What is at the Heart of Simplicity?

Only as we allow the love of Christ to penetrate our wounds will we be able to love again as children love. Only as we open ourselves to the love of Christ and His people can we begin our journey toward being real.” Claire Cloninger

My Recalibrate Life Read this month is A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living by Claire Cloninger.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord brings it all together. Somehow He shows us exactly what our hearts need in order to heal. And He teaches us what is necessary for our souls to be cultivated and grow in Christlikeness.

The words of the quote at the beginning of this post touch my heart deeply. The words really resonate with me because the Lord is making their truth real in my life. He has been leading me in learning about His love. My learning is taking place mostly through my practice of lingering and listening.

I am learning that His love truly satisfies every one of my needs. As I grow in willingness in being vulnerable, places deep within are opening. These are places that have been locked closed in self-protection and fear for years. I am finding the healing balm of His love is touching every wound within me. The broken pieces of my heart are being bound together, and I am feeling a new wholeness within.

There have been some very important verses that He has been using in this process. I will be sharing more about these verses in future posts.

Today I want to share generally about what is changing within me in that process. The healing that is taking place is changing my life.

First of all, the way I love others is not as often about striving and people-pleasing. But instead my love for others is coming out of the fullness of the love the Lord is filling me with. This is a big step of simplicity in my life, because I am realizing when I depend on Him and grow in His love I can rest.

Secondly, the way I look at life and plan my days is less about my unending to-do list and getting recognition or people-pleasimg. My new outlook leaves room for a slower pace. I don’t need to earn love. We don’t have to do anything to receive His love, in fact, nothing can make Him love us more.

Finally, I am learning strategies to bring myself back when I fall into the old patterns. I am learning of His love as a respite. Oh, I have known of His love for a long time. The problem is it hadn’t touched my heart fully because my heart was so calloused and walled off in fear and self-protection. But as the Lord’s love seeps into the crevices opened by growing trust.

I see how I can run to Him like a toddler looking for mommy during play. The way they look to see if she is still there, making sure nothing has changed, to know that they are still safe. So, in my moments of doubt and fear, I look to see if God is real, and if He is Who He says and I am finding that He is. I am finding also that He is always there, ready to meet me wherever I am.

Praying His Word has led me in knowing these truths in my life and in my heart. And as they become a part of me I am choosing differently. I am learning to live out of a heart that has found the secret to simplicity in living focused on and rooted in His love. I still stumble and people-please and strive at times, but the Lord is at work within my heart changing all of that.

I am learning that it is focusing on the Lord, learning of His love, and reaching for Him moment-by-moment in the midst of neediness or fear. It changes everything, because when we are not focused fully on Him, we are striving to fill the emptiness inside with things and with what we think people should give us, like love and acknowledgement. We reach for these things out of our fear, emptiness, and neediness in order to fill the God-sized hole in our hearts. And, you know what, no matter how hard we work to fill it or keep it full, it will never happen, Only God and His love are meant to fill it.

I know, I am probably not telling you anything that you didn’t aready know. But I have to admit I always thought I knew God’s love, and I did know about it. I just didn’t allow it in fully, I guarded my heart out of fear. Now, after all these years, the reality of the healing effects of His love is pouring into my heart. His love is finally becoming more real to me. In a way that seems too hard to explain, I just know I feel the difference inside and I see a difference in my response to life.

I will be sharing more about my times of listening, lingering, and learning of His love as I spend time in His Word and in prayer in some of my future posts. I hope you will join me. I hope too, that you will find hope in His love in the midst of whatever life is bringing you.

Advertisements

Recalibrating Life: Halfway through 2019

We are approaching the end of June, which means I have been on this journey of “recalibrating life” for six months. This week I want to share how I am growing and in what areas I need to continue to work at. I also want to share some changes that I am making for the second half of 2019.

I am especially excited that the changes I am making in my life are sticking. Many of these ideas have come out of or have been prompted by the “recalibrate life” books I have been reading.

Honoring the Sabbath has been my intention for the past few years. The last couple years I tried to set the day aside but I probably only followed through 60% of the time.

  • This year I have been able to really keep the Sabbath, by living out a slow, restful Sundays, honoring the Lord in His glory and sovereignty. My day begins with coffee/ breakfast and my personal time with the Lord, then attending worship service. Lunch and supper are simple soup or salad meals. An afternoon nap is often a regular part of the day. The remainder of the day is filled with reading and journaling, watching movies together, taking walks, or time with our extended family. It is consistently a day I really look forward to.

I shared about learning to have “slow feet” in a previous post The Diligent Intentionality of Slow Feet. You can read about that here. I am also learning to slow down in many areas. One of the most important has been in my time with the Lord. And that time has grown to be so much richer.

  • I am lingering with the Lord and really listening. I shared more about my learning about lingering here. I am especially enjoying scripture prayer. The Holy Spirit is leading me in such deep growth and I am basking in His love. I will be sharing more about this in a couple of my upcoming posts.

I know I have gone through seasons of slowing down and being present with the Lord, really lingering, but then I have drifted back into rushing through. This time I don’t think I will be going back, I don’t want to miss something so satisfying.

Setting in place an evening routine is another part of recalibrating life for me that has been extremely positive and helpful.

  • My evening routine usually goes something like this: dinner, dishes, a neighborhood walk, a bath, relaxing with my husband, pet care, then reading, and journaling right before sleep. I am loving it. It is slow and I breathe deeply in it! I move through my evenings feeling peaceful, not rushed and overwhelmed.

I am still tweaking my morning routine, trying to get exercise in it on a regular basis. Making my husband’s lunch for the next day, when I make dinner the night before, has really helped to make my mornings less hectic. I will share more about my morning routine once I feel more settled into it.

I am not rushing through life so driven and constantly striving. I am even choosing to take time for self-care.

