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.

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My Response to GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life

My recalibrate life read for March was GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life, by Christine Sine, M.D.

The focus of this book is to invite its readers to “make space for God” and “discover a Christlike pace that liberates us from the frenzy of a culture enslaved by time.”

She begins the book by leading the reader to see the problem of chaotic busyness in life and how it “constantly leaves us gasping for breath.” She helps us to recognize that God desires rest for both our bodies and our souls.

As Christians our lives should look different, we should be living with different priorities. Our life rhythm should be fulfilling, yet it seems that many believers live a life of frustration in the same kind of rat-race as everyone else.

Sine encourages her readers to be intentional about putting forth effort to “develop spiritual practices that put our faith and its rhythms at the center of all we are and do.”  This immediately caught my attention, as I know that I have not lived this way. I have only started to make a few changes in this direction as I work to recalibrate my life this year.  She says that “we need spiritual rituals to anchor our lives and give them meaning.”

I initially cringed at the word “rituals” because I usually equate a ritual as a go-through-the motions activity that lacks whole-heartedness. But I came to a new understanding, and am beginning to look at this word a little differently. I see rituals now more like “pillars” in our days, pillars that lead us back into the doorway of deeper relationship with the Lord.

When we set in place a plan of spiritual rhythm and set aside specific times throughout our days to find our way back to Him in the busyness of our day, we find there the reality of His loving-presence.

These “pillars” can look different in each of our lives. It may be times of short prayers, like breath prayers, or meditating on a section of Scripture at various times during the day. Or maybe you choose a different attribute of the Lord to concentrate on each day at lunchtime. It could be setting aside time for a weekly prayer-walk or planning for Sabbath rest, even just a few hours during the week. It may mean that you attend an annual spiritual conference or plan for quarterly personal prayer retreats. There are so many options! Sine suggests many different ideas.

Most importantly, you must decide what nourishes your heart and feeds your soul as it draws you into deeper intimacy with the Lord. What quiets the chaos that races through your mind? What brings you back to center?

Sine explains that although we recognize our need for prayer and Scripture reading in our lives, it seems that in the midst of our busyness these spiritual practices that are the first things we let go of. Life begins to feel out-of-control and we try to gain control by cutting back on a few things. Unfortunately, we cut back on the ones that are most necessary.

So, it comes down to, once again, this matter of being intentional. You start out by choosing to set aside the time and make some important choices of spritual practices. I am trying to do this, and it takes time to see what fits. I am starting out by finding a daily/weekly spiritual rhythm. My quiet time has been a set part of that rhythm, but I want more “pillars” in my day. Right now some of my “pillars” are as follows:

  • I am writing a breath prayer out of my Scripture reading to take with me through the day. And I am trying to remember to say it at times when I feel anxiety building. It takes repeated practice to make that happen, I often forget, but it is definitely a pillar I want in place.
  • I am choosing one to three Psalms to pray each day. My goal is one for morning, one for noon and one in the evening, but I am not there yet. I am getting one or two in on some days. But I know that benefits of praying Scripture and I love the Psalms, so it is something I will continue  to work at.
  • I am working through the book Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray. She has a beautiful way of leading you into the presence of the Lord through her writing. It is all about learning to rest in His love (something I definitely need and want to do). During this time, I respond to questions, journal, and pray. She has a one-word theme for each day to help draw you into the Lord’s presence.

The practices I have chosen are not direct suggestions from GodSpace, but I am seeking to find what works for me. I need practices, or “pillars” as I choose to call them, that invite me into God’s presence. The ideas that you choose for your own spiritual rhythm can be directly from Sine’s suggestions (if you choose to read her book), or they can be different ones you find and decide on. It is not about the “what” you use. The importance of all of this is being drawn back to the Lord and deepening the intimacy of your relationship with Him.

So, I have to admit, I have not read all of Sine’s book yet. I still have a few chapters to read, and I am working through the questions at the end of each chapter as I go. The questions are thought-provoking, they are helping me to take a closer look at where I have been and where I want to go in my walk with the Lord.

In the past I probably would have rushed through the book in order to say that I am finished in time to write this post, but finishing the book isn’t my goal, living a recalibrated life is. Seeking to know the Lord’s presence more in my day, being intentional about, both, remembering to breathe deeply and to have slow feet; those are some of my goals in this process. This journey will be one of trial-and-error as I try different practices and see if they are successful in helping me meet my goals.

Sabbath rest is another one of the spiritual rhythms Sine discusses in her book. It is a practice I want to learn to live, and I have been choosing certain practices of Sabbath that work in my life. Next month’s blog posts will center around the subjects of Sabbath-keeping and Sabbath rest. I hope you will continue this journey of recalibrating life next week as we delve into that.

