Living the Sticky Life

We spent three days preparing, ignored our children all day the day of the party to get ready, spent more money than we expected, have enough left-over food to have party number two tonight if we wanted to, stayed up about four hours later than we usually do, and I, being an extrovert, couldn't sleep when it was all over and done because I was so wound up.  And now every floor in our house is sticky.

It turns out pink punch is a lot like the spot in The Cat and the Hat Comes Back that just wouldn’t go away.  After our first Christmas party in our new home, in which children were welcome, there is now sticky pink punch in every room of my house.  And the pink cream cheese mints?  I just realized I’m sitting on a smear and am looking at another blob on the coffee table.

We spent three days preparing, ignored our children all day the day of the party to get ready, spent more money than we expected, have enough left-over food to have party number two tonight if we wanted to, stayed up about four hours later than we usually do, and I, being an extrovert, couldn’t sleep when it was all over and done because I was so wound up.  And now every floor in our house is sticky.

So was it worth it?

Was it worth our neighbors coming over who we have talked to only once in seven months, who suggested we do a babysitting swap as they left?  Or two carpenter friends who didn’t know each other before discussing their passion for woodwork?  Was my college friend meeting my friend who just moved here from Chicago, two beautiful lovers of Jesus who didn’t know each other before, finding that they have certain people and places in common a waste of time?

Or my three-year-old son, watching a movie with the “big” boys (the oldest who is about 8), trying to put his arm around a six-year-old from our church–my son, who is not physically affectionate and will only sit in our laps about twice a week?

Or my friends who have taken in their troubled teen-aged niece, who secretly indulged my one-year-old daughter all night with chocolates, punch and cookies, delighting in holding her and drinking in her baby-love cuddles?  Or the couple that came by after all the families with kids had left that we got to talk to on a heart-level until late into the night?

We could have skipped the mess, saved money, spent a quiet Saturday as a family, and gotten more sleep, but in avoiding the inconveniences, we would have missed out on real, sticky, tired, rewarding life.

It is always easier to do nothing.  Don’t have the party, or whatever the party stands for in my life:  joining something new, taking a step of faith, or choosing to engage in a new relationship that may not have the promise of longevity.  But what might I miss? 

And the spilled punch acts as a litmus test for what I worship.  Do I care more about relationships with real people or about having nice things?  Do I want a home that is immaculate, or a home that is used and truly lived in? Do I want a place where people can gather to laugh, connect, and share their lives, or a quiet home that insulates the people that live there?

Fear of losing control keeps me from throwing the party (whatever that party may be).  I can’t control every person at every time and that scares me.  If it were just my kids and my family, they know we don’t eat in the living room, so we don’t have pink smears on the couch.  But as soon as I let new people into my home–into my life–who don’t abide by my rules, I may find my house sticky with pink punch, toys rearranged or broken and everything just slightly askew. 

But God is calling me to do life and to do it with people.  And that means stickiness–not just in some rooms of the house–but in every room of the house.  It means engaging with people even though I would rather not because of selfish reasons.  And it means giving up control because I don’t know who God will bring or what He will do, but He guarantees that people are worth the mess because they are made like Him.  And it is in the stickiness that we find life, because that is where Jesus lived, too. 

Previous post~Sabbath Rhythms {7 Days of Soul Rest}
Next post~Keeping Secrets with God

Day 7: Sabbath Rhythms {7 Days of Soul Rest}

My friend and her family have decided to observe the Sabbath (called Shabbat in Hebrew) more formally and make this longer pause a part of the rhythm of their lives.  Here is a bit of her experience.


Every life pulsates with rhythm.  Schedules of sleeping, eating and relating vary according to culture, but all people fall into rhythm of some kind.

And every musical rhythm must contain rests, or pauses, where the beat stops beating, even if just for a moment.

What are some of the natural pauses that already exist in the rhythm of your life right now?

In the United States, the larger rhythms of life might look like the school calendar, with rest for children during summer and winter break.  It also may include the 8 to 10 hour work day, with weekends off and church on Sundays.  But our rhythms can also be dictated by the church calendar of Advent, Lent and other holy days. 

The rhythms of a working parent may include pauses during a commute or lunch break and a stay-at-home parent may have brief pauses to nurse a baby or while a child naps.  Pauses may be at prayers before meals and bed or alongside other family traditions.  Those without children or with older children may have extended morning pauses, while parents of littles may have extended pauses in evenings if their children sleep early.

If we are serious about finding true soul rest, we need to be realistic with our goals.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to insert intentional rest into the natural pauses that already exist in our lives.

The purpose is not to fill these pauses with more “doing,” but to retrain ourselves to extend them into space to “be.”  Take naps.  Space out instead of pulling out your phone in the checkout line.  Exercise outside without music or headphones.  Walk slower than feels natural.  Drive in silence (if you don’t have kids shrieking in your car like I do).  Go to bed absurdly early.  Spend an extra three minutes in the shower.  

Extend your pauses. 

We also need to transform the natural pauses of our lives into sacred moments. 

What does this look like practically? 

Here’s an example of what not to do.  Today after I dropped the kids off at the nursery at church and made my way back to my husband for the service, I spent the majority of the service distracted, scribbling notes for this post on my bulletin.  The songs were words, not worship; and communion was bread and juice, not the body and blood.  My physical body was there, but my mind was not.  And I missed out.  This was a rare hour that I could have been meeting with Jesus, but because I was not intentional about using this time to seek Him, I missed out on making this a sacred pause in my week. 

And I desperately needed that kind of soul rest.

So to follow my own advice, I need to prepare myself for pauses.  Closing our eyes is a gift.  By moving tiny muscles in our face, we can physically tune out all that is around us.  I need to learn how to utilize this very basic gift of God to reclaim these pauses and transform them into sacred moments with the Lord.  In church, I can close my eyes when I enter and ask for help to focus.   

Most of the time, we don’t need to change our entire rhythm, but only to extend or capture the pauses we already have and make them sacred, but occasionally we need to allow God to rewrite the rhythm of our days to include pauses that weren’t there before.  

My friend and her family have decided to observe the Sabbath (called Shabbat in Hebrew) more formally and make this longer pause a part of the rhythm of their lives.  Here is a bit of her experience.:

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We celebrate Shabbat from Friday night sundown to Saturday sundown. We do this to join in the thousands of years people have celebrated it at this time. We have tried to set Shabbat apart by cleaning up before Friday night (which somehow makes cleaning more purposeful and enjoyable for me), making a fancy dinner and inviting guests over. 

We often light candles before dinner and say/sing a blessing. We often sing the Shema and take communion.  It is the time when we enjoy our bridegroom and He enjoys us as His bride as it is often said that Shabbat is like preparing for a king or the wedding of the bridegroom.

Shabbat is as much about delight as it is about rest.

On the seventh day God took delight in all he had created. It is a time to reflect on how God delights in us and all creation and we get to enter into that and delight with Him.

