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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: time


4:59 a.m. Andrew wakes up, protesting that Colin won't move over. They're sharing a double bed this week that we're spending in Chicago, and Colin is stretched horizontally across the mattress, dead, sleepy weight unresponsive to his twin brother's tugging and pushing. I pick Colin up and move him, readjust the blankets, and soon Andrew is breathing heavily again. I lie in bed another half an hour, knowing that these quiet morning hours are some of the most valuable of my day. I get up finally.

My father-in-law has prepared the coffee maker the night before. An angel, that man. All I have to do is flip a switch, and coherence will soon be mine.

I settle into the couch with my new book given to me by a great friend: Invitations from God: Accepting God's Offer to Rest, Weep, Forgive, Wait, Remember and More by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. I only read the Introduction. I must force myself to read a book like this slowly, letting myself hear, consider, and respond.

"Learning to listen and respond to God's invitation is the path to real freedom."

The past many months, especially since our move to Toronto, have helped me see the ways in which I am not free and long to be more deeply free in Christ. I want to be free to hear God and respond to Him without fear that others will misunderstand. I want to be free to resist the expectations of others which want insistently to shape me or move me away from God's invitations. I want to be free from the dominating forces of greed and idolatry. I want to be free of the ambitions that corrupt me with notions of my self-importance. I want to be free to serve and surrender more fully to Christ. I want to be free to live my moments, my days, my years (as many as God grants) full to the brim with life and purpose and joy and vitality.

"The truth, however, is that when we say yes to invitations that keep us compulsively busy, we may be exhibiting a lazy ambivalence that actually keeps us distracted from the invitations that matter most. . . Ironically, our many yeses to invitations keeps us stressed, drained and inattentive to the divine invitations that bring real freedom and belonging."

Distracted. Inattentive. Yes, I live like that. And it's the story of my own invitations from God I haven't purposefully committed to remembering and understanding until more recently. I know it's my own story, as it bears out the truths of the story of Scripture, that will remind me that God is present. When I open my eyes wide, I see Him. In the good and ordinary gifts of today. In the seasons of disappointment and uncertainty. In the movement of my own heart toward Him. In the familiar faces of my world. My faith is strengthened in direct measure to my purposing to see. Ann Voskamp taught me that.

"Do our yeses to invitations simply divert or stroke our ego? Or do they nurture and grow body, soul and spirit? Do they build connections within the body of Christ and bring health to our marriage and family? Do the invitations we accept make us more free or less? Which invitations are shaping your world?"

Having an invitation doesn't confirm it's from God. We've been taught to pray for open "doors," as it to say that if a road is easy and opportunities available, that surely God is in it. But I'm finding more and more that opportunities abound and invitations multiply, and it isn't as easy to identify where God is leading me. There is a greater need for discernment, for listening well to the quiet voice of the Spirit and determining when I'm to say yes and no.

"Jesus learned how to discern between invitations. He learned discernment by first saying yes to God's invitations to rest, wait, pray, forgive, remember and love. Time with God was not a luxury that got squeezed out when business picked up."

I am desperate to grow in this kind of discernment. It feels more and more urgent as life complicates.

And I know and believe deeply that it's time alone with God that shapes us and reforms us and reorients us to truth.

It's why I got out of bed this morning.


We pull into the school parking lot and rehearse the do-nots. "So Mommy has to meet with Nathan's teacher, and what are the rules again? How does Mommy expect you to behave?"

And from the backseat, Andrew's voice rises confidently: "No running. No screaming. No punching. And NO DILLY-DALLYING."

* * * * *

Camille and I walk quickly to the subway station, Starbucks in hand. I spill some coffee on my jacket, and she smiles smugly, probably remembering the speech I'd given her on the way, that I wasn't buying her hot chocolate this morning because every time I did, it ended up all over her shirt.

As we come down the stairs, an approaching train rumbles, and the brakes squeal. It is Sunday morning, and if we miss this train, we'll wait at least five minutes for another.

"Quick! C'mon, sweetie. We can make this train."

And I race ahead.

The doors gape open, and I hop on, Camille another 3 1/2 steps behind me.

I turn just as they begin to close. My arm reaches through the gap, and I throw my weight against the doors.

But they don't budge.

Five inches of opening, too small for either of us. We're moments away from losing our grip, seconds from when that train will lurch forward and leave a little girl of 7 alone in an empty subway station.

It is that still, silent moment of panic, when the possibilities are too terrifying to consider.

And then he jumps from his seat, the man with strong hands, and forces the doors open. I yank Camille inside the train, and she tumbles into my arms. I hug her breathlessly."

"I am so sorry," I whisper, as we collapse into a seat. "We should have waited for the next one."

* * * * *

Catching Your Breath

God's way with us is waiting. A friend, speaking at a local women's event, had, in six words, summed up profound spiritual truth.

In the last several days, when in my best efforts to race and accomplish and check something off my list, I've been halted. Stopped. Forced to wait.

I've waited behind long lines of traffic as I've slowed to a stop because a noon-day construction project is underway. (Really? Must we repair the roads in the middle of the day? Can we be less considerate to those of us demanding that time surrender to our relentless demands?)

I've waited at the deli counter. He's new and friendly, I tell myself, all the while staring down the manager's smiling picture who promises me the best service and the highest quality products. I compose a speech I will deliver when I fortune to meet him, apprising him as to how more efficiently train his employees and staff his deli counter. The minutes evaporate, and when the sliced turkey is handed to me and he apologizes for the delays, I nod and assure him, "No problem." Liar.

I wait at the post office. Audrey had gathered rocks from our camping trip (in September!) and had packaged them each individually in envelopes for her friends in the States. I have exactly nine minutes to accomplish this errand before I race to pick the twins up from preschool. The women behind the counter feels each envelope quizzically.

"What are you mailing here?"


"Oh no, I'm sorry, but these aren't properly packaged at all." And then she begins to meticulously explain which bubbled envelope would have been more appropriate, how much they'll each cost to send, and I'm wearing my, oh-thank-you-for-your-helpfulness kind of smile, while the clocks on the wall inform me of the minutes ticking away in Tokyo, Paris, London, and New York. I don't have time for this, but there's absolutely no interrupting her.

I race and I hurry, and it doesn't matter that I'm no longer homeschooling or that the writing project is finished because there's. never. enough. time.

Ann Voskamp's words from her book, One Thousand Gifts, have articulated what I've long felt.

"I speak it to the God: I don't really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done - yesterday. . .  I just want time to do my one life well."

And so I realize that I've been racing these past ten years of raising this brood of kids. It's a game I've played and mastered: how to squeeze one more efficient minute from this, my tube of time. And here, in this new season of kids in school and three quiet mornings a week to myself, time has slowed, but I'm still breathing hard. It's what I've known. It's familiar to me.

And I learn that breathing is hardly involuntary. Catching my breath will take resolve. Slowing is a discipline. Waiting is a gift.