Do You Have Four Minutes?

Right now seems to be a season of flux for me. It looks like some changes are coming. For one, I’m taking a break right now from working on any novels. I am still writing daily using a writing prompt, and I hope to work on this blog a little more. But I will need to make some decisions about what direction I want to go with my career soon.

As a Christian, I want to follow God’s path for my life. I want to  use the gifts He’s given me for His good, not mine. Most of the time, I feel like I just need to get out of the way and quit overthinking everything.  There are some very simple mantras that stick in my head, like “Do the Work.” Or “Take Action.” Both of those are great and exactly what I need to do. But when you’re lost on which direction to go, it’s easy to just stop. And that doesn’t feel right either.

hourglass-1703330_1280Sometimes, though, it’s okay to stop. Take a break. Just breathe for a moment. And that’s where the title of this blog comes in: Do you have four minutes?

Recently at church, one of our teaching pastors, Ryan Leak (@ryanleak), talked about our prayer life. In this fast-paced world, we’re not always stopping to pray, and most certainly aren’t taking time out for quiet time with the Lord. We all know the passage in Psalm 46 that says “Be Still and know that I am God.” Yet most of us aren’t still. So, Ryan suggested an experiment. For four minutes, you sit still. Set a timer (because yes, it feels strange at first). But quiet yourself. You can start out praying, but God knows our hearts. He hears from us enough, but do we take time to hear from Him? So be still, for four minutes. And absorb the silence.

Now, you may not hear the booming voice of God. You may not hear anything. The answers may not come, but for four minutes, you focus on God. You quiet your heart. Maybe you find peace.

As I’m struggling in this season where I’m purposely taking a break, I’m going to try to be still for four minutes a day. Will I find the answers I need? Will my path suddenly appear before me? I don’t know. But I do know that for four minutes a day, I will revel in the quiet. I will settle my racing thoughts. I will have a peaceful moment. Maybe the answers will come, maybe they won’t. But I do know they certainly won’t come unless I stop long enough to listen. I’m setting aside four minutes a day to listen.

What about you? Do you have four minutes?

The Next Phase of Life

It’s back to school time. You’ve seen the pictures flooding the internet of kids on their first day of school for this year. For some parents, it’s seeing their kids start high school or middle school, for others, it’s the start of Kindergarten, and finally there are those who are sending their youngest to college and are now facing the empty nest. There’s a new normal happening in many households.

Sandwich Generation

For my husband and I, well, we’ve been empty nesters for several years. Both kids are grown and married. We’ve been in this blissful phase of life, with the kids grown, but before grandchildren, and our own parents still healthy and active.

But as we all know, life can change on a dime and sometimes it’s an avalanche of change.

That avalanche has come roaring at us this year. And not with just one new phase of life, but with several phases bombarding us all at once. We’re entering a new season, and the quiet before these new storms are now past.

I’m mourning that quiet time before this change, but there are good things coming in this new season.

This is what I’m calling my “sandwich” year. I’m sure you’ve heard the term before – the sandwich generation. I don’t quite fit into that definition, but I’m feeling sandwiched enough.

In other words, this is the year where everything changed forever. My parents’ lives turned upside down with the advent of a couple of serious health issues. I spent a lot of time traveling back and forth to be with them, and will do so a few more times this year. For the first time, I see my parents as “older.” If you knew my folks, you know they have never been elderly or even come close to acting their ages. But unfortunately, I see that age now as one faces difficult health challenges and the other has gone into a caregiving role.

As I come to terms with the changes for my parents, we have the other end of the spectrum… and that’s the arrival of our first grandchild! It was so nice to have such joyous news in the midst of the trauma with my parents. As my husband and I anticipate this precious gift of a new baby, we know that nothing in our lives will be the same again. We’re very excited and while we remain empty nesters, we are already looking around our home, thinking about when the baby will be here, when we’ll play and entertain our grandchild…thinking about the “toy room.” (Okay, so we’re planning far ahead!)

This is definitely the year of change. My child and spouse will have a new normal in their lives as they become parents.

My parents have a new normal as they deal with health challenges and the long-term after effects.

As for my husband and I, these events in the lives of our children and parents have impacted us in numerous ways, that we too are finding our new normal. In the future, I know I will always reflect upon this year as our year of major change – some tough changes and joyous changes.

But I look forward to next year with such hope – the hope that comes from our new grandchild, and the hope that my parents will be healthy and strong from this point forward.

While I know I’ll have my sandwich moments yet to come, if we can balance that with a future and a hope (read Jeremiah 29:11), then we’ll make it through and continue to our next phase of life.

Friendship and the movie "The Four Seasons"

I’m dating myself, but one of my favorite movies is “The Four Seasons” from 1981 with Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno and more. The movie is about three couples, all in their 40s with college-aged kids, who vacation together and share their lives together.

My favorite line in the movie, which strikes me every time I hear it, comes towards the end, where Carol Burnett’s character, Kate, says “I don’t want to be one of two people alone in the world at the end of my life. I want to have friends.”

Isn’t that how we all feel? We don’t want to be alone, we want to have friends…meaningful friends.

I grew up as the daughter of an Air Force officer. If you know anything about the military life, you know we moved around a lot. So, there were friends who came and went, like the seasons. And thankfully, there were other friends, who despite the years and the distance, have remained close, lifelong friends.

We all have seasons with friendships. In high school, you never imagine life without your friends that you met then. Some of us are still close with those high school friends. But more often than not, I would guess, we did not maintain most of those relationships.

College might be a different story. I would think that a lot of us maintain at least some of the friends we had in college. My husband’s freshman class from Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets is one great example. More on that unit in an upcoming blog post.

Other friends we meet through church, or when we’re going through similar circumstances, like mommy groups and school functions.

Our church encourages “Life Groups,” which are meant to be a safe place to go deeper with friendship and truly fellowship together in faith and life.

But how do you maintain friendships when that season in time has passed? Do you even want to?

What is that special bond that brings friends together and holds them together?

I know we need to be intentional with friendships….with any relationship.

I need to be intentional, because it would be way too easy to focus just on my husband and not make an effort with outside friends.

But as the movie says, “I don’t want to be one of two people alone in the world at the end of my life. I want to have friends.”

Do you agree?