Along the lines of delight and celebration, we try to save any desserts for Shabbat so that we see Shabbat as a delight! We have desserts Friday night and often a big breakfast Saturday morning with chocolate chip pancakes.

One of the keys for us with Shabbat is to make it ‘holy’ and set apart from other days, so we do rest from regular work.  At the end of the Saturday night sundown, the house is usually a mess with dishes piled up and toys spread all around. Sometimes it takes discipline to not clean up, but by the end of Shabbat it is funny how you have new motivation to clean since you were trying not to. We also take time to pray, dance to worship music, play games, read Scriptures and go on walks. It is about ‘being’ with family and friends as we delight in God and His creation.

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This has been such a challenging week.  I hope that it has been for you, too.  If you are new to the series, be sure to read the previous posts on soul rest listed below.  Personally, I am going to take a reverse Sabbath and rest over the next six days before posting another blog post on the seventh day, so if you don’t hear from me, know that I am trying to practice what I preach (though I will be in contact with the winners of the audio book giveaway by Tuesday afternoon–you can still have a chance if you subscribe to emails or comment before Tuesday morning!).

My Goals for Soul Rest

  • Observe the Sabbath as my friend did during the month of January
  • Plan a personal retreat next year
  • Stop pulling out my phone to “kill time” when I could use that time to pray or just “be” 
  • Choose one Bible verse to focus on each week (baby steps)
  • Be intentional about extending and using the pauses that already exist in my life to rest and seek God
  • Read and drink tea for 20 minutes a day, ideally while my children nap


A beautiful word I came across recently is fermata.  It is a long rest in the middle of a piece of music, like a sigh.  I pray you will allow Christ to carry your heavy load and rest in the sweet sigh of His freedom from doing because the most important work has already been done on the cross.  Rest, weary one, rest.  Let Him carry you.        

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” (Psalm 116:7).

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62: 5-6).


What are a few goals you have for implementing rest into your day, week, month or year this coming year?   

Resources
The Sabbath Society: a society of women committed to observing the Sabbath each week

25 Encouraging Scriptures for Rest and Relaxation

Start Small, Start With Sabbath, by Sarah Bessey


If this is your first visit to 7 Days of Soul Rest, be sure to read through the previous posts listed below.  Please introduce yourself in the comments–I’d love to hear your story!

Introduction to the Series

       Day 1: Three Secrets of Soul Rest

       Day 2: Moms Are Not Monks

       Day 3: Permission for Self Care

       Day 4: Ordinary Moments

       Day 5: Creative Spirituality for Busy Times

       Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat

       Day 7: Sabbath Rhythms

Linking up with #WholeMama 

Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat {7 Days of Soul Rest}

Today, I have asked my wise friend with 4 children under the age of 8 to share her experience going on a yearly personal retreat.


Jesus was busy.  Crowds to feed, people to heal, multitudes to teach, the dead to raise, angry mobs to dodge, disciples to reprimand/encourage and religious leaders to baffle, not to mention a world to save.  Jesus always had something going on.

And yet.

Have you ever done a study in Mark on the amount of times Jesus steals away to secluded areas to be with His Father? 

So why should we be any different?

Today, I have asked my wise friend with 4 children under the age of 8 to share her experience going on a yearly personal retreat.  Though you may think it is impossible at this stage of life (whatever stage you are in), this friend is proof that it is not only possible, but necessary to get away.  She usually went away when she was no longer nursing, but pregnant with her next child, leaving her other children home for the weekend with her husband. 

Here are some of her reflections on having a personal retreat:

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The two most important factors for me in planning a retreat are location and reading material.

My husband did some research and found a retreat center run by Franciscans not far from our home. The accommodations are comfortable, food good, price right, and the chapel is open 24 hours a day. I schedule a two night, private, silent retreat, which basically means that I do my own thing and no one bothers me.  

I think in Evangelical/Protestant circles, it is probably more difficult to find a place that understands the private, silent retreat concept. Usually a retreat means going with a group of people for speakers, fellowship, and fun. So for those really intent on retreating alone with God, it is worth looking into Catholic retreat centers where they are used to individuals coming by themselves, to be left alone with God. 

For my reading material, I usually bring something light but uplifting to read (a recent choice was Hannah Coulter by Wendell Barry, for example) and then a substantive book about the spiritual life (something by Henri Nouwen or Jean Vanier are some recognizable names) and my Bible. And then a journal. I try to keep it at that so I don’t get distracted, and my spiritual reading choice aligns with what I want to focus my retreat on.

There are some rigorous ways to retreat, but for me, part of the beauty lies in the physical rest I experience, which then feeds the spiritual work I do. 

In college I was lamenting to my dad once that sometimes I fall asleep during prayer. His simple response was to shrug and say, “Well, I guess God thinks you needed to rest!” 

I don’t follow a set schedule aside from attending Mass, confession, and meals. I just alternate between sleeping, reading, praying, journaling, light exercise, and sitting in the presence of God quietly. Very simple indeed! 

And out of that cycle of activity/non-activity comes new resolutions, Scripture to take home and continue to meditate on, things I need to fix or people I need to apologize to, and incredible soul rest. There is nothing quite like it. 

To experience sustained silence in an otherwise frenetic life, to create space for God to speak and to listen, it’s like stripping off all the layers I build up all year long.

Layers of what?

I can’t even describe…it’s like going outside your home after a snowfall and feeling that intense quiet as the snow absorbs the noise, and then at the same time looking around and seeing everything sparkling white. You don’t see the bush that needs trimming or the deck that needs repainting, just the clarity that the beauty brings to your senses. You know that the driveway will have to be shoveled and that in a minute you will be searching for that missing mitten, but for a moment all is in perfect perspective.

Interestingly, I often feel anxious before I go on retreat. I don’t look forward to being “alone” for that long, as if I have forgotten how to be by myself, or I am anxious about leaving the kids, etc. 

I am sometimes afraid of what God will uncover. 

And I am anxious about re-integration to life after those two days at the oasis because the adjustment is so abrupt.  But my husband pushes me out the door and I go. 

Because I know that I can’t recreate the soul rest at home (nor should I) and it benefits me and also my entire family.

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I’m so thankful to have my friend share today. Though most of our days will be straining to hear God’s voice in the noise, if Jesus even in His busyness prioritized getting away from the crowds to pray, then we do not need to feel guilty for doing the same. 

“We may rest fully assured of this: a man’s influence in the world can be gauged not by his eloquence or his zeal or his orthodoxy or his energy, but by his prayers…to be little with God in prayer is to be little for God in service.  Much secret prayer means much public power”  (The Kneeling Christian by Anonymous, p. 25).

Have you ever done a personal retreat?  What was your experience like?

What is keeping you from planning a retreat this year?

