All the time in the world

 

I’ve just been reading (actually, listening to, but it’s the same thing) a brilliant book by Shauna Niequist called Present Over Perfect. (Incidentally, did you know that you can borrow audiobooks from the library here in Australia using the Libby app? It’s brilliant.)

In this book Shauna talks about her journey from frantic to simple. From busy to quiet. This is totally my groove, in fact, she starts her book in the same way I started My Year of Saying NO, by explaining how she wanted to tell us just how busy she was so that we wouldn’t think she was just weak, and how she decided not to because everyone’s busy is different but it’s still busy.

As I’ve been listening, I’ve been realising that I will always need to be reminded to slow down, to say ‘no’, to listen to my body, to rest. My addiction to busy-ness is real and it’s something I need to keep tabs on.

But there was one line, when Shauna was talking about prayer, that really jumped out at me. Here it is:

God has all the time in the world.

teapot and cup

Sometimes I can think of God as a very busy man up in heaven, keeping tabs on everything. I marvel at his ability to listen to so many prayers at once, and I limit my prayers so as not to take up too much of his time.

This is not a well thought-out position, it’s more a gut feeling. When I think it through I know that it’s not the case.

God made time. He exists outside of time. If he wants more time, he can just make some more.

I remember watching a program with Brian Cox where he was explaining space-time. He had a nice animation of a sausage-shaped thing all made with lasers and he told us that it was a representation of time, and for some reason he poked sticks through it at angles. I can’t remember why now. But that image of time stuck with me. If you put us in the sausage, walking along our timelines linearly, God is outside, like Brian Cox, able to interact with any moment in time.

This means that we can talk with God whenever we like, and however often we want to, and for as long as we desire. We are not ‘talking up his time’ we are not ‘getting in the way’. When God wants to spend time with us he doesn’t have to clear his desk or cancel appointments. He’s there for us, whenever we need him.

That’s why the Bible can say things like, ‘pray continually’ or ‘give thanks in all circumstances’. It’s not that God has a bunch of secretary angels filtering out the prayers so that only the important ones get to him. He has time to listen to every one of us.

He has all the time in the world, and more besides.

Then my brain flips the other way and says, ‘Well, if he has so much time, then his time is not precious, his spending time with me is not a sacrifice for him, and I’m not special’. (My brain is amazing at coming up with stupid ideas, let me tell you.)

The thing is, God did have to sacrifice so that I could have this precious gift of time with him. He didn’t have to sacrifice appointments with others, he didn’t sacrifice money-making time, or task-performing time.

What did God sacrifice?

Everything.

His life.

The whole lot.

Cross

That’s what we celebrate this Easter and every Easter. The sacrifice that God made so that we could be friends with him. More than friends, children.

His children.

His brothers and sisters.

So that’s my message today. It may be a reminder. For you it may be news for the first time.

God has all the time in the world, and he has given everything so that he can spend that time with you.

May you have a special Holy Week, and may it include lots of time spent with God.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

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Appointment Overlap

Eject the mother

Imagine this: You are at a meeting with your supervisor and your student. The meeting is to look at the student’s past year of work and make a plan for the next few months. You are the person who is responsible for guiding the student through the next section of their work. You need to be totally present, thinking of all the options and issues that may appear in the future.

The meeting starts at 1030am and you have scheduled a coffee with a friend at 1130am. The meeting should have only taken half an hour but things are difficult to understand and nut out, conversations go around in circles, and any time you try to clarify, another option/issue rears its ugly head. As the clock ticks on, you become more and more distracted, wondering if there is a way to get a message to your friend without looking bad. You cease to concentrate on the job in hand, you are now doing bad work as well as feeling stressed.

Or here’s another example. You pick up your mother each Friday morning at 9am, have a coffee with her and drop her off at her church for her prayer meeting at 1015am. That works well most weeks but this week you have a doctor’s appointment in town at 1030am. Once again, sitting in the cafe with your mother you are constantly checking your watch, the problem is not getting from the church to town, the problem is parking. If it all goes smoothly you’ll be fine, but if there are a lot of people in the multi-storey carpark you’ll be ten minutes late for the appointment and who knows? They may just cancel, assuming you’re not coming. You don’t hear a word your mother says as your brain visualises the car park, the parking meters near the surgery, the road on the way there. You hustle your mother out of the car at the prayer meeting, your stress levels through the roof.

These two situations are situations I have narrowly avoided.

