Lately, whenever someone asks me how I'm doing, that's the best response I can usually come up with — "I'm here." Not fine or good or happy or tired or whatever. Just here.
I'm in the midst of one of the busiest seasons of my life. On some levels it's beautiful and lovely and exciting because a lot of really good and wonderful things are happening in my life and in the lives of people I love. But on more levels, it's emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting and I'm finding myself completely and utterly spent.
I can't remember the last time my alarm went off and my immediate reaction wasn't the desire for several more hours of sleep. I've kept up with daily habits like reading, prayer, and journaling, but lately those efforts seem completely feeble and I'm sorely tempted each night to skip the routine and collapse into bed.
So when people ask how I'm doing, I just say, "I'm here," because just being where I'm supposed to be when I'm supposed to be there seems like an accomplishment.
But last weekend, I realized that statement isn't completely accurate.
It was Friday night and I was at the church for our annual Women's Ministry Conference. Much like the last month and half, I'd been going going going all week and as soon as all the women attending the conference began to arrive, I started to crash. A part of me wanted nothing more than to go home and curl up in bed, but I knew I needed to be there for more reasons than I was on the planning committee.
As the evening got started and I stood between my friends in a room filled with over 400 women worshiping the Lord, my mind was all over the place. My lips were singing words of praise and worship to the King of Kings and I was stressing about whether or not we would find a house in time, all the things I needed to finish up for my sister's baby shower, the packing I hadn't started and more.
In the moment, I knew there was something completely and utterly wrong about that and as I reflected on it more, I realized it had become the norm lately.
When I was at work, I was thinking about all the stuff I had to do at home. When I was at home, I was thinking about all the things I needed to remember for rehearsal. When I was at rehearsal, I was thinking about all the stuff I needed to pack. And on and on the cycle went, me always being physically where I needed to be in the moment but my brain taking me on a ride that always landed me far from wherever I was in the present moment.
Presence. Legitimate, all-in, no distractions presence.
It's something we all struggle with right now, isn't it? We've filled our lives to the brim, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally, and we're stuck on a carousel of stress and distraction and anxiety and we have no idea how to slow it down enough to get off.
We're bombarded left and right by phone calls and emails and texts and tweets and endless notifications coming in faster than we can handle them. We start one thing and we're already thinking about the next one that needs to be done. We have mile-long to do lists and calendars booked months out with barely any breathing room. It's a never-ending cycle that is slowly but surely killing us and our relationships with others.
But the truth is, as much as we'd like to blame our distraction and lack of active presence on the increasing distractions of technology, we can't, because if we stop and think about it, it's something we've always struggled with, haven't we? Perhaps the distractions come on a smaller and more frequent scale now than they used to, but they've always been there.
We have always struggled with the here and now. We have always struggled with being okay right where we're at.
In middle school, you couldn't wait until high school started. In high school, you couldn't wait until college. In college, you couldn't wait to join the "real world." And even after you achieve all the academic milestones you hoped for, we're still focused on the next big thing coming — the dream job, the spouse, the house, the kids and on and on it goes until you come to the end of your life and realize you never actually lived it because instead of being perfectly happy in the present moment, you were always thinking about the next thing on your to do list — the daily one written on a notepad or the life one written in your head.
I don't want to live that way. Not now, not ever.
The famed martyr Jim Elliot once said, "Wherever you are, be all there."
I used to think he meant being content in your big "there." It was a phrase I told myself over and over again when I lived in Georgia and desperately missed my family and friends back in Virginia. But the more I consider his words, I realize he probably meant it in the context of every moment in life, no matter how big or small.
Single even though you wish you were married? Be all there. Out to dinner with a friend when there's a pile of work on your desk? Be all there. Married but wishing you had kids? Be all there. At church on a Sunday morning when none of the housework got done this week? Be all there. Working a crappy first job because it pays the bills? Be all there. On vacation with the ones you love even though projects are piling up at home? Be all there.
Wherever you are, be it a season in life or a few hours out of your week, be all there.
I still have a few weeks left in my extremely busy season. One by one I've been ticking off the projects and tasks, some big and some small, and breathing a sigh of relief each time another one is done. And over the next few weeks I will finish packing up my home and move into a new one with two incredible women, anticipate the arrival of my first niece or nephew, celebrate the marriage of another dear friend, share the Gospel with my church family through song and dance, and continue to do all the ordinary things like working and eating and sleeping and the like.
I'm a planner and a naturally anxious person, so it's not always easy for me to forget about the to do lists and activities and be present right where I'm at, especially when life is busy. But I'm trying and it's something I want to become better at this year.
Because I don't want to wake up even one year from now and realize I how many incredible moments I missed out on because I was always somewhere else, either physically or in my own head.
I want to embrace all the Lord in His sovereignty has given me, from the overarching seasons of life down to the rehearsals and the coffee dates and the moving days. I want to live my life presently, anticipating all the good things the Lord has in store for the future, while actively embracing all the good things He has given me in the here and now.
I want to be where I'm at, no matter what, because the Lord knows better than I what my life needs right now. So when people ask me how I am and I respond with, "I'm here," I can really mean it.
image via minimography