Intentional Space for God’s Grace in Your Words

Last week I shared about Living Intentionally or on Autopilot .  I want to choose to live intentionally in all of life.  In Simple Abundance, Jan Johnson devotes a chapter to talking about simplifying the way we speak; how much we talk, our motives for saying what we do, and being intentional in our words. The experiments suggested in this chapter are ones that require great intentionality. This one chapter taught me so much, not easy lessons, but very important ones. Johnson gave me questions, regarding my words, that I repeatedly ask myself throughout my days now.

Johnson says, “Simplicity of speech flows from a heart that has bonded with the heart of Jesus, compassionate and truthful, loving and good.” This statement sets the tone for what I want to share with you today. Our speech, what we say, and how we say it, has a huge impact on those who hear us.

When our tongues are on autopilot the flow of our words is often left unchecked. We may find ourselves exaggerating to gain self-importance, using words to manipulate and to get our way, telling white-lies, or even raising our voices and repeating ourselves to be heard. Do you see a pattern here? Each of these measures points back to the importance of self. Johnson says that simplicity of speech is about “[words] that are few in number but deep in fullness” these words “rise up from a heart that has examined and distilled its motives and given up trying to push itself forward or win over others.”
I am intrigued by her use of the word “distilled.” Distillation is used with water to remove the impurities by boiling the liquid. Distilling my motives means putting a fire under them to separate out the impurities in them as well. This is such an important process in being intentional. Johnson mentions in this chapter that she began to ask herself why she was talking. When my tongue is on autopilot it just goes on and on and I think very little of my motives. I have decided that her idea may be a beneficial practice and I have started asking myself “why am I talking?” Many times I cannot come up with a good reason.

Ephesians 4:29 tells us that the talk that “comes out of [our] mouths” should be “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Are my words helping to build others up according to their needs? Are my words really benefiting the one who is listening? Maybe the distilling process would leave me with words that have these effects.
[Communication] doesn’t work if our goal is to express ourselves rather that create space for God’s grace to flow.”

I am afraid all too often my communications are more about me getting my point across than creating space for God’s grace to flow. What about you? I need to learn to create space for God’s grace to flow. Johnson tells how she chose to experiment with the practice of not giving her opinion unless she was asked for it. I tried that and it really was a struggle. It seems that my mind is always racing ahead thinking about what I want to say rather than listening to what is being said. But the occasions for my opinion to be asked for, those were definitely rare. I am not sure that I ever realized that before.

Johnson suggests that “[instead] of thinking of what we want to say, we work at silencing our thoughts and [become] fully present to the other person.” It is such an intentional practice to focus fully on what the other person is sharing. This means silencing the constant inner-chatter and just listening. It is not easy to do. Reality is that we often just want to be heard more than we want to listen. Or at least that seems to be what happens with me.

Proverbs 10:19 explains, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words but the prudent hold their tongues.”

So, as I learn a few of the practices shared in this chapter on the simplicity of speech, I realize I must work to hold my tongue. I must learn to listen more, and I must learn to create space for God’s grace to flow. This was an amazing chapter and I have only shared a few of the ideas she offered. I have shared the ones that I am trying to practice. I know I will go back to this chapter again and again, to learn to practice others, as I am now very aware of my tongue so often on autopilot.

Is simplicity in speech an area you desire to be intentional with?

Talk to the Lord and seek His directions, ask Him how you can create space for His grace to flow.

Living Intentionally or on Autopilot

Psalm 86:11 “Teach me your way O LORD and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.”

How would you describe your life — are you living intentionally or are you running through life on autopilot?

I have been working my way through the book “He Restores My Soul” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. This past week focused on having a steadfast heart. She talked about setting our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). A steadfast heart is an undivided heart. It is a heart with deliberate and intentionally focused on God and His Word.

In Jan Johnson’s book Abundant Simplicity, she states, “We allow purity of heart to grow by willing one thing only –an ever-expanding life with God. Our falling in love with God should be what decides everything in our lives. Johnson goes on to say that “[the] single-minded person does the next single thing that is needed in order to focus on God instead of giving into the automatic response of the past. To treasure God is to have a single-focused life (Matthew 6:19-23).”

Living in simplicity is all about focus, and as a Christian it is about focusing on God. My life to this point mostly would not be described by the word “simplicity.” I am sure busy, overwhelming, exhausting, and distracted are words that describe my life much more accurately. But on the road to recalibrating my life I am seeking simplicity in all of it. And in order to get there it will much more about being intentional, rather than living on autopilot.

So, just how do they look different? I think autopilot is all about doing what you feel you need to do, or what you know needs to be done. And sometimes that means running scattered as you put out fires. When we lack intentionality Johnson says we “[scatter] our time and energy among things that don’t fit with what we really want. And in doing so we live in frustration. Johnson attributes our frustration to not responding to God’s longing within us. In my last post I shared about how I was Learning to Long for God.

