Why I Don't Love the Term "Quiet Time"

Originally published Wednesday, 22 October 2014.

Paint is thick underneath my finger nails. Turquoise and silver and black chalkboard. I didn't sit quiet the day I went up into the attic and found the basket full of picture frames, still filled with photos and kids' art work from preschool five years ago. There is a photo of Justin with Ollie on his shoulders, little boy fingers grasping Justin's forehead as a handle. And there is a photo of me in the entry of the church nursery before I handed them five-month-old Abby, the baby girl who radiated a joy I wanted to inhale.

The wall in the family room, with the thick black framed bicycle art, was driving me crazy. It needed to go down; I wanted to replace it with something I could make with my hands. I wanted to grab a brush and get out the tools from the basement. I wanted to play music loud in my kitchen, while the kids were in school, and I wanted to make a mess and make beauty and hang it up and look at it when I was done.

There is something about being still with God, with listening and letting my imagination be wide open, that stirs me to want to create. I can be quiet with Him; I can be filled by Him. And then, after being with Him in the stillness, I am both energized and exhausted and can hardly sit still. I usually write during these times--the moments after sitting with God. But this day I wanted to make something beautiful--and tangible--too.

So I stacked up the dozen frames and took out the glass and went out in the backyard and sprayed the back of each rectangle with looking-glass spray. While the glass dried, I got out brushes and small tubes of silvers and blues and layered ocean and sky onto slices of wood. And then Justin came home and screwed the edges of the frames together and we hung the whole thing right up on the wall.

And I wasn't quiet while I worked that day. And I wasn't listening with an attentiveness and a piqued curiosity about God's thoughts about me there, in the kitchen with the sunlight streaming in. I just knew He was happy with me doing it. I knew it gave him pleasure to see me using things He had given to create something new and surprising and beautiful.

This, in all its mess, is something that makes me smile: Old pieces of wood stacked up in odd angles with blurry silver glass and a funny black chalkboard painted on plastic from a kid's art frame from Pottery Barn. "Full Life" is what I wrote in my messy scrawl. And on another chalkboard, "create,"  And then on the other chalkboard we have over the kitchen counter, "present."

And I wanted this to all be mine--a life that is full not because I want to create something--but a life that is full because I am a daughter who creates from God's pleasure and desires, more than anything, to be present.

I wonder what it looks like for you, after you sit for a bit with God. Are you quieted? Are you excited? Are you exhausted? Are you weary? Are you energized? Are you filled with Him?

One thing I want to throw out the window is an expectation of what time with God is supposed to look like. I'd love to start a conversation here about how creativity and imagination and goodness and beauty feels stifled, unreachable, unattainable, when we feel we just aren't any good at being quiet with God.

What are some of the ways we hurt each other--and ourselves--when we have narrow expectations about what "quiet" and "stillness"--with God--is supposed to look like? Can hanging out with God be a quietness within us--and stillness and peace attained from knowing who we are and who He is and how, at our core, we are loved?

Is this where anything peaceful and good and beautiful begins?