Yesterday, I sat in the middle of plenty of time to write, dove down deep into my writing reserves, and all I came up with was one hand filled with sand, the other with water. Both slipped right through my fingers, nothing there to hold on to. The whole day went that way. Dinner, bedtime, evening. I was a portion there, a portion in the past, and a heavy portion in the future – a mind split up into too many pieces.

It was Monday. I can’t afford to have a Monday go that way.

What can we do when the sun rises up on all our good intentions but instead of giving the light we need to get our work done, it burns all the life right off the surface and scorches us down to the core? How can we breathe in our breathless worlds?

1. remember that productivity is not your god

We need to recognize our own uselessness sometimes. And not just recognize it and know it’s there, but to actually live it. To still the hands and close the eyes and know that really, we have nothing to offer alone. If we are unable to still and to close, sometimes the Lord is gracious to quiet us on his own terms in the form of a useless day. It seems a waste to me, but I believe he loves me enough to spend a whole day reminding me that productivity is not my god.

2. don’t confuse the urgent with the important

Urgent is bossy. Important is patient. Checking your email will not make it better. In fact, on the day when I’m grasping to be productive, checking my email makes it worse. A lot worse. Email feels urgent, but it is rarely important. Urgent things come in from outside and hop up and down on the ground of our souls, shaking us up until we  engage with them. Important things rise up from the convictions of our spirit and line the path of our lives with intention, purpose, focus, and heart. I need to know the difference. My family begs me to know the difference.

3. move toward community, not away

When I’m feeling breathless, my instinct is to retreat alone. Sometimes that’s needed and good. Often times for me, that is my way of grasping for control. Instead, I made a commitment to community nearly 11 years ago to move towards my husband, for better or worse. It doesn’t seem like an answer, but it is. Continue to move toward community. Two solitudes gathering together can be messy, needy, broken. But it can also bring life.

4. learn how to close the day

The hours dedicated to the work have come and they have gone. And now it’s time to enter in to the next season of the day. But I hang on. Oh, how tightly I hang on. Check one more email. Refresh one more page. Jot down one more item on the list. I don’t know how to stop. But I must learn. 

5. lift up your eyes

One useless day does not have to mean writer’s block for months on end or failure to meet a goal forever. It does not mean you are on the wrong track or chose the wrong profession or are hopelessly lazy. One useless day is simply that: one day. We usually see what we look for, so if you look for the gift in that day, if you dare to set aside your own compulsions, you might see this hilarious uselessness as a felt reminder of your own smallness. And oh, the blessed relief of my smallness! And so be small, and lift up your eyes to see where your help comes from.

How do you catch your breath in a breathless world?

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