The alarm sings at 6am. I pull thick curtains back in the dark bedroom, shield sleepy eyes from swathes of sunlight cascading through cottage windows. Lift the hinge on the wooden door and walk into the vast length of quiet house toward the kitchen, where the tea kettle awaits the push of the lever.
Standing in front of a bank of windows as coils heat the water, I survey the garden graced with golden highlights and watch birds flit between branches, inserting myself into the rhythms of life God creates with each turn of the earth on its axis.
Alone in a beautiful place, desperation and desire surface when I am prone toward utility, to push and force production. I am waiting for God in the stillness, to do what I know I cannot do myself.
I desire God but when I am busy, I’m uncertain about what it is that he desires from me.
“When we cut ourselves off from awareness of our desire, we cut ourselves off from the very invitation of God into the intimacy we seek.” Ruth Haley Barton, Silence and Solitude
Returning to the warm cocoon of sheets with a steeping cup of tea, I open scriptures, read a chapter in a new book, highlight, meander in the land of Google on a search for definition; journal six pages of lined paper while intermittently staring out the window, attempting to make sense of new horizons of thought.
But creative inspiration plummets the minute I look at the clock, gasping in revelation. Lingering to listen for nearly three hours results in a mental halt and sitting in front of the computer blanketed by shame.
Still in pajamas, the cursor blinks on an empty page. Not one word has been written on the project I’m tucked away in the Cotswolds to write. I want to stay in the intimate presence of God but time ticks, pushing me to produce.
I am measuring success in word counts while God measures success in the unseen attentive heart that longs to wait on him first.
We discount time as wasted when it cannot be measured by what we produce. Equate time as utilitarian and quickly assess your worth as not enough and less than.
When the house is finally quiet, linger in prayer instead of cleaning up dirty dishes and the shaming voice of utility says you’re a failure at housekeeping.
Be quick to ponder the Truth and slow to respond to your inbox and shame attempts to convince you are irresponsible.
Read a book that inspires transformation and hear the accuser name you slack and lazy.
How many times have I felt the sting of failure that comes in declaring, “I’ve accomplished very little,” only to realize that reflection and contemplation are required work, not a waste, for the opus of creative imagination.
Our most important work is accomplished by enjoying the Creator, not checking off a list.
Dare to wait on God and pull back the curtain on what you fear the most – being known, found out and counted of little value — and find true belonging in the time marked as unproductive.
Success comes in discerning a still, small voice repeating, “I see you. I know you. I love you!” And then believing it.
We cannot fully rest until we are prepared to receive first.
Time for considering the ways of God is not time wasted but a seed of desire planted that will eventually bloom and bear fruit.
Download our free printable June calendar with daily prompts from Chapter 6 in Rhythms of Rest: Stop or Be Forced to Stop. Because when we forget God is in control of what he creates, a forced Sabbath is a reorientation so we’ll remember.
And just in time for summer, download a copy of Rhythms of Rest on your Kindle for $1.25 in the US and £.96 in the UK. What a steal of a deal!
This is such a beautiful reminder! I’m going to linger in God’s Presence just a little bit longer and more intentionally.
Sounds like a perfect plan Summer. Thank for being here!
Of course, you won’t be surprised that I’ve been thinking on these very things —particularly about the importance of receiving before giving, and about the desire to produce against the desire to be. So, you can know I was nodding my head as I read your lovely prose. It’s a real shift for me to live this way—and a grace beyond describing. I pray you are having a beautiful day as you look to the Savior and not the clock. xx
It’s a shift for me too, a good one! And no, I’m not surprised this is what you’ve been pondering of late as well. I love the way we are in sync and an ocean is between us. God is good.
A truly lovely reminder and setting for the beginning of a new month, Shelly… thank you. 🙂
Hope your summer is full of sweet surprises and restful moments Amy. Thanks for being here, lovely to see you in the comments.