  • I am giving myself permission to stop during my days, when I am home, to relax, to read, or to take a nap if I haven’t slept well. I no longer feel like I live in a “pressure cooker.” I can’t even begin to tell you how happy that makes me!

I am realizing more and more the importance of relying on the Lord and I have been seeking Him more in the midst of my days.

  • One thing that has helped me immensely, when anxiety seems to consume me at times, is remembering to do breath prayer. I have a few standby prayers that I rely on and they center me on trusting in the sovereignty of God. It is a wonderful practice that brings me home to His heart of love.

Having too much stuff and not enough time to keep it all organized really has caused me stress! But I am changing that too!

  • I am continuing to declutter and am really enjoying the open spaces. It is bringing a calm deep within. It is helping me get ready for our move, but it feels relaxed. I am not feeling stressed out as I have in the past.

Actually my feeling less stressed is a result of a combination of me decluttering both the house and my calendar.

  • I have cleared the non-essential from my calendar and am choosing to just add a very few special things to look forward to occasionally, like the baroque concert a couple weeks ago. I don’t feel as though I have to fill my calendar to feel worthwhile. I am loving the whitespace. I don’t “need” to get together with everyone. I have a couple of really close friends that I spend time with regularly and being with them feeds my soul because we are sisters in Christ and share deeply! I don’t want to be gone or busy every minute as I have in the past.

Another area that I have made some changes in is that of meal planning.

  • I am choosing to cook simpler meals. They are less time consuming and delicious. I find cooking to be very enjoyable until I get myself feeling overwhelmed because of trying to do too much. So, simplifying the meals has been very helpful and healthy.

There are a few things that I still want to incorporate into this recalibrating life season from the books I have already read. Specifically, right now, those are more spiritual practices that lead me in self-exaination and discernment. I started doing them when I first read about them but they have fallen by the wayside. I feel that I really want to make them a part of my life because they seem very beneficial to my relationship with the Lord.

I will be changing a few of the titles of my Recalibrate Life reads for the remainder of the year. I have decided on some different books that feel like a better fit for me at this point in the journey. I am still reviewing and working through some of the questions and answers in previous books. There has been a lot to take in and a lot to contemplate as I read and study these books. I am enjoying all of the learning that is taking place!

Now, about the changes that will affect you. Next week I will share my final post related to “A Place Called Simplicity” by Claire Cloninger. Then beginning in July and for the remainder of 2019 I will be posting just twice each month. One of my posts will be my response to the Recalibrate Life books I am reading. The other post will be about practices I have incorporated into my life or more about what I am learning as I make life application of some new practices. On occasion there may be an extra post I will share, but that will only once in a while.

I will decide at the end of 2019, how I will proceed with posting for 2020. I am learning so much and really feel so many positive effects in my life. Recognizing this makes me want to spend more time in the actual practice of what I am learning. But I also want to continue to share how it is changing my life. So this is about really finding a balance.

Thank you for being here as I learn and share about this journey. I enjoy your comments and encouragement very much.

Minutes or Moments?

Time, is there ever enough of it? It doesn’t seem like it. My to-do lists always seem longer than the hours in the day.

This month my Recalibrate Life read is A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living by Claire Cloninger.

The feeling that we lack time seems to complicate life; it leaves us frustrated, overwhelmed and worried. As we click through the to-do’s on our lists, our eyes are constantly on the clock.

When I am really busy I often time-out my chores on paper from the time I need to be done to the time that I am beginning them, working backwards. This is especially true if I am having guests over for dinner and I want to be sure all of the food is ready at the same time.

Cloninger speaks of two types of time in her book. One is “chronos” which is the Greek word for “clock controlled” time. The other is “kairos” which she describes as “God-controlled time measured by moments rather than minutes.”

I know there are so many times throughout the course of a week that I think or say aloud “I need more time.” Especially when I see the day going by too quickly and only half of my list completed. Cloninger asks an important question, she wonders, “[w]hich kind of time are we really craving when we hunger for more time?” Is it more clock time or “more boring hours that never seem to pass, more frantic minutes to spend rushing around and racing against our deadlines? Or are we really hungering for more meaning-filled God-time, more of the deep, sweet contentment that fills us when we are able to rest for a moment in the timeless present?”

I know I definitely don’t want more frantic frenzied moments, yet I do want to get my work done. But even more than that, I want “more meaning-filled God-time.” I need more of what I call “breathe-deeply moments.” Time where I know my heart rate slows and I take long deep breaths as I totally relax.

I am enjoying some breathe-deeply moments as I write this post. I drove 40 minutes this morning to hear a baroque concert; violin, cello,and flute music. So I am sitting outside on this cloudy, cool morning sipping a cup of creamy, hot coffee and enjoying the smell of the flowers around me. The birds are singing loudly with the music that is being played. Music from the 1750’s-1820’s. I am breathing deeply, watching the birds fly around, looking at the people seated here in the courtyard, just taking in the beauty and holiness of this moment. I am in the courtyard of an Italian renaissance style villa.

It is in being fully present here that I realized the truth of the statement,”the beauty and holiness of the moment.” When I sat down here, the musicians were practicing, the birds serenading, and the reality of the peace I felt within overcame me as tears filled my eyes. The Lord is in this place. He created the beauty that surrounds me, visual and audible. I am all here and writing this post seems so timely as I soak in this God-moment.

Cloninger says “we cannot manufacture a kairos moment.” It would be possible for me to be in this place anxious and fretting over what the rest of my day holds, and not be all present. So it isn’t necessarily about the time and the place. There are times I sit out on my patio and breathe deeply and other times I only see all the weeds that need pulling in the surrounding gardens. It is really all about the way we look at life. We must choose to look at it in a new way.

I almost didn’t come here this morning. I had planned it for a few weeks but that was before I knew about the dinner plans we have tonight, which means for four hours of driving later today. So last night when I looked at my planner, I thought about how I really didn’t want to be gone that much. But this morning when I woke up I felt extremely sad thinking about not going, and I knew how much I would regret it. This concert is something I have really been looking forward to, so I decided to give into the desire. I set aside my time-monitoring for the day and came anyway.

