Cultivating a Peaceful Heart

My life has been anything but peaceful the past few weeks. It has been crazy busy as I am helping my mom get moved into a safer environment.

I had forgotten how much there is involved in a move. Especially when it is a move requiring downsizing and there is so much left in the house, so much that still needs attention.

Even so, I do not want to lose sight of recalibrating life. I need to constantly cultivate peace in my heart despite the chaos in my life. Have you been there?

Peace is such a beautiful word and such a tranquil feeling. But where can you find it? How can you live in a state of tranquility?

Colossians 3:15 says: “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, for you were, in fact, called to it in one body.”

When life gets overwhelming, and your heart grows anxious, and fretful words stream from your lips, you soon recognize need for peace within.

Anxiety, worry, and overwhelm scream fretful words in our heads. “You’ll never get done.” “There is too much to do.” This is impossible.”

God’s Word tells us not to be anxious about anything. Instead, pray. Offer up your requests. Give thanks. And then God’s peace comes. “The peace that passes all understanding.” It makes absolutely no sense to our human minds. But this peace fills our hearts and minds, it stands guard. These are the truths of Philippians 4:6-7.

Peace also is given as we keep our minds “stayed” on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3). Perfect peace is promised. My mind is often like a bouncing ball, rambling about from one place to another. My mind needs to instead be like a tether ball, attached to the Lord, like the rope that holds the ball to the pole. When I focus my mind on Him, Who He is, and what He is able to do, as well as all He has done, new peace fills me. Feeding on His faithfulness, remembering His goodness, these can bring great peace to our hearts. My heart and mind need His perfect peace to help me find rest.

Psalm 29:11 tells us that “The Lord gives strength to His people, He blesses them with perfect peace.” What encouraging words when you are feeling weak and overwhelmed. When your body feels weak and exhausted from too much work, and your mind cannot fathom how it will all get done, the Lord promises strength and peace. He meets us in those impossible places, renewing our strength, somehow replenishing our depleted energy, and filling us with peace to calm, which in turn renews our hope.

It is too easy to fall back into the old pattern of needing to control everything and feel responsible for it all. Peace is not a by-product of a life trying to keep it all under control. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10)! But in walking the path toward recalibrating life, I need to remember to let go of control, and learn deeper trust in the One Who truly is in control, that is where true peace is found!

So with aching muscles from lifting, packing, and unpacking…with a tired mind from five hours of driving almost daily for about a week, I find rest. Not because the work is done, but because I know I am not alone in the doing. The Lord continues to faithfully provide. He knows my weariness and He touches me with His love in sweet and unexpected ways. My husband heating up dinner, Mom’s neighbor offering to rake up all of the leaves that have fallen. Another neighbor promising to get the mail, take care of the garbage and recycle containers, as well as cleaning up any snow that may come. And then there is the Christian realtor who has access to many other helpful resources. The Lord never ceases to amaze me with His goodness and loving-kindness. His mercies really are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

He knows my overwhelm, He knows my worries, He knows my neediness, and He has it all under control. He is able (Ephesians 3:20)! His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)! He meets, He supplies my needs “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

His peace is real, and I find rest in the hope of its constant availability. He is present with us through all of life. Pray. Keep your mind stayed on Him. Remember His faithfulness. Look at how He has been at work. Your heart can know peace in the midst of anxiety and overwhelm. He only wants us to whisper a prayer, tell Him our need.

Cultivating peace means the need to weed out worry, and choosing to focus on Him.

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The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

What do you know about grace?

Have you ever thought about the phrase “learn the unforced rhythm of grace? ”

I have been giving a lot of thought to recalibrating my life and those words from that verse have intrigued me. It sounds light, easy, peaceful, and restful. It sounds, quite honestly, like just exactly what I need. How about you?

Life can get messy, busy, difficult, painful, and overwhelming. And in the midst of it you grow exhausted and needy. You may come to recognize your own fragility.

Ok, it is not like I haven’t been in this place before, similar feelings brought on by different situations. I have found myself needy and fragile in the past. But my response to it often was one of choosing to keep pushing through. I did not want to give into it. I wanted to stand strong even though I felt as though I would crumple into a heap at any moment.

This time I am realizing my neediness is a place to invite in God’s grace. He is waiting for me to do just that each time I get to this place. He wants me to learn the unforced rhythms of His grace.

Grace. It is about Him, actually the word describes so much of who He is. It is about His love. It is about His presence and His going with me. It is not about me trying to do anything on my own. It is about connection, the connection of my abiding in Him. It is about me trusting Him. Doesn’t it seem like it always comes back to that word trust?

I have to trust Him enough to allow Him to show me the way through, to guide me in a gentle way. And in that He helps me to know that I am not all alone. His presence, His grace help me to know I do not have to go it alone, the pressure is off. I can stop, I can cry. I can say, “I’m tired.” I can be real and vulnerable.

