I was watching an interview between Emily Freeman and Amber Haines and as they were talking, the phrase “Sit down on the inside” slipped out of one of their mouths. They had a few other phrases they used to describe what they were getting at: “an inner sobriety” and having an “ok-ness” with yourself. I like those, but “sit down on the inside” has stuck with me and I’ve found myself pondering it as I go from task to task.
In my last post, I wrote about the barrage of lists and gifts and get togethers we have during this time of year. It can leave us feeling so empty if we let it keep us from the significant and the eternal. And maybe this post is a bit of the same as the last one, but I just keep wondering what it means to really fight against it. Sure, we can step back and cross a few unnecessary things off our lists, but we can’t just throw the whole thing away. What does it really mean to quiet our hearts and minds?
The answer is to “sit down on the inside.” There may be any number of things going on in our life on the outside, but if we can figure out how to let our souls breathe— to sit down on the inside— we can find the margin we need to be joyful, even while our hands are busy.
We think we have to clear off our schedule and resort to complete silence and quiet, when sometimes all that does is put us to sleep (which is not always a bad thing, by the way). What if, instead, we quiet our souls, even in the midst of a very chaotic life and schedule?
Brother Lawrence was a monk who lived over 300 years ago and spent the bulk of his days washing dishes. He is the master of “sitting down on the inside”. During his decades of doing seemingly menial tasks, he realized experiencing God’s presence can-and should- happen everywhere, no matter what else was swirling around him.
I am in the middle of making forty-eight jars of honey butter for school teachers, friends, small group leaders, bus drivers, etc who pour into us and our kids on a regular basis. It’s something I want to do, but forty-eight is a heck of a lot of butter and honey and cinnamon. I have a choice to make— I can either stress myself out, becoming frantic about the sheer number of little jars lined up on my counter…. or I can sit down on the inside. I can realize how very blessed we are to have a community of people surrounding us. I can use the time spent working on the jars to pray for all our friends who will be receiving the gift. I, for one, would rather receive a gift knowing I had been prayed over rather than causing stress to the giver. The shift isn’t in the task, the shift is in my attitude.
The same could be said about Christmas cards, gifts, class parties, special meals — all of it, really. We can choose to be stressed, or we can take a minute to sit down on the inside and instead allow the Holy Spirit to change our minds and attitudes. (Side note: In case you were wondering, this is an all-year-long lesson, not just a December lesson)
We weren’t made for this constant loudness, and even the most outgoing one needs space and time for the quiet. So if you need to find true quiet, clear off your schedule and do that. But maybe you just need to sit down on the inside, while the outside still swarms around you. Find a place of peace and park yourself. You may have to work hard to get there, but I promise you, Jesus will meet you.
- If you’re looking for a few practical ways I cut down on Christmas craziness, here are my top 4:
- We only get our kids three gifts: something to wear, something to read, something to play with. Oh my goodness, I love it so much. It has simplified so many things about Christmas for us. Now, I will say that when I put the gifts under the tree, I am overcome with guilt every single year, because it just looks like nothing. But by the time they open gifts from all the grandparents and everyone else, I’m always so relieved they didn’t get more. Plus, I’m way more thoughtful when I can only get them a few things.
- Sometimes when I make a to-do list, I end up doing extra things I hadn’t thought to put on it. So I write them in after they’re done. I don’t know, it just makes me feel better. Mopped the floor! Did the laundry! Drank a glass of water! I can trick myself into feeling more accomplished when I glance at a list full of crossed off tasks.
- This year, I bought sprinkles and marshmallows and the fancy whipped cream in the bottle. We’re planning on calling friends last minute to have them over for hot chocolate. I read about it on Design Mom and it made so much sense to me. Maybe I don’t have the resources to invite a family over for dinner, but I can certainly call them last minute to see if they can come over for hot chocolate. There’s no pressure either way. It’s a practical way we can reach out.
- I work hard to de-clutter my house pre-December. I like my house to be neat and piles are just a necessity in December. We have presents for cousins and Christmas cards, and secret projects going on everywhere. And, dear me, we have the fattest tree on the face of the earth sitting in our living room, taking up A LOT of space. In order for me not to go crazy, I try hard to get the summer clothes in bins and we go through old toys and give them to the thrift store. If I can create space in my actual house, it helps me breathe and tolerate the extra Christmas piles.
May you work hard to find the peace and joy Christ is calling you to today. May you have the courage to sit down on the inside, even while the chaos around you threatens to swallow you up. May the shift this season be in your heart, for the One who created your soul to breathe.