I tend to worry too much about time. Cloninger says, “[w]e should make our plans, commit them to God and then determine to receive today like a 24-hour treasure to enjoy and celebrate.” What a beautiful way to think about time and take in the moments gifted to us by God! She also makes other suggestions of how we can help ourselves find more kairos moments, I will share the ones that resonate most with me.

I know I miss all too many moments because of my rushing about. Cloninger reminds us that God’s Word tells us, in Ephesians 5:16, that we are to make “the most of every opportunity.” I get to choose, will I continue to rush around or will I breathe deeply and allow my soul to be filled as I enjoy the precious gifts God has graced my life with? This morning’s concert was a choice, it was an opportunity I almost missed out on. I am so glad I chose to come!

Cloninger also encourages us to “not wait to be happy.” So often we put off things to some day, and end up missing out. Like the dress you are saving for some special occasion because it was an extravagant purchase. Or the antique dish you refuse to use because it may get broken so it remains wrapped safely in the cupboard because it is too precious.

I get it, I have done those things, but I am choosing differently. I have some of my Omah and Opah’s old china in the cupboard, and I have let it sit for many years, until about a year ago. One day I was having a dear friend over for lunch and decided to eat off the plates and sip coffee from the tiny cups. It gave me more pleasure than I can even tell you. It brought back memories, and led me to share stories and tears. It was a beautiful time, kairos moments for sure. I breathed in deeply the memory of the comfort of being close to my precious grandparents.

The author also encourages us to “slow down, to stop rushing, and to stop focusing on on the destination and begin enjoying the journey.” I am totally focused on the destination all too often, and missing the journey. This is definitely an area I need to work on. Life is all about the journey, but we miss it looking for something better in the future. Be present, be here now.

Another suggestion involves remembering to spend the time we set aside on things that are meaningful. One thing that my journey in recalibrating life is teaching me is to really evaluate my choices. Are they adding to my joy? Are they part of my God-given purpose? Cloninger says that we need to weed out what does not add to life–like time-gobblers. This is something I am also learning. I need to look for the things that lead to rest and renewal. It is obvious that some things are non-negotiables, but there are others that we get to decide on. And with those I am choosing the path of rest and renewal.

I recently read a book that spoke of how the woman knew how to live life with “uncomplicated abandon…” that means spontaneity, not planning every single minute. I am not good at that, but I am going to start setting aside moments in my day to live just that way, and learn. It will be slow, I know, but I have to start somewhere.

Well, the concert is over, and I don’t want to leave. I don’t want these moments to end. I know how quickly I fall back into living with the clock as my taskmaster, and forgetting to find joy in living my God-given life. Change is hard, and slow, but learning this is well worth the effort.

How are you living life? Mostly frantic in the busyness of the minutes in your day or are you enjoying moments that only God can give? Take time to look for the kairos moments and find rest and renewal in your days.

Choices in Simplicity

“If your life is rushed or stressed or complicated. You may feel that circumstances or fate have somehow trapped you in your crazy lifestyle. But I would challenge you to look very closely at your life and see how often your choices are dictating the simplicity or the chaos in which you live.”

This statement makes me realize that more often than not I am the maker of my own chaos. I am looking for better choices. This month my Recalibrate Life read is A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living by Claire Cloninger.

This is an older book. There are many recently published books on the subject of simplifying life, downsizing, and decluttering. But I chose to reread this one because it isn’t a how-to book, instead it’s more of a change from the inside-out book. Simplicity begins within us.

When we finally get to the place that the chaos of life overwhelms us and we decide something has to change, I am happy to say we have some choices. We have to learn to make “simplifying choices.”

One of the choices Cloninger shares is that of choosing “to limit our options voluntarily.” Sometimes our options are limited by circumstances, but when they aren’t, we may need to set our own limits.

So, you may be wondering what would that look like. First, you need to decide what you want to set limits on. Will it be the number of the activities you’re involved in? Or will it be limiting your possessions in some way? Or maybe you need to cut back on how many relationships you’re involved in? Or possibly it is necessary for you, like me, to set limits in all of the areas.

There are so many things I just want to have or have felt the need for. There are so many activities I want to do. And there are so many interesting people with whom I want to be involved with. But there are not enough hours in the day.

One of the choices I have recently made has involved a book club I am a part of. I like the people in my book club, but haven’t enjoyed the books being selected. I considered quitting, and then decided not to go every month because I didn’t want to lose touch with the group. So now I am only stopping in occasionally. I don’t read the book, but instead go for the sole purpose of reconnecting. I stay for the first part of the meeting and when the book discussion begins I leave. This has been working very well because I get to stay in touch without a big time commitmentment.

Cloninger says, “Simply paring down the number of things that draw on our time and energy gives us a heightened excitement and a deepened caring for the select few that remain.” This is so true. I have two close friends that I consistently meet with for coffee. We share deeply and laugh hard, and I leave feeling connected and refreshed. There are many other people I want to add into a time slot on my calendar, but being so busy really only leads to me feeling frantic and overwhelmed. I am deeply nourished by the two I meet with regularly. And that is the best I can do right now with the other commitments I have in my life.

I am also making some choices in the area of possessions. We are going to be moving in a few months and I’m working through closets and rooms, deciding what to keep, and what I just need to get rid of. I could pack it all up, but there are so many things that I haven’t used and really do not need. So, boxes of extra, non-essentials are going to Salvation Army and some things are just being put in the garbage or into the recycle bin.

This move is changing my shopping habits as well, I’m choosing not to buy things because I don’t want to pack them. So I choose to buy the necessary and the essential, not the on-a-whim purchases that just catch my eye.

I also am using up leftover shampoo, detergents, and cleaners, as well as other consumables. As I recycle the empty bottles our shelves are slowly looking less cluttered.

Cloninger suggests that our paring down be guided by “a positive organizing principle.” We have to consider “what essential priority…motivates our choices.” She says that, “Each life revolves around it’s own central belief system.” Finding this principle is, “a vital step toward simplicity.”

Unfortunately, I think my belief system has been centered around filling the hole inside, feeding the hunger with things that comfort. And with that belief system, the many purchases that initially brought a few moments of comfort have led to more clutter, as well as, more stress in my life.

Cloninger says that her belief system was all about “people -pleasing”. And it left her feeling “scattered and fragmented.” I am right there with her, running in too many directions with too many things and too many ideas I want to try.

I am also realizing the importance of my “hunger” being filled by the Lord’s unconditional love. I have mentioned this before and Cloninger brought me back to this important truth, I need Him to “quench my thirst.” I need Him to fill the emptiness within. I know this to be true, but so often I get pulled back into the needy-thinking.

Finding the place of simplicity is an ongoing journey with day-to-day, moment-by-moment choices. And it means continually returning to the Lord to find my all-in-all in Him rather than in possessions, activities, or other people. Only He can fill the emptiness and meet the needs that our souls cry out for. No other choices will satisfy.

Next week we will be focusing on the subject of time, specifically, chronos-time versus kairos-time. The subject fascinates me, and I know which I currently live in and which I want to live more of my life in. I hope you will join me.

*The photo is from Unsplash.

Less Stress with Routines

“The way you begin your days sets the stage for the rest of the day.”

This month my Recalibrate Life Read is The Worn out Woman: When Your Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray. This is my last of the posts responding to this book. This post will focus on how to help make life less stressful by planning some helpful routines into your days.

Routines can relieve a lot of stress by removing the need to make decisions or solve problems when you might not be fully awake.”

I have definitely found this to be true in my life. But in order to reduce our stress levels and find a more positive ways to go through our days, we need to consider what is causing our stress to begin with.

It may be helpful to just go through your day in your mind and jot down what parts of the day cause the most stress. Some typical morning stressors may include breakfast time, meal planning (packing lunches, prepping for dinner), pet care, and deciding what to wear, etc.

Once you have made that list of stressors, you can key in on giving some thought to what may help to make those time periods a little more easy and relaxing.

I have found it is often not the actual task that stresses me out, but it is more likely just feeling that there is not enough time to get it done. Or feeling as though I do not have what I need so I can get it done, often because I did not take time to plan ahead.

Sometimes it is just helpful to try to prepare for the morning chores the night before. Breakfast cereals can be put out and the table can be set. Clothes for the next day can also be laid out. Even the children can get in a habit of choosing what to wear and laying their clothes out.

Packing lunches the night before can be helpful as well. Depending on the children’s ages they may be able to pack their own lunches with some supervision. And with the lunch packing, school bags can be readied for the morning with the necessary papers signed and completed assignments put in. The more that children learn to do, the more independent they become, and this relieves some stress for the busy adult(s) in their lives.

As I mentioned before, not having enough time in the morning is a stressor for me. Feeling panicked and rushed makes for a bad beginning. I find that I need to give myself adequate time to do what I want to get done at a pace that feels peaceful, and that sets the tone for the whole day. This means giving myself an extra early start in order to fit it all in,

I also know that my day feels much calmer and I feel more at peace when I have set time aside to spend with the Lord. Reading a portion of Scripture and praying while I sip my morning coffee always makes for a great start to the day. I have found that taking a nugget of Truth with me for the day can help me stay grounded. Most recently that has been a breath prayer that I can repeat throughout the day.

I also like to know that there is something special in my day to look forward to. In the book the authors refer to these things as “give yourself a boost.” They suggest things like reading a page on an inspirational flip calendar or reading a devotional, playing a few minutes with your pets, or kissing your spouse a little longer before you leave. I would add to that a few minutes to journal, writing down what is on my mind leads to such peace, and that makes it something I always look forward to. Also, chatting with or texting a friend, just a short conversation, or a prayer request. The sweet connection brightens my day and is always something to look forward to.

It is very helpful for me to make sure I have a plan for what needs to get done in a day. I like to have a weekly menu, so knowing any grocery items that need to be bought, or other errands that need doing helps to keep more unnecessary stress-makers from creeping into my day. I can remain much calmer when I know what is coming up, because there always seem to be those unexpected things that take us by surprise and add to our stress levels. And the parts of the day that are already filling me with anxious thoughts in the morning are the parts that I might journal about, as well as, take to the Lord in prayer.

Getting a good night’s sleep is very important also. I am much more likely to get easily agitated and stressed out when I am feeling tired. I have recently made journaling and reading one chapter of a book part of my before bed routine. I am always surprised at how much these relax me and I seem to go to sleep easily. I always appreciate it when I get to sleep quickly. I attribute that to the fact that my mind was quieted by the positive, calming book and journaling out the thoughts that had been running through my brain. And then, even more importantly, tying those thoughts into conversation with the Lord in prayer brings my heart to a place of calm. Writing a gratitude list usually is part of my journaling process also, but sometimes I take time do that in the morning instead.

I hope that you have found something here that has been helpful to you, a routine that you may want to add to your morning, or an idea that will help make your day run a bit smoother. I highly recommend this book, I still am going through study questions and choosing more areas of application, things I want to try.

Next month my Recalibrate Life Read will be: A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living by Claire Cloninger. Simplicity is definitely goal in my year of recalibrating life.

Dealing With the Difficult

The older you get, the more experience you have with various kinds of people in life. I am sure that each of us have had to deal with difficult people in our lives or may be in the midst of dealing with them now. That being true it seems like this is an important topic to focus on.

This month my Recalibrate life read is The Worn Our Woman: When Your Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty by Dr. Steve Stephen’s and Alice Gray. I am learning so much as I go through this book chapter by chapter. I especially like it because along with discussing difficulties in our lives this book also gives you tools to help you deal with areas discussed and the problems that arise.

As I mentioned before, we all have difficult people in our lives. Sometimes they live right inside our homes with us, sometimes we must deal with them at work. And other times they may live in our neighborhoods, or maybe we see them at our churches, schools, or when involved with other groups. The authors refer to difficult people as “burlap people,” a seemingly fitting title.

The more worn out and overwhelmed we are, the more difficult it is to deal with them. I know from personal experience that I often overreact when dealing with the difficult, spouting off like an active volcano when I am overwhelmed and short on patience. This is not only true for me, as the authors discuss the importance of preparing ourselves for our dealings with the “burlap people” that rub us the wrong way.

As I am learning more and more about myself, I am realizing that I often react out of my own hurt, exhaustion, pain, and overwhelm. Taking this realization into consideration made me agree with the authors when they explained the importance of considering that the other person may be struggling also. Their attitudes and behaviors are often influenced by their feelings and life’s problems.

An area of consideration mentioned, that really hit home, in reference to those who grate on our nerves, is that of thinking about what is real versus what is perceived when it comes to that relationship. I had an in-depth conversation this week about how difficult it is to sort out perception from what is real about others especially if they are family members. As we grow up with our siblings and parents or as we live with our spouse and our own children, we each look at things from our own perspectives.

I know my brother and I have completely different views of our parents and our growing up years. Yet, we are only 13 months apart and we lived up through our teen years in the same home. Our emotional wounds and life experiences can blind us to what is real.

Our attitudes form out of our perceptions, and, for sure, both stress and negativity can get in the way of responding to others in a kind manner. We need to check ourselves to see if the person is really being difficult or if we are the one overreacting.

I know I overreact when I feel overwhelmed about too much to do. For example, I always assumed that my husband’s expectations were the same as mine but recently I began seeing how I often overreact to his words, when he is not criticizing at all. This was especially true this past year. We finally talked about it and he helped me to realize that I was putting all of the pressure on myself. He was in no way being difficult, yet I felt like I wasn’t living up to his expectations and that he was disappointed, frustrated with me, or even angry with me. I learned that none of these were true, I was misinterpreting it all.

I was recently listening to a Shauna Niequist book in my car while driving and she was talking about dealing with a difficult person in her life years ago. She mentioned talking with her boss about the struggles she was having and he asked her why this difficult person got under her skin so much. She did not have an answer, but it was something she gave a lot of thought to. She went on to discuss how it seems that when we run into a certain type of difficult person and are unable to work it out in our relationship with them, somehow it seems that the Lord continues to bring that type of person into our lives over and over. It seems there is a lesson in it all that we need to learn before we can move on.

I know I have found this to be true. I recently realized how much I struggle with controlling people. Isn’t that funny considering I just became aware of how very controlling I am? The Lord taught me a major lesson and continues to teach me about fears and the relationship to the need to control. Learning this connection between fear and control has helped me to better understand others. I am learning to see the same connection in them and not respond with anger and frustration. It makes a big difference in those relationships.

Sometimes, though, the difficulty with the person is beyond our understanding and out of our control. There are instances that you must have to choose to “detach and distance” yourself. I have had to do this with different people in my life at various times. For me these situations were more about a difficult period of time in my life and I have been able to since restore the relationships. The possibility of restoration may or may not be available depending on the situation and the people involved.

Another suggestion in the book is to choose to set boundaries. When we have to set boundaries, it is very important to be firm and state your boundary clearly. Henry Cloud has written many books on setting boundaries for various situations. Each of his books that I have read proved to be very helpful and informative for the relationships I was dealing with. I think that boundary setting is very important in our lives, especially with people who like to take advantage of others or ones who just don’t know where the limits are.

One other suggestion in the book is to pray for those difficult people in our lives. The Lord has a way of working in each of our hearts when we pray. He can lead us in wisdom in each individual situation. It always amazes me how He changes and/or directs our hearts for His good. Praying is always a very important answer to any of life’s problems.

So, if you are currently dealing with a “burlap” person in your life, hopefully you have found something helpful here. As I said before I have found this book extremely informative and helpful. I have one more post related to it that I want to share with you next week. The next post will be about routines in the life of the worn out woman. I hope you will be back to learn about how routines can be helpful in your life.

Nurturing Your Soul

This month my Recalibrate Life read is The Worn Out Woman: When Your Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty by Dr. Steven Stephens and Alice Gray.

I think it has been well established that many women feel overwhelmed and long for nurturing. Gray says that when this nurturing goes unattended “the longing for it deepens.”

As Christians there is a deep yearning in our hearts for depth of connection with the Lord. We need for Him to meet with us, to lead us, to comfort us, to restore us, and to give us rest, just to mention a few needs that often fill our hearts and souls. These are ways that He nurtures us.

When we read Psalm 23, we sigh with that yearning for the rest promised to be found in the green meadows and for the peace that we find as we are led beside still waters. We want what David found there as a shepherd boy. There under the stars just talking to the Lord, breathing deeply, and finding rest in the midst of the struggles that a shepherd has with unruly sheep.

Where can we find the quiet that creates space for that kind of intimacy with the Lord? Last week we considered the option of a mini-retreat as a way to help us gain direction as we evaluate our lives and reroute our life to follow His purpose. While that is great, we still are left with the day-to-day, how can our souls be nurtured in the busyness of the day-to-day?

We need the Lord. We need consistent time with Him, we need to be available so that we can grow in knowing Him and His character more. We need Him to help us in building our faith. And all of that takes time.

I know from personal experience this does not just happen apart from doing some planning. Life’s busyness often squeezes out the little time we thought we might have with the Lord. Each of our lives have different schedules, different people, and different expectations clamoring for our attention. The authors of The Worn Out Woman explain it best as they say that “finding time to nurture your soul is a unique quest for each person.”