The rhythm, the cadence of His sure-footedness is steady. Not racing or rushing. Just moving me forward. He isn’t forcing me or pushing me. He isn’t dragging me along unwillingly, He is by my side, always with me.

It has become so vivid to me now. His grace, His love are always here. He is with me. He has been with me, but I have been walking way too fast, super-focused on the mission at hand, pressing on to get my own way. And I have missed the tenderness of His gracious presence.

This time I see it, I feel it, I truly am learning of the unforced rhythms of His grace. His grace is for me all of the time.

Yes, we learn about grace mostly from the cross, but I am realizing my depth of neediness for tender grace in all of life. I am looking for it more and more as I walk through the rough spots in life.

How about you, is your life making you aware of your neediness, specifically your need for His tender grace?

The picture this verse gives talks about “yoke.”  A yoke we may be slightly familiar with is the yoke placed on two oxen at work. The stronger one showing the way to the weaker one. This gives us a picture of guidance, and helping to carry the weight.

Yoke here also speaks of the yoke of a rabbi, the yoke if a rabbi was his teachings, and if you chose to follow him it was said that you came under his yoke. This is another helpful picture. When we come to follow Jesus we come under the yoke of His teachings. Jesus’ yoke of teaching isn’t heavy or ill-fitting. That is to say it isn’t filled with expectation and obligation to fulfill the law on our own. Jesus has fulfilled it for us through His work on the cross. Now as we take on His yoke He walks with us through life gently leading us in His perfect way. He takes off the heavy yoke of sin that weighs us down and leads on the paths of righteousness.

I can stop striving under His yoke, I have nothing to prove. He knows my true nature and apart from Him I can do nothing. As I trust Him and walk in His yoke I can rest when I stop fighting for my way, or struggling to make it under the weight of my life’s burdens. You see He carries the burdens for us. And ahhh, yes, with the weight of sin and striving lifted we can rest in the saving grace He provides. True rest.

Abandoning control. Choosing His yoke. Choosing the way of trust. I am not good at this. In fact, I often struggle and strive to have my own way. And I choose the yoke of sin and the burden is heavy and I have to once again come to the place of realizing I can’t do it. I need Jesus. I need His tender grace and I need the rest I find in Him.

His yoke is easy when I choose to trust His heart and walk in His way.  His love calls us, “Come to me,” will you run to Him or find your own way?  I have run my own way too often but His grace definitely is the better way. It is there that we can find rest.

Being Intentional with the Essential

The busyness of life so often keeps us focused on the world, our possessions, and our to-do lists. We get thoroughly bogged down and we frequently are blinded to what is essential. I must admit I have been hi-jacked by my to-do list, by the overwhelm of life, or by the want of more material items, etc. This has been the case more than I care to admit.

As I continue to look toward Recalibrating Life in 2019, I want to refocus my lens in order to make it all about what the Lord tells me is essential in living for Him. Too often it is and has been all about me, what I need and want, what will fit into my schedule, what will make me happy. Well, quite honestly, I have found that in the end self-focus is not very satisfying.

A few years back I went to a conference. My mom had given me a sweatshirt that said, “It’s All About Him” with a couple Bible verses on it. The gift was one I had requested. Anyway, I decided to wear it to the conference. The Lord had a lesson to teach me there. That day we broke into small groups to discuss something the speaker had spoken on and I felt very excited to share my opinion, except everyone took a turn, I seemed to be invisible and suddenly time was up. I never got a turn. My shirt said that it is all about Him, but in my mind and body that certainly was not true. It was all about me and what I wanted to say, and how upset I felt that I did not get a turn to share. Self-focus at its worst. I couldn’t even concentrate on what the others had to say, and I left when the speaker called us to go back to our seats. I have not worn that sweatshirt since. I want it to be all about Him, but my flesh says it’s all about me in all too many incidents.

Living to control everything or manipulate it all, to get my way or to be heard or to protect myself or check off more things on my to-do list, all of these end up leaving me empty. I realized, that day, to a greater degree my selfishness and my need to be seen and heard. It is a lesson I will never forget. It is these kind of lessons, when the Lord helps us to see self clearly through His eyes, that make me want to make some changes.

So, as I think about Recalibrating Life and recognize all that the Lord has taught me so far in 2018. I decided the place to start is in regard to what is essential according to God’s Word. There are some key verses that are essential to the way of intent that I want to live by. Here are the verses:

Psalm 62:8 NIV  “Trust in him at all times you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Luke 10:41-42 “Martha, Martha” the Lord answered,”you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed– or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”

Psalm 62:5-7 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Proverbs 4:26 “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

Proverbs 19:20-21 “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.”

