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Pause. Renew. Next.

Tag: rest

Solitude? Do I have to?

This fall I have found a new favorite show to enjoy with my husband: the History Channel series, Alone. If you haven’t seen it, the show is all about wilderness survival in harsh and desolate climates. Ten contestants are dropped off in remote locations with limited supplies, and they compete to see who can live off the land longest using their own survival skills. They do all of this, you guessed it, alone.

The fact that I like this show is surprising given the fact that, for me, being alone anywhere for days or weeks at a time sounds like a nightmare. This extrovert enjoys alone time in short chunks only, yet there’s something almost therapeutic about watching people use their skills in the beauty and majesty of nature’s wilderness. Without having to leave the comfort of my living room, I can vicariously experience a little piece of nature. A few moments of solitude. (Nevermind that there are wild animals, starvation, and injuries…the idea of the wilderness is therapeutic anyway!)

The Lord keeps bringing me back to this idea of quiet and solitude. In some ways I find myself craving it. However, practically the minute that I find myself in silence, I immediately begin filling the space with noise or busyness. There’s always a to-do list to accomplish, a podcast to listen to, an email to write, a playlist to create, a message to respond to, or a social media app to check. Quiet and solitude just do not come easily to us humans, especially not in the modern age where there are distractions at every turn.

I’m coming to realize that the practice of solitude is something I’ll have to cultivate.

Jesus lived many years before cell phones or social media, yet he was a popular and wanted man. Everywhere he went, crowds gathered. From the time he woke up to the time he went to sleep, busyness could have enveloped him. Really, if anyone had an excuse to be busy, it was Jesus. After all, He understood that He only had 3 years to accomplish His ministry on earth. Still, in Luke 5, we see that He intentionally took time to slip away to quiet places to pray.

Jesus cultivated solitude. He carved out space and time to commune with His Father alone.

In no way can I relate to crowds following me from town to town like Jesus experienced. I can however, relate to four children needing me from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. I can relate to being present for clients who are in crisis. I can relate to writing and podcasting for the edification of others and sometimes feeling depleted myself. That’s what servant leadership is all about: being poured out and continually refilled. It seems that a key part of the refilling process which keeps us from burning out is the practice of solitude.

In the quiet hours with Jesus, He restores my soul.

In his book, The Way of the Heart, Henri Nouwen writes: “We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of our Lord. Without such a desert we will lose our own soul while preaching the gospel to others.”

As a mother, I can attest that there have been seasons when I have had little to no solitude. When you are the mother of littles, naptime may be the only quiet time you get the entire day. The days of caregiving can be long and exhausting, and the few moments of quiet you have may easily turn into a short snooze. Yet, even in those quickly snatched moments of rest, the Lord has restored my soul. Sometimes solitude may look like rest.

In no way am I writing this blog post as an expert on solitude. Far from it. I am at the beginning of learning how to cultivate solitude in my own life. As I embark, I hope you will join me in turning off the noise when it becomes too much. In going outside and taking a breath and enjoying nature. In talking to Jesus in the quiet spaces of your day. I can’t wait to hear the creative ways you incorporate solitude into your life rhythm.

Pause: Take a deep belly breath and slowly exhale. Take a moment and consider Luke 5:16. What stands out to you about Jesus setting aside time to be in the wilderness to pray?

Renew: What is hard for you about solitude? Is it the idea of being still and quiet? Is it the demands of the day? When you are able to sit in stillness, what do you notice about your prayer life?

Next: Consider ways that you might carve out moments of solitude in your daily routine. Get creative! Mrs. Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, famously put her head under her apron to escape her 12 children and pray when she needed a break!

May we learn to quiet our minds and hearts in the quiet places of solitude.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Life Trapped in the Cave of Social Distancing

I’ll be honest: at the beginning of social distancing I did not feel fear; instead I felt relief. You see, between shuttling two of my children back and forth to school, homeschooling the other two, and taking them to appointments, speech therapy, homeschool co-op, and extracurricular activities, I was feeling tired and ready for spring break. Even being given a reprieve from going to church felt like receiving a small vacation. Although I love our church and the community we find there, we usually spend half or more of our Sabbath away from home. Add to all of this juggling a part-time job, and my life was feeling very, very full. The truth is, I was utterly exhausted. Thus, social distancing at first felt like being granted a stay-cation.

Ironically, I have formed an entire podcast and blog around the idea of pausing and renewing. In doing so, I wasn’t striving to be a hypocrite. In fact, I know that I am preaching to myself more than anyone else. Still, it’s clear that pausing and renewing are exactly what I have been needing and not managing to attain often enough.

Many years ago, I read a book by Dannah Gresh in which she explained that King David found himself trapped in a cave many times throughout his life. Each time he found himself in a cave, there was a refining process that occurred in his life. It seemed that his “cave situations” were due to two very different scenarios. In one scenario he made bad and sinful choices that caused him to become trapped in a cave. In the other scenario, he found himself trapped in a cave due to circumstances outside of his control.

In our current life scenario, while experiencing a global pandemic, I believe all of us can find ourselves in scenario number two. Due to circumstances outside of our own control, we find ourselves trapped inside our own homes.

Enjoying the good life of our “stay-cation.”

It seems that a refining process may be at work in many of our lives; at least I am aware of it in my own life. I’ve been thinking about this cave analogy as the first week of social distancing turned into two weeks, and now three weeks. As an extrovert, pieces of my “stay-cation” are now beginning to get old. I have found myself seeking more contact with people this week via Voxer, Skype, and Messenger. I have noticed that my irritation threshold is much lower than it was in the beginning. I’ve found myself feeling bored and restless, as many of the distractions that keep me busy and hurried are taking a hiatus.

