Lissa Marie Niederer

Thoughts about faith, family, books, and how I'm trying to make them all fit together!


My New Pursuit

Be present.

I am working on being present.

So often I find myself staring at one of my children. hourglassTake Matthias for example. I could be looking right at him, watching his little mouth move. It’s likely that he is telling me about a new species of six-legged, mountain-dwelling dragon that he has invented, because he’s quite clever about these things, and I could be nodding my head and saying “cool, buddy, good idea,” and listening to him. But it would be the kind of listening that only lasts for a second. In one ear and out the other, as they say. Sometimes I feel impatient, waiting for him to finish his story so I can move on to dinner, or that phone call I need to make, or even a show I want to finish watching. Or maybe I’m supervising my daughter Kinsey with the watercolor paints, but working on a grocery list, and only half paying attention when she says “Mumma paint me bubbafly?” Hans reads us all a chapter of a book before the kids go to bed every night, and so often I find that he finishes up, puts the book away, and I couldn’t tell you what he’d just read if my coffee depended on it. It’s the same when I pray; sometimes my mind just drifts off to other things I should be doing.

Why the lack of total recall? Why the feeling of pressure, pressure, pressure all the time? Why the constant inability to focus on one thing at a time?

It’s because I’m always thinking of the question that I think so many people get stuck on, WHATCOMESNEXT?!?!?

I am not advocating that we give up on the practice of planning ahead, making goals, thinking about the future. Certainly those are good things, and are encouraged scripturally. (Being good stewards of our time, working hard, sowing crops…) But I think I, for one, could afford to live a little more in the moment.

I’ve recently learned about the words ‘chronos’ and ‘kairos.’ Do you know them? They are Greek words, ‘chronos’ referring to the passage of time, from past through the present and into the future, measured by minutes, hours, days, etc. ‘Kairos’ also means time, but not in the way that we think of it typically. It has more of a feeling of “moments,” a God-given moment, a moment heavy with choice or meaning, the “perfect” moment for a particular thing to happen. It might take me three minutes of ‘chronos’ time to listen to Matthias tell me about his dragons. But in terms of kairos, that time is priceless. I am building up my child, forming a bond with him that will help him feel creative, empowered, important, and heard. I want my children to grow up feeling like they can talk to me about anything. And be heard. Really, really heard.

And since I’ve been focusing on this new endeavor of being present in the moment I’m in, you know what’s happened? Not only are my children happier, but my anxiety level is wayyyy low. I am happier. I am more at peace.

The Bible has plenty to say about this. Matthew 6:27 says “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” 34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” So if I am thinking about having to get to a particular task or thought while I am not listening to the dragon story or painting a butterfly or praying for a friend, it is taking up the chronos time twice over–the time when I’m thinking about doing/thinking it and the time after that when I’m actually doing/thinking it. Worrying about it and thinking WHATCOMESNEXT?!?!? is robbing me of my chronos AND my kairos, and I can’t afford to lose both.

My kairos, my time with my husband and my children, my prayer time, the time it might take me to put my own agenda aside for a minute or three or twenty or a day, to be the hands and feet and ears of Christ, is invaluable, precious, irreplaceable. I’m not promised the moments ahead, only these ones. And when I am in them, and I mean really, completely all in, I can see, without a doubt or a worry, how numbered they are, and how beautiful.



The Long Confession of a Chronically Unbalanced Woman

ImageEver since I was a young girl, my modus operandi has been to grow my hair impossibly long and then chop it all off. Every single time my mother would make me an appointment, she would ask “Just a trim, right?” and I would assure her that, yes, I was just going to have it shortened and restyled a bit. Nothing drastic. A nice, subtle change. And every single time, I would sit down in that super cool pumpy black chair and make my decree: CHOP IT ALL OFF! It is a compulsion. I can not help it. And in recent years, I have noticed that I am this way with a lot of things.

I will hoard toys for my children, and, in collector’s mode, scour yard sales and store aisles for items that will add to the assortment of Play-Doh tools, Matchbox cars, Lego accessories, or games for the Nintendo. The next day (or month, or season, or whatever…), I will gawk at the absurd amount of things we have cluttering up our home and promptly box them up to be rid of them. When I start feeling a bit bloated around the middle, I’ll workout every day for an hour and focus on eating only clean, nutrient-dense foods, prioritizing health and fitness above many other important aspects of my life. Then will come the kickback. I get tired. I sit around. I eat what I want (which mostly includes simple carbohydrates of the muffin and/or doughnut variety). This usually continues until I start feeling bloated around the middle again, then I start all over. Why do I find a new practice or passion, focus on it and only it for a time, and then turn around and drop it like it’s hot?

