Featured, Personal Growth, Slowing Down, Spiritual Practices

Slow Down! How a Ticket is Teaching Me to Lean into the Practice of Slow

I didn’t notice how fast I was going.  I just didn’t realize.  I was on autopilot, not paying attention to my speed.  I wasn’t late for anything.  I wasn’t necessarily in a hurry.  I was just on my way home trying to get my Joy Baby down for her nap before she fell asleep.  With no other cars around on that stretch of freeway I drive day in and day out, no one else to help me gauge my speed, I didn’t notice how much my foot was pressing that accelerator.

But Mr. Cop, he noticed.

He noticed and even though I slowed down immediately when I saw him around that curve after looking in shock at my speed, hoping I slowed quick enough to avoid detection, he clocked me.

And there was no warning that day.  Just a ticket.  A ticket and the words, “You need to slow down.”

Mr. Cop didn’t know that I, in fact, had been thinking a lot about slowing down.  Slowing down is something I feel in my bones I need to be doing.  My #oneword for 2018 has at its core the action of slowing down.

Savor: to slow down long enough to enjoy something to the fullest.

You have to slow to savor.  But apparently I’m not living into my one word for 2018 very well.

This ticket, it didn’t just feel like a citation from the Durham Police Department.  To be honest, if felt like a not so gentle sign from God: “Hello Janise!?!  You don’t seem to be getting the message!  Slow down!”

Here’s the thing friend.  I feel like I do life at full speed all. the. time.  It’s full speed through the morning routine getting everyone where they need to be.  Full speed at home to keep up the house.  Full speed to manage the numerous activities going on.  Full speed to keep up work and meetings.   And don’t forget care for self, so it’s full speed through those runs.  If I don’t go fast, it won’t get done.

Anyone else resonate with the feeling that fast is the speed you must go to get everything done in life that needs to be done?

But the truth is, I’m also so amazingly tired.  I feel worn out and run ragged.  I feel like my life is flashing before me.  Like I’m on some roller coaster ride, hanging on for dear life.  And I’m so focused on hanging on that I am missing it, I’m missing all the moments of joy and delight and gift.

I knew immediately the moment that word Savor popped into my head that it was God’s invitation to me to enter into a different way of living.  But when you are use to speed, you do speed whether you are aware of it or not.  Just like last week when I was speeding without even noticing it before Mr. Cop clocked me.

So, partly because I don’t want to get another ticket, and partly because I really feel God was calling me out last week on what I feel in my bones I need, I am intentionally trying to lean into the practice of slow.

These are The 3 Things I am Doing to Lean into the Practice of Slow:

1. I am intentionally choosing slow in situations where I want to go fast.

The main way this is happening? I am actually going the speed limit when I drive.  This is not something I am use to doing.  I tend to have a lead foot and usually allow myself to go 5-10 over the speed limit depending on the road.  But I am trying my hardest to stay at the speed limit at all times.

This is hard for several reasons.

First, hardly anyone goes the speed limit, especially on the freeway!  Oh my goodness!  Cars are whipping by me left and right.  I feel like such a slowpoke!  For the first time ever I find myself merging right into the slow lane instead left into the fast lane.

It has made me realize that the normal speed of everyday life that most people do is fast in general, on and off the road.  And it is hard to do slow when everyone else is doing fast.  So you have to choose against what everyone else is doing.  You don’t realize the ways in which the culture and the norm around you can set your own pace for life.

Second, driving the speed limit is hard because I am not use to doing it!  It makes me anxious to go the speed limit because I am use to going faster.  I have places to be and things to do!  I want to push the accelerator a little bit harder because I can get there just a little bit quicker, save just a bit of time.  But how much time do you really save?!  And not to mention, I am assuming those speed limits are set at a certain speed for a reason.  So maybe I really should pay attention to what those who have studied that road say is a safe speed.

Despite how hard it is for me to drive the speed limit, I need something in my life that is helping me learn the practice of slow.

Because here’s the thing: Slow doesn’t just happen.  It is an intentional choice.

We must choose to slow in our life.  Otherwise we will just go on autopilot and most of us have our autopilot set on fast.  Going the speed limit whenever I get in the car, which is quite often because I do have four kids dependent on me for all their transportation needs, is forcing me to become aware of this inner speed I am use to operating at, and it is cultivating a different speed I hope to make my norm.

