Tag Archives: listening

Focus, Breathe, Listen

Sorry I’ve been so hit or miss this year. I could easily pull the “I’m so busy” excuse, but the truth is, writing has always been a priority for me, and if it’s not happening, than something besides busyness is going on in my life.

As for the last two months (some might say last four?), I’m not exactly sure what that is, except that today it feels like I might finally be pulling out of it. Nothing has changed. I still have all of my commitments and potential distractions, but I sense a pattern emerging.

That, and I am learning a truth. For at least the last two months people have been telling me how they have so much filling their lives – school, activities, obligations, relationships – and yet, if they rest in God, if they focus on Him, if they give Him a bit of time each day, it all gets done in a comparatively unharried manner.

Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention the first, I’m sure twenty, times I heard this. I mean, it’s something you hear a lot of as a Christian.

“Focus on God; He makes all things better.”
“Give God your time.”
“Tithe your time too.”
“Are you doing your devotions? They’re critical you know.”

The thing is, traditional devotions have never done anything more me except make me antsy and feel guilty that I’m not having amazing, huge revelations. And so I’d spend time with God in my own way. Like, journaling when I needed to vent to Him. Or praying in the car on the way to any one of the many places I travel in a week.

But, the thing is, I need to be more intentional than that. I need to sit down, expectant that God is going to meet me in whatever fashion He desires. I need to quiet my mind and just listen. Sure, having a Bible nearby is a good idea, but having my journal near by or my ipod with music is just as important. And I need to be still. I need to remind myself that He really is my first Love. I need to treat Him like that instead of just taking Him for granted.

I need Him to be first, my motivation.

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Margins

Rose heart

 

This week has been a blessing for me.  A while ago I heard someone say that she tries to live with “margins” in her life – meaning that she tries to live with a bit of extra time in every day to be able to appreciate the beauty around her.  I’m sure she was quoting someone famous, but I don’t know who, and she didn’t cite her reference.

Over the past year I’ve begun discovering the importance of “living with margins”, and what exactly that means.  Sometimes this is a conscious choice (and battle) to not schedule every moment of her day; sometimes this is simply a choice to look for the beauty found amongst the unavoidable busy.  It’s a way of living life.

Starting a week ago today, I’ve had the gift of very large margins.  Last week Friday did not go as planned.  Not that it was a bad thing (hence the reason no post last week – sorry)!  I got to see people I hadn’t planned on seeing, chat with them, and took a friend grocery shopping.  And then I got to go to a (planned) game night.  It was a great day – just not the blog-writing, sewing, productive one I had planned!

Most of my days since then have been similar to last Friday, mostly because other plans were cancelled.  It was absolutely brilliant.  I have time to spend catching up, and not feeling guilty as I sit and listen to the rain, or taking pictures (can someone say ‘therapy’?) of pretty flowers, or hanging out with friends and youth kids, or really soaking in some wise words of a book, or of a song.  The week has not gone according to plan A…or plan B…or sometimes even plan C, but since I have the time to discover what plan D is, it’s really no big deal.  And I love that.  I want to live my life – as much of it as possible – this way.
I need to learn how to schedule such time into each day; I need to learn that I don’t have to schedule each moment of every day.  It’s NOT a waste of time if there aren’t plans in my calendar.

It’s a different way to spend time, a healthier way.  It’s good.  I cannot tell you how relaxed my spirit is.  I can breathe again.

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Moments

I have been troubled recently by how busy I am.  I am not proud of my busyness.  I do not think I am running from anything; I am not trying to avoid anything.  Yes, there is brokenness in me.  I experience acute loneliness, but I do not run from it, or ignore it, or deny it.  Not all of my relationships are what I would like them to be, nor are they all healthy, but I do not think I am running from them either.  If I have had one realization over the last ten months (I’ve had many, but one of the most obvious ones), it is just how very important relationships (family, friends, romance) are, and how incredibly crucial it is for us to enter into them as fully, as brokenly, possible.  We are to fight for them.

Not the point of today’s entry though, however.

My busyness bothers me.  When I picture who I want to be, the woman I feel called to be, my fullest self, I envision a woman with enough time to be spontaneous.  I don’t have that time, currently.  I envision many other things for that version of me, but living a slower life is the one aspect most incongruent with the current version of me (well, the part which bothers me the most).

So this afternoon, I was given a gift of an inconspicuous realization.  With an adorable, almost-two -year old princess on my lap, blowing bubbles and watching them float above the curves of purple bell flowers that I love so much, I realized sometimes a slower lifestyle is not so much in how busy we are, but in the willingness to slow down when the unplanned moment presents itself.  Watching one large bubble in particular float extra gently, with more grace than you would expect for a mere sphere of soap, ascend above the tips of the twilight lavender fairy-skirt flowers, the iridescent magenta orb popped, and then ceased to exist, I realized that in that moment, I was given the gift of a reflecting a bit more of the woman God originally thought up when He thought of me.  It was a beautiful moment of stillness, of buzzing bees, of feeling deeply, intimately loved.

I might not be able to leave my life of busyness right now.  I deeply want too.  But, until that time comes, I am going to start searching for more delicate bubble moments.  Moments to witness the fleeting bubble lives.  Moments to watch the pearl clouds sing the harmony of a luminescent full moon.  Moments to watch the yellow butterfly flitter around, delighting in the freedom of wings after being mere mush, unable to even walk, let alone fly, not so long ago.  Moments to wonder if that flying thing is a gigantic moth, or a bat with antennae.  Moments to delight in the song of the hummingbird, or the enticing fragrance of pine in the early mountain air.  These moments are more valuable than gold, or knowledge, or anything else physical that I might try to hoard.   These moments whisper lyrics of the woman my heart strains for and is being, ever so slowly, whisperingly sung into being.

 

DSCN6429

 

Be STILL, and KNOW that I am God…

Abide in ME….

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In the Still Of The Morning

Morning Reflection by the Lake

 

This last Sunday I was up early, and so had the time to sit out in the backyard, drink tea, and just soak in the early morning sun, the fresh air, the bird songs, and the general quiet.  I never seem to do that sort of thing enough, and yet when I do, I am always aware that I need to be doing it on a much more consistent basis, and just how very good it is for my mental and spiritual health.

When I am quiet, still, and listening, when I am purposefully spending quality, enjoyable time with my savior, there is something deep within me that awakens.  I am healthier.  I am bolder.  I am gentler.  I am more patient.  I am so much more aware of the needs of those around me, and so much more willing (and able) to enter into that need and minister as I may.

So, I guess that’s my challenge for you and for me this summer.  Regularly spend quiet time*  with the one who created you, with the one who loves you better than anyone else, the one who knows you better than anyone else, the one who stretches and protects you.  Spend time listening to Him, quiet in His presence.  See where He takes you, what He does in you!

* By quiet time, I do not mean spending 30 minutes reading the Bible.  Do that too if you want, and certainly have it nearby, with, perhaps a journal, but spend the time simply being quiet, praying with words only if you must, and listening. 

