Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.
My thirty-something birthday had dawned bright and busy.
Tucked into a pile of bills and credit-card applications I found a card sent from my friend Janet McHenry.
The message inside wished me a “hoopy birthday,” and that made me smile, but the picture on the front was what really grabbed my attention. It illustrated everything I’d been feeling that dreary, getting-older day.
“That’s me,” I said to my husband, poking at the black-and-white glossy.
Taken back in the early 1950s, the photo showed a young woman in Greta Garbo shorts with eight or nine Hula-Hoops swinging madly around her waist.
“How does she do that?” I wanted to know.
It had been a frustrating day of too many responsibilities and not enough of me to go around.
One by one, I named the Hula-Hoops I had been trying to keep in motion: wife, mother, pastor’s wife, friend, writer, piano instructor, cook, cleaning lady, and the big one—Little League mother. If we weren’t racing to baseball games, we were rushing to church; if I wasn’t folding laundry, I was stealing a few moments to write.
“That’s me!” I laughed. I made exaggerated motions with my hips, trying to keep my invisible hoops aﬂoat. My eyes darted from the photo to my husband’s concerned face then back again. “That’s me!”
After a few cups of chamomile tea and some chocolate-chip sedatives—I mean, cookies—I calmed down and read my friend’s letter while my husband ran our kids to yet another ball game. Chatty and full of humor, Janet shared her hectic schedule and the things the Lord had been teaching her.
I ﬁnished the letter, then closed the card and looked once more at the girl on the front. There were so many hoops, but she appeared calm. Her upper body seemed to be perfectly still, her arms outstretched slightly, as the hoops raced around her waist in synchronized chaos.
Her face captured me. Looking straight into the camera, she smiled peacefully as though she hadn’t a care in the world.
Then it dawned on me—I saw her secret.
“She found a rhythm,” I whispered to myself. “She established her center, then let everything move around that.”
That’s exactly what I wasn’t doing in my life. All the things I’d been trying to accomplish were important, but I had lost my center. Busy being busy, I’d forgotten to tend to my inner self, the spiritual me. Like a wheel without an axle, I’d careened through life, bouncing off one duty and onto another.
If there was an adequate pause, I’d spend some time with the Lord. But lately, more often than not, my busy days had slipped by without a quiet time. And my life was revealing what my spirit had missed.
“Teach me, Lord. Show me the rhythm of life,” I found myself praying.
“Be my center.”
The Rest of the Story
A few years after I wrote this story in Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy With God in the Busyness of Life, I came across this card at a store…
It made me laugh because, first of all, it really looks like how my Grandma Nora used to look from behind. But after I had a good chuckle, I realized that there was a message in this card as well.
If we want intimacy with the Lord, we’re going to have to…
- Lay aside our duties (grocery bags)
- Lay aside our pleasures (bouncy ball and other toys)
- Lay aside our possessions (purse)
Most of all, we’re going to have to choose the “better part” hula hoop Mary chose as she sat at Jesus’s feet (Luke 10:42). As we master that discipline, daily centering our hearts and our lives around Jesus, we’ll be able to add the other hula hoops of life without losing our focus on Him.
If you’d like help cultivating that kind of “one thing” intimacy with the Lord, here are some blog posts and videos that might help:
- Get More Out of the Bible by Reading Less (Really!)
- “My Heart – Christ’s Home” – How a Simple Story Changed My Quiet Time
- Having a Mary Heart Bonus Videos
Remember, it’s not how many hula hoops you keep spinning that matters. It’s making Christ the center of your life and allowing everything else to move around that.
I’d love to hear from you…how do you keep your life centered in the middle of a busy life?