Marcia Ramsland, a professional organiser, suggests strongly that we put margin around our appointments. And I agree with her. In fact, this idea of margin is such a great one that I’ll talk about it more next week.

Here’s how I solved my problems:

When I found that I had a 1030 meeting before a regular appointment with my friend for coffee I messaged the friend. I told her that I would be in a meeting and I had no idea how long it would take. I asked if I could have a bit of flexibility as to when we met for coffee – if I could send her a message when the meeting finished and then we could meet up after that. She was totally accommodating. That way I could concentrate when I needed to and I could still meet my friend.

My mother came up with the answer to my second situation. I told her about the doctor’s appointment and she suggested that we go into town and have coffee near the surgery. Then she took a taxi to her prayer meeting – easily done as the taxi stand was near the cafe in town and the taxi didn’t have to find parking.

I try to give my self at least ten minutes between appointments. Half an hour if possible. As much wriggle room as I can. Travel takes time, meetings go overtime, parking isn’t always available close to the place that you need to be.

There are always little jobs that you can squeeze into the half hour between appointments. I take my journal with me everywhere so I can write in it. I also tend to take my kindle so I can read if I have time. Or I’ll take a research article that I need to work my way through. (I have a large handbag – can you tell?) That half-hour can be used to give you time to think about life for a bit, time to ponder and dream.

But overlapping appointments are going to cause you stress as well as annoying the person you are late for. It’s not worth it.

What does this have to do with saying no?

Again, it’s having those rules in place for yourself. If someone asks you to attend a meeting, come for coffee, or do a task that will overlap with another meeting or appointment scheduled on your calendar then the answer just has to be no – or at least not today. Don’t try to squeeze the most possible into your day. Give yourself breathing space. It will make your life better.

I am saying no to things this year in order to spend more time on my writing. This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail.

I am also writing a cosy mystery and it’s coming to the pointy end now. If you would like to hear more about the writing process, and see the cover reveal, drop an email to rijamos@gmail.com and I’ll add you to my newsletter list. The newsletters are chatty, with a writing-focus, and only come out monthly so they won’t clog your in-box.

You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42

Personality Types and Saying NO

Introvert Bubble

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am ‘the defender’ personality type by the Myers-Briggs type indicator. An ISFJ. The I stands for Introvert. The rest of the letters I’m unsure about but I really know how the introvert part affects my life.

I need alone time. A lot.

In the evenings, after work, I come home and sit on the couch, my husband and son (Moz and Caleb) hide in the study and play computer games and work, and I sit and read and watch TV and write in my journal and process the day.

If this does not occur, due to some evening activity, then it’s not awful, but I get tired. Especially if we are out more than two or evenings a week.

I get my energy from being alone.

I understand that it is not only introverts who need to learn how to say no, but for me, the introversion is a big part of the situation. If I try to be out there with people for too long I soon fall into a fog of exhaustion. And so many good opportunities involve being with people.

I went to the funeral of a friend of mine from church. Her name was Rhonnie, she was an amazing woman who had lived a long and very full life. I listened to the many eulogies from people whose lives she had touched and I was stunned by what I heard. She had amazing extrovert super powers!

Rhonnie could invite near-complete strangers to come and stay at her place – to live with her for months at a time. While out walking her dog she could strike up conversations with people that led to life-long friendships. She could invite people to come to her place and hang out, not for any reason, just to be company. She had meant so much to so many people and I would love to be like her.

But I’m not like her.

I invite people to dinner and the evening goes something like this:

  • Would you like a drink? Good.
  • Had the drink? Right, now it’s time to eat main course.
  • Excellent, we’ve eaten, I’ll clear away and serve dessert.
  • Do you want a coffee?
  • Great. That was successful.
  • Now go home.

I don’t want people hanging around enjoying themselves until 2am. After about 930pm, however loved the guests are, they can go home. I need time alone to process the evening and I need to get it processed in time to get a few hours sleep.

At some point Moz and I decided that it was important for me to work part-time so that I could have hours at home by myself in order to pull myself together. I started working Monday to Thursday and then taking Fridays off

If my Friday off works well, if I get a few hours in the middle of the day to myself, then on Saturdays I’m happy to go out for lunch, or to visit friends or family, or to do any other activity that requires being in the presence of another human being.

If my Friday off does not work, due to a doctors appointment, or a hair appointment, or extra work, or whatever thing I stupidly say yes to, then my Saturdays involve much sitting on the couch or sitting in bed downstairs by myself or general get-out-of-my-hair-ness.