I have felt like I have lived on autopilot, racing through life with an endless to-do list and my pencil to check things off. And for the most part, without a thought about my longings or God’s longings. I only know I got to the end of most every day feeling very frustrated. I guess I always attributed that to not accomplishing everything on my list of to-do’s. But I am realizing it as more about my divided heart living with unsatisfied longings. This left me feeling discontent and restless. It always felt like there should be more. But who could fit one more thing into the day?

My endless to-do list kept me so busy that I had no time to listen to God or to the longings of my heart. But the discipline of simplicity gives us an invitation to “lay aside every weight that hinders us” (Hebrews 12:1). Sometimes the things we need to lay aside may be “good things” but they are things that lead us to be distracted and keep us from being focused. Whereas living intentionally, Johnson explains, “means replacing autopilot by living “deliberately” as Henry David Thoreau called it.”

When we choose simplicity and live with intentionality we have to take time to do some re-evaluating. I think the first step in this is taking time to soul-search deep within to better understand our longings. And from there we seek the Lord to help us learn how are longings lead us back to Him. We have to take time to hear Him speak into our hearts and lives.

Then once we have taken the time to allow our longings to lead us back to God, we can begin to choose deliberateness in life, and we can choose what we want to be intentional about. Those choices become our focus. We stop running in twenty different directions and choose a few things.

I look at our home and see closets filled with various projects left undone. Books fill my bookshelves, many I began reading and never finished. It seems life on autopilot follows any whim. But recalibrating my life now means choosing intentionality. So I am being deliberate about what fills my home, my mind, my calendar, and all of life. My longings, the ones I followed back to God’s heart lead me. I have chosen a few important points of focus for my life right now.

1- Loving my husband and those closes to my heart with the love the Lord lavishes on me.

What this means for me is that I deliberately choose what demonstrates that love, and as I do I feel the Lord feeding and satisfying my love-hunger. The Lord is love, yet I have consistently tried to earn love from people in this world by striving and manipulating and sad to say, it has mostly left me empty. So my longing for love leads me to the only One Who can satisfy my heart with His love. And He leads me in learning how to love others.

2– Writing (blogposts and hopefully, a book.)

I have loved to journal and write from little on. But again writing can become another place to strive– a place to earn accolades. And so when I take the longing of writing to the Lord it becomes about sharing His truth. I see that what so often turns into pressure to grow an audience or complete a book or just write more to say I did. But now it is no longer about those things. I am finding joy in touching one heart at a time with God-truths as He grows faith in me and helps me to know Him more and more. It goes back to letting the Spirit nudge my heart with a verse or a word that prompts a post or a chapter. It’s about learning of Him and His love and sharing that. What feeds my writing is being deliberate and intentional in spending time with Him and in His Word.

3– Making a simple life by simplifying my home.

Clutter leads to anxiety and chaos. And seeing closets full and boxes filled with old projects or unnecessary on-a-whim purchases that have gone unused leads me to long for a simpler way. I want to focus on what we need and what is easy to keep clean. I want our home to only hold within its walls things that we love which have meaning and usefulness. Overwhelm and busyness can be created in part from having to constantly organize and clean stuff.

So taking my longings for peace and quiet in life to the Lord has led me to see all I can give away. And, in doing so, it makes room for so much more. No, not more stuff, but more time to enjoy what I have and those I love and the things I want to do. Wanting more, trying to fill the empty hole inside is a sin-sickness that I am taking to the Lord. I can never fill that hole and find contentment on my own. The contentment comes from the One Who satisfies my soul as I seek Him for gifts that really matter.

As I took my surface longings to the Lord, I found that my deeper longings are about being treasured and cherished, listened to and seen, being loved and having community, and about knowing peace and contentment within. Yes, there are definitely outward things I desire but I cannot make them satisfy my deeper longings– only God can. And it is in being intentional and focused on my life in the Lord and His Word that I can grow in my day-to-day life finding joy in abundant simplicity of my own choosing.

I am trying not to live on autopilot anymore, but instead, in this season, I am trying to recalibrate my life by living intentionally. What about you, are you living in autopilot or are you living intentionally?

*Featured image photographed by Paul Varnum on Unsplash.

My 2019 “Recalibrate Life” Reads

My theme phrase for this new year is “Recalibrate Life.” I have shared in previous posts how I want to intentionally recalibrate my life. My focus will be on slowing down, on choosing rest, on learning Sabbath, and on living in simplicity. So, I have chosen a book to read for each month to lead me in practicing these things. I have had many of these books for some time. I may have read them or skimmed through them but I did not intentionally put them into practice. This time through I want to glean practices to apply to my daily life. So, as I read I will be taking notes and journaling responses. At the end of each month I will share my response to the book with you. I will discuss what I learned and if or how I will be applying it to my life.

