How to Rest in the Unrest

Weary.

That’s the overarching message I’ve heard from the many conversations I’ve had with people this month alone. It’s not from one thing but layers of lots of things: covid fatigue, polarizing politics, racial issues and riots are the big dogs but underneath are these puppies: job change or loss, grief, health issues, marriage issues, kid issues, family issues, yearning for normalcy, missing people, working from home while helping your kids learn virtually, the wondering of when or if things will get better. The list goes on and on. 

All wearying. 

How do we do it? How do we fill our buckets in such a life draining world?  How do we find rest in all this unrest? 

Disconnect.

From social media. News outlets. Screens. Phones. Scrolling. Even if it’s for a day, an evening or an hour. Stop scrolling through. Stop getting ticked off at people’s opinions. Stop checking your phone every few minutes. 

We don’t have to or need to be available around the clock.  We don’t have to or need to fill our minds with a constant barrage of bad news, I-know-better-than-you, you-have-no-clue recordings on repeat. We don’t have to have an opinion on every post or a comment on someone else’s quandary. 

The more we are wired to what wires us out, the more wired we become. Unplug from it all. The world will keep spinning…I promise.

Reconnect.

With God…develop some spiritual practices that fill your bucket. Meditate, pray, be still, listen, read a verse or two…don’t make it another thing to check off but instead something that fills you up. 

With nature…walk outside, feel the sunshine on your face, breathe in the crisp air, walk in the grass barefoot, get your hands in the dirt, listen to the birds, be a noticer of new growth, smell the leaves. 

With friends…yes, I know it’s hard right now, but I had the most wonderful time catching up with a friend even though it was virtually. My sister and I actually called each other and talked on the phone…remember those days? It was great catching up and hearing her lol…not just read it on a text! 

Mind Your Mind.

Think about what you’re thinking about. It’s easy to get caught up in negative thinking…especially these days…and forget our hope is not in those things that are around us but in Who is looking over us. 

What are you allowing in…please reread “disconnect.”

Mind Your Time.

We all need margin in our schedules for rest. In his book Weird, Craig Groeschel says, “One of the foundational lies we’ve absorbed about the value of busyness is that it indicates our spiritual worth.” He goes on to say, “We must discern what God calls us to accomplish rather than mindlessly adding on everything presented to us.” 

He challenges the reader to keep “an or in the water to keep our boat from sinking.” As in, stop doing this AND that but rather do this OR that. I’ve had to make a choice between some really good things that would have ALL been great fun to do but would have put me on the fast road to burn out. 

One positive about the pandemic shutting us down last year was that it cleared our plates of so many things that we now have control to put back on…or not. We get to choose. We are foolish to think we can keep going 100MPH with no margin to rest and never hit a wall. 

Permit yourself a nap with no guilt. Look through a magazine. Allow yourself time to do nothing at all and enjoy it!

Be Present in the Present.

Anybody else worry about what was? Anybody else worrying about what could be? I get it. But when we do that, we miss the here and now, the person right before us, opportunities to reach out and touch those in our present presence. 

When we are always mentally elsewhere, we miss moments that can never be given back. We miss time with our family and friends, sharing the lives we are living right now. It takes practice and purposefully positioning ourselves in the present. 

Be Present in His Presence.

I’ve been trying to practice this more and more these days. Being still. Paying attention. Listening. Not making my time with the Lord just something I do to check off my list and feel accomplished….like a good Jesus girl “should do.” But rather experiencing His presence throughout the day in the way the light shines in my office in the morning or a text comes through from a friend at just the right moment or watching as someone has an aha moment because of something you said. 

All God things that I would miss if I’m not practicing being in His presence. He’s right there…wanting you to notice that He’s with you wherever you are. 

Practice Gratitude.

It sounds corny but if you’re brave enough to try something so simple in this complex world, you’ll see it makes a difference. Gratitude gives you eyes to see our surroundings through a different lense and a heart to see others in a different light. 

“No amount of regret changes the past. No amount of anxiety changes the future. Any amount of gratitude changes the present.” (Ann Voskamp)

Practice Grace.

Grace defined: elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action. A pleasing or attractive quality. Favor or goodwill.

Synonyms for Grace: decency, decorum, finesse, poise.

To the Mom trying to spin so many plates…practice Grace. 

To the Dad trying to work from home with a toddler in your lap…practice Grace.

To the married couples who are suddenly with each other 24/7…practice Grace. 

To the congregants learning to worship online while your church staff is trying to figure out how to be online…practice Grace. 

To the people who are of opposing views…practice Grace. 

To those who are experiencing covid fatigue…practice Grace. 

Man do we need everyone on the team uniformed up and ready to give it their all with this one. Not just to each other but also to ourselves. 

Breathe.

No seriously. Deep breathing (in for 4 counts, out for 4 counts) calms your nerves, reduces stress and anxiety, improves your attention span and decreases pain. It also makes you slow down and concentrate. 

I had my ladies in Bible study do this at the very beginning of each time we were together. It allowed them to “switch hats” and be present in the moments we were with each other. 

I have my clients for spiritual direction do this at the beginning of each session to clear their minds and allow themselves to slow down. One client said, “Wow! I didn’t realize how long it had been since I too some deep cleansing breaths. That was refreshing!” 

We’ve been holding our breaths in anticipation for many things over this past year. So, yes, breathe! In…1, 2, 3, 4. Out…1, 2, 3, 4. And again. 

How do you rest in the unrest? What are some practices you do to fill your empty bucket? 

kw

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy:

When Life Hijacks Your Joy

3 Things You Can Do When Life Keeps Happening

A Prayer for the Worn Out and Overwhelmed

I Love a Good Syllabus!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I walked into room 204, the smell of fresh paint and newly waxed floors lingered from the hard work of the janitors over summer break. Mixed with it was the sense of excitement, a pinch of dread and a tinge of nervous sweat. Some students looked bored. Some apprehensive. Some sat as close to the teacher as they possibly could. Others sat as close to the exit for a quick get-away. 

With my new books, a new backpack, fresh hair and the perfect first-day-of-school outfit, I was the nerd in the front row, ready to absorb all the professor had for me that day. I still am that person. I love to learn! 

It had been a long time since I’d sat at a desk in a classroom ready to learn. Five years to be exact. In those years, I’d graduated from high school, gotten married, moved hundreds of miles from home and back again and had a baby who was now in kindergarten experiencing his own classroom for the first time. 

My brain felt rusty and I wondered how in the world I would keep my 18-credit hour load figured out. Would I be able to keep up? Would I remember what was due when? Would I miss assignments? It was all a bit overwhelming. 

Enter the syllabus. 

Each professor handed one out. On it were things like professor information, course description, goals and objectives, required materials, grade breakdown, course policies, helpful resources and the mother of it all: the daily schedule. I knew exactly what was due and when it was due. There was no mistaking the expectations of what was required of us for the entire semester. It was all laid out in a neat and tidy word document. Thank you, Ms. Professor!

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would hand us a syllabus for the semester of life we’re in? 

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I’ve been reading a Psalm each morning and ran across this one that says, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go…(32:8NKJV)

I’ve already told you I love to learn so I say YES! instruct and teach away! I’m also a planner and would love it if God would lay out the syllabus, listing the course description, goals and objectives, grade breakdown, and of course, the daily schedule. Line by line, look ahead, get ahead, know the precise way I should go because it’s all laid out in a neat word document. 

But God doesn’t use a word document with tidy dates, rows and columns spotlighting what you need to do next. He uses His Word which is more like lamplight than spotlight. (Psalm 119:105) He likes to give us just enough light to see the step we’re on. Anybody else out there wishing He would ditch the lamp and shine a spotlight down the way you should go so you would know how to plan your life? (Should I take a parka or a bathing suit? Right?) Heck, I would even settle for the next semester! 

That’s not how this Teacher conducts class. Sigh…

Psalm 32:8 goes on to say, I will guide you with My eye. (NKJV) 

His eye. It sees from a different angle, through a different lens. He can see ahead and know exactly how and when to answer my prayers. Like a blind person I have to learn to trust the Guide, hanging on to His arm as He leads me step by step down the path He has for me. 

That’s not easy for a syllabus loving, learner like me. I want to know what’s ahead, what’s expected, what to expect, every step of the way. Bottom line is, do I trust Him to teach me, to instruct me, to guide me, to show me the next step and not the entire year? Using a dang lamp for a light. 

That in itself is a lesson to be learned. It takes a lifetime of practice because like the real classroom, each semester is different. 

In the meantime…

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What can I do? What can I do while I wait for the next step to be revealed? For my prayer to be answered? While I wait for instructions? 

