When my children were small, I was a stay-at-home mom—except I was rarely at home. I volunteered, carpooled, and took the kids on excursions to museums, the zoo, even the mall. When I was home, I worked part-time as a freelance writer. My pace was intense.
I remember having coffee with an older friend, describing my life to her—mothering my children, keeping my house in order, volunteering at three places, working for four different clients.
My friend looked at me sympathetically. "You have 'focus creep,'" she said. I was scattered, going in too many directions.
I knew I had to simplify. So I pulled out colored pencils and turned to a fresh page in my journal. On one side I put the months of the upcoming school year. Along the top I listed all I'd said "yes" to: leading a Bible study, coaching my daughter's soccer team, volunteering at school, and so on.
Then I drew arrows down from each commitment through the months to see how long I was committed to them. Soccer season ended in late October, so it was a two-month commitment. Next to each arrow I wrote the hours per week required. What emerged on the page was the picture of an overcommitted woman. I'd committed to more hours than there were in a week!
Next came the hard part—asking God where I should prune. What should I focus on, what activities should I let go?
That exercise began my journey toward what I call Sabbath Simplicity, which I define as a "sane-paced, God-focused life." Here are three spiritual practices that helped me.
Slowing the Pace
So often I mistakenly assumed that if I wanted a richer spiritual life, I needed to do more religious stuff. But activity, even cloaked in Christian window-dressing, is still activity.
Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world"—and our world is hurried. The pace of life for Christians should be countercultural; we should be known as people who have time to listen, to care. The mark of a Christian is love, and you can't love in a hurry.
I talk to many women who say "yes" to as much as they can because they think it's the nice Christian thing to do. Or they feel pressured to stay busy. What they forget is that every time they said "yes," they automatically said "no" to other options—such as snuggling on the couch with their husband or kids, or having a few moments alone.
Rather than doing more, I realized I needed to do less so I could see God at work, listen to his voice. Slowing my pace began with one little word: no.