Maybe driving fast isn’t your problem, but there are other ways to intentionally choose slow:

  • When you eat, slow down.  Take a bite and taste it.  Slowly chew and enjoy the meal.  Savor it. 😉
  • Slow your walking on your way to somewhere.  Notice the things around you.  Look people in the eye that you pass and smile.  Take in your surroundings and pause at the things that catch your attention.  You never know what you are missing when you are so focused on where you are going.   You can miss the unexpected gifts in life when you aren’t paying attention to what’s around you!
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Walk a longer route instead of making a beeline for the shortest distance possible.  Allow yourself to get some exercise while you slow and feel the gift of your body moving.

2. I am committing to taking a Sabbath every Sunday.

So, I have tendency to treat the Sabbath as a suggestion rather than a commandment.  If I needed to work on something or needed something from the store, I wouldn’t wrestle much with whether or not to do these things.

What this has meant is that most of the time, seven days a week, I am functioning on pretty much the same speed all the time… the get-things-done-run-around-don’t-stop speed.  And I am tired.

This last year, my husband and I have been finishing our basement, and weekends tended to be the only time we could get work done.  So we have often worked on Sundays to keep that process going, but believe me, we are both feeling the effects of it.  We are both extremely exhausted coming out of 2017.  And when I look back I am realizing, I don’t think we took a Sabbath more than a handful of times, and that was probably a fluke because we were away from home.

So I guess the God who created us knew what he was doing when he commanded us to take a Sabbath, because apparently we cannot keep going without stopping for a time.  To obey the Sabbath, to take one day out of seven to stop, it reminds me that I am a limited creature.  I can’t keep going, despite my best effort.

And something important happens when I do stop.  I am reminded that I am not the one who holds the world together!  Surprise! Surprise!  If I stop, nothing essential suddenly ceases to happen.  I am actually not essential to the proper running of the world.  And if I let it be, this is a relief!  I don’t have to keep going to make sure things don’t fall apart.

Even in my own little world here with my family, nothing earth shattering happens when I chose to take a day off.  When I choose to slow, maybe a load of laundry doesn’t get done or dishes sit in the sink.  But that stuff is always waiting for me the next day.  It will eventually get done.  And no one will stop breathing because a dish sits in the sink.  Life will not fall apart friends if we leave things undone while we slow and rest.  That can be hard for those type A people like me to internalize.

What does happen though when I take a day off to rest, when I choose to slow for a day, is that God gets into me the good work of restoration and renewal that cannot happen when I am at my working pace.  A day of rest will, in the end, make me more productive and leave me with more energy when I pick back up all the things that I have put on pause for a day.

3. I am working to become present in the moment.

So this is what I am learning about the practice of savor.  To take a moment in fully, you have to realize you are in the moment!  You have to become aware of it.  You must stop what you are doing, look around you and say, “Wow! This moment right now, it is gift!  It is grace.  There is joy here!”

I am having these moments more and more, whether it is when I am holding my Joy Baby as she cuddles on me or when I look up from cooking and see my Firecracker Girl sitting across from me chopping veggies with me.  I have been having this moment of realization more and more often, “Wow, this life I have, it really is good!

But these moments of realization only come when I stop in that moment, pay attention, take a breath and then breathe in the goodness of the present.

If I had been present in the moment, and not thinking about what I was going to do when I got home after putting my Joy Baby to bed, or the next thing on my to do list, or whatever had me not paying attention, I might have noticed my speed before I saw that cop and before he clocked me.

Not paying attention, always being two steps ahead mentally, thinking about the next thing, it all leads to us moving quicker through the present and missing what is in front of us.

And I don’t want to miss the gift, the grace, the joy, the perfect moments that are all around me!  But I must slow.  I must become present in the moment, I must pay attention so I recognize when I am in one of those gift moments.

So this is me trying to learn to leaning into the practice of slow… so I can be more sane, more rested, more present and honestly more joy-filled in my everyday life!  I’ll let you know how it’s going…


What would slowing down look like for you?



(photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Dan Hawkins)


1 thought on “Slow Down! How a Ticket is Teaching Me to Lean into the Practice of Slow

  1. I often ask the person behind me in the grocery store (or Costco) check out line if they’d like to go in front of me. It is a good practice to step back into something slower in a situation where everyone seems to be in a hurry. I confess that I do NOT always do this when my kids are with me…

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