On the positive side, as social distancing continues, I am finding that I have more opportunity to choose quality time with my family. I have more time to read. I have more time to garden, go on family walks, or enjoy the peace of my goldfish pond. I also have more time to train my kids on the things that I usually brush off: cooking with them, watching their trampoline tricks, and reading a novel aloud as a family.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all “Little House on the Prairie” at my house. Having four boys at home all of the time means the noise, chaos, and aggression factor in our home is at an all-time high. Brothers love hard and fight harder. Even this however, may be a blessing in disguise. What an opportunity to model confession, reconciliation, and forgiveness! Not perfectly mind you, I have lost my cool multiple times already this week. Still, if my kids need to learn how to forgive and manage their anger, I’d rather they do it now as children than have to learn it later on in life when the stakes are higher.

I have also realized anew how much I seek stimulation from my phone. Quiet is uncomfortable for me. I would much rather browse Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter than sit alone with my thoughts. I very quickly turn on podcasts or Youtube when I have moments of downtime. I have even bought Disney+ to help keep all of us entertained and occupied for the month. While none of these pursuits are inherently bad, I am becoming more and more aware that stillness often feels like boredom to me. Quiet is uncomfortable, and it takes practice to enjoy it.

I guess what I’m saying is this: we have all been put in a refining situation, but we can choose how much we will allow ourselves to be refined. Isaiah 30:15, pictured above, is one of my favorite verses. The Lord entreats the people of Israel to come to Him. He tells them that in returning and rest they will find salvation and in quietness and trust they will find their strength.

Returning, rest, quietness, and trust, these are the attributes I want to develop during this time at home. These are attributes that, in Christ, move us away from fear, hurry, and worry, and towards renewal. I am still admittedly a work in progress on this front, but these are my personal hopes for my mandatory “stay-cation.”

Pause: Take a deep belly breath and slowly exhale. Meditate on Isaiah 30:15. What about this passage stands out to you?

Renew: What are you noticing about yourself during this time of social distancing? How has your life changed? Where do you notice you’re turning for comfort and entertainment?

Next: How can you begin to cultivate the attributes of Returning, Rest, Quietness, and Trust, during this time of social distancing? Take time to pray and journal about it.

May we allow ourselves to be refined and renewed.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Rest? Yes please!

It happened in the midst of a crazy month, my sweet lesson on rest.  My husband and I had received a call from social services a couple of weeks prior asking if we would be foster parents to a baby girl who was currently in the NICU.   We prayed and said yes.   It was believed that she would be discharged from the hospital within the week and would be coming home with us.  Disappointingly, she didn’t leave the NICU right away like we had hoped.  Thus, I went into a holding pattern of parenting four children, while trying to find time to spend in the hospital bonding with my new foster daughter.  My emotions were raw and the questions remained unanswered: When would she be released to come home with us? How much time should I be spending with her in the NICU? How could I be in two places at once? The uncertainty went on and on.

One Sunday afternoon, midway through that month,  I was feeling overly emotional, stressed, and exhausted.  We had spent the morning at church and had eaten lunch with our extended family.  My kids were taking their afternoon nap and my husband was at home, so I knew this was my opportunity to spend time with my foster baby.  I lay down on the couch for just a minute, gathering the energy to get back in the van and drive to the hospital.  The next thing I knew, I had been asleep for an hour. As I awoke, I had the distinct impression that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me: “I give sleep to those I love, and you needed rest. She will still be at the hospital when you awake.”

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil:  for he gives to his beloved sleep.  Psalm 127:2 ESV

I had been going through the motions, feeling compelled to keep functioning past my exhaustion point.  I was aware that I was beyond tired, but the need of the moment felt too great to allow myself to rest.  The Lord sweetly reminded me that without rest, I could not do the hard things I was called to do.

Isn’t that the way of rest?  We all know we need it, but the many demands placed on us keep us from allowing ourselves to stop.  I’m not just referring to sleep;  I mean real rest.  We need time to disengage, allowing our batteries to be recharged.

Interestingly, we can only rest when we give ourselves permission to do so. God knew the intrinsic battle we would have against rest, so He gave us a Sabbath day and commanded that we take it.   We are designed to need rest, both physically and spiritually.

This weighted blanket is used in my counseling office to help with relaxation.  It provides deep pressure touch that simulates being held, which helps the central nervous system calm down.

Another barrier to being able to rest is stress and anxiety.  Both sleep and relaxation are vulnerable activities. The human body’s fight or flight system is designed to help us survive a real or perceived threat. When there is a threat, the last thing the mind wants to do is let down its guard and go unconscious. Thus, when we are afraid or stressed, it is very hard to rest.  

Feeling safe and loved is an important component to fighting anxiety, because we are designed to be in connection with others in times of stress.  Just as a small child runs to his parents’ room after a nightmare to seek comfort, so we can seek safety and peace from our Heavenly Father.  The Psalmist writes that God is a Comforter and a source of safety for us, so that we can sleep in peace.

 

PauseWhen is the last time that you felt really rested?  What were the elements that helped you feel at rest?  

Renew:  Think of a place that you feel safe, calm, and able to rest.   If you cannot physically go there now, imagine that you are there.  Use your senses – what do you hear, see, feel, and smell in that place? 

Next: Make a plan to set apart time for rest this week.  If one day is not possible, try a few hours, or one hour each day.  Make a plan to exclude those things that keep you from resting (phones, emails, chores) and make it a point to enjoy the absence of those distractions.  If sleep is what you really need, make a plan to take a nap during this time.

Like a toddler rebelling against the nap-time they so desperately need, we fight our need of rest.  In order to be energized and invigorated to carry out our passions and responsibilities, we must make time to be still.  May the Lord teach us more about how to rest, that He may replenish our souls and bodies.

Pause, Renew, Next!

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