Required to Rest

“Action, then passivity;

Striving, then letting go

Doing all one can do, and then being carried…

only in this rhythm is the spirit realized.”  

“The essence of being in God’s image is our ability, like God, to stop. We imitate God by stopping our work and resting. If we can stop for one day a week, or for a mini-Sabbath each day, we touch something deep within us as an image bearer of God. Our human brain, our bodies, our spirits, and our emotions become wired by God for the rhythm of work and rest in him.” -Robert Barron, And Now I See

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been convicted and encouraged to take inventory of my busyness and life rhythms. I’ve been prompted to conduct a self evaluation of the state of my heart and the observance of Sabbath in my life. 

The result of these things have brought a new awareness and perspective I haven’t found before. It has sparked a journey into learning new spiritual disciplines and figuring out how to wire these new practices into my life. I believe I’m stepping into a new, sacred place of life.  

The first and most important step in all of this was to do something I find incredibly difficult to do- to stop. Honestly, stopping wasn’t my choice. I was forced to stop. A class requirement of a day long Soul Sabbath at a spiritual retreat center run by the Sisters of Notre Dame required me to so.

Funny how a requirement produced a desire to seek out more silence, solitude, and Sabbath in my life. How “having to” turned into “wanting to.” How stopping started new dialogue, reconditioned my heart, and expanded my vision and goals. The whole time I was thinking I was checking off a work box, but God was checking in on my heart and drawing me in closer to Him through rest. 

“Stop, rest, delight and contemplate” are four principals of Sabbath that Peter Scazzero writes about in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. I’ve been focusing on these things and soaking up silence and solitude (as much as a mom of three can find). I’ve been discovering new rhythms, paying closer attention, hearing better, and sampling the “something greater that awaits.” It doesn’t look perfect and holy, it looks more like stumbling and tumbling, but it is a forward moving, in a more peaceful process with intention to be in God’s presence and be present for others.  

Our Lady Queen Chapel
Notre Dame Spirituality Center
Ipswich, MA

I don’t know what the current condition and the state of your heart and life is. I don’t know if busyness and striving is stealing joy, peace and contentment away from your life and relationships. Maybe you feel like you’ve become lost in a storm of choices you’ve made (including the good ones that have become time consuming restrictions.) Maybe you feel like you are what you do, and have lost sight of who you truly are. Many people struggle with busyness, balance, work addiction, and high, unhealthy expectations. If you feel this way, you are not alone. Finding time to be alone, more specifically alone to be with God, can help.

I invite you to do the incredibly difficult work to stop. It doesn’t need to be a whole day of silence and solitude, but at least an hour of time, preferably more, of intentional rest and no work. 

Ignore the lies that it cannot be done. Make it happen. You may need to force yourself to this. You may need to say no to something or someone. You may need to ask someone to watch the kids. Shut off your phone, silence social media, get outside, go for a walk, or take a nap. It may not feel “productive,” but it will be more productive in the long run. And maybe, just maybe, stopping to rest will start something new- a plan of action for more silence, solitude, and Sabbath in your life too.

Cheering you on, friend!

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;

Psalm 37:7


Your Past has Passed

This quote!


The other day I was talking with someone about a situation and they said “I remember when you responded like this….” The response she was referring to, my response, was NOT something I was proud of. It was the kind of thing you wished could be buried away, forever forgotten, never to resurface again. Ugh!! I couldn’t deny it, it was all me, so I laughed uncomfortably and opened the door for revived shame to beat me down.

After dwelling on and rehashing the situation for a good amount of wasted time, I had had ENOUGH. This was a past situation. I couldn’t go back and “fix” it. My perspective has changed since then. I have learned and grown since then. My heart is in a different place now. And I am confident I would approach the situation differently. Repeating these truths broke the cycle of the worry and regret. I am (and always will be) a work in progress and progress is a present thing.


Friend, your past has passed. Don’t give your past tolerances, reactions, words, mistakes, and actions the power to haunt you. And don’t use them as an excuse to keep doing the same thing over and over again. We’ve all made poor choices, some which come with weighty consequences. Don’t let consequences hold you in the shadow of shame and guilt. Care about what you can change. Today is a new day. A right-now opportunity!

You can….

  • set a new boundary
  • change your perspective
  • make a new goal
  • choose a different reaction
  • answer with kinder, gentler, or if necessary, more assertive words
  • stand up for your convictions
  • walk away
  • try again
  • ask more questions
  • take a break
  • learn from your mistakes
  • say no to unhealthy choices/influences
  • make a new friend
  • ask for help
  • choose joy
  • take a chance
  • start something new
  • forgive others
  • combat lies with truth
  • give yourself grace
  • keep moving forward one step at a time

All these things require courageous intention. Keep trying, keep learning, and keep going! ❤

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:13-15

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.- 1 Timothy 4:15 


2019 Word of the Year- HABIT

It could just be me, but I seem to hear more about breaking bad, unhealthy habits than building good, healthy ones. While eliminating bad habits is an admirable, brave and an important thing to do, it’s more important to replace those tendencies with new systems and support. Add the action to the inspiration. Put the “how” into the motivation to change.

That’s where I feel things are lacking. There is an endless supply of motivational quotes and memes. Things that get us thinking about change, but what happens next? How do we actually take the next steps to action? Are there things holding us back? Maybe it’s the lack of time, maybe it’s the effort required, or maybe it’s the overwhelmedness of where to begin. Maybe there’s something more to help us make those next steps to healthier, consistent and permanent good habits. I want to explore all of these things this year. 

My word focus 2019 – HABIT.  My goals include pursuing healthy habits in my heart and mind with grace driven, spiritual disciplines. I want to cultivate good habits in my children’s lives and around our home. And I want to incorporate healthy habits for the better physical health of my family.

Building new habits require work and perseverance that lead to character and transformation. Through this year’s word journey, I’m sure I will have my share of hard work, fumbles, fails, and mistakes as I work toward change and transformation. I’m hoping to share with you want I learn and I want to encourage and equip you as I do. Stayed tuned for what I am sure will be a great journey!

Do you have a word for 2019? If so, I would love to hear what you have chosen?  


Out With a Bang… A Year of Growth

Twenty eighteen went out with a bang. An actual, literal bang.

I was having a great hair day. I had just left my hair stylist and needed to pick up a few things at the store before going home. The traffic was heavy, but I knew a shortcut. I zipped right by the line of cars and laughed at my good fortune of avoiding the long wait. When I arrived at the market, I was even happier and pleasantly surprised to find an open parking space right in the front of the store. Everything seemed to be in my favor!

About one minute later, my positive mood and character were challenged. Pulling into the parking space, I took the turn a little wide. An awful metal scrunching, fiberglass crunching noise accompanied the turn. It took me a minute to figure out what had happened. Did I really just bang into and swipe the PARKED car next to me? I hoped I had imagined the noise, but from the looks of the people passing by, I knew it really happened. I put my van in park, slowly stepped out and shamefully walked around the back. Silver streaks from the front of my van beamed and highlighted the dark gray fender of the other car. Ugh!  

The driver of the car was not there. For a split second, I dabbled in the thought of what it would be like not to have a conscience and enjoyed a scandalous moment of how easy it would be to leave the scene. Conviction quickly crushed the faintest of wrong thoughts to a complete close. My conscience and the Holy Spirit gave me forceful push forward into the market on a journey to find the owner of the struck vehicle.

How do you find a stranger in a whole store of strangers? