I was going to have a lovely autumn weekend. The maples are blazing up the yard, so the boys would wear sweaters and build forts out back. I would make soup and then tuck them in for nap time. They would nestle without complaint, and then the sound of my pen would settle the house. I would scribble into the stillness. I would meet with God, and we would all be so holy then.
I put some hot water on for tea, turned the corner to my desk, but then there was my To-Do List, and suddenly it had doubled in length and strength. It became a cartoon and grew a head with fangs. So what else was there for me to do but scream, run down the hall, and jump under my covers? Nothing about this past weekend happened the way I had hoped.
The restorative weekend I had planned dwindled into a pile of fevered children on the couch. I had been in front of the computer for hours trying to feel creative, and I was at a low. When my husband came home from being away and asked me what was wrong, I gave him the list of things I had to do before leaving town, and I cried, so disappointed and frustrated. He put his hands on my shoulders, prayed for peace, and told me to walk away from the list.
Calling the Sabbath an actual day of rest can feel like the most foolish thing, but I literally had to walk away from my to-do list for the sake of our health. I considered my schedule, the plan to drive Titus 8 hours in one day to a doctor, and knew it was too much for a sick family, and I said “No!” to it, that we could re-schedule.
And with the doctor’s visit lifted from the week—just that one little thing—I felt released to face the To-Do monster. In fact, I faced it only long enough to close the planner, and my fever may have left me then. My extra boring gray yarn started becoming a chain in my hands, and I crocheted and took deep breaths in the stillness. We ate the autumn soup, and the world didn’t crumble one little bit that I stopped working.
When the pressure gets so heavy that you’re about to blow, it’s not just the letting go of our list of things to-do that sets us free. It’s also important to recognize that when the steam is building, our idea of self is morphing into something untrue. To-do lists carry implications. Picking out clothes to wear to a dinner with other authors implies that I’ll need to also act as an author. If I’m guest posting on Shelly’s blog, I’ll need to be on my best Christian game and be profound and so full of joy. Suddenly I’m in front of those carnival mirrors again, so self-consumed that my own head warps into a huge bobbly cartoon with fangs. It’s not the to-do list that becomes scary; it’s me!
Rebooting your life can’t always mean taking a weekend retreat to readjust the soul. There’s a moment-by-moment surrender that can feel exactly as impossible as walking on water, but isn’t surrender the secret to contentment and love and life?
See my schedule for the week: the packing, cooking and glorious writing? Scratch it for now. I’m waving a white flag and setting a lamp down right at my feet instead.
Let’s make this the list instead:
breathe, acknowledge Spirit, listen, and trust.
Amber Haines has 4 sons, a guitar-playing husband,theRunaMuck, and rare friends. She loves the funky, the narrative, and the dirty South. She finds community among the broken and wants to know your story. Amber is curator with her husband Seth Haines of Mother Letters (published April, 2012). They are in the process of learning how to live in true community, to care for the orphan, and to love the broken body of Christ. Read her blog HERE, and tweet her a little HERE.
Join 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.
This helps me breathe better, Amber. Love you, friend.
holy crap, I love this, Amber. and you. thank you. I’m breathing better already . . .
Exactly what I needed to read! Great post!
I know whereof you speak, Amber. My life is much quieter since children have left the nest, but I still have those weeks where there’s so much to do…so little time. By removing just one or two list items and/or appointments, a great sense of peace and release happens. So many of our “obligations” are self-inflicted. We have to learn how to weed through our lists. I am a list-keeper and “used to” panic if I didn’t check everything off at the end of the day. Now? What I don’t accomplish, I just move to the next day. 🙂
What a profound statement: “Surrender is the secret to contentment, love, and life.” That big “S” word has attracted such negative connotations over the years. But one of its definitions is: to give up in favor of another.” You surrendered the to-do list–just for a day or two, and enjoyed the favor of freedom and rest. I want to remember those over-arching favors you’ve identified (contentment, love, and life). Surrender is the way to blessing! Thank you, Amber!
This is wonderful! So lovely and true. Thank you Amber (and Shelly!).
Moment by moment surrender…We get that we need to surrender so we do it….once….until we feel the weight of pressure again and we do it again. I am learning that living this way is the storm; it rocks my world. I wanted to surrender in the moments, Live in surrendered moments… Thanks Amber for living it and writing about it.