by Catherine Miller
Like many others, I have been slowly taking back my home during quarantine. I decluttered the baby’s room, reorganized the boys’ room, and deep cleaned the bathrooms. Henry and I cleaned and repainted the foyer and painted the front door in a blue reminiscent of Dr. Who’s TARDIS. I was so encouraged by our progress that I decided to paint the living room also.
As I painted, I listened to a podcast called Makers and Mystics. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the creative arts. Host Stephen Roach artfully interviews a variety of contemporary artists, musicians, and writers, asking poignant questions to understand their creative processes and perspectives on God. One of the episodes I listened to as I covered my formerly beige walls in woodlawn blue was an interview with author and therapist John Eldredge.
I was already familiar with Eldredge because he created an app that Fr. David recommended to me a few weeks ago called The One Minute Pause. From the interview I learned that Eldredge started the app because he realized he couldn’t be present around his grandkids (ages 3, 2, 1) for more than five minutes before he wanted to check his phone, check his email, and go online. He couldn’t read books anymore (and he loves to read!) and couldn’t pay attention to anything longer than a blog post. He realized he never really stopped during his day. From the time he woke up he went straight from bed to texting, listening to podcasts on his commute to work, and emailing constantly. He started on a quest to take back his life and started practicing a pause in his day for 60 seconds. In the app the pause goes something like this:
Stop. Pause. Breathe.
Jesus – I give everyone and everything to you.
I give it all back to you God, all of my worries and concerns,
all of my fears and stresses. I give it all back to you.
At the beginning of the quarantine, I began to feel anxious about our finances and the health of my loved ones. I had panic attacks after reading the news. I started using the app to help with these emotions. Immediately after pausing, I felt lighter. If I needed more time I sat there, wherever I was, for a bit longer and breathed until I felt my heart slow its pace. I stopped following the news cycle as habitually and limited my social media engagement. I took intentional walks around our block. When I misplaced my phone (as I do several times a week; praise God for Find My iPhone!), I decided to let it stay lost for a while. I spent time writing music, drawing, painting, and writing letters. And since I was recording music for Sunday ahead of time, I started to pay more attention to how I structured my Sabbath.
I started to intentionally keep a Sabbath when I began working at Trinity over a year and a half ago. The Hebrew word for Sabbath, shabbat, means “stop”. For one 24-hour span each week, I stop working on projects for church. I don’t call anyone on staff. Maybe I send a quick text here and there if it’s a personal inquiry, but usually I just keep to myself for a day. The kids and I try to spend time in nature and create. I try to “pause” from my labors of the week and refocus on God, Henry, and the kids.
During this time of quarantine, my Sabbath looks a little bit different. I try to spend the time playing board games with the kids. On Sunday I try not to cook—just reheat leftovers, so I can start off Monday with a clean kitchen. If I’m working on projects that have disrupted our life during the week (like painting the living room!), I try to finish them up by Saturday night. That way, we don’t have to focus on cleaning messes and are free to redirect our attention to God and to spend time creating, reading, meditating, and appreciating God’s creation all around us.
We were not meant to carry the burdens of the world on our shoulders. We need to arrange our lives to make room for God, decreasing distractions and increasing practices that bring us closer to Him. In the words of John Eldredge, “if you will begin with simple, accessible, and sustainable things, they will lead you on to other practices that create sacred space in your life, which allows you to find more of God.”
You can start right now. Put down your phone, close your computer. Pause. Breathe. Remember that God is here with you, now. Relax your burdens into His care.