I know that the need for hours alone has consequences for what I say yes to and what I say no to. I know that what I write in this blog series will therefore be more easily accessible for people who lean towards introversion on that spectrum. But I hope it helps you extroverts as well.

I mean, we’re all feeling super-busy right? Everyone has too much on. Everyone wants to say no more.

One of the things I found really helpful in deciding what to say no to in life was working out what gives me life and what exhausts me. Realising that I have to say no in order to get those hours of alone time that I need. Maybe for Rhonnie saying yes to people was what gave her life. Maybe she had to say no to other things instead.

If you (like me) feel pushed around or tugged in every direction by all the wonderful and good options that you have for your life and your time then this series is for you. I hope what I write can help you to say no (without any guilt or condemnation) to those things that should not be on your plate, and to fill up your plate with the things that belong to you. With the good works you are created to do.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do the good works which he purposed beforehand for us to do. Eph 2:10

This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail.

You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42

Quitting

Today I quit one of my jobs. It’s been a long process – the process of quitting this job has lasted over a year.

The job involved working after-hours as a tutor in a small business that tutors primary and high school students in literacy and maths. It’s an excellent business, the tutors do excellent work, and it’s something I totally, whole-heartedly believe in. There is also a huge need for tutors – there is always a waiting list for the business. And tutoring is something I can do. I know enough maths and science to tutor people through high school and beyond, and I could probably do english at a pinch.

All of the above is what made quitting this job so very hard to do. But I’m pretty sure that quitting this job was right.

And before you ask, it’s not about the money.

It’s about the tired.

You read a lot on the internet about how being busy is a sickness of our age. How when you ask people how they are, they answer, “busy” and they wear it as a badge of pride.

I am done with being busy. I don’t want to spend my days stressed because I can’t fit everything in. Or at least, I want to be busy with things I love, rather than things I ‘should do’ or ‘would be good at’ or things that are an answer to a great need but not a good fit for me.

I want to be free enough to be there for people when they need me. I want to have enough energy to give to my children when they need to talk, and to have that important coffee with a friend, or a new friend that I’ve just met, and to hear their problems and to help out.

I also want time to read, to think, to write, to follow my dreams.

I am a writer, I want to be an author. In my head that means publishing books, yes books plural, though I’ll use the term author after one book is published, don’t worry. I am finding that the writing process is hard work. It requires a functioning brain. It requires energy. It is not something I can squeeze in to my life in the free evenings, or for half an hour on the weekends.

For me, writing a novel requires (at the very least) working a little on it every day in the morning, and then giving it more time over the weekends. It also requires me to make sure I am healthy, that I eat well, sleep well, and exercise, so that I don’t wake up feeling foggy and unable to think. And that requires me to evaluate every single activity I undertake because I can’t do all the worthy things that come my way and still write a book.

And, you know, that’s hard. Because right now, I have no evidence beyond this blog that writing is something I can do. I am investing hours, days, in something that may not pay off. I am also spending time learning the business of writing, and it is common knowledge that the vast majority of writers in Australia earn about $10,000 from their writing each year so I may never make a living from my dream. I am very unlikely to make big dollars.

The process of investing in my writing is making me re-think all my ideas about success. I have never been one to judge success by the size of someone’s income, but I have definitely judged success by the number of people reached and helped. If you use that analysis to weigh up my writing against the tutoring job I just quit then I am moving in the wrong direction.

Or I am taking a huge leap of faith.

I also feel incredibly selfish. If someone suggested that they would pay me to sit in my little den and write all day, every day, I would jump at the chance. Writing is my happy place. It’s what I love to do. So turning down a worthy job like tutoring, stopping helping children so that I can sit in my happy place more, that’s selfish, isn’t it?

But maybe it isn’t. Maybe God made me with this inclination to shut the world out and think deeply and write about my thoughts. Maybe sitting alone in my lounge room and tapping on a keyboard is how he wants me to spend my time. Maybe it’s not my job to solve everyone’s problems but just to do the best job I can at what I love.

Or maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Only God knows what will come of my writing. At the moment I’m going to keep going and trust him with the outcome. And keep working my other day job.

If anyone wants to pay me to write though – you know where to contact me!

If you enjoyed this post and would like to hear more about my writing journey as it comes to the pointy end with my first novel (a cosy mystery), please drop me a line on rijamos@gmail.com and I’ll add you to my newsletter list. I’ll still be writing posts on this blog but the newsletters will be more writing focussed – what I’m doing with my writing, and what I’m reading myself. I look forward to hearing from you.