Day 1: Confront Busyness - Hospitality for the Holiday Season

Day 1: Confront Busyness

“Be still, and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

What goes through your mind when you hear the phrase, “be still”?

If you are like most people today, your body tenses and your mind races with all the tasks you have on your plate: drive the kids to school, do the laundry, walk the dog, bring the ornaments up from the basement, finish buying Christmas presents.

“Nope, stillness is not an option,” you might respond.

I, like most people today, have spent my life mastering the art of stuffing my day completely full. I spent most of my twenties working in the restaurant industry where I learned how to fill up every single second of time so that not a moment went to waste. The list of tasks to accomplish was just too long to dillydally. The habits built in the professional kitchen extended into every corner of my life: I would listen to podcasts on double speed whenever I cooked or cleaned at home. I would write graduate school papers from the bus—who wouldn’t want a productive commute? I would fit time with friends into the free moments between classes, work, and church, typically too distracted to listen well.

Ironically, I am a bread baker. In those years I was both baking bread at work and studying the history and social impact of bread in school. One of the most important things to understand in baking bread is that rest is necessary for a good loaf. A good crusty sourdough or a silky brioche can take up to 48 hours to make well, about 47 of those hours spent at rest. It’s humbling as a baker to know that I cannot infuse the bread with good flavor or build up the dough’s structure on my own. The best parts of bread are a result of the transformation that occurs while the dough is at rest. If I hurry through the process, the result is bland. Instead, I have to step back and trust that the yeast and sugar will do what the yeast is designed to do.

After several years of busy restaurant days, I burned out. Hard. I was forced into a season of slowness to allow my body and my mind to heal. And I was terrified. Each morning I woke up and fed my sourdough starter, watching it bubble up and fall over the course of the day. Without the constant rush from task to task, I was forced to confront the anxieties that were racing through my mind.

Will God provide while I’m between jobs?

Will I be content with whatever comes next?

What value do I bring to the world when I’m unproductive?

With each feeding of the sourdough starter, I became more intimately acquainted with the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

In the stillness, I began to realize that my busyness was actually a tool of avoidance. It offered me a semblance of control and protected me from the thoughts I didn’t want to face.

Consider your own reaction to the phrase, “be still.” What might be hiding behind your inability to slow down? What do you fear will happen if you turn down the noise, cut back on the activities, create pockets of stillness in your life?

Like the baker stepping back and trusting the yeast to do its work, God invites us to be still, trusting that God will strengthen us and transform us through our rest.

What would it look like for you to build a habit of rest this holiday season?

Kitchen Tip: Consider using your time in the kitchen as an opportunity to slow down and be present with God. Turn off any music, podcasts, or television shows. Let yourself work in silence. As you cook, practice breath prayer—repeating a line of Scripture or poetry as you inhale and exhale. For example, as you inhale, say aloud or in your mind, “Be still and know.” As you exhale, finish the phrase, “that I am God.” Inhale: Be still and know. Exhale: That I am God.

From the Book: