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.

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Growing in Grace through Soul Friendships

Are you growing in grace?

Do you have friendships in your life that draw you closer to the Lord?

The most important goal in life as a believer in Jesus Christ is to grow in knowing Him more and becoming more like Him. So, if that is your goal in life, then it only stands to reason that you would desire to have friends with similar feelings and wants.

We end up with many different relationships in life, and there is a range to the depth of intimacy our relationships reach. The people you are closest to have the greatest influence on you and you on them. Their influence can be for good or for the worst. This helps us recognize why it is so important to make wise decisions or choices especially in our closest relationships. This is also why I asked if you have friendships that draw you closer to the Lord. Growing in grace should be a top priority and a soul friend can be a great help in that.

You may be wondering at this point what I mean when I say “soul friend.” Soul friend is a term I read about when I was doing a little personal studying on the spiritual disciplines. I was familiar with many of the disciplines mentioned, like meditation, prayer, study, solitude and silence, but I had not heard of that of “soul friendship.”

The following qualities are found in a soul friend, she or he:

  • has an intimate relationship with the Lord
  • lifts you up in prayer
  • shares honestly and truthfully with you
  • listens and empathises with you
  • helps you find your way to the Lord when you are distracted, frustrated, hurting, angry, or overwhelmed
  • helps you to hear and know the Lord’s truth about your situation

Mindy Caliquire says that a “spiritual friend” or “soul friend” helps us sit with God and helps us pay attention to Him.

We can be real with a soul friend, confess our problems, sins, share our needs, and be fragile enough to say ‘I need help.’ These kinds of friendships take time to form and develop, and often, I believe, they really come in answer to prayer.

I have been blessed with three soul friends in my life.  Three women who I have known varying lengths of time, but have grown deep with each because of our sharing. These friends do not know each other, they may have only heard me mention the others names. In each of these relationships our sharing with one another is all about honesty, asking probing questions, encouraging each other to seek wisdom, and praying for each other as we would pray for ourselves.

Each one of these three friends is a person I can share my deepest pain with. I can share the part of myself that I rarely tell anyone about. The pain that gets triggered at the most unexpected time, the pain that really makes no sense in the current situation but is all about the hurt of the past. I can be real and share the hurt I feel in a situation, or explain why I reacted. I can explain my reaction as it is connected to my pain, and they will know and connect with me in it. They will reassure me. And it works both ways, I know their inner conflicts and deep hurts, as well as their insecurities and I can be there for them.

Our conversations center around life, how we feel about life, what the Lord is teaching us, and where we are struggling. Our conversations always include how we can pray for each other, sharing Bible verses that touch our hearts, and giving God the glory for what He is doing.

None of us are squeaky clean, on the verge of perfection and knowing it all. We all are struggling in our own ways and we all need help for this journey called life.

We each need at least one soul friend in our lives. There are a couple of verses from God’s Word that come to mind as I share about soul friends. One is Proverbs 27:17:

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. 

A soul friend helps you grow in the things of the Lord, in learning about Him, in learning His Word, in learning about living in Christlikeness. Iron is sharpened.

The other verse is just a couple of verses further into chapter 17 of Proverbs at verse 19:

“Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friends counsel that comes from the heart.”

The “sweetness of a friends counsel,” words spoken in truth and with love are so sweet. Those words connect our hearts in very special ways and keep us coming back to one another for more support, encouragement, and help. And, more importantly, we find our soul friends leading us back to the love of the Lord, to His wisdom, and that is truly irresistable.

If you do not have a soul friend in your life right now, ask the Lord to show you who He desires you to have that kind of relationship with, and let Him lead you in it.  He can and will make it happen, because there is nothing He wants more than for us to be growing in knowing and loving Him as we enjoy His love in others. He wants us to be growing in grace. He answers these prayers in amazing ways! You won’t be disappointed.

Next post we will consider Growing in Grace through Meditation, Reflection, and Journaling.

The Importance of Connection

How are your relationships with those most important to you?

We can become so over-focused and busy that our deepest connections are set aside. We personally end up hidden in the charades of performance, in the busyness of accomplishing, and the real self is lost. We become people-pleasers. We work hard to get ahead, seeking to get the accolades. But this only leads to our being unavailable to give to those we desire intimacy with.

Shauna Niequist, in her book Present Over Perfect, says that when you begin to say yes to everyone indiscriminately, you actually end up saying no to some very important people and things. It usually means that you have less to give to those you are closest to you, like your immediate family and dearest friends.

I know, as a teacher for many years, I spent endless hours at home preparing things and doing work that I did not have time for during the school day. I realize how “over-focused” I was on getting the job done. This left very little time for relaxing with and really being with my husband. Back then, it seemed like a must, like it just had to be that way, but now as I am prompted to think about it again, I know I would want to do it differently.

What is swallowing up you and your life so much that you are missing out on the important relationships in your life?

Change begins by answering that question honestly, and from there you must decide if it is worth it to you to have your life consumed in that way.

Shauna starts out by simply drawing concentric circles with herself in the center and then putting people within the circles according to the depth of relationship. When you take time to do this and look carefully at what you see on your paper, you can evaluate where your focus is and decide where it should be.

We all need connection in our lives but we personally decide who gets more of us. Intimacy doesn’t grow without making your heart and true self available. It takes time and effort. When we are physically and emotionally depleted by what we have given away, we become unavailable to those closest. Unavailable because of being too tired or too busy.

I recognized this when I was working a lot, but didn’t see anything that I could do different, and truthfully didn’t have the energy to change it. Now, looking back and seeing how my relationship with my husband has grown since I do have time to give to the relationship, I regret not having done it sooner. I always would want to do my best job, but when it is at the expense of those I love it becomes of question of choices.

When we look at Jesus we see that we could make concentric circles to show His relationships. He was, of course, closest to His Heavenly Father. But, here on earth, we see that He had an inner circle of three, those being Peter, James, and John. Those three were the men He had deeper relationships with and spent a lot of time with. He was in their lives. From there we see that He gave of Himself to the 12 disciples; teaching, leading, and befriending them. And then we see, beyond that, there were the 70, these had access to Jesus on occasions briefly, they weren’t consistently in His life. There were multitudes of people clamoring for Jesus’ attention, with needs and desires, and Jesus had to make choices. His choices were made through prayer. He spoke with His Heavenly Father about who the 12 should be. It wasn’t left to chance. Yet, He showed a level of love and compassion to all.

It is important to know in our hearts where we are going to be willing to put our energy so that we can be deeply connected to those we love. We need to make a heart commitment to a few and give ourselves mostly to them. When we spread ourselves too thin we become unavailable in important ways.

Connection, relationship, and intimacy are necessary parts to all of our lives, but we must make important choices throughout life. No matter what stage we are in, we need to make sure that we are available to those who should matter most.

Are you deeply connected to a few or are you in the charades of perfection and busyness giving yourself away indiscriminately? Talk to your Heavenly Father, ask Him to lead you in the decisions you need to make regarding your connections and relationships. Jesus demonstrates a perfect example for us. Follow Him!