I want to learn to live intentionally out of each of these essentials. But how? My times the overwhelm paralyzes me, rather than leading me to, as Elisabeth Elliot says,”just [doing] the next thing,” I get stuck. I forget that it doesn’t need to be big and epic. The Lord isn’t taking my performance into consideration in order to decide how much love He will pour into my heart and life. His love is unconditional.

Each one of the essentials can stop us in our tracks if we think that we must do them in a perfect way. Just think about it with me for a moment. Have you ever sidestepped praying or seeking direction because you were fearful that you could not do it well enough? What if you prayed the wrong thing? What if you misunderstood what God was directing you to do? Or what if you sought counsel but like Rehoboam took the wrong advice?

When my intention becomes about proving myself or about controlling things to turn out for my benefit I am in error. The Lord looks at our hearts and He searches our motives. He knows we are dust, He knows we are sinful. Yet, He also knows whether our error is born out of selfishness, hatred, or if it is because of honest misunderstanding. God is a loving God. He knows the depths of our heart better that we do.

Fear can be a guard rail of protection or a prison cell. I want my intentionality to be coming out of a heart that just wants to grow in intimacy with the Lord. Intimacy with Jesus is the bottom line of all the essentials I have listed. Each one is either a pathway to intimacy or a pathway out of learned intimacy.

So, seeking to grow in intimacy with Jesus changes how I approach each essential. You see, many times we confront our intentions like a checklist of things to be done, with the goal just to get it done. But this is about being relational, not about an accomplishment.

As I look back over my walk with the Lord, I see Him being the One drawing me into deeper intimacy through life lessons, through meeting me in His Word, through speaking to my heart as I pray. But none of it was anything I could control or make happen. The soil of my heart is what matters here. It is about my readiness and willingness and the Lord’s perfect timing.

So, my intention her must not be about accomplishing things on a list but instead about using these essentials as pathways to drawing nearer to God’s heart.

As I contemplated this, I came up with a list of intents to focus on, they are as follows:

  • to pray out of a heart of desperation and vulnerability.
  • to set aside the busyness and enjoy times of quiet before  the Lord, developing and practicing out of desire, not another thing to do.
  • to look for His love in His Word and moment-by-moment in my life so I grow in knowing Him more.
  • to choose to abandon control in life, resting His control, acknowledging that He is God, and letting Him work.
  • to rest as I wait for His deliverance in whatever the situation may be, rather than fretting and manipulating.
  • to learn His “unforced rhythms of grace” and rest, rather that seeking to prove.
  • to seek His direction and listen to the counsel He provides rather than trying to figure it all out on my own.

These are the intents of my heart that I recognized as I realized the error of my ways in the past. No, I am not beating myself up, the Lord has worked in me and through me despite my bulldozer style, despite my need to control, and despite my checklist and pencil. He is slowly teaching me and growing me up, growing my trust, helping me to know His love in a very personal way. And as I look back over this past year I see clearly how I want to grow in intimacy with Him in a new way. Not methodical and calculated, but in trusting Him in a love relationship as He refines my heart.

I must say once again, what an amazing God we have! How patient and gracious He has been with me through the many years I have walked with Him. He loves me and works with me where I am at. He is gentle and kind. His yoke truly is easy.

I am slowly learning to trust and learning to rest. I praise Him for showing me His loving presence and perfect understanding.

Journeying with Jesus truly brings joy even when we are on the rough, rocky roads with sharp rocks cutting our soles, or our souls. He never leaves us and He is always loving.

How is your journey going? What is He teaching you? Is He taking you on a new path? I pray that His lessons bless you as He has blessed me.

The Lord’s Perfect Way; Not Always What We Expect

There is less than two months until Christmas, and then only one week beyond that 2019 begins.

I recently was rereading snippets from my journal and repeatedly read about the stress and exhaustion I was feeling. How very overwhelmed I was, and how much my neck and shoulder muscles were throbbing. Over and over and over these complaints were voiced in nearly every journal entry.

This made me want to cry. You see, my word for the year 2018 was “Cultivate.” I wanted to cultivate presence, passion for life, gratitude, and joy. Sadly, I saw very little written about those things in the fabric of my life.

So, I am on a quest towards rest for my soul. I am reading books on rest, Sabbath, and leisurely time with the Lord knowing His presence. I have a special journal I am using to put my notes in about these topics. As I read I record words and thoughts that resonate with me.

The Lord has been consistently working on my behalf in so many areas of my life that I have allowed to stress me out. And I see Him healing some very deep and painful wounds within. It is not an overnight process. It is slow but He is gently with me teaching me truths to help me heal.

This morning I meditated on Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV).