Resources:
Retreat Finder A great international directory to find Catholic retreat centers (but most of them you don’t have to be Catholic to have a personal retreat there).


If this is your first visit to 7 Days of Soul Rest, be sure to read through the previous posts listed below.  Please introduce yourself in the comments–I’d love to hear your story!

Introduction to the Series

       Day 1: Three Secrets of Soul Rest

       Day 2: Moms Are Not Monks

       Day 3: Permission for Self Care

       Day 4: Ordinary Moments

       Day 5: Creative Spirituality for Busy Times

       Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat

       Day 7: Sabbath Rhythms


Linking up with Velvet Ashes

Day 5: Creative Spirituality for Busy Times {7 Days of Soul Rest}

Here are some ideas for connecting with God throughout your day, most of which do not require more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time.


My kids have magical powers.  I’ve tested it.  Every morning, I tiptoe downstairs while they are sleeping (unless they’ve already woken us up at 5 am, of course) and the second that I sit down and take my first sip of coffee, THEY KNOW. 

They are also currently on a sleep strike from napping.  So soul rest for me today took the form of strapping my two kids in the car at 3 pm after over an hour of not sleeping and driving up into the mountains so they could nap.  It took them about 5 minutes until they were out.  

God knew I needed that time alone in the car.  In the quiet, he reminded me of some things.

When traveling to another country, good practice is to alter your attitude when you encounter strange aspects of that culture and think, This isn’t better or worse than my culture, it’s just different.

I’m finding that in encountering new seasons of life, it is helpful to take the same attitude:

This isn’t better or worse, just different.

But instead of accepting that this season of life is just different, I have been fighting it.  I often think I just need to hold on until more ideal circumstances for Bible Study and prayer return.  But just as it is unrealistic to wish for snow in the middle of summer or tulips in the fall, it is immature for me to wish for an hour-long quiet time in the morning in this season where my kids wake up at 5:30 am.  Instead of fighting it like a toddler, I need to find out how I can grow not in spite of, but in the midst of this season.

“In acceptance lieth peace,” Amy Carmichael writes. 

Today, I feel like I surrendered my toddler-like attitude about my life and accepted that God wants to meet me where I am–in slivers of time, tired attempts to read His Word, mundane moments and scrambled prayers for patience and strength. 

I love how my friend with 9 children said she is “giving herself freedom to enjoy this season of walking with Christ.” 

Am I enjoying my season?  Are you enjoying yours?  Are you giving yourself freedom?

We are not meant to “get through” the seasons God brings us through, we are meant to thrive and grow closer to Jesus in EACH one.

Fortunately I have some pretty awesome friends that contributed some ways to meet God during their season of busy motherhood.  These ideas are not intended to add burdens or “shoulds,” but to provide some new ideas for running this spiritual sprint when we have been used to running marathons. 

Here are some ideas for connecting with God throughout your busy day. Most do not require more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time. 

Bible reading

  • Keep Bibles in every room in your house (and car)–open or bookmarked–to be able to pick up if you have a random moment or two 
  • Listen to the audio version of the Bible or a sermon while you are cooking dinner or in your car
  • Tape 3 X 5 cards or post-it notes with Bible verses anywhere you spend a lot of time
  • Download a Bible reading plan using the YouVersion App on your Smartphone
  • Read your Bible in front of your kids
  • Have your kids begin 5 minute “quiet times” in the morning where they can listen to a Bible story on CD (like The Jesus Storybook Bible) while you read yours
  • Visit Hobby Lobby and get a few wall hangings with Scripture verses to hang in strategic spots
  • Concentrate on a verse or paragraph a week, then move on to the next verse or paragraph once you feel like you’ve soaked in what you can of that one
  • Read your Bible while you are brushing your teeth or blow-drying your hair
Here are some ideas for connecting with God throughout your day, most of which do not require more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time.

Prayer

  • Pick something repetitive in your day that will prompt you to pray (I once read that someone prayed every time their child laughed!)
  • Write out prayers in a journal
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes and pray during the first few minutes of nap time if your kids nap
  • Keep a prayer journal in your kitchen and pray for the next item on the list when you have a moment (a friend of mine puts names on tongue compressors and the kids pick one before a meal to pray for)
  • Say 3 word prayers–make each word count!
  • Pray while exercising or aloud while taking your kids for a walk in the stroller (if you put your headphones on, people will just think you’re talking on your phone)
  • Download an app to keep track of prayer requests and send you reminders to pray


Community

  • Prioritize meeting up with a friend to go on a walk, to coffee or run early in the morning (without kids) on a regular basis
  • Call one spiritually encouraging friend a week
  • Join a weekly women’s Bible study.  Many like BSF, CBS and Precepts have childcare and some have wonderful programs for your children to learn the Bible as well
  • Join a mom’s group like MOPS
  • Go to church consistently (even if you are standing in the back with a baby in a baby wrap) and talk to at least one person afterwards (even if your kids are melting down)
  • Join an online Bible study


Read Books

  • Read books on your phone through Kindle or Play Books–while you are brushing your teeth, before bed, or whenever else you have a spare minute (a friend of mine only uses a separate Kindle because she finds she ends up getting distracted if she reads on her phone)
  • Read through a daily devotional like My Utmost for His Highest, or find one using the YouVersion app on your phone


Spiritual Disciplines While Nursing
Ok, to be honest, I spent my fair share of time nursing while watching TV or going on Facebook on my phone, but here are a few ideas that I did occasionally that I wish I had done more often in the almost three years total I have spent nursing a baby:

  • Think of your loss of sleep as “sleep fasting”–and just like fasting, resist the urge to announce to everyone you meet how little sleep you got! God will reward to your sacrifice, sister.
  • Read spiritual books or your Bible on your phone (dangerous for me because I get distracted)
  • Pray for your children (one friend would pray prayers connected to the five senses of her children) and for anything else that is on your heart for the duration of your nursing


When Your Kids Stop Napping
Have them start a “quiet time” in their rooms.  Check out this article.

Music

  • Songs are usually only 3 to 5 minutes: sit down to listen and mediate on a song
  • Read, then sing through songs in a hymnal (they usually have really rich spiritual messages)
  • Listen to worship music in your house or car (I like to listen while I’m in the shower or cooking dinner)
  • Sing worship songs with your children and before praying for meals
  • Have family dance parties to worship music


Write It Out

  • Post-it Notes for: prayer requests, quotes, Bible verses, words for meditation, people to pray for and anything else you need to jot down
  • Journal:  one of my friends writes just one sentence every night just so she can keep track of the days.  Personally, journaling for me has saved us thousands of dollars in counseling.  I mostly write prayers, what I’m learning and anything that happened that is out of the ordinary.


Take Five
During some time when your kids are sleeping or being watched by someone else, set a timer and sit quietly with your eyes closed for five minutes.  Try to breathe evenly and if you think of anything at all, maybe mediate on one verse, phrase or name of God until the timer goes off.

