In 2019, I read a book called Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner. The book chronicles her busy life, which consisted of an HGTV webshow and a blog with a huge following.
At one point in the book, Loechner recalls being handed a business card by a producer at an event. She knew the opportunity could lead to something more but on the cab ride after the event, she turned the business card over and over in her well-manicured fingers as they passed a cemetery with white tombstones that were lined up like tight rows of dominoes.
“I know, simply, in that instant, that I do not want this for myself. I do not want to be stacked — even in death — up against another with so very little room to breathe. I do not want to compete. I want white space. I want room for grace.”
Then I saw this quote (which I believe comes from Rhea Ellen) from a friend on Facebook: “Destroy the idea that you have to be constantly working or grinding in order to be successful. Embrace the concept that rest, recovery, and reflection are essential parts of the progress towards a successful and ultimately happy life.”
White space. Room for grace. Rest. Recovery. Reflection. None of this happens without intentionality — without the willingness to say no.
I’ve stopped apologizing for saying no. I just politely decline. That’s not to say people always understand or don’t press further. But I suspect they’ll just view whatever I say as an excuse anyway, so I’m not in a hurry to offer more.
The thing is, living out someone else’s plan is a bad idea. It may not line up with God's plan. It’s not fulfilling. It doesn’t take your physical and emotional wellness into consideration. And it leaves you with little margin for recovery and reflection.
To borrow from Loechner’s book title, have the courage to journey off the beaten path.
Someone I follow on social media posed this question recently: If you could advise your 18-year-old self, what would you say?
My answer would be two words.
Don’t wait for the perfect job opportunity or situation. Go after it now and make it happen.
Don’t wait for permission from others. Give yourself permission.
Don’t wait for others to invite you. Invite others instead.
Don’t wait for others to stay in touch. Pick up the phone and initiate contact.
Don’t wait for people who do not want to be in your life. Move on and find the ones who do.
Don’t wait to pursue your interests — even if you have to do it alone. You might just find a new community there.
Don’t wait to forgive people. Forgive freely.
Don’t wait to tell others you love or admire them. Tell them now. And tell them frequently.
Don’t wait to compliment a stranger. If you do, you will have missed an opportunity to make a difference.
Don’t wait to tell someone that his or her work made a difference in your life. It might be the thing the keeps him or her going.
Don’t wait. You are not promised tomorrow. And even if you were, waiting to live would still be a mistake.
At the same time, I would also tell my 18-year-old self waiting isn't always wrong. Sometimes, it’s the best thing to do. But you’ll know the difference when you come to the fork in the road. Just make sure you don’t go down Wait Street and park there when you know deep down that you should go down Action Street and merge into traffic instead.
During the holidays, I saw a tweet from someone that said: “My neighbor has a holiday guest who has opened and closed his car door at least 400 times since last night. I can't help but wonder just what is going on in that car?”
While I was reading that, I heard the hydraulic brakes of a garbage truck in front of my house, heat coming through the vents, and my wall clock ticking. So much of what we hear is distracting and pulls us away from thinking on a deeper level.
That’s the price for living in the city. We live right on top of one another and can hear so much of what our neighbors do and say. All the more reason to be more intentional about finding quiet spaces.
I used to write frequently in a coffee shop by my house. It’s spacious and comfortable. But the culture of the place has changed in recent years. The baristas are younger and they crank modern music — most of which gives me a headache. Also, the place has become a hub for business meetings in which people have to speak rather loudly to hear each other over the music.
I have a library nearby where I plan to begin writing in the future. They allow you to bring in your own coffee and presumably, the place is much quieter.
As someone who visits this website, you probably require quiet spaces just as much as I do. I’m curious about how you go about securing them. Do you pull away from humanity? Or do you simply wear noise-canceling headphones and just power through the noise?
One of the elders at my church recently prayed a prayer that went something like this: “Just like liturgy helps to ground us in the faith, this world also offers a liturgy that seeks to pull us away from God.”
That really resonated with me.
If you come from a faith tradition that doesn’t use liturgy in your worship services, simply put, the word means “a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship.”
Those rites are designed to keep the Christian grounded in the historic beliefs of the faith by reminding him or her about what Christians have believed for centuries.
As the elder pointed out, the world has a liturgy, too — one with a very different intention. The question is, which liturgy are we repeating, wrestling with, and ultimately, ingesting? Which liturgy are we living?
The apostle Paul put it this way: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
We are in a constant battle to think right thoughts which lead to right actions. Choose wisely.
A friend wanted to meet for lunch recently at Stoysich House of Sausage — a store that is well-known in my city, but I’ve never actually been inside. I didn’t even know they served meals there.
I met him there and stepped back into the 1950s.
The guys behind the meat counter were wearing soda jerk hats that looked like something out of Happy Days. The walls were lined with memorabilia from bygone eras — photos of the local high school teams, a Hollywood Diner poster, an oriental fan, a flag that salutes the troops at Iwo Jima, a tattered and torn black and white photo of a man who is wearing a bow tie, under which said, “Re-elect Mayor James J. Dworak.” He was the mayor of my city from 1961-1965. For the record, he only served one term.
Below all the memorabilia is four shelves (they have seen their better days) worth of books—mostly cookbooks or books about food, such as “Tastes of Asia,” “The Bread of Life Diet,” “Round the World Cookery,” and “Easy Entertaining.”
Sandwiched between all of this history, you’ll find a small sausage and bratwurst roll cage like you see in gas stations but are always too afraid to sample from out of fear that the brats have been rolling inside that thing since last Tuesday.
That wasn’t the case with this place. When my friend and I got there, they only had two brats left and they weren’t adding any more. We snagged them, along with two small bags of chips apiece, and a can of pop. I looked around, trying to figure out where to pay.
“You pay when you’re done,” my friend said.
You are on the honor system there, which in this day and age when department stores have heartburn medicine under lock and key, was pretty incredible.
After lunch, we went up to pay and the man behind the register asked what we had.
“I had one sausage, two small bags of chips and one pop.”
The clerk rang it up. “That’ll be $3.60.”
It sort of felt like I ordered off the dollar menu at a fast-food place but when I thought about it, the experience was so much better. Where else can you step back in time, have the total trust of a merchant, and pay such a cheap price?
As we were about to leave, I noticed how unhurried I felt. I’d been so focused on the memorabilia and talking to my buddy about it that I hadn’t once thought about what I needed to get done that afternoon.
I tend to be a chain guy because I know what I’m going to get and I don’t like surprises when it comes to food. But this experience made me want to sample the many other non-chain restaurants and cafes in the area — at least every once in a while.