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Sugar and Noise

I did not grow up with Lent.  In fact, I’m not sure I even knew what “giving something up for Lent” meant until I read the story of the Von Trapp Family Singers (the family Sound of Music was based on).  Maria gave up sweets, or maybe it was just chocolate, for Lent.  And I read that book sometime in early high school I think.
Lent was something “those Catholics” did.  Not something us enlightened and freed from the law Protestants participated in.  I had a lot to learn.
In college I heard a lot about different takes on Lent – all from Protestant Christian types.  They talked about using the Lenten season to re-connect with God, to re-focus.  And so they suggested ADDING something to our lives.  Like focusing on a sense of gratitude during Lent, or taking 30 minutes out of our day to spend quietly before the Lord, and many other cool ideas.
At that time, I didn’t care enough.  The first time I can remember giving something up for Lent was when I was in Bahrain.  The girls I taught with and I gave up chocolate….sorta…kinda…maybe.  I tried anyway.  About three years ago I wanted to participate in this season, but knew I needed to keep it do-able.  So, I turned off the radio in my car and didn’t turn it back on until after Easter.  I tried to use the time to pray, but often became convicted of how easily my thoughts wander.  But somehow, the quiet is good for me, even if my thoughts don’t stay focused in prayer.  So it’s become a tradition during Lent.
This year is interesting, because while I’ve always driven a lot, I am driving like three or four times the distance than I have been, due to how far away the Seminary is from my home.  And so I live in silence for at least an hour a day…or relative, busy-road silence anyway.  And I cannot tell you how good that has been for my soul!
Noise adds so much clutter to our lives.  It often does an amazing job of cancelling out God’s voice in our lives.  And I haven’t done any studies on the subject, but I bet minds that have quiet as part of their daily routine are incredibly healthier than those that are constantly bombarded by music and noise.
But I also added something this year, mostly because the idea that the idea that my body is God’s temple, and so I need to take care of it as such, has been niggling at the back of my mind for months now.   Not that I have been abusing my body, per se.  At least, not anymore than the normal American.  But I do eat way more sugar than my body needs, and, indeed, over the last four months or so, I’ve come to notice how dependent I am on it.  Whenever I’d get stressed or tired or wanted to write or stay awake during class, I suddenly craved chocolate, or doughnuts or a mocha, or maybe ice cream.  If I was hungry for a snack, I’d grab something sweet.
A desire for dependency on God and not myself or things in my life has been growing.   So, with that two-fold goal of treating my body with better respect and with wanting to be more dependent on God during my times of stress and tiredness, I decided to give up sugar – to the best of my abilities.  I’m pretty sure to completely go off of refined sugar I’d have to only eat meat, veggies and fruits.  And I’m not going that extreme.  But I’m giving up everything that I can that I know has sugar in it.  AND IT’S CRAZY HOW MUCH DDOES!!!!
And while I do have sugar cravings every now and then (and fully expect them to get worse), it’s good.  I can’t say I’ve noticed any major difference in my body, but I no longer beat myself up for eating sugar.  And really, at least for now, that’s not the point.
But the coolest part of giving up sugar, is how present God is in my thoughts these days.  When I choose to eat a certain way that is radically different than how I was eating, then everything I put in my mouth is suddenly a very conscious choice…which reminds me of God, of His love, and who He is.   And what He’s done for me.  Which is the point of this season.
And that is worth it.
So, take some time this Lenten season (so, from now until Easter, April 20th) to remember God.  To be silent and listen.   And maybe, if you’re brave, ask yourself what you’re depending on instead of Christ.

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hiking, water, and too much sugar

Yesterday, I went hiking (if you can call a quarter-mile trail, a hike) with my youth group kids.   And it was hard.  Like, imagine if the air turned to water, and you suddenly had to develop the muscles to walk through it.  Everything in you has to push your body through it, each and every step.  That’s how the short hike was yesterday.

Which was weird.

Now, I’m not the best hiker in the world.  And I’m obviously not in incredible shape.  BUT I’m in MUCH better shape than the above statement implies.  I had just spent the weekend before in the mountains and done a tiny bit of hiking with much better success.  And while I was still the slowest hiker in the group over the weekend, and I had to catch my breath a lot – the whole walking-in-water-this-is-impossible feeling was NOT something I felt. 

So what had changed in the course of just a couple days?

As I mentally pushed through each and every step for a quarter mile, I tried to figure it out. 

And I’ve come to a conclusion.  I THINK it had something to do with the fact that the day before the short hike, I hardly drank any water, and I ate more than a healthy share of sugar.  I hadn’t done that over the weekend.  I had eaten (relatively) healthy.  My lack of healthy food and water intake affected my hiking performance in a more obvious, bigger way than I expected.

And (of course) I got to thinking that this is true of my life (not just my body ) as well.  Everything affects my ability to be the woman God created me to be.  If I’m paying attention to God, listening to voices that point me in that direction (godly friends, uplifting music/movies/books/etc.) than being that woman, living a life that God has called me to, is going to be so much easier (and, in fact, actually possible) and so much more enjoyable.  But if I’m “eating a bunch of sugar” ( or watching movies that put my mind in places that aren’t healthy, or listening to friends who might not have the godliest wisdom, or any wisdom) than attempting to be the woman God created me to be is going to be practically impossible.  And will probably feel like walking through water.  Not much fun.

So, to clear up a slightly muddy point, what voices are you allowing to speak into your life’s story?  Who is helping to narrate your life story?  Is it God and people who are a first-name- basis with Him?  Is it music and stories that help you think about Him, and good, pure, honorable, things? 

Or, are you listening to “sugar” that will slow you down and make simple, enjoyable things like a quarter-mile hike feel practically impossible?   That’s not how God intended you to have to live life.  He has better for you.  

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