Ordinary Moments
We talked about this yesterday, but here are some practical ways to be intentional about these:

  • Point out cool, interesting or beautiful details to your children and give praise to God with them for them
  • Take a picture and tag it #distractedbybeauty on Facebook or Instagram (a friend of mine has been doing this and I love what she finds)
  • Drive, walk, or run slower than you usually do and look for something to marvel at
  • Keep an on-going list of things that you are thankful for, either on a piece of paper or on a chalkboard at home and pray over the list whenever you see it


I hope that you are able to use some of these ideas to grow in your relationship with the Lord during this busy season of life.  If you are new to the series, be sure to start from the beginning and read the previous posts listed below.

Which of these would you like to implement in your daily life?

What do you think God is trying to teach you in the season of life that you are in?

Check out all the other posts in this series:

Introduction to the Series

       Day 1: Three Secrets of Soul Rest

       Day 2: Moms Are Not Monks

       Day 3: Permission for Self Care

       Day 4: Ordinary Moments

       Day 5: Creative Spirituality for Busy Times

       Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat

       Day 7: Sabbath Rhythms


Resources:
How to Make Time for a Consistent Prayer Life

Spiritual Circle Journal, described in this article, Morning Quiet Time for Busy Moms

Here are some ideas for connecting with God throughout your busy day. Most do not require more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time.

Linking up with Mommy Moments and Momma Moments Mondays and Velvet Ashes

The Life Of Faith

Day 4: Ordinary Moments {7 Days of Soul Rest}


I have always loved the book, 14,000 Things To Be Happy About, because it reminds me to pay attention and to be grateful for the little things.  I have added two pages from the book below, so I challenge you to read and try not to smile and nod as you realize that you, too, love some of those details of life. 
 
For this post, I’m going to step back and let you drink in some wise words from four of my friends.  I thought it was interesting that many of them hit on the same truth:  meet God in the ordinary, right where you are.

We are learning that for soul rest to happen, we don’t need to escape our lives, but we do need to retrain ourselves to use thankfulness as a trigger for worship as we meet God in the ordinary.


My first friend, with 3 children, shared: 

I am being challenged to keep my ears open throughout the day for ‘kairos’ moments.  These are moments where God breaks through into time and space to get my attention. Whether through something my kids say to me, circumstances that surround me or whatever other way the Holy Spirit stops my heart in its tracks and makes me pay attention to what He wants to say. 

It makes me uncomfortable to say that this is just what I need at this stage of my life because I don’t have as much time to focus on Scripture as the main way that I hear from God…but I know that the years that I spent studying God’s word, hours at a time, are what the Spirit is now using to guide my thinking as I submit it to Him throughout the day.”


A second friend of 3 said:

“Make every decision every day with Him in mind. Serving Jesus is not easy, but it is rewarding for your soul. When you change the fifth poopy diaper of the day, do it with Jesus in mind. Think: he’s called me to this servant position. He’s called me to serve my children in this way. 

When you switch your focus, it’s like finding instant rest…or at least it usually is for me. 

When I stop worrying about what I’m accomplishing during the day and instead stop and think about what Jesus wants me to accomplish, it’s a game-changer. Thinking this way always makes me stop and think about my attitude first. If my house is clean but my attitude is lousy, what am I teaching my children? What am I accomplishing for Jesus? Nothing. But if I have a good attitude, I usually end up accomplishing a lot, and my kids aren’t collateral damage, plus I end up feeling “at peace” with my day instead of regretting the angry words I yelled at my kids. For me, thinking this way just changes my whole outlook. 

I know that there is no humanly possible way for me to accomplish even life basics and still have time for actual quiet rest at this stage of parenting.

So instead, I look at Jesus. Take his burden. Ask Him to help me see what he wants me to do in each situation–even if that means choosing something that seems uncomfortable or hard. It’s always rewarding in the end.”

My third friend, with 9 children, shared:

“I am giving myself freedom to enjoy this season of walking with Christ.   Here are some beautiful and helpful words from Jen Wilkins’s book Women of the Word:

‘…any number of circumstances can usher us into a season where time with our Bibles happens in stolen moments at irregular intervals…for me, these seasons have sometimes lasted for years…some months, just keeping body and soul together for myself and my family seemed to occupy almost every waking moment…they deepened my desire for study…

Give the Lord what you can and trust that he will honor your faithfulness in the small things. Trust that the Lord knows your circumstances better than you do and that he sees your desire to learn and grow. And trust that those times are being used to mature you – to teach you that it is a privilege to be able to devote yourself to learning and studying and to write more deeply on your heart the truths you have already learned.'”


My doctor friend said: 

“I find spiritual growth really hard because the mornings are so rushed and early getting up with the kids and also getting out the door for work. I try to find time either during my lunch break at work or during nap time on my days off to read and pray. It is really hard though, and I often feel pretty spiritually tired. 

 I feel like God often speaks to me through interactions with my kids, friends, or a verse. 

One thing He is teaching me, too, is to give myself grace and not fret about not being able to have long quiet times–He can speak through the chaos/busyness of life.”

I met God through the gift of this sunrise one morning when my kids were up at the crack of dawn (literally).


I have been reading through the book, Wonderstruck, by Margaret Feinberg.  She asks,

“What are the wonders of God in your own life that you fail to marvel or even sleep straight through?  How often do you pass by God’s presence and handiwork unaware?” 

Later, she says,

“And so I prayed for wonder.  Palms extended, wide-eyed with expectation, I waited for an answer.  And God did not disappoint.  For me, a prayer for wonder asks the Lord to expand my capacity to see and savor the divine gifts all around…I still relish the striking and curious ways…God employed to alert me to the beauty awaiting in the most mundane moments of life.”

Lord Jesus, we pray that you would meet us in the ordinary and in the mundane.  Please open our eyes to the beauty that is already all around us and teach us to use those divine details as a trigger for worship.  Show us how to abide in You and find our rest in You and You alone.
 



Resources:
Psalm 19

Four Ways You Can Create a Life of Awe and Wonder

One Thousand Gifts:  A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp


Do you have any other resources to add to this list?  How do you meet God in the ordinary?

Check out all the other posts in this series:

       Introduction to the Series

       Day 1: Three Secrets of Soul Rest

       Day 2: Moms Are Not Monks

       Day 3: Permission for Self Care

       Day 4: Ordinary Moments

       Day 5: Creative Spirituality for Busy Times

       Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat

       Day 7: Sabbath Rhythms

 

Linking up with Faith-Filled Fridays and Literacy Musing Mondays

Day 3: Permission for Self Care {7 Days of Soul Rest}

We've all heard the "give yourself oxygen before you give it to your child" metaphor for self care as a mother, but do we believe it is true?  We moms seem to walk around with a string around our necks with the sign, "I am a giver, not a taker" and we feel guilty for doing anything for ourselves.  But this sign can quickly strangle us and steal our joy during a season of life that (supposedly) goes swiftly.