Back in January, I decided that I needed to practice finding that elusive sense of balance, that mysterious beast that would keep me from swinging radically from one extreme to the other. And since I am really trying to get better about spending time in God’s Word, I turned to scripture to see what it had to say about balance.

Well, just let me tell you something…

I was not led to the answers I expected. I did not unbury any long-lost verses of practicality that promised if I set my alarm for 5:30 every morning I would find the hours needed to conquer my to-do list. No words convinced me that balance was right around the corner if I followed prescription a, b, and c. No, instead, I was led to passage after passage suggesting that, perhaps, I am hunting the wrong beast. Perhaps it is not balance at all that I am meant to be studying, but the stories and messages that will bring me (kicking and screaming) to the ultimate truth that I can not achieve said balance on my own. Nor am I meant to.

This morning, when I set out to learn how to create balance in my life, I was instead instilled with the quiet assurance from the Lord that if I can do the following things, creating balance will no longer be necessary. Here they are:

  1. Find my focus.
  2. Seek and surrender.
  3. Cultivate contentment.


Okay, let’s break it down.

Step 1. Find my focus. In 2007, German research scientist Jan Souman set out to determine if there was any fact to the notion that lost people walk in circles when left to their own devices. Sam and Frodo did. Piglet and Winnie the Pooh did. And Souman’s fifteen volunteers did also when blindfolded and dropped in the middle of a wide open field.

ImageOnly when they were allowed to take a peek over their blindfolds at the moon, which hung fairly steadily in the sky for the short duration of the experiment, were the volunteers able to regain enough of a sense of direction to cover any distance. Without that point of focus on which to train their gaze, their movements were random and chaotic, not moving just in circles but in sharp, reversing diagonals and with no apparent tendency towards one side or the other. Similarly, consider a game of chess. If you’re like me, you play one move at a time, and always lose. If you’re not like me, and you have an ounce of skill when it comes to maneuvering those little black and white monarchs across the board, you play with an end game – with a clearly defined result up to which all your smaller moves are building. If that willy, nilly, silly old bear had had the moon, or an end game for his queen’s pawn or whatever, he and Piglet wouldn’t have been wandering quite as aimlessly for quite as long. Follow?

So then, I guess, I have to ask: Where is my focus? On my own plans for this life? My own problems? “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” says Matthew 6:33 (emphasis added). Or how about Philippians 4:8 (sometimes known as the “whatsoever” verse)? “Finally, brothers, whatsoever is true, whatsoever is honorable, whatsoever is just, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

In a world that sometimes feels so dark and broken, focusing on God first, keeping my eyes trained on things that are just and pure and lovely, feels impossible. But that is Step 1 in our little plan – mine and God’s – and I’m going to give it my best shot. 

Step 2. Seek and surrender.  It’s human nature to want to be in control, to want to be the driver in our own little life minivans (or Ferraris, if you prefer.) But scripture asks us to do otherwise. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5-6. My paths straight?! As in, like, German research volunteers wandering in a field straight? Winnie the Pooh straight? Oh, Lord, You do have a sense of humor. Image

It says in Isaiah 40 that God “has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales.” If He can do such things, how much more effective would He be than me in fine-tuning a few of my bad habits? He made me, for Pete’s sake, so why wouldn’t I think to ask my Creator for a little help in re-calibrating my foundation? After all, a scale is not accurate if you set it on a soft or uneven surface. If I can seek Him first, surrender the reins a bit, then I will have a firmer, more stable establishment upon which God can work on that re-calibration.

Step 3. Cultivate contentment.Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. That’s pretty clear to me. I guess I don’t feel the need to add much in the way of exposition. Always, without ceasing, in all circumstances. Okay, got it. Choose happiness. Choose gratitude.

So, you see, what started out as a quest to balance a chronically unbalanced woman (that woman being myself), ended up an unbargained-for lesson that I didn’t know I needed. I’m anxious to spend some more time studying this outline and striving to put it into practice. I don’t know yet if these steps will help me be less of a spaz next time I visit the salon or anything like that, but maybe, just maybe, I’m just at the beginning of a much greater lesson.