Shelly, this is an important and exquisitely illustrated post (Oh how I wish I could take photos–not my spiritual gift! 🙂 ) I think we have all had that experience that if we don’t meet the day’s goals or if we don’t do something we consider “important and productive,” then our day doesn’t count. And, of course, more insidious than that is that we assume that *we* don’t count. But the Lord gives us significance just because He created us and loves us, and what better time could we spend than getting to know and listening to our Creator? Ah, waiting on Him means so much more than wasting time. Why do we equate waiting with not producing? And waiting, ultimately, is not about time at all. It is a spiritual state, a receptivity, an attitude–pregnant, full, brimming over with expectation. Waiting on the Lord is actively listening and communing with the Lover of our soul. When we wait on Him, we meet Him. And we dare not act without having met and heard first. You do that. You wait. You listen. And then, oh my goodness . . . . look what *HE* does through you. Thank you for these wise words, dear one–but, moreover, for living them.
Love this Lynn — And waiting, ultimately, is not about time at all. It is a spiritual state, a receptivity, an attitude–pregnant, full, brimming over with expectation. You said it perfectly!
Several statements in this post caught my attention with their beauty and spoke to my heart with their wisdom. For example: “God measures success in the unseen attentive heart that longs to wait on him first.” I am still learning how to prayerfully wait with an attentive heart that’s not already running ahead with ideas and plans! Another example: “Reflection and contemplation are required work, not a waste, for the opus of creative imagination.” I want to remember your affirmation of that truth, to actually value the time spent reading, meditating, and journaling. And last: “Our most important work is accomplished by enjoying the Creator, not checking off a list.” Another area of growth for me: learning to simply enjoy my Creator and worship him with an undistracted spirit. Thank you, Shelly, for once again filling our senses with your stunning photography and delightful descriptions, but best of all encouraging our hearts to consider the ways of God as we wait on him.
Nancy, I always enjoy your comments because they reveal the heart of a lifetime learner. An openness to receive is such a gift! I hope your weekend is full of the fullness of God’s loving embrace.
Oh how this speaks to my soul. How desperately I want to clutch these words to my chest and hold tight to them. I particularly identify with the struggle of feeling I have wasted time being with Him, the study, the writing and the whole contemplative process. Your words describe it well and encourage my heart: “How many times have I felt the sting of failure that comes in declaring, “I’ve accomplished very little,” only to realize that reflection and contemplation are required work, not a waste, for the opus of creative imagination.
Our most important work is accomplished by enjoying the Creator, not checking off a list.”
Julie, I pray that the words that spoke to your heart will be seeds planted and watered that grow into full bloom. Thanks for leaving such an encouraging comment, I appreciate it.
Thank you Shelly, for putting these thoughts on paper. I’m obviously not alone in the struggle between our true “work” (that of entering and abiding in God’s rest) and the production we are shamed into. How is it that 2 hours in His presence is shattered by the movement of hands on a clock? How can we imagine time spent connecting with a friend is not a good use of time?
Our world is truly fallen.
But we- you, me, many others- are chipping away at that fortress of “doing”, slowly destroying it before it destroys us. We are, instead, building a Relationship that cannot be destroyed. We are finding true Rest.
Thank you for sharing your heart. Many blessings to you.
Thank you for your blog. Friday’s are our Sabbath Day of Rest, or should be. To set boundaries, we let friends and our church know, that Fridays are our Day off (our only day off). The result? Since we are “off” people call, drop by our house, tell us we need to visit them, when what we need is rest and refreshing. We are slowly attempting to unplug and go somewhere quiet to hear from Him, waiting for Him to guide us in both ministry direction and direction for the remainder of our lives. We aren’t there yet. It is comforting to know there are others who struggle as well: I pray we all achieve Sabbath rest in Him. Thank you. Your blog is very encouraging.
I bought the iBook for $1.99 this week so I always have a copy of Rhythms with me. ❤️❤️ this book so much. One day I WILL get there and it will no longer be a struggle but a regular part of my week like going to work,or church, or even the grocers.
Your words hit home on many levels here, Shelly. Something the Lord seems to whisper in times like these is how similar it is to tithing – just as with our finances multiplying when we honor Him with our first fruits, so does the work of our hands expand and flourish beyond what limited time says it can when we give Him the first fruits of our time with Him. Somehow He enables us to then “accomplish” more than we might have if we had just put time with Him off till we had more time, doesn’t He? Stretches the hours, accelerates our abilities or whatever is needed, because nothing given to Him returns empty… 🙂 Beautiful post as always… and oh I love those blue flowers!!
I’ve had forced sabbath rests,and through the sickness He was ever present,even though I was sick it was an awesome time with the Lord teaching me and showing me himself and my journey.I’ve also had rest intentioinnally!Time with Him is never wasted.