We’ve all heard the “give yourself oxygen before you give it to your child” metaphor for self care as a mother, but do we believe it is true?  We moms seem to walk around with a string around our necks with the sign, “I am a giver, not a taker” and we feel guilty for doing anything for ourselves.  But this sign can quickly strangle us and steal our joy during a season of life that (supposedly) goes swiftly.

Keep in mind that this post is meant to be a companion to the other posts in the series 7 Days of Soul Rest, so know that I do not believe that you can find true soul rest by just taking care of your physical needs.  But that said, I do think it is important to not neglect the body for the sake of the soul.

Elijah ran for his life and then crumbled to the ground under a Juniper tree, begging for God to take him.  Instead, God gave him what he needed in that moment:  sleep, food, water, then more sleep, food and water. After that, he woke up and went in the strength “of that food” for forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, where he met with God in a gentle breeze (1 Kings 19).

Sleep.  Food.  Water.  God can minister to our physical needs as much as to our spiritual needs.  In fact, most other cultures believe the two are mysteriously connected.

Permission for Self Care

So here is my Basic Mom Survival Guide for the first 3 years, because that is all I have survived thus far.  I, with the power vested in me by no one other than someone who understands, give you permission to:

Sleep More
I know you are already rolling your eyes at this one.  Stop that.  Although I know we can function with less than 8 hours of sleep, this doesn’t mean we should.  

Here are some ideas on getting more:  

  • Head for bed 30 minutes before you actually plan on going to sleep (I know it takes me about 40 times longer to get in bed than my husband).  
  • Stay away from screens 30 minutes before bed (I know that science says earlier, but I’m just being practical here).
  • Nap on the weekends if at all possible–you and your spouse can trade watching kids on alternating days.
  • New moms or postpartum moms have different sleep rules (one thing I tried after baby #2 when my husband was still home from work was to stay in my room with the baby until late in the morning and my hours of sleep totaled 8 hours). I’ll have to write another post about that in the future!

Articulate Your Needs to Your Spouse (or Friend or Relative)
I wish my husband were a mind reader, but after testing him out, I’ve discovered he’s not.  Sometimes, when I feel overwhelmed, I realize I need to assess what I’m doing that someone else could be doing instead.  Ask for and accept help from others.   

Exercise Consistently
Though it seems counter intuitive, moving is restful.  I won’t go into all the science of how exercise relieves stress, but I will say that from personal experience, I am a different personal mentally, physically and spiritually when I am exercising regularly (which means running, for me).  You may need to get creative with this, but it is doable, especially if your spouse is on board and will help you to work out a solution.  It is worth it.  (And the childcare at the gym is waaaaay cheaper than daycare..).

Eat, and Eat Well
First of all, sit down at the table with your children and eat.  Many moms (myself included) turn into grazers as we microwave, chop, refill and clean up messes throughout a meal.  Prepare the food in advance, then sit down and eat it with your kids (note to self).  And if you can, have dinner as a family. 

And to eat well, eat foods that are as close to their original state as possible.  Eat as many fruits and  vegetables as you want and eat all the rest in moderation. 

Take Care of Your Appearance
It is a little frightening that I am responsible for the personal hygiene of two other human beings in addition to myself.  So guess which person sometimes doesn’t have their teeth and hair brushed?

My main goals after I had my first baby were: 1. brush my teeth, 2. shower (or at least wash face), 3. change my clothes, 4. put on make-up (which takes me 5 minutes), 5. brush my hair.  All by noon.  And if I accomplished these in addition to sustaining the life of another human being, I was doing well.

Our husbands appreciate it when we take care of our appearance, but we will feel better if we do, too.

Have Friends
I’m still figuring out how this works as a mom, but several of my friends who collaborated with me on this series mentioned the emotional and spiritual benefits of meeting up with other girlfriends (without kids) several times a month.  I know from experience that talking with a friend for two hours does wonders for my marriage because it takes the pressure off of my husband having to maintain that amount of verbiage. 

Good friends can also put life into perspective, reminding us of our blessings and pointing out the areas where we may be being overly dramatic or unreasonable.

Go on Date Nights
We usually try to go on a date night twice a month, though I know some couples go more frequently than that.  Don’t feel guilty about spending money on a babysitter.  It is worth the investment (and your kids will actually benefit from someone being paid to spend quality time with them!).  Sometimes you can work out a swap with another family, just be sure it‘s an even trade.

And don’t forget to make time for intimacy with your spouse.  One of the greatest pieces of advice I got before I got married was to “Give and receive frequent sex!”  As women, we sometimes focus more on the giving part than the receiving part, but the truth is that our husbands kind of like making us feel good. 

Permission for Self Care
This was my “first day of preschool” picture

Have Alone Time
Mostly anything you do alone will qualify.  Going to a coffee shop, getting a haircut, walking around somewhere, or even going to Target ALONE can sometimes be enough to make me feel giddy if I have reached my limit of home-time.  One of my friends with four small children schedules a babysitter every other week for two hours just so she can get away for a bit. 

And although I am an extrovert, I have always lived with introverts, so I will say that an introvert will probably need even more alone time than an extrovert.  My husband is an introvert and so we will try to schedule an evening for him every week or every other week just to “be.”  He also tries to get up much earlier than the rest of the family or else hides in another room in the house so he can get at least a few minutes at the start of the day without having to interact with the rest of us (it’s for the benefit of all).

Have A Dirty House or Get Help
You have to learn to be okay with a dirty house.  And if you can’t and can afford it, pay someone to clean your house.  This is something that I have done off and on, starting with when I was 9 months pregnant with #2, and though I felt super guilty at first, I realized that I was essentially paying someone so I would have more time and energy for my family.  Just the living areas, every other week works for us, but I have another friend who pays for a monthly deep cleaning.  

Having a clean house also helps me to want to be more hospitable whereas before, like it or not, I would sometimes not want to have people over because my house was a wreck.  I realize this is a luxury and it makes me feel guilty even writing about it, but I would highly recommend looking into a cleaning service at least for certain seasons of busyness in your life. 

Say “No”
This is harder for some people than others, but we need to set healthy boundaries to prioritize where to spend our time, money and energy during this chapter of life.  I’ve been told that our boundary lines will not be as narrow as they are now, but for now you need to keep your first things first.  

Let Your Kid Watch TV
I used to think I would feel guilty about this, but I don’t.  If my showering, putting the baby to sleep, or having 24 minutes to myself in the morning means my son watches one episode (or two) of Daniel Tiger, then I think that there are much worse things to feel bad about.  Let your TV babysit your kid–in moderation and with supervision, of course.  You won’t regret it.

Do Something You Love Doing
For many moms, this becomes the “Pinterest parties” that non-crafty moms despise.  But a wise friend of mine pointed out that this is her creative outlet during this season of her life, so why not let her make 20 cupcakes in the shape of a sheep if it feeds her soul? And just because we may not be able to do all the hobbies we used to love doesn’t mean we can’t develop new ones.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Work together with your spouse or other support network to schedule regular times for rest and please don’t believe the lie that you are being lazy or shirking your responsibilities.  You will be a better wife, mom, employee at work, relative, friend and disciple of Christ if you give yourself space to decompress and relax.

Check back tomorrow for meeting with God in the ordinary momentsAnd if you missed the previous days, start here!

I would love to hear more ways you implement self care in the comments.  Please share what has worked for you in different seasons of busyness in your life.

Resources:

How Stressed Are You? (with links to stress tests)

Oh, Now I Understand Why It Was So Hard, by Danielle Crouch for Velvet Ashes (be sure to read through the comments!)

Self Care For the Highly Sensitive Parent

Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay:  Questions to Ask Before Giving Up

 

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Day 2: Moms are not Monks {7 Days of Soul Rest}

Henri Nouwen, Francis of Assisi, Augustine, John of the Cross, and Theresa of Avila are some of my spiritual heroes, but since becoming a mother, I find myself thinking Yeah, must be nice to have so much time to spend time with God.  Though moms do keep night vigils and do manual labor, our commonalities end around there.   As a married woman with two children, I have been on the search for words on rest from someone who did not have 12 hours a day to saturate themselves in prayer and Bible study because sometimes all I have is 10...minutes, that is.     Though I know you don't need convincing that rest is something you want, I do hope to convince you that it is something you need.   Why rest?   Jesus knew the value of rest, often escaping for time with the Lord and encouraging His disciples to do the same.  The Old Testament is also full of promises for the weary.  But for some reason, our culture attaches guilt and shame with rest.  We apologize for reading a book, taking a nap or needing time alone.


Henri Nouwen, Francis of Assisi, Augustine, John of the Cross, and Theresa of Avila are some of my spiritual heroes, but since becoming a mother, I find myself thinking Yeah, must be nice to have so much time to spend time with God.  Though moms do keep night vigils and do manual labor, our commonalities end around there.

As a married woman with two children, I have been on the search for words on rest from someone who did not have 12 hours a day to saturate themselves in prayer and Bible study because sometimes all I have is 10…minutes, that is.  

Though I know you don’t need convincing that rest is something you want, I do hope to convince you that it is something you need.

Why rest?

Jesus knew the value of rest, often escaping for time with the Lord and encouraging His disciples to do the same.  The Old Testament is also full of promises for the weary.  But for some reason, our culture attaches guilt and shame with rest.  We apologize for reading a book, taking a nap or needing time alone.

But the type of rest Jesus describes is the rest that infuses all of life with greater strength and meaning.  When we pray, we become centered on the eternal.  When we read the Bible, we are reading a book that is living and applicable right now to whatever we are experiencing.  When we sit still and listen, we are reminded that we are not alone.  This kind of soul rest fuels all the other work that we do in a day.

Madeleine L’Engle said, “When I am constantly running there is no time for being.  When there is no time for being there is no time for listening” (Walking on Water, pg. 13).  And we need to be hearing from God during this season of life where we are responsible for caring for the soul of another human being.

Rest is a need, not a want.  

But how can we find the soul rest we really need when we have so little time (and energy)? 

Recently, an older and wiser mother challenged me to “lower my standards when it comes to spirituality.”  She gently pointed out that perfectionism is doing nothing for my walk with Christ. Though I balked at the accusation, I also realized that she was right.  

I am a spiritual perfectionist.

I got married at 31 after many years of singleness where I was used to spending at least an hour a day journaling, reading the Bible and praying.  Marriage and The Narrowing made that old expectation an impossibility and so I entered motherhood thinking that if I couldn’t have an hour long quiet time or at least 30 minutes, I wouldn’t even sit down to try because it wasn’t “spiritual enough.”  


So it is not surprising that it is year three of motherhood and I feel spiritually dehydrated. 

Here are a few adjustments I’m realizing I need to make to find the nourishment my soul needs in a season of life that is so demanding.

First of all, we must accept that we are not monks.  As moms, we must change our expectations for the quality and quantity of our time spent with God and let go of perfectionism when it comes to spirituality (and, let’s be honest, everything else!).

In this post, Margaret Feinberg points out that “Jesus extends the invitation to come away. In Mark 6:31, Jesus instructs His followers to “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest for a while.” The word oligos in the Greek that’s translated “a while” actually means “little, small, few”. I love this detail! Because it means God can do great things with only a sliver of time.” 

We need to learn to do the most with the little slivers of time that we have in a day, and not just wait until we have a large enough chunk, because that time will most likely never come.

We need to retrain our minds to do spiritual sprints instead of spiritual marathons. 

The next few days, I’ll be sharing some creative ideas my friends and I came up with for doing the most with what you’ve got in terms of time and energy level.

We need to retrain our minds to do spiritual sprints instead of spiritual marathons." www.scrapingraisins.blogspot.com

But along with shifting my expectations of how and when I will pursue God, I also need to plan ahead.  

For example, I don’t usually feel inspired to cook a meal at 5 pm if I have given it no forethought, but I have found that if I plan to cook something, buy the vegetables and pull the meat out ahead of time to defrost, the meal is much more likely to get cooked.  A plan sets things in motion. 

We always plan for what is important to us, so why should spirituality be any different?  We love the mountain top moments with arms raised, eyes streaming with tears of joy and a burning heart, but if we are honest, we know that we live in the plains and not on the mountain tops, so we should make our travel plans with our scenery in mind.  

How can I seek God during the slivers of “alone” time in my day, during: kid’s naps, car rides, showering, putting on make-up, cooking, brushing my teeth or waiting on a toddler to put on his shoes?

There are 1440 minutes in a day.  1440.  Could I spare 5, 10, or 15 minutes of those minutes a day to seek soul rest and a deeper relationship with Jesus? 

I need to have plans and contingency plans for seeking God throughout my day.


Finally, the same wise older mama (as well as a few other friends), have reminded me to give myself grace in this chapter of my life.  God loves us and sees all our attempts at holiness and accepts them just as a loving father accepts the precious “gifts” a toddler might hand to him.

I am also realizing that my years studying the Bible as a single woman created a reservoir that I am now benefiting from as a married woman with limited time.  If you are single, feed the reservoir.  You will certainly need it one day–if not for marriage, during other hectic times of your life where you do not have the time or energy to pursue the Lord.

In the next few days, we’ll be discussing practical ways to maximize the time you do have in order to find the soul rest you are longing for.  I get you, weary mama.  I’m writing this just as much for myself as for you.  Sign up for emails if you want to be sure not to miss the next few days.  Check out yesterday’s post if you missed it and come back tomorrow to find permission for self care.


