The last two weeks of February, I had the opportunity and privilege to assist on a costuming team of approximately 20 ladies from 9 states, constructing period and fantasy apparel for the Oxford High School cast of "Beauty & the Beast."
We began making these costumes from scratch mid-February, and the show went live the third weekend in March. Here's the catch: the extent of my sewing experience coming into this was practically nil (save some basic mending, or putting cap sleeves on a strapless dress). It's a good thing that so many of the other girls were experienced seamstresses! They taught me so much in those short/long two weeks.
Like how to design and make a period French ladies' cap:
In fact, it turned out so well, the other girls had me model it for a small photo shoot by the ironing board--because it "looked right" (and there was, of course, ironing to be done ;) ).
I was working in the "townswomen" division of labor, so that meant helping make petticoats, shifts, caps, aprons, kerchiefs, jackets, gowns, stomachers, and stays...all tailored for individual members of the cast.
Working and living with so many girls was fun for a change, although quarters were fairly tight. Imagine a slumber party at night and work party during the day, times a few weeks. You get the idea...
Parents of cast members were generous in donating meals for us. Since I knew the kitchen well, I ended up helping supervise the receiving and keeping of meals. That was one thing that was nice about it being so cold outside: we could use the screened in porch as an extra "ice-box"!
Below you can see a few pics of our happy team at work.
Two full weeks of working with friends in a labor of love for the community; and I learned to sew. Not a bad deal!
When God gives you a call, does He get right through?
Or does He get a busy signal?
Keeping the line clear takes work sometimes. Decluttering of noise, of distractions and desires and thoughts vying for our attention. Too often the urgent overtakes the critical. Spiritual triage falls forgotten in the wasteland of looming work deadlines and constant barrage of social media notifications.
And our souls shrivel.
But Busy Is Good!
Western culture reveres "busyness" as the measure of success. The laws of supply and demand insist that the less time someone has for us, the more it is worth pursuing their attention. The heavier someone's workload, the better their skills must be. And the more exhausted we are chasing our version of a dream, the more applause we should earn. Because "busy is good!" But is it really?
Our excuses make sense. I mean, especially in the entertainment and film industry, you gotta hustle. Gigs often present themselves at the last minute, requiring shoving everything else to the side in a sprint to prepare as best we can. Long days on set leave us with next to no energy to climb into bed, much less call a family member or stay awake for a few minutes of prayer. After wrap there is that confusing season of "set lag", where our bodies do their best to recalibrate immune systems and appetites and sleep cycles amid the inevitable catching up on a mountain of mundane chores. And if you are raising a family, that adds its own set of very valid priorities and pressures.
We can't afford to take time for God. After all, we are busy serving Him! And yet, we can't afford not to.
No Time To Chew
Then, when we do make the time to take in a soul-nourishing Word, we often approach it like a task on our obese checklist rather than as a sanctuary of stillness from the rush.
A friend shared their experience of diligently going through their daily Bible reading plan. Ten chapters: check. One day, while only on chapter two, they came across a few verses that captured their heart, but resisted the temptation to stop and dwell on them before completing their allotment of chapters. Temptation? Or invitation? They hadn't gotten too much farther before the Holy Spirit convicted them of basically telling Him to "shush until they were done." If we go to God's Word to hear Him speak, why would we treat His quickening of those words as an interruption? Yet I find I relate all too well....
To be clear, I'm not dissing reading plans. Regular meals are essential to spiritual health! But if we don't chew our food, and savor the taste and textures, we won't be digesting all the nutrients from it that we could, nor grow to anticipate the feast, if we are intent on swallowing portions whole.
These are the Words of Life! Just because we have them readily accessible at any moment does not mean they are to be treasured less. For where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also. (see Matthew 6:21)
Breaking The Cycle
Listen, friends, we don't have to stay stuck in this crazy cycle. I know it's usually not our conscious choice to even be in it; it just "happens" and we get too caught up in the rat-race to notice. It's like if we get a headache, and rather than drink water to treat our dehydration, we pop a pill mask the pain. But concealing the symptoms isn't a true solution!
How do we transition to a lifestyle of valuing time with God and increase our sensitivity to His voice?
One thing I know for sure, is that it doesn't happen by accident. Like with any relationship, intentionality is key for maintenance and growth. This is something I am working toward myself; I don't have all the answers, but I am "pressing on toward the goal." (see Philippians 3: 12-16) And if I were to articulate my New Year's resolution, it would be this: Pursue God's presence, heed His voice, and live how He loves.
1. Pursue God's Presence
Unfortunately, the fact that God is omnipresent (present always and everywhere) doesn't automatically keep me from ignoring Him. I want to practice being more aware of Him with me, and do more of the things I know He takes pleasure in. This also includes letting go of things I know are getting in the way of intimacy in my relationship with God. Choosing a verse to think on throughout my day, or getting the right truth-declaring song stuck in my head, are great ways to keep my focus in the right place.
2. Heed His Voice
Scripture tells us that God's voice is recognized by His sheep (that includes me!), so I don't need to worry about that. The harder part is being still to listen the gentle whisper (see 1 Kings 19). It's not necessary to be in a quiet environment physically (although it certainly doesn't hurt, right?). Being still is more of an internal quieting and perking up of our heart to hear. To heed is to "take notice of and pay careful attention to." It carries a sense of alertness, mindfulness, and high regard for who or what you are heeding. So, to hear clearly I need to listen with a willing heart that is ready to joyfully obey!
3. Live How He Loves
God loves purely and extravagantly and sacrificially. 1 Corinthians 13 is commonly called "the Love chapter" because of how thoroughly it explores the nature and power of the Love of God. The first letter the apostle John wrote (aptly titled 1 John) explores even deeper how this Love affects that way we should live. The "new commandment" Jesus gave us was to love as He has loved us (see John 13:34). Because of how He loves and restores me, I can reach out to others with that same unconditional, grace-filled, healing love.
Whether we are raising kids, making movies, or spreading kindness to friends and strangers alike, that's to be the core of our life's mission: serving as His ambassadors of reconciliation to a broken, hurting world that He died to restore. And I never want to be too busy for that!
And [Jesus] said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." - Mark 4:9