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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Putting Out the Fire

During a practice this past summer when Kyle played on the Little League All-Star team, the coaches assessed that the team was looking a little flat, moving a little slowly, missing a little fire.  They needed something: a little umph, some get up and go, a sense of urgency.  Since most of the boys had dyed their hair bright orange in support of a fellow ball player fighting cancer, it came to pass that the newest phrase yelled out by the coaches was "HAIR ON FIRE, BOYS!"  Play like your HAIR IS ON FIRE."

They even put a photo similar to this in the dugout.



Being that my husband was one of the coaches of said team, this phrase was quite familiar to me. Often when he calls me as he races home from work to make it in for the evening sports mania, he knows that as I answer the phone, I am usually shouting orders, filling water bottles, schlepping protein bars and figuring out who's driving who where, so our conversation usually goes like this:

"Hello. What?"
"Hey.  On my way.  Is your hair on fire?"
"Yes.  Is your head going to explode?
"Absolutely."
"Awesome.  See you in a bit."

Now running around like your hair is on fire might be appropriate for a group of twelve year old athletes, but it is most definitely not so easy on a 40ish year old gal.  It really can be as dangerous as a literal head full of flames for her health and peace and for the health and peace of the family she's been gifted. 

I found myself in the last few months of 2013 (or perhaps the last five years) trying to fit every minute of my day full of some task.  I literally had my eye on the clock continuously.  If I had fifteen minutes or even five minutes left before a meeting or a lunch date or a child walking in the door from school, I stared at that list figuring out how I could get one more thing crossed off.  I was always thinking of how quickly I could finish this to get to that.  Every interruption was a nuisance.  If my phone would ring, I would sigh at the intrusion of it all.  Shamefully, I'm not talking about a telemarketing call.  I'm talking about a friend or a family member or even, a husband.  If a kid - my own kid - called my name, I responded with a tone that would've made my mom send me to my room.  If I was picking up a boy from practice or school, I wouldn't want to waste the five minutes staring out the window, I had to use it to look through my list or get one more section of my Bible Study completed or send one more text or email. 

And this was/is not about having too many tasks and responsibilities.  I don't think I commit to more than anyone else. It really isn't about having too much on my plate.  It's about trying to devour everything on that plate in the first five minutes of the dinner hour without even paying attention to what I'm eating, who I'm eating with or who provided me the blessing of the meal.  It is exhausting to live like that.

So, since it's quite possible that I might need a new resolution (ahem), I think my phrase for (February) 2014 might be "Girl, your hair is NOT on fire.  You are not going to explode. Take it down a notch, sister."

Yes, that, and also, this from Ann Voskamp:

"Being in a hurry.  Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me.  I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry.  But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing...through all that haste I thought I was making up time.  It turns out I was throwing it away....Hurry empties a soul." -  One Thousand Gifts

If there is anything good that this blasted polar vortex does for me it is to slow my plans to a screeching halt.  To force me to look at me.  Not the busy me.  Not my tasks or responsibilities. But at ME.  At my soul and it's work and it's worth and how I am bleeding it dry.

What I find is that this endless list making and list crossing out is all about the semblance of control that setting my day's schedule full to the brim gives me.  Or could it be more precisely, the semblance of importance it gives me?  Is it my impression that if I don't hurry through all of these crucial tasks the world might stop spinning?  The thing is the world is spinning and while I run around like my hair's on fire, it is spinning right on by me.  I've become that annoying guy that rides your tail all the way down the street and then zooms around to pass you like he is just way too important to drive the speed limit, only to end up right next to you at the stoplight.  I generally just look over and smile at that guy as if to say, "Well, hello, friend!  Fancy seeing you stopped here at this stoplight at the exact same time as me. Those were some awesome race car moves you just pulled to get here at the exact same time as me."

Our ultimate destination is the same, isn't it really?  To know Him.  To be still with Him. To relax into the path that He has set before us.  Dare we say it . . . to rest in Him.  And in the resting perhaps we more clearly see what He really wants for us not only to do, but to be.  We are called to His work, to do all things to His glory, to be pleasing not to the world, but to Him.  The world might be impressed with the way I can bound up the stairs two at a time or the way I can throw myself into my car like the Dukes of Hazzard.  But is my God impressed?  And how does He feel about my shouting orders at my children like the flames are going to consume us all if we don't PULL THE LEAD OUT RIGHT THIS MINUTE?  Is He quite impressed with me or does His heart grieve for what I am missing?

Again from Ann Voskamp:  Life is not an emergency.  It is brief and it is fleeting, but it is not an emergency.

Look.  I know this is easier said than done.  We are five people, five schedules. We are busy and this is our life.  But, when we arrive at that stoplight, don't we want to know that we noticed all the blessings on the way there?  Don't we want to be happy and singing to the radio with our people and not gripping the steering wheel tight urging the light to change?   Don't we want to know that we didn't miss something by trying to be all self-important with our fancy race car moves?

I'm going to try it this month.  I'm going to remember that I can't out run Him in the race He has set before me.  I'm going to let Him set my pace  I'm going to get everything done, but I'm going to do it with Him and at His call.  I'm dousing my hair with a big ol' bucket of water this month.  I think my soul needs it and so does the soul of my home. 

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