During a time of persecution and facing the unknown, Paul tells what the will of God is (the syllabus, if you will) for the people of Thessalonica. It’s found in 1Thessalonians 5:16-18…

Be joyful always; 

Pray continually;

Give thanks in all circumstances, 

For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 

Really? I know what you’re thinking, I want to know what direction I’m headed, what my future is. I need to know what I’m supposed to be doing and you tell be to smile, pray and be grateful. Are you serious? 

Yes. Yes I am. 

Be joyful always. We aren’t talking about plaster-a-smile-while-I’m-hanging-on-for-dear-life but rather a deep sense of peace knowing my Father’s got this and He will show me the next step, open the next door, light the path brighter when it’s time. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. If I can be joyful always, maybe it will ripen the fruit and will help in the maturity of my faith. It’s not joy in my circumstance but in the Lord that gives me the strength to carry on. (Nehemiah 8:10)

Be prayerful continually. Keep talking to God, even when. Be persistent like the woman in Luke 18 who drove the judge crazy until he answered her. Let your voice be heard then listen. Trust that He hears you and is working things out on your behalf. But keep having conversations. I’ve prayed for things that have happened almost immediately and I have things that I’ve prayed and am still praying about for years. Don’t stop. 

Be grateful. Gratitude is the thing that allows me to receive the gift of God’s blessings every single day. Even when. It’s what opens my eyes to see through a God lens and not my own. It’s what lets me know He’s here. He’s in the sunrise each morning and the flowers that are blooming. He’s in the shadows that are cast by the sunlight coming in the back windows. He’s in the smell of jasmine as I swing on the front porch. I’m with you. I’ve got this. Do you trust me? 

It’s not always easy. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is be joyful, prayerful and grateful in the midst of being lost and not knowing what to do. But if those three things put you in the middle of God’s will, then you’re not really lost at all, are you?

It’s a simple syllabus. Perhaps too simple and I’ve filed it away as silly. But what if it works? What if it helps light up the next step. Are you willing to try?  

This was a great reminder for me. I hope it was for you too. 

kw 

3 Things You Can Do When Life Keeps Happening

Let us not grow tired of doing good…(Galatians 6:9CSB)

But what if I do? What if I am? 

Life doesn’t always happen tsunami style. You know, one big catastrophic event that knocks the feet right out from under you. With tsunami’s, people expect you to take some time to recover. To take a moment to breathe. Seek rest, wisdom and solace. 

Sometimes life sends wave after wave, not all of them bad but even good things can leave you a bit off balanced. For example we finished our basement, a wonderful, exciting thing but having someone in your house hammering away for nine weeks can be a bit unnerving. 

Add to that some health things with my kids, starting a bigger-than-we’ve-ever-grown garden, my middle daughter and her family moved in for a few weeks as they transitioned to Wright Patt, one kid started his sophomore year of high school and one moved home for the summer then moved into her first college apartment. 

Did I mention our hot water heater began leaking (in our newly finished basement) and needed replaced? Oh and all the cars had something happen to them that needed fixing beyond what my man was able to do….cha-ching!

All the while, “normal” life goes on…my man still travels all the time, and there’s groceries, cooking, baking, cleaning, mowing, weeding and laundry because we need to eat and not go out in public naked. 

Wave after wave….keeps you struggling for balance, trying to catch your breath, nothing catastrophic but the salt in the wound still stings. 

Maybe you’ve had seasons like that too? Maybe you’re in one. What can you do? Here are three things I did (and do) to keep my head above the waves so I could breathe: 

1.) Get rid of the guilt. 

I have a handful of friends who are reeling from recent tsunamis. Devastating cancer diagnosis. Death of a child. A divorce from the blindside. All horrific things. So every time another wave would come, I would feel guilty for being tired, stressed and overwhelmed because none of my waves measured up to what they were going through. 

It is true that there is always someone going through more than you. That doesn’t negate what you are experiencing. Nor the need for self-care. It’s okay to ask for help, take something off your plate for a season, say no, rest, realize you can’t keep going when you can’t see for the salt water in your eyes. You need to…

2.) Recognize Your Limits

Tired writers write tired. And I was. I love to write. It’s a way I process things. But I was putting undue pressure on myself to perform. I have no real deadlines (for now 🙂 except for those I create to keep me on track. I was talking to my English professor daughter about struggling to be creative and that I felt like I sounded grumpy…not the message I want to convey. She reminded me of all that I had going on and how that can affect creativity. That’s her quote above.  I needed to take that off my plate for a short while so I could catch my breath.