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I have been too busy, and too stressed, and just am feeling exhausted. The Lord’s invitation for me to “come” touched a tender place within and made tears sting my eyes. I felt so like a little child, needy and fragile, and I crawled into Daddy’s lap as he stretched his arms out to me and called me to ‘come.’ I ran to the Lord, and snuggled in heart to heart. I told Him once again about how I feel and all that is weighing me down. I cast all of my cares on Him, trusting in His care for me, as 1 Peter 5:7 tells me.

My neck and shoulders relaxed.

My jaw unclenched.

I breathed in deeply.

All too often I do this but then run head on into my day and lift the boulders of worry, the heaviness of expectations, and the overload of obligations up again. I carry it all back into my life with me.

But then I heard, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). The rest doesn’t need to end when I get up and begin my day. Unfortunately, it often does.

Yesterday, my husband and I had to make a long drive and as we were traveling I started to think about 2019. It felt refreshing to think of starting over. And I began to remember all that I have been taught this year during my time with the Lord as well as during those unexpected opportunities in the midst of life when He finds a teachable moment. As I recalled those things, I realized how much I want and need to make some very important changes in my life. Changes He has been pointing me towards that I have been reluctant to follow down the path of.

I felt frustrated with myself in not having cultivated joy, presence, gratitude, or passion for life consistently through 2018. My frustration made me feel earnest and deliberate about seeking change. So much so that I have already chose my phrase for 2019’s focus in my life.

My two-word phrase is “Recalibrate Life.” In 2019 I want to focus on the essential and be intentional. I want to choose to live passionately. I want to practice walking with slow feet, abandoning outcomes to my Lord, living present before Him, practicing reflection and listening, and setting aside time for play. All of these, so I may learn to know more joy in life, more joy in my heart. I will only truly know that joy as all of life is centered around Christ.

So as I prepare, as I read books on Sabbath, soul rest, and leisurely time with the Lord, I will be praying for more of His leading regarding how He desires me to live out these changes.

I know holding tightly to control, worrying, allowing anxiety to take over, pushing through, manipulating, trying to get my way; none of these work. Relying on Him and resting fully in His love is the way I want to live.

I have found that reading through past journal entries, reflecting on the paths I have been traveling, reviewing how the Lord has worked in my life, and considering what He is teaching me, help me see the road I have been walking on during the previous year. And I have opened my heart to the Lord to help me clearly understand what He was doing. Taking this time for reflection with an open heart and mind are so important.

What about you? Where have you travelled this year? Are you taking time to reread, reflect, review, and really look at where you have been as well as consider where you are being led?

I am so thankful to the Lord for all that He has taught me so far in 2018. Not easy lessons, but good lessons, ones that have helped me to know Him more and have helped my trust to deepen.

Now in the frustration I was feeling, I just realized that I had totally misunderstood my word for 2018. Cultivate. Wasn’t I suppose to make something happen? I was looking or good things to be planted in my life and bear good fruit.

But instead I realize that the Lord truly wanted to cultivate, He wanted to begin to weed out roots of sin, to make me see my lack of trust, to loosen my tight grip on control, and so much more. It was not the journey I expected or even wanted, but I am realizing it was a very necessary journey.

He had to start the weeding-out process before He could make the soil of my heart ready for what He wants to grow there. He has specific desires for changes He wants to make. My Creator God is at work recreating my life, heart and soul, to work out His purposes rather than my own. He had to help me learn to release my grip of control in order for me to be open to the new thing He is doing.

Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

What an amazing God. You see, I thought I knew what cultivating meant, but the Lord had a different plan. A better plan.

Remember to take time to look for His work in your life, He will always surprise you with His wisdom and His love!

Interruptions: Invitations to Rest

Have you ever pondered how the Lord gets your attention?

When He does get your attention what has your response been? Did you stop? Did it lead you to change?

It seem there are many circumstances and situations that come into our lives and seem to interrupt our days. Oftentimes we get irritated, we muddle through, and go on without giving the incident a second thought. But the Lord is intentional.

I am finding that when I take time to stop and pay attention to the interruption, I then see how the Lord wants to use that moment to teach me something. The interruptions are often invitations to rest. They are His way of calling us aside from our busyness, our hyper-focus on our lives and what we are trying to make happen.

The Lord uses these interruptions for many different reasons. Some that I have come to notice are these:

  1. To call me to Him
  2. To lead me to listen to Him
  3. To look at what He wants us to see
  4. To help me find a new way to perceive a situation
  5. To give me new understanding
  6. To help me find the road to deepening trust in Him.

When we answer the call, when we draw near to Him, when we put down our busyness, when we look into His Word, then we are able to really learn what He has for us. It is there we find rest. We see our smallness, our lack of control, and power, and we see His ability to move mountains.

