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.

Advertisements

Roadblocks and Forced Stops

Have you ever taken a road only to find it’s a dead-end or there’s a roadblock keeping you from traveling on? It can be extremely frustrating, especially if you are running late or just in a hurry! Or if you are dead-set on having your way!

I was all ready to go, and so looking forward to the women’s Christmas event, then I went to the garage only to find my left front tire extremely low on air. I immediately knew I couldn’t drive my car like that without ruining the tire. So I went back in tbe house in tears, I had so been looking forward to attending this and now I was stuck. I felt sad and frustrated, and rather than seeing my being stuck home as a gift, I saw it as me not getting what I wanted. I pouted like a little child after being told a final “no.” I cancelled the other plans I had for the day and pushed through working at Saturday housework.

Now this past weekend came with our church’s Christmas sing-along, and early on in the weekend I found myself coming down with a cold, my sinuses plugged and a throbbing headache. I went to sing-along sick, but only sang a few songs. It felt disappointing.

I have been pushing hard through life being all-responsible in making sure my mom has gotten the care she needs and taking care of everything involved in that. I didn’t stop doing anything else in my normal schedule, my “plate” overflowed with too much. I refused to say “no”, I refused to give in to my exhaustion, I pressed on.

I had breakfast with my brother last week. Sometimes the Lord speaks through the unexpected. My brother and I have been arguing about how I am handling things. I felt misunderstood, unappreciated, and angry. He finally told me, “You have to stop, you can’t do it all, either you choose to stop or you will be stopped,” He went on to list ways I could be stopped, telling me it could be a heart-attack, or cancer, or a car accident…and the list of horrors went on. I heard his words and set them aside, I didn’t have time for any of that! Well, when you refuse to listen the first time the Lord will repeat His words.

I am reading Shelly Miller’s book “Rhythm’s of Rest” and a few days ago I read about forced stops. She says,”We can interpret interruptions as roadblocks to peace or as moments for deepening relationship, trusting in the path God dictates.” Reading it made me stop and think about what my brother had said as well as the things that have been happening. I interpreted both “interruptions” as roadblocks to peace, because I only wanted my way. Later in the chapter Miller goes on to say, “God wants our attention no matter the circumstance, we must be willing to surrender.”

The tire with low air, and the sinus gunk were opportunities to say no to good things because the Lord knew my body desperately needed rest. I didn’t get it. Like a stubborn child, I wanted what I wanted!

The Lord loves us so much and wants the best for us. He knows the fragility of our human bodies. He knows we just cannot keep going and going pushing on overwhelmed with stress.

He lovingly gave me two opportunities to take time to rest and I chose my own way. The first time I set to work out of anger and frustration. The second time I chose to go to an event even though I was sick.

Sometimes the good things we plan are not really the best things for us. I see now that I need to be more aware, and look and listen for the Lord to really show me what He wants for me. When my schedule is already overflowing and I am already beyond exhaustion, I do not need to add more to my to-do list even if it seems like they are fun and relaxing activities.

My eyes need to be on the Lord rather than on all I have to do or want to do. He wants relationship with me, He wants to show me His loving-presence. He wants the best for me. He wants to take care of me even when I forget or lose sight of caring for myself.

How are you doing this busy Christmas season? Are you taking time to listen to the Lord? Are you finding time to rest?

Growing in Grace through Celebration: Worship and Praise

Does your relationship with God cause you to celebrate?

Does knowing His presence in your life lead you to praise and worship?

What is your response to His goodness to you?  Does it go by overlooked?

Those are tough questions. And sadly enough they often do not evoke the answers we want. There are so many factors in life that seem to squelch our celebration of having such an awesome Lord. Some of the following may be what you would include in your list.