If you’re in a wave-after-wave season, what can you let go of? It won’t be for forever…just long enough for the waves to settle and balance to return. Recognize your limits, stop telling yourself you should or shouldn’t do this or that, offer yourself grace. Period.

3.) A Rhythm of Routine 

There are some things that were non-negotiable for me during this particular wave-after-wave season (or ever really). 

Bible study, prayer and being still.Every morning I spent a bit of time to work through a Bible study (No Other Gods by Kelly Minter), pray and simply be still. It’s where my help and strength comes from. I can’t explain it. I just know it soothes a searching soul. 

Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. (Psalm 27:7-8 NIV)

Gratitude. I wrote down three things in my journal that I was grateful for every day. Lest I sound super spiritual or whatever…some days were a stretch, some days I had to ask the Lord to show me because I sure couldn’t think of anything. And He did. 

It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful. (Ann Voskamp)

Sing praise songs. This is, in part, how I fight my battle. King Jehoshaphat was preparing for this huge battle that was on the horizon. He did three things: Sought the Lord for wisdom (2Chronicles 20:3), prayed a prayer of gratitude for who God was and what he could do (2Chronicles 20:6-12) and he sent the singers out ahead of the soldiers…wait….what? 

Then he consulted with the people and appointed some to sing for the Lord and some to praise the splendor of his holiness. When they went out in front of the armed forces, they kept singing: Give thanks to the Lord, for his faithful love endures forever. (2Chronicles 20:21CSB bold is mine)

And guess what happened to that vast army that came against the Israelites. 

they were defeated. (2Chronicles 20:22)  

There’s something to be said about singing praises to the Lord in the presence of one’s enemy. 

It’s not easy when life keeps knocking you down. But we can rest easy in this: when the wounds still sting from the salt water of wave after wave we can be assured of the balm of grace upon grace. (John 1:16)

Hallelujah and amen. 

You can do this. Keep seeking His face, stay thankful and belt out those hymns of praise like you’ve won the battle. Because we have! 

kw

Read Monday’s Grace: A Prayer for the Worn Out and Overwhelmed here.

Let There Be…Night

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Beautiful moon photo is courtesy of the gorgeous Dianna Dickson

Show me what I need to see today Lord.

This simple prayer is how I’ve started each morning since January 1st. It’s something I’ve never done…reading this ancient script in it’s entirety over the course of one year. Just me and Thee. Bible and heart open. Pen and journal in hand. (I say this with some sarcasm because, while this sounds uber spiritual, I’ve already thrown a couple fits, not liked what he’s shown me, and well, I’m getting ahead of myself…)

I’m 20+ days in and He has yet to disappoint. Granted I’ve not made it as far as Numbers and read those long genealogies but still. Some days there are more questions than answers but that’s okay. I’m finding the joy (?) of trusting that He will show me what I need to see today.

Take for instance the first few verses of Genesis 1….

 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4 NIV)

 My journal entry looked like this:

January 1, 2019

Read Genesis 1-3 God separated light from darkness right away. *Live as Light*

  1. Coffee
  2. Quiet
  3. Rose Bowl win for the Buckeyes

I closed my Bible and my journal satisfied that Day One was in the books. The message was to shine bright…after another cup of coffee of course…because he saw that the light was good. So light=good, darkness=bad. Right?

Not so much. But we often equate it that way. Maybe it’s because we can’t see as well at night. Maybe it’s because as soon as our head hits the pillow our brains have nothing else to occupy the thoughts we’ve been too busy to think about all day. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe it’s because the moment we’re still, grief pours down over us.

He could have made the sun to always shine but instead gave us night with a dimmer light to lead the way. Often times when life is all sunshine I have a tendency to think I know where I’m going and get completely lost. My arrogance leads me down a path I wasn’t meant to take. Once again I’m reliant on the Maker of both day and night to put me back on the right road.

God shows us things at night.

Take Abram for example. He was discouraged in his inability to produce offspring and was talking to the Lord about it. So God took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:1-5NIV)

This offspring thing kept Abram up at night. God didn’t wait to address his concerns until the sun came up the next day. No. He showed Abram the stars so when the darkness of doubt set in again, Abram could simply look up and be reminded that the God who put the stars in the sky does what He says He will do. He was right there with him. And he’s right there with you and me. In the night. When the doubt creeps in like the shadow of death.

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Photo courtesy of Dianna Dickson

God likes to wrestle at night.