I am constantly struggling with my own striving, my drivenness, my way of control, my busyness, and I am realizing that it is through God’s interruptions I’m given an invitation to rest. The invitation tells me to stop what I am doing, to pay attention to what is happening, to be present, and aware of what God is saying and doing. I am called aside to consider it all.

When interruptions come into my day, rather than trying to push through or rush through to accomplish what I want done, I must stop. It seems that these interruptions happen most often when I am stressed and frantic, frustrated and overwhelmed. It is in those moments that something will consistently not go right, or someone will request something of me, or a truth will shoot through my mind like a bullet. It will be something that I cannot ignore.

And then when I finally decide that there is no getting past it, I stop and the Lord teaches me. He may teach me to seek and find:

  • Rest from trying to do too much
  • Rest from attempting to control outcomes
  • Rest from worrying about something
  • Rest from trying to earn love

He’s shown me that as I am intentional about setting time aside for Him, He will help me move through the remainder of my day in a better way. He’s shown me that when I choose to abandon the outcome of a situation to Him, He will open the door to an answer that I hadn’t thought of and never would have been able to make happen. He’s shown me that my worry accomplishes nothing except for making me sick inside and that He truly is trustworthy to work on my behalf.

The interruptions seem to tell me to, “Be still and know that (I am) He is God.”

Cease.
Cease striving.
Cease trying to control outcomes.
Cease worrying.
Be at rest.
Be at peace.

We must pay attention to the interruptions that come into our days.  They very well may be calls from God to stop and take notice. When your plans get interrupted, talk with the Lord about it, find out if He wants to use that moment to change how you are perceiving the situation or how you’re thinking in general. Ask Him if He is trying to show you a new direction He wants you to take.

I have learned that the lessons He has for me are very helpful and important. So I am learning to stop when interruptions come, I am learning to slow down and pay more attention. He has given me valuable insight and granted me wisdom as I have heeded His call. Don’t miss the special invitations He may have for you!

Cultivating Presence in Life

Test me Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness.”          Psalm 26:2-3

 

Where do you live in your mind? Is it in the past ruminating on the could-of-beens and should-have-beens? Or is it in the future, thinking about what you will do or where you will go?

I think it is rare that we live in the present, being mindful of the here and now especially of the here and now as we focus on the Lord.

Matthew 6:33 tells us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” The Lord doesn’t want us worrying and stressing about life, He will provide all that we need. He knows what we need before we even ask.

Robert Robinson wrote the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Public Domain). In this hymn he speaks of how his heart wanders, asking the Lord to bind it to Himself. The second verse states:”O to grace how great a debtor, Daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart O take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.”

The functions of the mind are connected to the heart in the language of the Bible (Studylight.org) And it seems true that our minds and hearts are easily distracted and truly prone to wander.

I want to cultivate presence in 2018. First of all presence with the Lord. I want to keep Him at the forefront of my mind. I want to be aware of Him:

  • aware of Him being with me
  • aware of His acting on my behalf
  • aware of His speaking to my heart
  • aware of His impressing His will on me.

I want to keep in mind these things as well as have an eternal perspective. When my mind is focused on the temporal I can get pulled in all too many directions. Worry, fretting, and anxiety start whirling and soon tie me in knots. But when I keep my focus on the Lord, remembering His faithfulness, trusting in His sovereignty, I can rest, I can live in the here and now, in the present moment because I know He has it all under His control. Trusting gives me newfound freedom to live today and really be in the moment.

Paul tell us in Romans that we need to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (12:2)” so that we don’t live lives conformed to the world.

When you look at the world today, you see a lot of stressed out people. Anti-anxiety and high blood pressure medications are given out at an all time high. Unfortunately many Christians live in this group as well. And I have been there, living in an overwhelmed, stressed-out state. I have been on medication in the past and I know all of the struggles that go with it. I think that realizing this is what pushes me to want to make the changes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing medication, but what I observe is people taking medication to keep their heads above water rather than making the lifestyle changes that are necessary. I think that choosing transformation of heart and mind may help with the problem in some cases, possibly many cases.

I want to know more of the peace that comes in knowing God’s presence. I want to stop the rat-race and pressure of achieving and performing. And what I realize that I must consider is what really matters in the end. Living in a pressure cooker to get more stuff and knock off every item on a bucket list or a to-do list is not really going to matter on my death-bed. Some of it may give temporary pleasure, but the push, push, push of it all will inevitably tarnish the shine.

I want to be living in a way that I can really be aware of and take notice of the Lord’s gifts in day-to-day life– the song of the cardinal, the sweet taste of honey in my chai green tea, the aroma of coffee brewing in the pot, the beauty of an evening snowfall, the feel of the garden soil in my hands, the warmth of the oven baking sweet treats, or the delicious smell coming from the pot of taco chili. I want to be aware of what’s behind the sad words coming from my friend and I want to hear my husband’s excitement about the difficult job that he has been working so hard to nail and how he finally met his goal. I want to be present for all of it.

Too often it is easier to be overly self-focused about a personal problem, a future worry, or an irritating frustration and miss the moment, miss the gift and worse yet miss the Giver.

Look back to the beginning of this post and read Psalm 26:2-3. Are you always mindful of the Lord’s unfailing love and reliant on His faithfulness? I know I am not, at least not very consistently. I want to grow in these so I can say that verse knowing it’s truth.

So, now here in 2018, I am working to cultivate time in everything and really being present. Let me share some of the things I am doing.

  • I am using the ABIDE app and the Mindful Worship site on my phone to help me take time for short Scripture meditations before bed. My heart grows peaceful and I breathe deeply and fall asleep thinking on the Lord being with me.
  • I am journaling about beautiful moments throughout my days. Remembering God is good.
  • I am choosing to shovel the snow slowly and enjoy the crisp air and the beauty that surrounds me. My senses give me reason to give God glory.
  • I am seeing the Lord show me my self-sufficiency as He works with me to draw me into deeper reliance on Him. And feeling the precious intimacy is incredible.
  • I am trying to find places in my day to pause and breathe deeply. And in those times I purposefully think about and look for ways the Lord is showing His presence in my day.

All of this brings me to the same place. Do you see where it leads? The natural response to a being present in life is thanksgiving, a thankful heart, and that is what I will be sharing about in my next post. Because another area I want to cultivate in life this year is a heart of gratitude.

Do you have any special key thing you do to help you remain present, aware of the here and now? I would love for you to share them. I think it is great anytime we can help or encourage one another in growing in our walks with the Lord and throughout our daily lives. May you know more of the Lord’s presence in your life in 2018.

 

Find Rest in the Ruckus

“Yet I know, in quiet pockets where my soul craved recharge and peace that rest was exactly what I needed. But how? How does one truly rest in the midst of life all around?” Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue.

It is a beautiful autumn morning. The sun is bright and bringing some warmth to the yet chilly air. I was up early beginning my new morning routine, and then outside digging up kale and parsley plants for pots to keep over winter, mostly to keep my bunnies happy. I had my morning coffee and toast, packed my husband’s lunch, did pet care, and now drove to the lakeshore. It is breezy and the waves are splashing hard against the rocks. I stopped at a local coffee shop for an Americano for this little mini-vacation in my day. So, here I sit in my car, windows open, listening to honking geese and crashing waves, breathing deeply the fresh air, and sipping coffee. Taking time to relax knowing the to do list is waiting for me, this is something new.

Summer flew past with much, too much, busyness and very little recharge or peace. The past few weeks the tight muscles in my neck and shoulders have been crying for reprieve from life’s stress. Every day has been the same, an endless to do list, impossible to finish in the hours allotted. Tension and frustration boiling over because I never get done. It was in the midst of all this that I remembered what I read in Present Over Perfect “Barns burned down, now I can see the moon.”  To me this is about clarity, it made me see that I was too bogged down in too much to do. Time to burn some barns. In another of Niequist’ books, Bittersweet, she shares how her friend told her to choose what she wanted to do and then decide what she was willing to let go of. I had to ask myself, “what am I willing to say ‘no’ to?”

So I took out slip of paper and made a list of my absolutes and there with the paper in hand I decided I needed to make some changes. I sorted things out, rather than trying to do everything, I began dividing the tasks listed into days. I also made routines for morning, afternoon, and evening to fit in time for journaling, reading, self-care, and exercise.

I began experimenting and really enjoying all of the changes. I have three main areas of tasks for each day, my to do list is narrowed down and my routines are allowing me time to do things I enjoy. I am not pushing through my days at breakneck speed but instead I am finding more quiet pockets to recharge and to know peace in. The pockets are there because I am being intentional about planning them in.

I know I have tried slowing down often before and I always get caught up in the rat race, but I feel like there is something very different about this time. It feels like it will stick. I am feeling so much more joy and peace.

My response to inquiries or comments have been sharp and defensive, but now the edges are softening because I am not in a constant state of overwhelm.

As I sit here at the lake, there is a flock of geese nearby, some of them are feasting on what they can find in the grass across the road. When they get their fill they fly overhead honking and flapping. They land in the water facing south and although they are probably paddling hard beneath the water, they are being moved north by the wind in the waves. I have been kind of like those geese trying to get things done but seemingly not getting anywhere with accomplishing it all. I felt pushed back by the wind and waves of busyness and too exhausted to keep paddling. The geese don’t seem to mind floating backwards, they are content to go with the flow. I want to move through my days with intention, yet knowing rest.