This book gives many different suggestions as to how to find time to spend with the Lord despite life’s craziness.

Finding time to spend with the Lord may mean taking time to talk with Him in the midst of your chores. Maybe that is at the kitchen sink as you wash another sinkful of dishes or maybe it is in the laundry room as you put another load of clothes in. These places that we regularly find ourselves in can become our very own “prayer closets.”

You may do best to schedule an appointment on your calendar, setting aside a certain block of time to just spend with the Lord. Or as another suggested, schedule a “Jesus date.”

It may even be an option for you to find an opportunity for your “mind and spirit…to commune with the Lord while you are exercizing.” Meditate as you do your morning stretches. Or pray as you bike. Your exercize time can become a time to draw near to Him. 

Along with finding a time, it is also important to consider what place seems nurturing to you. This choice of places is obviously dictated by what your life allows. But you can meet with the Lord anywhere. Maybe you will choose your garden or your porch, maybe you enjoy sitting in a special rocking chair or possibly there is a corner of your dining room table where you want to meet with the Lord as you sip your coffee or tea. Or as we mentioned earlier maybe it will be on your bike or exercise mat. Or it could be that you meet with Him on your commute to work. I know there was a time in my life when bath-time was my time with the Lord, I read and prayed and even journaled in the tub. It is what life dictated at the time.

If at all possible, make it a place you love so you will want to go there often. Once you find that place you may want to put together a basket of items that you want to use in your time with the Lord. I have my Bible, my prayer journal, sometimes a study I am working on, or a devotional I want to read, as well as pens, pencils, and highlighter (actually I often use colored pencils).

When the weather is conducive I enjoy spending time on our patio in the morning when the sun has just begun to warm the air.

I also have enjoyed wonderful peaceful times on the beach in the morning, of course my coffee has to come with me. It is so relaxing to listen to the waves splash on the sand, as I read my Bible or devotional and jot notes or prayers in my journal. Sometimes I just shut my eyes and soak in the warmth of the sun and feel the Lord’s love for me.

Another option that I have delighted in is taking a neighborhood walk, praying and listening as I go. Or spending time in meditation or breath prayer on a hiking trail. I have found such peace fill me as I go, I feel such deep closeness with the Lord walking and talking with Him.

In the cold, inclement weather at times I have just propped up my head on a stack of pillows in bed as I read and journal enjoying the coziness of my blankets and favorite quilt. The Lord meets me in the quietness there often.

One of the most important points shared in all of this is that we need to find moments to really linger. I have often found this to be a struggle as my to-do list races through my mind and the clock ticks away the minutes. Settling in with the Lord takes time. but I am continuing to learn to linger. I shared about this in a post from earlier this year which you can find here, The Luxury of Lingering . It still can be a struggle but I know the wonderful rewards when I truly do linger, so I find myself reaching for that more often.

The Lord is a God of restoration. David tells us from personal experience that he found his soul restored with the Lord. The Lord is very clear in His Word that He wants to touch our lives intimately but it is up to us to set aside time and find a place where we can be available to Him. He is always with us, but we are not always aware and listening and really being present with Him.

I hope that you are encouraged to spend time with the Lord and really enjoy the soul-nurturing that takes place as you deepen your relationship with Him.

Next week we will look at how a worn out woman can deal with the difficult things in life. I hope you will join me again as I continue my journey in recalibrating life.

*The photo of the wildflower meadow was taken by Annie Spratt and found on Unsplashed.

Re-evaluating Life

What do you do when your heart is empty and your schedule if full? I think all too often we keep pushing ourselves. We think that we must keep going.

This month’s Recalibrate Life Read is The Worn Out Woman: When Your Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray.

One of my favorite chapters discusses how Gray dealt with the overwhelm in her life. She says, “[one] day, when I was in one of my fed-up, hurry-up, always catching-up moods, I decided to schedule a one-day retreat for myself.”  She did so because “life had gotten so overwhelming.” Gray says that she had gotten to a place where she just wanted to quit everything. It all seemed like too much.

Have you been there? So overwhelmed you just want to quit? I know I have. But as much as we may very well know what we need, we do not often take the time to find a way to take care of our needs.

The mini-retreat that Gray suggestion sounds so life-giving. We need to create space in our days, weeks, and months to reflect and to look ahead as well as to evaluate so we can make wise choices.

Gray decided to go to a nearby retreat center for just an eight-hour period. I think that we each need to tailor such a retreat to what works for us. Maybe a retreat center is out of the question due to cost, but what about finding a quiet place where you can find solitude? Maybe an empty beach early in the morning, or a grassy park area, or a friends’ empty apartment during her work hours. Wherever you go, it seems that the focus is more important than the place. Gray took only three books with her; her Bible, her calendar and a blank notebook to record her findings.

When we recognize the overwhelm in our lives, the feeling of a life out-of-control consuming us, hopefully we realize our need for help beyond ourselves. And that is exactly what Gray sought as she cried out to the Lord for help to get her life under control.

What she found she needed most, after she spent time in prayer, was rest, and she took a long nap. This so reminded me of Elijah, and how the Lord ministered to him in his neediness in 1 Kings 19. In our weariness we need reviving, and sometimes that means a few extra hours of sleep.

When Gray woke up she was ready to take a look at her life and hear from the Lord. She pulled out her notebook and started out by listing her areas of strength and giftedness. She shares a list of question that are helpful in determining these. In fact she mentions using some of these questions to help herself as she reflected on her life.

This reflection led her to consider her legacy. It is important to give thought to the legacy we want to leave behind. Not only financial, but equally as important is your belief system, your values, and what you want others to remember you by. Gray found that contemplating this helped her to find better focus for determining the direction she wanted for her life now.