Let me start by sharing the book titles and a short synopsis of each as well as my thoughts on what I hope to take away from it.

Sacred Rhythms

by Ruth Haley Barton

Sacred Rhythms discusses seven key spiritual disciplines. Barton lays out practical ways to weave these disciplines into our busy lives. At the end of each chapter she gives you opportunity to try the discipline, leading you through a practice of it.

I have read this one years ago, and already started it this year. I am getting a lot out of it even after just a few chapters. I will be trying to incorporate some of these practices in my life.

Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace

by Jan Johnson

This book is about being intentional about our choices in life, choosing those that lead to living a simpler life in “an engaging and relational way” rather than filled with obligation and pretense.

I have read this one before also. There is a lot to learn and put into practice in this book. I will try to choose a few that I can do. This year is about simplifying, not adding more to-do’s.

GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms

by Christine Sine MD

First, this book explores spiritual rhythms and then, secondly, the author examines practical ways to incorporate these essential practices into our lives.

I want to learn rhythms to incorporate into my life to keep me from racing and running constantly. I want my focus to be more on the Lord! I like that it is both about GodSpace and GodsPace. Taking time to be with Him and going with Him in His timing!

Keeping Sabbath Wholly

by Marva Dawn

This book is a written invitation to learn to experience joy and wholeness through choosing to observe the Sabbath. The author shares reasons why this is important as well as methods for putting it into practice.

I want to learn more about ways to practice Sabbath. Not to practice it in a legalistic way, but to practice it in a way that gives me rest and honors the Lord.

A Worn Out Woman: When Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty

by Alice Gray and Steve Stephens

This is a book of practical solutions for the stressed-out woman. This book promises to help its reader to “trade in a life of running on empty for a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.”

Our lives can feel so empty when we are living in the place of stress and overwhelm. I am definitely ready to trade that in for fulfillment and meaning!

A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living

by Claire Cloninger

I have read this one and loved it, but will gladly reread it. It takes you on a journey of simplifying many different facets of life. It has a “step-by-step plan based on a personal inventory to help you unclutter your life.”

I am constantly working on decluttering or at least it seems that way. This year I am trying to be more intentional about it!

Even God Rested: Why It’s Okay for Women to Slow Down

by Kim Thomas

In this book, the author shares how to cease from the things in life that are draining us and instead feast on the delight and refreshment God offers.

That is exactly what I need to learn! Life can feel so draining, we all need delight and refreshment!

Sabbath Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythm of Rest

by Lynne M. Baabs

This one offers to be a practical and hopeful guidebook to help each of us slow down and really enjoy our relationship with the Lord.

Really enjoying relationship with the Lord and slowing down, those are things I need to learn to practice more in my life. It is too easy to just come to Him for things or try to prove self to Him.

Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives

by Wayne Muller

Muller “shows us how to create a special time of rest, delight and renewal. “He “teaches us how we can use this time of sacred rest to refresh our bodies and minds, restore our creativity, and repair our birthright of inner happiness.”

The words “rest, delight, and renewal” caught my eye in this title. I want more of each of these in my life.

Your Sacred Yes: Trading Life-Draining Obligation for Freedom, Passion, and Play

by Susie Larson

In this book the author shares “biblical ways to

  • learn how and when to say no without guilt or shame
  • find peace and perspective that matches God’s best for you
  • discern man-made obligation from God-given invitation

These are definitely areas I need help with as I live my life! I get bogged down with expectations and obligations that may not be what the Lord has for me.

Oxygen: Deep Breathing for the Soul

by Keri Wyatt

This book is described as a “perfect guide to help you deepen your walk with Christ.” A few of the important practices discussed are:

  • being with God rather than doing for Him
  • how to spend time in solitude
  • how to journal and pray
  • how to listen to what God is saying to you

I am hoping to glean a few new ideas from here to encourage me as I continually learn to grow deeper in my walk with the Lord.

SoulRest: Reclaim Your Life; Return to Sabbath

by Curtis Zachery

This one is a call to examine and restructure our days around purposeful and sustainable life with Jesus.

That sounds wonderful. So much of what we try to do does not fit into those categories in our lives. We get caught up in checking off our checklists that overflow from page to page. And, for me, too often it is more about the “getting done” than about the process. Purpose and sustainability are lost in that.

So, there is my list. I realize there is a lot of repetition in the topics and practices. I am hoping that I can filter through all of the information and come away with a life recalibrated. I will be sharing with you monthly about what I am reading and learning. If I get bogged down with a book, I may choose a different option as I had a hard time limiting my list to one book for each month, so I do have other choices available to go with. I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you.

Many blessings to you in 2019!