  • the mundane hours of each and every day
  • the pain, physical or emotional
  • the worry that weighs on our hearts and minds
  • the disappointment that slaps you in the face at every turn
  • the overwhelm of all there is to do
  • the expectations and obligations that come our way from others in our lives

One by one these pile up, and as the stack grows taller it blocks the light of the Lord’s shining glory. Satan wants us to get bogged down in the muck and mire of life and look out only to see our problems and frustrations.  He wants us to grow in hopelessness.

It seems that all too often our eyes focus on the temporal, we see the here and now and do not live with an eternal perspective. We see the glass half empty. We miss the reality of who God is in the midst of all that weighs us down.

Unless the Lord does some magnificent and spectacular miracles we often miss His presence. Our focus is narrow and the overload of seeming negatives keep us from having a heart of celebration.

The Word tells us that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Consider these:

  • a new sunrise
  • a mug of steaming hot coffee made the way you like it
  • a warm bed to sleep in
  • the chirping birds
  • the frolicking squirrels playing in the backyard
  • a safe road trip to the store or across country
  • food your fridge and pantry
  • conversation with a loved one
  • your very next breath

There are so many reasons to praise God in our everyday lives. We only need to look into the moments of our lives and allow ourselves to be led to glorify the Lord.

We can worship and glorify Him with our words of gratitude, with declarations of praise, with recognition of His goodness, and with realization of His work in our lives.

We can show our joy in Him and really celebrate the life He blesses us with by choosing to honor Him with obedience. We can respond to the truths of His Word by choosing to live fully for Him and being intentional about it. Living for Him brings Him glory!

There are many examples of praise, worship, and celebration in the Scriptures. One of my favorites is in Acts 3:8. Here we read of a man responding to God’s goodness with “walking and leaping and praising God.”

Many of the Psalms are filled with celebration and worship. Psalm 34 is filled with many reasons to praise. It is a wonderful tribute to God’s goodness. This Psalm begins:

“I will always thank the LORD, I will never stop praising Him, I will praise Him for what He has done, may all who are oppressed listen and be glad. Proclaim with me the LORD’S greatness, let us praise His name together.”

This psalm goes into describing many reasons to praise the Lord. Sometimes when my praise bank seems to be dwindling to empty, and complaining is constantly on my lips, I realize I don’t have the words of worship within me. It is then that I turn to Scripture and read aloud the praises that men and women of old have written. At times I make the Psalm my own by inserting my own words, my own reasons for praise.

Verse 8 of this Psalm tells us, “find out for yourself how good the LORD is.”  Your day may not seem good, maybe all of life seems to be disappointing, yet that does not change Who God is.

This Psalm was written by David who was constantly being chased and having his life threatened by King Saul. David was always on the run, trying to hide and find safety. He was always depending on the Lord for protection and deliverance from his troubles. He found the Lord’s goodness to be real even in the midst of all his problems.

Psalm 145 is another Psalm of praise by David which is worthy of looking at as we discuss celebration. Again, surrounded by trouble and often filled fear, David found reasons to celebrate Who God is. He praised God for:

  • His mighty acts
  • His abundant goodness
  • His righteousness
  • His grace
  • His compassion
  • His rich love
  • His trustworthiness
  • His way of satisfying desires
  • His watching over those who love Him

So many reasons to celebrate!

David is said to have worshiped God “with all his might.” In 2 Samuel 6:14, we read of how David danced before God in public. David’s worship was without reservation.

How about you? How will you celebrate God today? What reasons can you find to praise Him and give worship to His name. We grow in grace as we come to know Lord more anrow in knowing Him we find more and more reasons to celebrate Who He is!

Next week we will look at Growing in Grace through Watching and Praying. I hope you will join me again to find out why this is so important.

 

Sharing Your Fragility

How do you think of yourself? Strong? Responsible? On top of things? The one who can and does take care of things? The one others come to when they need the job done?

Shauna Niequist, in her book Present Over Perfect, describes herself as having been all of the above. She got things done and more and more people recognized this fact. They expected it of her and went to her. And she said yes, time and time again, until she couldn’t anymore.