In Genesis 32 we see Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau. Esau is the brother from whom Jacob stole his birthright. They haven’t seen each other in years and Jacob is a bit…nervous shall we say. Jacob sends his family on ahead and…

a man wrestled him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Then a few wrestle moves and a name change later the man…blessed him there. (Genesis 32:22-29NIV)

I’m not sure what all Jacob was wrestling with God about but I do know it was night once again. That time when you lay your head on the pillow, exhausted from a full day of running, working, kids, husband, appointments. You can’t wait to fall into the bliss of sweet dreams…

Instead you start thinking about running, working, kids, husband, appointments. Worry, doubts, wonder, fear…

But instead of grappling with God we grab our phones and Crush some Candy or scroll through social media and wonder why everyone else has it better than you do. Other people’s families don’t seem to be falling apart. What will the test come back as? The list goes on and we get angry at God but we don’t engage with him. Our noses get out of joint instead of our hips.

Could it be that we miss the blessing because we run from the wrestling?

Living a life of faith is not lived in the light but discovered in the dark. While I don’t want to live in utter darkness all the time, I also don’t want to fear it. What can light mean if we never experience dark?

I do want to live as light like I wrote in my journal. But that may mean allowing Him to show me things by way of moonlight and stars with just enough light for the step I’m on. My light may shine brighter only after I grapple with God for the blessing in the darkest of night.

There was evening and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:5 NIV)

And what a day it was too!

To be continued…

kw

PS Disclaimer: the darkness I am talking about here is things that trouble or scare you or refers to a trial or hard time you are going through. I am NOT talking about the darkness of depression or other mental illnesses. Please seek professional counseling and take any prescribed medicine to help you. I have and there’s no shame in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Life Hijacks Your Joy

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Can I let you in on a little secret? Sometimes I overcomplicate things. I think too hard, wonder too long, analyze to the point of paralyze and run a million rabbits of what-if. At the end of all those thoughts, wonderings and trails are holes that lead to nowhere but tired. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes it leads to empty places, dark spaces that need Light.

This is where I found myself at the tail end of last year. Life had somehow hijacked my joy. Instead of an attitude of gratitude, I found myself wound up with worry. Oh, maybe not on the outside because I wouldn’t want the world to see my faith fading into fear like an ombre highlight at the salon…the subtleness soft, hardly noticeable until you take a step back and see the light to dark difference.

Even my word for this year is complicated. I had thoughts of Joy (the word, not my look on life at the moment) but it seemed inadequate. Gratitude seemed, I don’t know, lame (and so worn out with use. Really?) So in God’s witty humor he knew Eucharisteo was the other three-in-one I needed to get me out of this funk.

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them…(Luke 22:19)

In the original Greek language, he gave thanks, is the word eucharisteo. The root word is charis which means grace. Jesus takes the bread and sees it as grace,  a gift from above….even in the knowing of what was to be.

This word eucharisteo, giving thanks, wraps itself around the Greek word for grace, charis but also holds within it the Greek word chara,meaning joy.

 Chara. Joy.

 James tells us to consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2NIV)

I hate tests. Pop quizzes are even worse! It exposes any lack of preparedness. (Amen?!) Gracious sakes how can you be fully prepared for what life can throw at you?  So this recent testing of my faith had me mad at the Teacher, the One who did the testing. But the test allowed me to see areas where my faith is weak and trust is timid.

Pure joy can be found in (not because of) trials. I’m learning.

 Charis. Grace.

Sharing my story, my thoughts and lessons I’m learning as this year of practicing Eucharisteo unfolds, reveals the certainty of the grace of God…how good he is, not how bad I am.

Grace, that unmerited favor, something we hoard and crave is often difficult to give and sometimes even harder to receive. Grace, at times, is challenging to recognize, clouded by our own thoughts and ideas of what life should look like or what the outcomes should be.

All is grace. I’m still learning.

Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.

Deep joy, chara and grace, charis begin at the table of thanksgiving, eucharisteo.

 And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19NIV)

He gave thanks before the trial of all trials that would send him to the cross.

For you. For me.

He calls us to remember…

By giving thanks I am remembering what he did for me. Remembering what he did for me reminds me that I can place all my thoughts, wonderings, what-if’s, empty spaces and dark places, fragile faith and wearied soul before him with thanks giving.

It’s that simple. And that hard.

Joy, Grace and Thanksgiving…EUCHARISTEO…a beautiful word called to live out in a brutal world.

To be continued…

kw