Thursday, August 21, 2014

the art of stopping

Christopher Robin: Pooh, what's your favorite thing in the whole world? 
Pooh: My favorite thing is me coming to visit you, and then you ask, "How about a   small smackeral of honey?"  
Christopher Robin: I like that, too. But what I like most of all is just doing     nothing. 
Pooh: How do you do just nothing?  
Christopher Robin: Well, when grown-ups ask, "What are you going to do?" and you say, "Nothing," and then you go and do it. 
Pooh: I like that. Let's do it all the time.

My Aussie friends have a way of describing life when it gets busy; they say it is “full on.”  It works for me.  So, life here has definitely been full on the last few weeks.  It’s been ridiculously, gloriously, exhaustively full on…  budget planning meetings (not so glorious), 6 days of Celebrate Purity event, small groups, curriculum writing, 6 days of kids’ SHINE camp, a wedding, an attempt at homeschooling… that’s just in the last two weeks!  Now, I’m a laid-back girl.  I really don’t get too excited when the full on switch is flipped.  My hubby is an all-or-nothing guy.  He thinks that a full schedule is just buckets of fun - and even he was calling “STOP!” by the time the last camp session ended. 

So, we stopped.  We executed a well-timed escape to Jinja (about 2 ½ hours down the road) and spent 2 nights on the bank of the Nile River.  Without the kids. (which is very pertinent information to relay!)  We arrived in Jinja and did something that we have never done together in our 13 years of marriage – we did absolutely NOTHING!  

This is really significant, because Thomas and I are adventure travelers.  We are the people who do crazy, irrational things like drive 17 hrs. one way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan just so we can spend 36 hrs. there collecting pretty rocks before making the 17 hr. trip home.   Or sleep in a different location every night of our anniversary trip to Maine, so that I get on the home-bound plane with serious constipation.  True story.  OK – TMI, sorry.  The point is, every waking moment of our vacation-time has seemed to require us going somewhere we’ve never been and/or doing something we’ve never done.   

This is also significant because Jinja is known as the “Adventure Capital of East Africa.”  In Jinja, you can raft the Nile rapids, bungee jump, rent ATVs and tear off to explore the “bush.”  Of course, there’s the fact that these excursions are not exactly part of our budget.  And there is also the fact that we are just plain getting old…well, I mean, we ARE well past our 20’s!  But the decisive fact was that we both knew we needed REST.  Real rest.  As in, more than a good night’s sleep.  Interestingly, this resting was more of a challenge than I realized it would be. 

Here are some excerpts from my journal…

Sunday 3:30pm

Convincing my brain to relax is going to take longer than I thought.  I was just beginning to dose here in the sunshine when I became absolutely certain that Rey was standing right beside my bed calling, “Mama, MAAAMA…”  I automatically went into “play possum-for-one-more-minute-mode.”  Then, I realized it was just a loud bee flying around my head.   Ahh, I’m glad we’re here for two nights and not just one! 

Monday 9:35am

Solitude.  Just me and the river bank and these gorgeous tropical birds and a baby Nile Monitor and a hundred red dragonflies.  Privacy and silence are two very rare commodities in my life.  I take them greedily when I can.  So, I’m relishing the physical space.  The mental space, however, is apparently something I don’t know what to do with.  I’ve spent the last 45 min. convincing myself to just stay.  To sit.  It’s really ok that I don’t have a book in my hand.  It’s ok that I’ve not been online for 48 hours.  The headlines on CNN homepage can wait another day.  My Facebook newsfeed can wait much longer than that, I’m sure!  It’s like if I sense any empty space in my head, I compulsively feel the need to fill it.  I think I should be inputting something in my brain right now, or, in the very least out-putting something… so I have something to show for this time.  Pretty sure that’s the real reason I just picked up this pen to journal again.  Ok.  Input/output off.  Pen goes down.  I’m just gonna sit some more.  I. will. just. be.  

Monday 3:10pm

I just went for a swim.  I didn’t swim for exercise.  I didn’t swim because my kids needed me in the pool with them.  I just swam for fun like I used to do when I was 10 (uh, yes, complete with an underwater flip!)  I was contemplating how I always approach my devotion/ Bible reading time with an agenda.  Like my first thought is – ok, what am I supposed to learn/memorize/get out of this today?  I want to learn to swim in God’s Word- just for the refreshing pleasure of it! 

Tuesday 10:20

So, it seems the ripples of my thoughts have finally dissipated.  This doing nothing is really great.  Really.  I feel like I can now introduce a new thought stream in my head without causing chaos and disruption to another one.  And spiritually, I am more centered.  Being still and unnoticed helps me remember that I’m small and not so important as I like to think.  The world can go on just fine without me for a couple of days.  Being alone by the river helps me remember that God is big.  BIG.  And Christ is supreme above all this stunning creation around me.  Oh, I wish I could do nothing more often.

So now it’s after 11pm.  I’m propped up in bed back home at Suubi.  T is already off again, to Gulu for a few days.  My plans for tomorrow include another meeting and dentist appointments and driving in Kampala Friday traffic – ugh!  I have no majestic river vista now, just my VERY disorganized bedroom – a suitcase that still needs to be unpacked (because, yes, we are those kind of travelers as well), and a stack of suitcases that are waiting to be packed.  Two weeks from today, we peace out for the US.  So, yep, you guessed it, it’s full on again!  I am new to this art form of stopping, but I am committed to developing it.  It’s hard to fathom right now, but someday I will learn how to stop, even if it’s in the middle of a pile of dirty clothes or a pile of 5th grade school books.  And I will learn to be still, even if “privacy” and “silence” have left me high and dry and are nowhere to be seen.  And someday I will become adept at doing nothing… even if it’s for 2 min. instead of two days!  Yes, someday I will master these techniques.  But, for now, I’ll start with some sleep... and maybe dreaming about this view again.


  1. I love reading your blog! As busy as it seems you are there is nothing as exciting as the adventrue you and your little family are living. :)

  2. Beautiful- so true too ! "Be still my soul be still"