Shauna didn’t want to have to admit to being weak or unable to do something. She didn’t want to think of herself as someone who needed self-care. But she suddenly was faced with the fact that she wasn’t Wonder Woman. Shauna didn’t want to admit to being fragile, she was afraid people would think less of her. 

It was that word fragile that caught me off guard as I listened to the book on Audible in my car. Something about the word triggered tears immediately. I can relate to Shauna in being “the responsible one.” I always want to be the one who will come to the rescue and take care of things. I relate to her also in the exhaustion she felt and her feelings of being above self-care.

You see, I have to admit it is hard for me to say I am fragile. It’s difficult to say it to those around me and it has been difficult to talk with the Lord about it. It wasn’t ok to be needy, somehow that is what I learned in life.

It takes coming to a place where you have no choice, where you really can’t do it anymore, whether it’s for physical, mental, or emotional reasons or maybe for all three. And at that point you just have to stop.

This is when you begin to wrestle with the reality of not being super-human. This is when you begin to try to figure out how you really need to take care of yourself with intentionality. You admit you are fragile and needy.

The word self-care begins to be a reality of day-to-day living. I began by making a list of what kind of self-care I thought would be beneficial. The list went something like this: sitting quiet on the patio. spending time petting my bunnies, taking time to journal to work through issues or to just ramble about what I am thinking about, reading a chapter, actually giving myself permission to do it when my to-do list is not completed. Watercoloring and creative journaling also made the list. There were many things on my list. The issue was learning to relax.

The way I went about it is I decided to add a few of these ideas to each day’s to-do list. But that really wasn’t a good idea because it added pressure for me to, seemingly, have even more to do. This made me more anxious and frustrated. I seemed to be accomplishing less and continually feeling more stressed out.

It was only recently that I came to a very important realization. Self-care is not something you add to your list, it is a way of life. It is similar with going on a diet. Going on a diet is futile because it means at some point you will go off of the diet and end up at the same point you were before or maybe worse. So it is with self-care, it needs to be a mindset for life.

  • Self-care is giving yourself ample time to accomplish the tasks you need to do.
  • Self-care is limiting what could be an endless of to-do’s to what is realistic for the number of hours you have.
  • Self-care is asking for help.
  • Self-care is choosing to stop when you need a break, not because it’s on your to-do list but because you recognize you need it.
  • Self-care is about being real, being transparent with others about what you can and can’t do.
  • Self-care is sharing your fragility with the Lord. Telling Him the truth about how broken, needy, and overwhelmed you feel.

This last one is the most important. We need to seek the balm of the Lord’s love and the words of His wisdom in order to go on. He already knows we come from dust. He already knows our weaknesses. It is nothing new to Him. And I am sure that it must make Him sad to see us in our personal pressure cooker’s struggling through life. You know how you feel when you recognize someone you love is in need but they haven’t come to you for help. You just want to show them love by being there for them. God’s love for us is so much greater than that, He wants to be our all-in-all. So, we need to remember to take our fragile selves to Him in prayer.

If you look in my prayer journal you will frequently find prayers of desperation like the one that follows. I pour it all out to Him.

Lord, I am fragile. I can’t do it all. I get frustrated and overwhelmed. Sometimes I don’t know when to stop or how to take care of myself. You see me. You know my struggles. Lord, help me to let go of the need to prove myself, to myself or to anyone. Help me order my day in a way that I find balance and rest. Lord, help me to talk with others about how I feel fragile. I need to ask for help. I need to set some to-do’s aside for a season. Lead me in wisdom in choosing who I share with and what I set aside. I ask this of the One who knows the depth of my neediness and loves me more than anyone. In Jesus name. Amen. 

I am starting to tell people that I am fragile, maybe not using that word, but by saying “I can’t” or “I need.” I am telling the Lord. I need to take care of myself, it is a way to honor the Lord. He gave us our bodies and this life as a gift. Won’t you share your fragility? Be authentic. Be open about where you are at. Be Present over Perfect.

 

 

The Weight of Life

Are you seemingly sinking under the weight of life?

I have been doing a Kim Avery online-Bible study titled Life Overflowing, it is on the book of Ephesians. It’s an excellent study, with audio lessons and a worksheet for note-taking for each lesson. I was writing about it in my journal and inadvertently wrote “Life Overwhelming” instead of Life Overflowing. Those kind of moments help you to see where you are really at in life. We get so caught up in our lives, sometimes we don’t even realize how it is all affecting us.

Shauna Niequist, in her book Present over Perfect, tells about how she found herself at the point of hating her life. She had pushed and pushed, hustled and hustled. She tried to do everything to live up to expectations, and to fulfill obligations, and she came to the place of being exhausted as well as often sick. The weight of life had become too heavy for her.

Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe you have too many things packed into your days; too much to do, too many people to meet with, too much help to give, and an overload of work to accomplish. What is the bottom line? Shauna came to realize that she was trying to make things perfect, and trying to be the responsible one”” who could handle everything. She also found that her striving stemmed from a “cavernous ache” inside of her heart. It was about her need to be loved, so she tried to earn love that she didn’t feel she could receive apart from doing.

God’s love is unconditional. We are not loved by God because of anything we do or have done. He loves us because He created us. He wants a relationship with us. He loves us even though He knows our limitations.

You would think knowing these truths would help us to recognize that the pressure is off, but that often is not the case. We go on striving to find satisfaction within by doing more and more.

We end up believing the Enemy’s lies and then try to fill the hole inside with personal attempts to get love by doing.

All too often we try to impress others with our busyness, and our self-importance. Shauna explains how she chose to change that in her life. We can also choose to make changes. Like Shauna, we can make an intentional effort in our lives to encourage each other to find rest. We can find special ways to support one another. We can help others to see that they do not need to do more and more in their lives.

Shauna demonstrates the importance of knowing the Father’s love so that you no longer need to prove yourself.  When we know God’s love, we learn to love self in healthy ways and then show respect for others.

Reading about this led me to ask myself some questions, questions that I want to share with you for you to also contemplate. It begins by evaluating where you are in the struggle for perfection and also recognizing how weighed down you feel. So consider the following. I found that setting aside some time to journal really helped me.

  • Where are you finding your worth? Is your worth found in your accomplishments or in your busyness?
  • Is there something you are trying to prove?
  • What is the “cavernous ache” within you saying?
  • What is the need deep inside?
  • Who can you reach out to for help? Who can share the weight of life with you? Who can help you carry the heavy burdens of your life?
  • What do your feelings and response to life say about your relationship with the Lord?
  • Is His love enough? What do you need to talk with Him about?

These are important and difficult questions, some of which are only answered over much time and contemplation. But the answers can help you make important changes.

We have to decide what really matters. Each decision Shauna needed to make led her to consider two things. She began to base her decisions about how she would answer people’s requests for her to do something by checking to see if the choice at hand fit into her purpose and secondly, if it would bring her love. There was no more settling for an unsatisfying substitute in striving.

She discovered that often the things she pushed herself to do had not been about her purpose, and more often than not, she did not find love in the end. Instead, she found herself exhausted and feeling sick.  

The should’s, the have-to’s, the people-pleasing choices do not bring us love. They lead to resentment. They lead us to feel like we are carrying around boulders. There are only 24 hours in a day and we can only accomplish so much. What are the boulders in your life? What is weighing you down? Think about it and take it to the Lord in prayer.

  • We can speak honestly about where we are with our Heavenly Father. He knows.
  • We can come to Him with our worn-out lives and seek Him for wisdom and help.
  • We can find His love to fill the emptiness within to help keep us from striving in life.

And most importantly, we can find refreshment in His presence and in staying present in our lives.

I hope that you will find the refreshment our Heavenly Father longs for you to have in knowing the depths of His love for you.