you Jillie. Don’t change who you are for anyone.

  12. Jen Ferguson

    Since I am in the process of learning to enjoy life, I appreciate intricately and deeply this revelation of where you are. I don’t like being busy. It makes me feel as though I cannot breathe. And I seek balance to remain useful to those around me, while still being useful to myself and my family.

    And I think any time you reveal your true self, there is a tremendous amount of blessings that come forth to us and return back to you.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Jen, I’m so glad to know that. You know, being brave about sharing this with everyone is like revealing a deep dark secret that became a place of shame for me. And bringing it into the light has diffused it. The enemy loves to keep us cowering in shame. Light sets us free. It’s always worth being vulnerable, no matter how scary it seems.

  13. Mary

    Me too! You are not alone….in fact, your words blessed me today. (as did many of the comments). I have this visual in my head of (me ) standing still while every one I know is racing by me-to the point that I can’t even see their faces anymore. It makes me sad, and sometimes it makes me question my un-busy life. Your words above reminded me that I’m not alone, and that un-busy is ok. I so needed to know this today…you have no idea. Xo!

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanking God with you for His reminder that you aren’t alone Mary.

  14. ro elliott

    Oh…oh…yes this…I am a grandmother with with one child left that I home schoolhome…I am asked over and over ….so what do you do with all your time…what are you going to do to fill your time…and I feel it too…I know where I am…and I know it is a sweet gift from God….but I can’t list what I accomplish each day….and it is right then when God started speaking to me about the upside down kingdom we live in….and so much in the kingdom of God is unmeasurable by the world standards….I have found more peace and confidence in where God has me…Shelly…embrace the gift of this sweet time you have…yes…it is not an embarrassment.

    • Shelly Miller

      Love hearing about the way God is growing your life in so many aspects Ro, you are a gift to us.

  15. Deidra

    I love this season of life, with its moments of calm and peace and rest. Sam Van Eman has started a FB campaign like what you describe here. He even has a hashtag: #gapshowcase! Sam encourages people to post a FB status highlighting a not-so-stellar moment in life. Because we all have them, and posting only our best moments might give people the wrong impression.

    • Shelly Miller

      Love knowing Sam is doing this. And calm and peace look good on you Deidra. Look forward to seeing you in a few hours. *squee*

  16. Paula

    As always, you are giving a voice to many peoples’ thoughts!! It is simply a season of life that presents change……..the always “unwelcomed” guest for me! I think the same thing happens to people when they retire. After all, you have maintained the most critical, full-time job anyone could every embrace and that is motherhood! And our job is far from over. You should love every moment of time you grasp for reading, writing, and thinking, because you have earned it! Thank you for speaking your heart.

  17. Joy Lenton

    The guilt? I wear it as a 200lb weight that often threatens to drown me. In a world circumscribed and identified by busyness, those of us who (for whatever reason) are no longer swimming furiously in the tide trying to frantically keep up with everyone else, can be made to feel totally out of synch and out of place. I feel this keenly. As an M.E and chronic illness sufferer for over 20 years, my life has been far from the norm. And it is painful at times to feel so alienated from ‘normality’.
    But who gets to decide what ‘normal’ looks like? Our lives are as individual as our fingerprints. God has a unique plan and purpose for each one of us. I love hearing about your life, reading and reflections, Shelly. They stem in part from your ability to step back and ‘see life and see it whole’, and we would be all the poorer for losing the meditative aspect to them.
    I’m at the point where God has opened a tiny door of opportunity for me creatively and I absolutely love this season, in the autumn of my life, for the poetic expression it is providing. He is always good and gracious. We are enough. Our lives, vastly different as they all are, are also enough. It is a gift to cherish, no matter how it may look on the outside.

    • Shelly Miller

      Your words bless me Joy. I think we are all guilty of not understanding the complications of life that come from living with chronic illness. One of the benefits I do notice from so many who struggle with it is an ability to see life differently, each moment is sacred with meaning. And that is God isn’t it, always revealing redemption through our pain. Thank you for your constant encouragement, it blesses me.

  18. cheryl

    Who made up the ridiculous standard that amount of activities your children participate in determines how good a mother you are? Or that you have to be doing something every single second of the day? It is so easy to think someone else has it easier or their life is better but if we really knew the other person’s challenges, we might have more compassion for them and for ourselves. I wish I had gotten smarter sooner.