Another part of her retreat was spent in writing down her longings. She said that she wrote them “rapidly and with abandon.” There was no space given here for the inner critic. After taking time to meditate on Psalm 139 and getting in a walk, she returned to what she had written. Spending time in the Word, talking with the Lord, meditating on what He impresses on our hearts all lead us in the right direction.

Gray marvelled at the fact that she “had never stopped to think that [her] deep yearnings might actually be connected with God’s design for [her] life.” Taking more time to look through her list of longings she decided to especially pay attention to the ones that stood out to her, the ones that had been coming back to her for many years. We all have those longings that we have buried away and every once in a while we dust them off and look at them again. She realized that a few were unrealistic, or no longer fit, and she scratched those out, but she kept the rest.

Setting the list aside, she picked up her calendar. Looking at our calendars can tell us a lot about why we are feeling the way we do. Gray noticed that there were “energy drainers that did not line up with [her] areas of strength and God-given longings” which she weeded out. She saw many things there that she did not feel passionate about and there were also those commitments that were just about what others wanted her to do. I am sure each one of us would find similar items and all of these are a part of the reason for our overwhelm. Gray was able to eliminate some things immediately, but others she had to make more of a long-ranged plan of how to do away with them more gradually. Some were still necessary.

This kind of mini-retreat helps us to really see what is going on in our lives and gives us opportunity to make a plan rather than flying along by the seat-of our-pants, being pulled in every direction.

All of this helped her to set new goals that related to her dreams and longings. All that she discovered gave her a filter for her future choices, sifting out the kinds of things which led to much of the overwhelm to begin with. We all need a “filter.” The filter is determined by who we are, what our God-given strengths and gifts are, what the Lord is impressing on our hearts, what goals we can connect to our dreams and longings, and what kind of legacy we want to leave. When we determine those, we can sift through everything that is on our calendar and all that comes our way. We can choose the life-giving. We can begin to eliminate, or not allow so many of the energy-draining things to cling to us and suck us dry.

This type of mini-retreat has become on ongoing event in Gray’s life. She schedules time now twice each year. We too can choose to set aside the time to re-evaluate our lives, look at our longings, set some goals, and review our calendars to see what fits or doesn’t fit. Gray says that this practice keeps her from getting to a place of overwhem. Making life-giving choices can help to keep us from drowning in the demands of an out-of-control life.

I am making this a new goal for myself as I seek to recalibrate my life. I think that re-evaluation is a very important part of being intentional in life. Is there any part of this re-evaluation process that intriques you and that you think you may find helpful?

God doesn’t want His children living burnt out and broken down lives, He wants us to be energized to fulfill His purposes and to live to bring Him glory. We can’t do that when we are overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated with our lives. Is it time for you to do some re-evaluating?

 

*Photo from Unsplash taken by Annie Spratt.

Reacting or Choosing

My Recalibrate Life read for the month of May is Worn Out Woman: When Your Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray. The authors promise that this book “will be a retreat for your soul if you are among the more than 60 million worn-out women in the U.S.”  My posts will highlight some of the thoughts shared in this book.

This week I want to share about how our lives can be different depending on what pattern we follow. Are you in a pattern of “reacting to the demand of others”? Or do you instead “actively choose how you want to invest your life”?

I know I fall into the pattern of reacting far more than choosing. Many times it is reacting out of habit, a habit that has grown through the years as I tried to manipulate and control in order to earn love. So I add more and more to my to do list as I continually say yes to opportunities and responsibilities, and then I end up resenting that I have so much to do. I resent that I never have time to do what I want.

Gray says,”…the items we never get to are sometimes the most important ones…’urgent’ issues will almost always crowd out those that are more important but less time-sensitive.” Gray mentions, as other authors of my recalibrate life reads have stated, that often our time with the Lord, as well as, time with family and friends are postponed or cancelled because of too much to do. We can’t do it all. I am not sure why we think we can, but somehow we get sucked into the trap of that mindset.

Oftentimes, we look at our progress on our to-do list to decide on how we are doing, How many items did I check off? What do I need to migrate to the next day? That can leave us feeling satisfied or anxious or frustrated. But is it a good measure? Gray suggests a better guage of measure is to take a look at our relationships. How are they going? How are we responding to our loved ones, to those closest to us?

This seems like a wise idea. I know, when I get in a place of overwhelm and frustration, I often am resentful and snap at those around me. When in reality, many things on my to-do list may be for their benefit, how is my doing those things helping the relationship if I am short with them? The point here, I think, is that it is not about how much I accomplish, but am I being loving? How can I show that love best, is it by checking off every item on my list or by being present and available?

And with that I am faced with the conundrum of how to move forward, because I want the satisfaction of accomplishing things and the love of the other person(s). I want to say “yes” to everything, and be everything to everyone, but in doing so my life becomes unbearable. Yet, the fear of disappointing and the fear of losing love push me on.

So, when options arise, and another opportunity presents itself, what should we do? We have to make a decision, we could react or we could choose but wait, there is another option  The authors suggest practicing “responsible procrastination.” They encourage us to not spend “all of [our] time on oughts and shoulds” we should “try to steal a little time for a favorite activity.” Take time to decide if what seems so urgent really matters that much and do something you enjoy in the mean time.

I am finding that taking a few stolen moments for things I enjoy throughout the day makes the whole day more enoyable, like sitting out on the patio journaling and sipping coffee or taking time to play with my bunnies. Stopping to read a chapter in a novel or pulling out my watercolors and splashing paint on a few pages of my creative journal. I am also finding how much I enjoy sitting down to listen to a podcast. Many of them are very thought-provoking and I am left encouraged with new ideas of how to move forward in an area of life. When I take extra time to do these life-giving activities I come back to my to-do list re-energized. These activities also give me space to really breathe and think things through so I can choose wisely.

Rushing through life, busy all of the time, feeling like I live in a pressure cooker has left me stressed and exhausted. Trying to control everything and saying ‘yes’ to everyone has not gotten me the love or approval I have been seeking.