Finding rest doesn’t just happen. I am finding in the process of being intentional that there are quiet moments to listen to the Lord, to pray, and to draw near. These moments happen between the to do’s. I am choosing to stop pushing through. That is a big change for me, and it is a big challenge for me. It is difficult to allow myself that freedom, but I am learning to give myself permission.

I am also learning to be more consistent about praying for myself, telling the Lord the needs of my heart. I am taking time to rest with Him in the midst of my routine, and between my to do’s I am growing more aware of His presence. What a wonderful experience!

Pogue says, “To rest means to be filled up by the One who enjoys us right in the middle of the rush. Authentic rest emulates our Father, it’s turning my mind and heart to settle into a cozy rhythm that models Him…”

Pogue goes on to share how easy it is to neglect taking time to enjoy today, neglecting “to be present to the tiny moments and memories taking up who and what texture are now.”

There have been too many days that I have neglected to take time to enjoy the day. I have been oblivious to so much because of being over-focused on what I feel I need to do or want to accomplish. I am seeking to find that “cozy rhythm” in my life and find rest in the ruckus of life.

How about you? How are you being intentional about rest?

 

Choosing Simplicity

The counter is clear now after being cluttered with dishes and food from yesterday’s company. Looking at it washed clean and free of a mess helps me to take a breath and smile. Somehow simplicity helps us to breathe deeply and feel rest within.
The same is true when I look at a week-at-a-glance and see chunks of whitespace on my calendar. It is almost as if those empty spaces give me permission to find pockets of peace. When the days are filled with lots of appointments and an overwhelming to-do list, I immediately feel the stress building inside.
The problem here is that we do not find those pockets of peace unless we are intentional about our choices. We must choose simplicity in this life, because it most certainly does not just happen on it’s own.
Jesus had a beautiful rhythm to His life. It was a rhythm of times alone with the Father and time with others, times of teaching the disciples and times of just being together, times of eating with friends, and times of healing the sick. It was a rhythm of work and rest. It wasn’t about rushing here and there to meet every need. There wasn’t any “tyranny of the urgent” in Jesus’ life. He chose simplicity. He chose a plan that coincided with His purpose.
Shauna Niequist in her book Present Over Perfect ran herself ragged for years until she realized what was important to her and simplified her life. Simplifying her life meant for some hard decisions of choosing less. Less clothes in the closet, less dishes in the cupboards, fewer speaking engagements, fewer trips, less people-pleasing, less doing and doing and doing more. It meant deciding what she needed to say “no” to.
I am realizing that, through the years, I have started many books and many projects. I find notebooks where I started a study, or taking notes on a book I was reading, but never finished. I also am finding bags with craft projects left incomplete. I hadn’t realized how scattered my busyness kept me, starting one thing only to get interrupted, forget it, and start something else. Now I am going back and trying to complete some of what I started. And, getting rid of what I no longer have interest in finishing because it is a different time in my life. I am seeing how I get too overwhelmed with too many balls in the air. It gives rest to my soul when I see myself heading in the direction of completing something I started. It is a path to simplicity.
It seems like busyness feeds on itself. You keep trying to find satisfaction in something else only making yourself busier and busier. Little by little, I am getting through what I haven’t finished, and it feels satisfying. I am choosing the simplicity of doing it at my pace, not pressuring myself to complete it with a deadline hanging over my head. I think we need to give ourselves the freedom to work at things at a comfortable rhythm minus the pressure.
We need to look at each step as progress rather than looking at the endpoint and seeing how close we are to it. We can choose to find enjoyment in each step, choosing to be firmly in the moment and living each moment with joy in our hearts. Joy because we have the opportunity to be who the Lord made us to be, in the place He put us, for His specific purpose.
It is too easy to go through life fighting Him all the way. He calls us to rest, and we say without any words,” later” and run on to the next thing on our list. Choosing simplicity means stopping to hear His call and meeting Him there. Yes, right in the middle of doing a sink full of dirty dishes, or getting the groceries. You may hear Him in that robin who is splashing and playing the bird bath in the backyard. You may hear Him as you see the trees sprout new leaves on their branches. You may hear Him speak into your heart the words you read this morning in your Bible reading. He shows us the reality of simplicity.
He reaches to us to take in this moment of life right now and rest in the love He is touching us with. Notice His presence. Take to heart the lessons He is trying to teach you. Don’t miss a moment of what He has for you. He has beauty, warmth, color, hope, peace, and so much more. See the beauty of the flower budding, feel the warmth of the sun, notice the color of the sunset, take in the hope in His word, and feel the peace that fills your heart as you breathe deeply.
We can get rid of the unnecessary clutter, and try to make time for what is really important, such as opening our hearts to those we love in our lives. We can say “no” to busyness, and find out what it is we are running from that keeps us on the hamster wheel. And all of that is moving in the right direction, but what really quiets the restlessness in our hearts is knowing His loving presence and growing in intimacy with Him moment-by-moment through our days.
The question I had to ask myself is, do I even know He is with me? Do I even take time to recognize and acknowledge this through the hours in my days? Do I see His hands at work in nature? Do I hear His whispers to me? Do I “taste and see that the Lord is good” in my days? The knowledge of His presence becoming a priority in my life brings simplicity of focus to it, He leads me to the green pastures for rest, and gives me refreshment by the still waters. When I choose Him, I have everything I need. I can stop striving to make everything seem perfect, I can let go of the shouts of “should”, and I can know simplicity in growing in the knowledge of His loving presence.
Choosing simplicity is intentionally finding Him to help me focus on what really matters, to help me learn what His purpose is for me in that moment, to see what He wants me to see, and mostly, to feel held in His love.
How will you choose simplicity today?