How have your expectations had to shift as you have become a mother?   
Do you struggle with being a perfectionist?  In what ways?  
How can you plan ahead to spend time in prayer and the Word? 
In what areas do you need to give yourself grace?


Check out all the other posts in this series:

       Introduction to the Series
       Day 1: Three Secrets of Soul Rest
       Day 2: Moms Are Not Monks
       Day 3: Permission for Self Care
       Day 4: Ordinary Moments
       Day 5: Creative Spirituality for Busy Times
       Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat
       Day 7: Sabbath Rhythms


Related articles:
Ashley Hale’s Write 31 Days Series: Letters to Weary Women

A great blog series:  31 Hats Mom Wears

Linking up with Mommy Moments  

Day 1: Three Secrets of Soul Rest {7 Days of Soul Rest}

Sitting on the couch, the sun slants in the windows as I sip coffee and half-heartedly attempt to read my Bible.  My one-year-old daughter toddles over to me, her arms overflowing with "stuff."  One at a time, she hands me a train, a purple rubber band, a board book, a sippie cup, an old broken cell phone and her blanket.  Finally, she raises her tiny arms and waits for me to lift her up.   Lately, as I've been mulling over the subject of soul rest, this scene seems to be God's message to me during this chapter of my life as a mother of two teeny children.   Give me everything you're carrying.  And then let me carry you, He seems to be saying.   Before I launch into this series, which I hope will be helpful on a very practical level, I need to ask you some personal questions.  What are you carrying around with you?   Before we can even hope to have the kind of soul rest we long for, we need to unload.  Here are some ways we can do that.

Sitting on the couch, the sun slants in the windows as I sip coffee and half-heartedly attempt to read my Bible.  My one-year-old daughter toddles over to me, her arms overflowing with “stuff.”  One at a time, she hands me a train, a purple rubber band, a board book, a sippie cup, an old broken cell phone and her blanket.  Finally, she raises her tiny arms and waits for me to lift her up.

Lately, as I’ve been mulling over the subject of soul rest, this scene seems to be God’s message to me during this chapter of my life as a mother of two teeny children:

Give me everything you’re carrying.  
And then let me carry you.

Before I launch into this series, which I hope will be helpful on a very practical level, I need to ask you some personal questions.

What are you carrying around with you? 

Before we can even hope to have the kind of soul rest we long for, we need to unload.  Here are some ways we can do that.

1. Confess

As an evangelical, the churches and groups I associate with tend to focus more on grace and less on spiritual disciplines, so I was surprised when I asked my Catholic friend how she finds soul rest and one of her ways was through confession.  Here is what she said:

“I know this is very Catholic, but experiencing the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) always lifts a huge weight off my shoulders. I try to go every month but don’t usually meet that goal. The act of someone speaking in the name of Jesus and saying that my sins are washed away is always a hugely emotional moment and is in its own way incredibly restful. I think the restfulness comes from experiencing tangibly that it is God’s grace that covers my sins, and that my failures are gone. They do not define who I am from now on. And although I walk out of the confessional with the firm intention of not repeating my sins, I will fail again. But I am not steeped in depressing, burdening history. Soul rest at its finest!”

The film, The Mission, has a powerful scene where mercenary and murderer (played by Robert De Niro) does penance for his crimes by carrying his armor and weapons in a bag strapped to his back for many miles.  Filthy, he struggles with the weight of his burden up a hill until he is cut free by a Jesuit priest.  Released from the burdens he has carried, he weeps in the arms of the priest.

We cannot experience true soul rest until we are freed from the weight of our failures, guilt, regret, and shame.  

Audibly speaking these aloud or writing them down and then burning or burying them are physical ways we can express our confession.  Taking advantage of the opportunity of reflection during communion in church is also a good time to ask God to convict us of anything we are carrying that we don’t need to be.  Jesus has paid the price for our freedom and only He has the ability to cut away our heavy burdens.

When is the last time you confessed your sins to Him? 

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).

2.  Give Him Everything Else

But even after we hand our heavy sins to God, we are still not empty-handed.  God wants more.  He wants our hopes, dreams, longings, desires, will, anxieties, fears, goals, plans, careers, spouses, children, parents, friends, health and even our life. 

I have so much more respect for people who choose not to follow Christ because they know deep down in their soul that following Him will cost them everything. 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

God wants it all–the good, the bad, the ugly, the worries that keep us up at night and the fears that threaten to paralyze us.

 
Is there anything you’re holding back from Him?

3. Let Yourself Be Loved by God


In Jesus’ final hours with His disciples, He washed their feet and ate with them.  The disciple John, called “the one whom Jesus loved,” sat next to Jesus and is described as “leaning on His breast” (Jn. 13:23).

In the Western church, our “Christianeze” for drawing closer to Christ has been to say we are going to “sit at the feet of Jesus,” as Mary did in Luke 10:39.   

But why don’t we ever say we are going to “lean on the breast of Jesus”? 

I think we clutch onto the image of sitting at Jesus’ feet because it fits in more with western culture and because we like our personal space–even with Jesus.  But when I think of my Chinese students all sitting on each other’s laps and holding hands with the same gender friends, I wonder if they ever talk about their relationship with Christ and say they want to lay on His chest?

I love the intimacy of this picture.  If we are leaning on Jesus’ chest, we hear Him even when He whispers and can have no doubt that He is near because we are touching Him.

In order to experience soul rest, we need to allow ourselves to be loved by God–and that means we must give up our personal space and allow ourselves to be held.  

Just as my daughter handed me her bundle, we must give God the burden of our sins, offer Him our fears, hopes and dreams and allow Him to carry us, our heads on His breast, if we want to begin experiencing soul rest.    

I realize that all of this sounds pretty abstract and you may be thinking some easier said than done thoughts (and believe me, I am too).  But personally, I am going to start with an honest conversation with God.  


“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden 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”  (Mat. 11:28-29).

“He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young” (Is. 40:11).

A day after writing this, I “happened” to hear this song on the radio, by Casting Crowns.  If you can, take a few minutes and listen.  Here are the lyrics:

“Just Be Held”

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control

There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
 

(Stop holding on and just be held)
Just be held, just be held
Just be held, just be held



What are you carrying?  Are you allowing God to carry you?

Check out the other posts in this series:

       Day 2: Moms Are Not Monks
       Day 3: Permission for Self Care
       Day 4: Ordinary Moments
       Day 5: Creative Spirituality for Busy Times
       Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat
       Day 7: Sabbath Rhythms

Linking up with Thought Provoking Thursday and Velvet Ashes

Introduction to the Series: 7 Days of Soul Rest

Thirsty. Tired. Weary.  That is how I would describe my soul thus far during this chapter of my life.  In the past three years of being a mother, I have struggled to find the true kind of soul rest I used to know.  At the risk of sounding whiny or ungrateful, I‘m pulling the transparency card in the case that you, too, can relate.
But it is time for me to take my search for water more seriously and I need a little accountability and a lot of community. 
Mostly, I want to be back in constant touch with the Source of this water, Jesus Christ.
I am writing this series in search of answers, ideas, wisdom, inspiration and perspective because my soul longs for the kind of rest that goes deeper than just a spa day.
 
