I often find myself longing for life to be simpler, especially after our family has had a chance to get away for a bit. Being away from the usual chores and tasks gives me time to focus on just the four of us and fills me with a desire for shorter to-do lists and more time to “simply be” back home.

As a result, I catch myself thinking about the things that fill our days and whether they align with our priorities and values as a family. What would it take for me to be able to work less? Are there any activities that don’t suit us anymore? At times, I even find myself pondering what it’d be like to move to New Zealand, where my husband lived for nearly 30 years before we got married and which is known for a more laid-back way of life.

A move there isn’t likely, but when I find myself pondering what certain changes would mean, I think about what we might lose, as well. Most of the time, it’s the relationships we have developed with people who are a blessing to us in one way or another.

For example, being a pastor can be incredibly stressful and demanding. I struggle to honor our family time because, as a pastor, you are rarely completely “off” and almost everyone in a congregation has a different idea of what the pastor should do and be. But our family has also gotten to know some wonderful people through both congregations I have served. We’re grateful for these relationships and have come to cherish them.

Similarly, a couple of years ago, we decided to embark on a new adventure and made a sizable investment by independently publishing a children’s book I wrote about a girl who clothes herself in bubble wrap to avoid getting hurt. It wasn’t something we had to do, and life would be simpler without the additional work that marketing and sharing my book with others has entailed.

But if I hadn’t gone through with it, I wouldn’t have met the people I have along the way, and our kids wouldn’t have had the experience of seeing their mom try something new, do something she loved and be willing to take risks. It was as though I was living out the message of the book, and these aspects have made the experience worthwhile.

This is something we look for when deciding what activities to sign our kids up for, too. We’re hesitant to add anything to our already full plates, but when we do, it’s because the activity gives our kids an opportunity to do something they enjoy, to challenge themselves and to meet new people—things that are important to us.

Of course, even when a calendar is filled with good things—and good people—that doesn’t change the fact that we all need time to be still. In fact, to some degree, our ability to experience and live into the life God desires for us depends on it.

For our family, taking time to be still and having white space on our calendar makes us most able to recognize and appreciate the many blessings and people in our lives. And the more I’m mindful of and grateful for these things, the more likely I am to experience what Jesus meant when he said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Kari van Wakeren
Kari van Wakeren is a pastor of First Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Minn., and author of Bubble Wrap Girl (Beaver's Pond Press).

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