Finding Quiet and Learning to Play

Quiet…

Stillness…

Peace…

Rest…

Breathe.

Such beautiful words to our busy striving hearts. We can read through this list, but when do you experience these in your life? We often are not able to find time to rest until we finally flop into bed exhausted at the end of the day.

I’m a type A personality and I like to keep busy. I have a never-ending list of things I feel I should do and an even longer list of things I want to do. I have stressed myself out with my lists of what I want to accomplish to the point of raising my blood pressure and getting hives. The ridiculous thing about this is that none of the things on my lists of to-dos are of earth-shattering in importance. The world will not come to an end if I do not get them completed. When you’re constant striving begins to affect your health, you start to take it a little more seriously. You begin to make some changes. That is what it took for Shauna Niequist also. She describes in her book, Present over Perfect, how the pressure she was under affected her physically and how she kept going for quite a while at the same pace ignoring the symptoms in her body. She kept going until she couldn’t anymore.

Her realization that something needed to change led her to find out what was pushing her to keep going. She found her deeper need to know God’s love for her as she searched her heart. She began to learn about God’s love in ways she previously had not understood bringing her to realize she could stop striving. 

When we take to heart the reality of God’s love for us and His presence with us:

  • We realize that in Him we have what we need and then we really can slow down.
  • We learn to take time to talk with Him and learn more about what really matters to Him.
  • We begin to choose to do what matters to Him.
  • He gives us the soul-satisfaction that we search for.

I’ll be honest, I struggle with feeling the need to strive, I wrestle with seeking approval. And I search for ways to get love by doing. But I am improving. I am learning to choose moment’s of rest, explore ways to enjoy quiet, and find places in my days to breathe deeply. I am learning more and more about God’s love for me. It is something that we as believers should never stop learning about.

What about you? How do you find quiet?

Some of my favorite ways are

  • going for a walk
  • sitting on a beach early in the morning
  • whispering a prayer to the Lord
  • cutting vegetables for homemade soup
  • listening to baroque music
  • writing in my journal
  • watching creatures play in nature

None of these take a lot of time, yet each one quiets my heart and nurtures my soul.

Beyond finding quiet, Shauna Niequist also talks about learning to play. Some may think it sounds silly. And when we weigh the possibility against all we have to do it may seem impossible. But it is so important to our health and happiness. The Lord gave us so much on the beautiful earth to enjoy.

Growing into adulthood often squelches out the playfulness of our hearts. We take on responsibilities, jobs, family, expenses, and we can lose our whimsical spirits. When you take time to watch young children enjoy a game, giggle while splashing in a pool, or jumping up and down on a trampoline, you see the positive effect of play. Play can bring delight to our hearts and as we play together we show love and attention in ways we miss in our busyness.

We can say we are too tired or that we don’t have time for quiet and play, but I think that when we take time to do something relaxing and fun it nourishes us in unexplainable ways, We may be energized by taking time for either one of these. I believe that we may even find ourselves able to do a better job at the tasks that fill our to-do lists. Also, we may find that our spirits are lifted in gifting ourselves with a little stillness or a few moments of time to play.

It seems to me that if Jesus were walking the earth today, we may find Him playing with a group of children in a neighborhood backyard or going fishing and catching a nap under the shade of a tree. It could be that we would see Him sitting on a beach sipping lemonade or possibly enjoying a picnic at a park. Jesus took the time to enjoy people around Him and He took time to get away alone, especially to refresh His soul with His Father.

So, how will you find quiet today? How will you engage in play? Will you honor the Giver-of-Life by choosing something life-giving? If this seems too hard because of the structure of your life right now, talk to the Lord and ask Him to show you where you can have a space for quiet and play. He cares about you as His created child and He will show you out of His love for you.