For help, I have enlisted several friends to contribute their wisdom over the next 7 days.  All are moms in their 30’s and are women I respect for their deep relationship with Jesus.   
Meet some of my friends:

  • My gentle friend from Kansas is the mom of 3 children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years 
  • My analytical friend from Michigan is the mom of 3 children between the ages of 4 months and 6 years
  • My kind friend from Wisconsin is the mom of 9 children (yes, 9!), between the ages of 3 months and 13 years
  • My disciplined friend from Alabama is the mom of 2 children, ages 1 and 3
  • My passionate friend from Missouri is the mom of one step son, age 18 and 3 biological children between the ages of 2 and 8  
  • My wise friend from Illinois is the mom of 4 children between the ages of 2 and 8


In the mix?  A homeschooling mom or two,  some evangelicals and a Catholic, a personal trainer, a teacher, a doctor, and a mom in full-time ministry. Though they all live in different states and only a few know each other, all had some inspiring ideas about following Jesus.

Their profound words and advice will be scattered throughout these posts and I know that you will be blessed by them just as I have been.

Here’s what you can expect over the next 7 days, beginning on December 1st:

       Day 1: Three Secrets of Soul Rest
       Day 2: Moms Are Not Monks
       Day 3: Permission for Self Care
       Day 4: Ordinary Moments
       Day 5: Creative Spirituality for Busy Times
       Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat
       Day 7: Sabbath Rhythms

These posts will be geared towards encouraging moms of little ones in a season of life that can feel like Jesus is constantly asking too much of us, but I am sure that anyone seeking soul rest will benefit since the truths and principles we discuss are timelessIn addition to talking about the Source of our soul rest, we‘ll discuss practical ways to pray, spend time in the Word, have a healthy lifestyle, plan a personal retreat and implement Sabbath practices during seasons when we feel weary.

I would love to hear your experiences each day in the comments.  In fact, I am prepared to bribe you to comment (although I am learning they call these “giveaways” in the blogging world).  If you leave a comment or subscribe during the duration of this series, I will draw three names the day after the last post is published and the winners will receive a code for a free audio book download. 

I am certainly not an expert on this subject, so I would love to hear of any other resources such as books, blog posts, articles or websites you know of on this topic.  I will share some that I have run across as well. 

To follow along each day, you can subscribe in the upper right corner and these posts will go directly to your email inbox.  Otherwise, you can return to this intro page or find the “7 Days of Soul Rest” page at the top of the website and the latest post will be linked to the table of contents.

Okay, sisters (though weary brothers are welcome, too), let’s begin this journey together. 

I pray that we would find true rest for our souls as we seek Christ together.

“You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.”  Jer. 29:13

Linking up with Sitting Among Friends

Running: Soul Rest and Slowness

Running: Soul Rest and Slowness.  Running, for me, is rest.  I am moving.  I am outside (hopefully in nature and sunshine).  And I am alone.  This is when my brain works out its kinks and my mind becomes clear enough to pray.


Running, for me, is rest.  I am moving.  I am outside (hopefully in nature and sunshine).  And I am alone.  This is when my brain works out its kinks and my mind becomes clear enough to pray.  Lately, I come home from a run and scramble for a pen and paper to jot down the words that have sprung to my mind (ahem, the raisins that were “scraped” free). 

I am not a fast runner, but I run every other day for about three miles each time.  I notice a considerable shift in my mood if I don’t have this time to run or if I miss several days in a row. 

Running is my therapy. 

People always say that they don’t have time to run, but exercise is the type of priority that pushes out something or someone else:  time in the mornings lounging with family, commutes home from work (in Chicago, I used to run a portion of my train ride home from working in Chinatown) and sleep.  But the benefits of running far outweigh those moments I may miss. 

When I first started running, I would run for 5 minutes at a time.  Then 6, then 7 until I had built up to a time that was manageable for my schedule.  I usually tell people who are interested in getting into running to begin like this with 5 minutes, adding a minute each time–or choose a very close landmark, like a city block or run to that next stop sign or tree.  My mom started running this way 7 years ago and got addicted.  Last year she ran the Chicago Marathon at age 61.

No matter where I have lived in the world, I have at least attempted to run.  In college, sometimes it was at midnight in a “safe,” dark suburb.  In Uganda, it was at dawn before all the gawkers came out of their houses to watch the white muzungu run in her skirt.  In China, it was out of the city and through farms with houses made of mud and some homes carved into the sides of hills. 

In Chicago, it was along gem-like Lake Michigan with sailboats dotting the horizon in summer and ice rising into mammoth sculptures along the fringe of the lake in winter.  And now, in Colorado, I run in the foothills on a dusty path decorated with small mounds that I eventually realized belong to prairie dogs, who scuttle along from mound to mound, squeaking my arrival to one another.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I ran until I was 30 weeks along, eventually overcoming the embarrassment about what people might be thinking about me.  But by my second pregnancy, I no longer had the ability to be self-conscious and ran until I was 36 weeks along, my gait shifting to the weight of my bulging belly.  Each time after birth, I couldn’t wait until the doctor gave me the go-ahead to get back outside and begin to move again.

I would much rather run in a new place than drive or bike, because my slower pace allows me to observe life on a larger scale. 

Having two tiny children in tow all day has forced me to slow my pace in this chapter of my life.  You cannot hurry through life when you are waiting on a toddler. They put on socks, find shoes, pick up toys, climb into car seats, leave the park, or eat their food in their own sweet time, with no concern for their parent’s schedules.   

The past three years I admit I have fought hard against this slowness. 

But perhaps God wants to enlarge my view of Him as I take in life at this uncomfortably slow pace?

Instead of seeing less of the world, I am actually seeing more.  I now see daily life through the eyes of my children as through a giant magnifying glass.  My son is helping me re-learn how to be a noticer:  the black and orange boxelder bug defying gravity on the wall, pine needles staining brown lines on the back porch, the smell of cut grass on a walk and hundreds of geese wings beating the air overhead.  My son points them out, rejoicing over every detail.  Details that I might have missed.  

Having children has forced me to slow down and this, too, has been its own kind of soul rest.

Running, on a very practical level, is soul rest to me, but my children set my pace in this season of life and I can choose to either fight the slowness or enjoy the scenery as we mosey on our way.
 

How do you define “soul rest”?  What kinds of activities help you feel this kind of rest?  If you are a parent, what have your children pointed out to you this week that you would not have noticed otherwise?

Over the next week, I am going to be sharing a series, “7 Days of Soul Rest.” Please be sure to subscribe to receive posts by email so you won’t miss any!