    • Shelly Miller

      Me too Cheryl, I wish I would’ve been better at not conforming early on with my children. But God uses all of it to shape us doesn’t he? I’m sharing your words about Sabbath in our letter this week, just scheduled it before I head out to Allume. Thank you for sharing what God is doing in your life, its a gift.

  19. Kelly Greer

    Shelly – I had an 80-something friend ask what I did all day at home? And I told them that I take care of my home and my family. Isn’t that enough? I have settled into the quiet empty nest and actually love it! Never feeling left out or missing much. Although I do sometimes crave the companionship of family, which is easily remedied with a phone call and an invite! Being in my fifties has been a really nice time to sort of reflect and rediscover myself. I am very much content in these simple things. There is a season for everything, yes?

    • Shelly Miller

      Confident contentment looks good on you Kelly. You inspire, you do.

  20. Melanie Gillgrist

    Shelly, your writing is just beautiful. Although in a different season, with a six year old and just beginning foster care of a two year old, my soul resonates with ‘unbusy’. My personality is more of one to notice, to grab silence when I can with my journal or book in hand. The season we are in doesn’t allow those times to be as long as I would like- but I look forward to when the new seasons come to capturing them like the night you describe.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think the important thing you point out here Melanie is to remember life has seasons, and none of them are forever. I know in times or weariness, that season felt endless, but here I am. Thank you so much for your kind comment regarding my writing, I appreciate that.

  21. Alyssa Santos

    Oh, my friend, I know this little storm within. As my kids are older and I choose to have them in school rather than homeschool, choose to walk alone to sort my thoughts, choose to not commit to things (that are indeed good things) that aren’t right for me to be committed to, I choose peace in my brain and in my home and in my heart. I don’t have to use the excuse that “I’m too busy”, or don’t get to, but instead I need to deliberate and let my yes be yes and my no be no. I’ve struggled with allowing myself this season of decompression — it seems to counterintuitive to our evangelical culture. But, I know that when I show up, when I interact in relationships, when I make a commitment, they are getting 100% me and not a frazzled, half-hearted me. And, I believe this: whatever I am going through currently is in preparation for what is to come. Rest is good, especially because we don’t know what’s around the corner.

  22. Bridget

    Yes, because I haven’t completely shaken the deep seated belief that I am the sum of my accomplishments. I still sometimes feel the need to justify my existence, prove to the world that I’m pulling my weight because just being can’t be enough. I sometimes wonder if it’s even fair that I’m at rest when everyone else is working so hard.

    Thank you, Shelly, for these words, the reminder that this rest, this quiet space, is a gift — to be opened and enjoyed .

  23. Valorie MacDonald

    Shelly, I agree with Natalie about fellowship and courage! In fact, I can illustrate the relationship for you right now! I began to respond a couple days ago but got paranoid [it’s me, NOT you;] As I continued mulling over the concept in my heart and mind, however, I ended up with not only a blog post but what may be the beginnings of my first series! You see I’ve only barely begun and indeed jokingly refer to my blog as a WannaBe;) Because… after delaying ALL YEAR I had finally gathered to courage to log into WordPress… then I hit publish “accidentally” thinking I was starting in form of a draft! Can you say TotalTechNoob?? Lol Long story short, I would love to reference this post on your blog in my post. I’m not quite there, but a few more days and I’ll have it ready. As I said I’m very much a beginner, learning as I go, just as a warning! I’ll add the first bit below as reply; it will be the content of my original reply to this post when I saw it last week. Thanks for considering!

    • Valorie MacDonald

      The fact is, your road is your road; my road is mine. Oh, what joy there is in finding that I can walk mine while wholeheartedly cheering you on, as you walk yours! I LOVE that you chose to be vulnerable about your internal struggle because I believe it to be one of those common.to.man (or to woman!) things. It’s high time we begin to speak out and share our experiences. Let’s bring our fears or misgivings out from the shadows so we may help one another see that they’re not the hairy scary debilitating monsters we’ve made them out to be.
      (I go on to talk about when I was the young mother of twins.. the tension I’ve always felt in saying NO; how NO can be a gift, but often one we can only offer ourselves. How I’ve very often felt judged that I wasn’t in ministry enough, how I’ve struggled with not judging myself over a “not clean enough” home, etc. Anyway that gives you an idea. AGAIN, THANK YOU!!!

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