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Learning To Waste Time

I was walking alone through the Detroit airport on my way to a conference about two weeks ago. I entered an area that was dimly lit with colorful lights and relaxing music playing. My natural reaction was to slow down and look around. I had a long layover so I was not in a hurry. The first thing I noticed was that everyone else was in a hurry.

Everyone had their heads down, looking at their phones, walking really fast.

Zero eye contact, zero emotion.

I had an intense moment of sadness. I don’t know if I felt sad for me, for America, or for the entire human race. We have forgotten how to do nothing, how to slow down. We have forgotten how to just be, to smile and nod at someone who passes by, to be a person who notices life.

At the conference, I chose a breakout session given by Emily Freeman, author of several great books and the blog Chatting At The Sky. She said something during the class that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind: “You need to relearn how to waste time.”

Then Emily said, “Not everything has to be useful and productive.”

At first I thought she sounded a bit crazy. But as she was talking, it reminded me of two things:

I was reminded of the airport scene in Detroit. Everyone was doing something. Even if their only goal was to avoid eye contact with anyone else by being on their phone, they were all doing something. It was like they didn’t know how to do nothing.

I was also reminded of a scene recently with my daughter Kendyl (she’s two) and my son Cole (he’s nineteen-months-old). We were outside playing, but I was in hurry-mode. I was thinking about how I should be pulling weeds instead of sitting in the sandbox with two toddlers. I was also thinking about how I was going to coax them into the house without any tantrums being thrown. We had an appointment later in the afternoon, so I wanted to get them inside to lay them down for their naps before we left.

I think it took us over fifteen minutes to walk from the sandbox to the back door of our house. Kendyl stopped to look at (and chase) a butterfly, to pick a flower, to look at the “birdie.” Cole stopped to take his shorts off, to eat some mulch, and to throw a rock. I was so frustrated with them both, feeling rushed and stressed because my schedule was getting thrown off once again.

But as I thought back, I remember their little faces. Pure joy. Totally content and happy, noticing life and living it to the fullest. No agenda, no plan. Just joy.

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” - Mathew 18:2-3

I need to relearn how to “waste” time.

What if I planned it? If it makes me feel better to schedule it, maybe I can set aside some time each day to just “waste.”

And what if it’s not a waste at all? What if it’s my favorite part of the day, where I connect with and notice those I love the most?

“Embrace the wonder. Make time for the wonder.” – Emily Freeman

I decided to give it try. I like to experiment to see if the things I learn and that move me actually work.

So I planned about thirty minutes after supper one evening to go out in the garden with my family and just “waste” time.

Here are some pictures of our “wasted” time:

It took me a few minutes to relax, but I had so much fun. I enjoyed my children, laughed with my husband and fell a little bit more in love with him, found beauty in God’s creation, and took some dorky pictures.

I embraced the wonder. I let the joy come and let myself really feel it. I stopped striving and doing for a few minutes.

And yes, it was my favorite part of the day.

I highly recommend it.

What if one of my most important jobs as a wife, mother, daughter, or friend is to pay attention while “wasting” time?

Maybe it sounds a little crazy, but sometimes crazy is really, really good.

Lord, I imagine you stopped to look at a butterfly, or sat down to enjoy your own beautiful creation while you lived here on earth. I know you noticed life and you loved the people you were in relationship with. Will you help us to slow down and “waste” a little time once in awhile? And you are the One who might just turn it into the most important time of our day. I praise you for that. Amen.

How will you “waste” time today?

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If you are an imperfect wife, mom, daughter, or friend, struggling to stay focused on God in the craziness and find joy in the heartache, then we have something in common. I am a recovering perfectionist and daughter of the King, slowly learning to fully trust the One who sees me just as I am, and is already pleased. I’m so glad you are here.

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