Doing Nothing is Doing Something

If we were sitting down for coffee or taking a walk together, you’d hear stories that encompass three of my callings: mother, pastor, and writer. These callings flow seamlessly within me throughout my days. While I’m not officially serving a church as pastor, I do get to fill in for colleagues preaching and leading worship on Sundays. I also get to help with programs and Sunday school at our church. I get to write grace-filled words of hope in my newsletter, here in this space, and in other publications. As a mother, writer, and pastor, I see the world with gospel eyes — open to God’s grace and mercy right here, right now. There’s nothing more exciting to me than sitting with someone, whether that be my children, friends, or community members and being open to God at work in the world; to paying attention to the holiness before our eyes.

With the turning of a new month, I pause and reflect. My second grader, Charlotte, is at school all day while Isaac, the preschooler, attends class every morning five days a week. Twice a week when both kids are at school I take myself to the yoga mat. After dropping Isaac off for his first day of preschool I drove the tree-lined streets past the city park and pulled into the new community center. Five minutes later I had a year-long membership — access to fitness classes, the walking track, a pool, and tables and Wifi perfect for writing.

This past week during yoga the teacher led with a guided meditation. To my left light streamed in through windows showing a clear, blue sky. My friend Sophie sat next to me and glancing towards the room-length mirror I saw women of all ages and abilities waiting for the class. “Find a comfortable seat,” she said. “You’ve already done the hardest part by showing up.” I settled into my body, felt my breath. I closed my eyes and tried to be present.

For a few minutes my mind wouldn’t stop racing: What will I cook for dinner? Do I need to go to Aldi and Walmart today? Can we get by on leftovers? Did Charlotte remember her library book to take her reading test? Did I remember Isaac’s after preschool snack? The dining room table is still covered in papers and mail. Did I remember to send that email?

The instructor’s voice broke through my thoughts with the gentle reminder to be here. To be present. And then she said something that I haven’t been able to forget, a phrase that keeps coming to me. A word of grace to sink into my bones and my mind. Her hands at heart center, she said, “We’re usually so busy trying to do something, but first we’re going to start by doing nothing.”

Do nothing. Stop thinking. Just sit and breathe. Be here.

Doing nothing seems impossible these days with internet and phone access at our fingertips. Doing nothing is almost laughable when meals need to be prepped, children need to be shuttled to school and practices, emails need sent, laundry needs cleaned and folded, appointments need to be made, and dishes need to be taken out of the sink.

“Start by doing nothing.”

A few days later after school the kids and I and Stephen are outside. Our maple trees are just starting to change colors. A crisp breeze fills the air, the leaves dance before our eyes. The air hums with energy, or perhaps it’s me that’s filled with energy. I sit in our yellow Adirondack chairs and watch the kids take turns swinging. Their eyes filled with joy, their laughter soaring into the air, and their bodies swirling. We have nowhere to be, just right here, in this moment.

“Start by doing nothing,” I hear in my head from the yoga instructor. So I keep sitting, but I realize I’m not doing nothing, but rather I’m fully present. Fully alert. Aware and alive. Watching and savoring and relishing this moment. My mind takes a snapshot of the kids, their legs stretched on the swing, their arms reaching into the air. “Start by doing nothing.” I force myself to stay in this posture, seated and watching, engaged and present. To a passerby it would seem that I’m doing nothing but sitting, but I realize that this is precisely where something happens — where grace enters and God’s spirit floats through the air, wrapping us in love.

This is the good news I want to share with you today — God meets you in your days, in the moments that feel like nothing but are precisely extraordinary days laced with God’s glory and love. It’s in the midst of your days that God invites you to do nothing. To sit with God. To sit with yourself. And it’s here, dear friends, in doing nothing, we’re doing everything.

// Next year I have a book launching into the world pulling from all my callings. With my friend Erin, we wrote a grace-filled devotional for moms in the early years of motherhood. If you know someone who could use a word of grace for today, I’d love to connect with them. Forward them this post, or have them sign up for my monthly newsletter. Sign up for my monthly newsletter, Walk and Talk, and receive a free, downloadable resource: Walk and Talk with God: Reflection, Scripture references, and a how-to for your own contemplative walk.

Sign up for my monthly newsletter, Walk and Talk, and receive a free, downloadable resource: Walk and Talk with God: Reflection, Scripture references, and a how-to for your own contemplative walk.

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