Leaving Space for the Unexpected

I learned a long time ago that I have to leave white space on my calendar. No, this time I’m not going to write about all the reasons you need to take occasional time away from the daily grind for yourself. This time, I want to encourage you to be ready to spring into action.

Now and then, I look at my calendar and discover a day with (gasp!) nothing on it. Most of the time that turns out to mean I have a very busy day ahead. I just don’t know it yet. ‘Could be there’s a household repair or an unplanned errand calling my name. I might be needed by

            A sick child.

            A friend who is mourning.

            A new neighbor waiting to be welcomed.

            A lonely loved one, or one who is simply overwhelmed.

            Fill in the blank with the sort of calls you get…

In many cases, the unexpected that fills the “white space” in my life involves someone who needs me. That’s one of the reasons I need to remain vigilant about keeping my lifestyle and my calendar flexible and well-pruned. For me that means, when possible, staying prayed up and rested up. It means fighting the urge to procrastinate, so that there are seldom any “absolutely has to be done right now” items on my daily list. And it means, of course, intentionally leaving some unplanned time on my schedule.

I’m learning to expect the unexpected, because the unexpected is actually pretty common. You will almost certainly be needed in an unexpected way sometime soon. You may be summoned by a phone call, or an email, or maybe by that still small voice pointing you to a need you hadn’t noticed before. Today, I’m asking you to get ready to meet the need, to be prepared to answer with a cheerful, “Yes!”

The unexpected is coming, so leave a little space!

Photo by Eric Rothermel via Unsplash.com

Do Nothing

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Nope. This won’t be a blog giving you permission to become a long-term couch potato. (You know me better than that!) I do, however, hope to influence your pace and your motivation. We’re past the holidays, and past those early days of the new year when we thought maybe we’d do a better job of living this year than last. (Why, exactly, do we think a flip of the calendar will empower us to do that?) Now, for many of us, an overwhelming life has returned, or at least it’s creeping up on us. I can’t believe that’s how God means for us to live.

So then what? Let me share a few wise words that are not my own:

“Do nothing in a hurry. There is always time for all that is in the will of God.” (Jessie Penn-Lewis) Do you believe that? I do. So when I say, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day,” I need to realize that God didn’t goof. This means, of course, that I have. I’ve taken on too much.

Now is a good time to evaluate yet again the pace at which we live. If you need a nudge to make sure you are living at a reasonable pace, perhaps these words will help:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3). Take a moment to ponder this question: Are the frantic places in your life there because they make you look more spiritual, or valuable, or accomplished? It’s an easy trap, one the Enemy is deft at setting for so many of us.

“Being dependable doesn’t mean it all depends on me.” (Uncredited, but Biblical.) Are you actually doing more to help the human race than you’re meant/called to do? I’ve been there.

And lastly, I’m struck by the words Bonnie Gray wrote on the (in)courage[1] website, “Don’t minimize the things that give you rest and joy. They’re often the first things we start letting go of when we’re stressed, but they may be the very ways we can experience God’s peace in the midst of anxiety.”

Are we leaving time for rest? For joy? I hope so. If not, there’s no better time to start than right now.

[1] (in)courage – a DaySpring community (incourage.me)

People Are The Big Rocks


When I was a kid, TV reruns came in the spring. This year, though I’ve decided to “rerun” a few favorite blog posts in the fall–this October to be exact. All of the posts have to do with how we treat people. Are we really heading the repeated Biblical instruction to be loving and kind? Here’s the first installment.

My life is always in flux. I never really know what the next day will bring. Truth be told, I’ve come to like it that way. Always, though, I try to guard my privacy, my quiet time, my writing time. Ah, notice the overuse of “I” and “my.” Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.” The truth, then, is that there’s no such thing as “my” time. Our days belong to the Lord, and he won’t always follow the plans we’ve laid out.

Lately, life has been especially full of social engagements and friends in need. My “to do” list has been rewritten nearly every day to include less privacy, less quiet, less writing, but more listening, engaging and assisting. In the background I’ve sensed the Holy Spirit whispering these words, “People are the big rocks.”

The big rocks. Picture a large empty vase. Now imagine three slightly smaller containers, one filled with big rocks, one with pebbles, and one with sand. Our task? To fit everything into the vase. If we pour in the sand, then the pebbles, then the rocks…Uh oh. ‘Can’t get those big ‘ol rocks in on top of all the small stuff.  

What happens if we fill the vase with big rocks first? Is it full now? Maybe no more big rocks will fit, but there’s still an awful lot of space in there. Once we jiggle in in the pebbles, there’s room for sand to filter into the remaining nooks and crannies. Voila! Everything that needed to go into the vase has found its place!

We have to make room for the big stuff in our lives first, and let everything else fit in as it can. If some of the pebbles and a few grains of sand end up falling to the floor, that’s better than leaving out a rock. And in almost every case, people are the big stuff. Before a perfect home or perfect hair, before even a good night’s sleep or ______ (you fill in the blank), people take precedence. So, next time someone asks for a bit of our time, before we say no and go back to our pre-planned endeavors, maybe we need to listen, to see if the Holy Spirit is saying once again, “People are the big rocks.”