Slow feet!– those word keep coming back to me. When I take it slow and don’t respond out of the neediness inside, it is only then I can even begin to muster up the courage to say “no.” But I must stop and take time to think about what will happen if I say “yes.” How will it affect my life and my relationships? When I stop and pray and take time to seek the Lord’s wisdom, He often shows me how unrealistic I am being in trying to add more things into my hours and my days.

Gray also suggests that another way to help ourselves is to not add any new activities or responsibilities unless we eliminate one. This is a practice I want to incorporate in my life. It seems like a good method for being responsible with my choices.

I am realizing that when I react immediately responding with what may feel good in the moment, often because I know it will please the other person, I usually end up regretting what I have agreed to do. When I stop and think, give myself time to pray and make a wise choice, the outcome, often, actually gives me peace. And if I know choosing something new will mean I have to give up something else, I may not be so quick to react.

It seems that choosing is definitely a better option than reacting. But it is an option that takes intentionality. It is an option I want to be intentional about in my life and that will take extra effort to put into action. It is another step on my journey to recalibrate life in 2019.

What about you? Do you need to work at actively choosing instead of reacting?

 

 

 

* Photo from Unsplash taken by Annie Spratt.

Sabbath: Choosing to Feast

This week we finish up looking at Sabbath-keeping as I travel on this journey of recalibrating life. The final section of Marva Dawn’s book Keeping the Sabbath Wholly is about choosing to feast. The feasting here is not all about food, instead we seem to be filling up on so much of the goodness of God, feeding on His blessings.

Dawn begins by discussing feeding on the eternal. Preparing for the Sabbath, we ready our hearts to meet our eternal God and we seek Him as we yearn for Him to reveal Himself to us through His Word. Dawn tells us that only “with humility and gratitude can we approach the table of God’s Word to feast there on His eternal love.” Further on she reminds us that only “by His grace has he chosen to reveal himself to us, only by his grace can we understand and believe what his revelation declares.”  We need to come before Him hungering for His truths and revelations seeking to recieve “the manna of His Word.” But we must come in a spirit of rest, ceasing from work, reaching and hungry for Him.

We need to find “spaces of uncluttered silence” in our lives because it is only then that we can attend to the Lord’s voice nudging us forward, or recognizing the peace that He longs to fill us with. Sabbath gives us the perfect space for this.

Recently I found some space for silence, sitting outside on our patio as I took time to enjoy writing in my journal. As I did, I was serenaded by a choir of birds singing loudly in the morning sun. There were so many different sounds, trills and tweets, chirps and cheeps, all together making a beautiful melody. I put my pen down and laid my head back, with my face tilted toward the morning sun, I closed my eyes, and just listened. Oh how sweet it was to hear them praise the Lord. Their song truly did bring my heart peace and I breathed deeply. There I sat feasting on the goodness of my Eternal Creator God.

It is in those times when we are reminded of His promises, His gifts, and His love. We quiet our hearts to  take them in, and in receiving them we thereby find ourselves feasting on the eternal.

Dawn also speaks of feasting on music. I learned to love music from my mom. I grew up in a church with musical liturgies and all the old hymns filled with rich biblical truths. Since then, I moved on to a church that does many more contemporary songs, with beautiful words and melodies, catchy tunes and repetitious phrases, but not as many deep truths.

I hadn’t really missed the old hymns until recently, when I went with Mom to the Sing to Jesus time at her assisted living home. The chaplain led us in a variety of old hymns and shared biblical truths relating to the theme of Lent just prior to Resurrection Sunday. I left there with my heart so full. Phrases from those hymns stayed with me for days, and my heart feasted on them.

Another area we can feast on as we celebrate the Sabbath is that of beauty. Dawn speaks of some special  ways she feasts on beauty, a couple of those being playing her music boxes and savoring the illustrations in various children’s books. She also mentions other possibilities, such as going to a museum, or hiking in a nature park, or just taking time to reflect on the character of God.

Just the other day I went to the grocery store to pick up a sweet treat for my mom and as I walked out I saw colorful displays of blooming garden flowers available for purchase. I stopped right there in the middle of an ordinary day and feasted on the beauty of those flowers.  The ranunculus especially captured my attention. It was not the Sabbath, but yet I enjoyed the Lord’s creation all potted up ready to be brought home. So on the Sabbath, we can take time to take a walk through a garden, or through a woods and see the beauty of God’s creation. Or we can listen to the beauty of children’s laughter at a playground or in our homes.  Or maybe we can enjoy the beauty of the voice of a loved one we haven’t spoken with in a while as we talk with them on the phone.

An obvious area of feasting discussed in this section is that of feasting on food. Dawn suggests saving some favorites to enjoy on the Sabbath. She mentions drinking coffee or tea during the week and saving hot cocoa or a specialty coffee for the Sabbath. Or having your families favorite meal on the Sabbath. It gives all something to look forward to.

Feasting on affection on the Sabbath is the last area I want to highlight. Dawn says,”the intentionality of [the Sabbath] lends itself to a conscious enjoyment of our relationships with and delight in, each other as an outgrowth of our delight in Yahweh.” 

We might take time to enjoy family relationships as we plan for special visits or offering hospitality. Or we may feast on the Lord’s love for us as we choose to be intentional about enjoying the His presence. We can also intentionally enjoy the love and affection of our church community as we attend our weekly worship service. Many times during the week busyness keeps us from really being present with others and showing love or affection. So as we celebrate the Sabbath we can make an effort to give away the love the Lord so generously blesses us with as well as recieve His love from and through others.

We set aside the Sabbath for ceasing, for resting, for embracing, and for feasting. And as we do we are nourished and nurtured, our empty selves are filled to overflowing. We are readied for the coming week. Celebrating the Sabbath is such a blessing, will you choose to set aside some time to celebrate this wondrous gift the Lord has given us?

 

*Photo from Unsplash by Stephanie Crist