I can still see my seventeen-year-old self standing in a college bookstore, a stack of syllabi in hand. I expect the prep-for-class process has changed, but back then it worked like this:

  1. Register for classes. (In a gym full of card tables!)
  2. Pick up a syllabus for each class.
  3. Read through each one to see what will be required throughout the semester.
  4. Buy all the books needed for every class. (In person. At an actual bookstore.)

Hauling all those textbooks back to the dorm was no easy task. Talk about a beast of burden! The real burden, though, and the real beast, was in my own brain. I would inevitably look at a whole semester’s worth of assignments and wonder—with a good bit of worry—how I would ever be able to do all that work. Some part of me disregarded the long timeline, the months stretching out before me to offer the gift of ample time, as if it was all due TODAY.

Of course, I did have enough time, and did finish the assignments, and graduate and find employment and…But it took me a long time to learn this lesson:

When life looms large and its demands seem overwhelming, JUST DO TODAY!

Those early weeks of college were tainted by my insistence on mentally tackling way too much before the real time to do so. Life presents plenty of challenge, and when we try to take it all on at once, or even wonder how we will handle tomorrow while we are embroiled in today, we wreck any possibility of peace. Why do we do that? I think it has something to do with that old enemy of ours who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. It may also have something to do with our demented idea that we can control and handle all things on our own. Taking things one day at a time is much easier to do when we remember Who holds our future.

Jesus taught this lesson long ago. The sooner we learn it, the better!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27).

10 Things to Do When You Are Tired

My life is delightfully full—and also sometimes a bit out of balance. In other words, I get pretty pooped out now and then. What’s a body to do?

I know the Bible says that if I wait upon the Lord, I’ll renew my strength, but sometimes my strength, well, it needs renewing sooner rather than later. Here are a few steps I try to take:

Play worship music. It lifts my spirits and energizes me.

Use a Bible software app (like YouVersion) to fit in Bible reading on a busy day. Sometimes I listen while doing chores around the house or driving or lying flat on my back for a few minutes.

Put on a pair of supportive shoes. Don’t laugh until you’ve tried it. And this tip isn’t just for the over 45 crowd. I’ve been donning good shoes first thing in the morning since my kids were toddlers, and when I don’t, I pay for it by the end of the day.

Eat a piece of fruit. Sometimes, I just need a hit of sugar, but of the kind that will last a while without making me crash.

Try a cup of green tea—lots of possible benefits, only a little caffeine. Or give kukicha tea a try. (I love it, but its flavor isn’t for everyone.)

Reevaluate “The List.” Is there something that can be delegated or delayed?

Alternate “body tasks” (stuff that takes physical stamina) with “brain tasks” (the ones that require sitting and thinking.) At the very least, take short breaks from any particular type of task.

Remember, this time will probably pass. It’s easy to become even more tired today by thinking about all I have to do tomorrow, so I try to take things one day at a time. An easier day may crop up before long.  

Notice the “chocolate chips” of the day. Even when we’re tired, the day is better if we look for the little blessings and moments of joy sprinkled here and there.

And, of course, ask the Lord to provide strength. (He does promise it after all. See Isaiah 40.)

Mr. Sagehorn

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When I was in the eighth grade, I had three teachers. One taught science and math. I remember his face, but not his name. One taught language arts. Her name was Mrs. Marsh. She scared the heck out of me on the first day of class, but taught me more about writing than anyone else ever did (except for my parents, but that’s another story). And then there was Mr. Sagehorn. Mr. Sagehorn was also the principal of that little Lutheran school. Here’s what I remember best about him.

Whenever students broke the rules, Mr. Sagehorn would require them to write a sentence over and over, the number varying with the severity of the offense. It was always this sentence:

“Procrastination is an undesirable characteristic.”

Not to brag, but I don’t think Mr. Sagehorn ever made me write sentences. (Honestly, I was too intimidated by the rigors of junior high to even consider breaking the rules.) But that line, driven deeply into my impressionable psyche, has remained with me until this day. And until this day, I think I always considered it to be the gospel truth.

Silly me.

Today, I sipped my morning tea while considering my long “to do” list. We’ve had a few very full weeks of travel and houseguests. Yesterday, in honor of our wedding anniversary, Steve and I vowed to spend the day resting together. I felt I could procrastinate no longer! Then my phone rang. Would I like to join my grandchildren on a trip to the neighborhood pool?

At that moment, a light went on in my head. Procrastination can be a VERY desirable characteristic. Without it, we become slaves to our lists and routines. We miss the special moments God and loved ones drop into our lives, often at unexpected times.

I went to the pool. I had a blast. I gave my dirty house a quick once-over instead of the thorough cleaning it may have deserved. The laundry stayed in the basket. Only the most urgent slips of paper were handled and discarded from my desk. It will all be there tomorrow, as will the memory of laughing and splashing and soaking up sunshine with three precious little kids.

Sure, there are things that can’t wait. Yes, prolonged procrastination can lead to trouble. But (sorry, Mr. Sagehorn) I now understand that a little bit of procrastination can be good for the soul.

If your “to do” list is keeping you from a blessing—one you need, or one you need to share—take a moment to prioritize, and PROCRASTINATE!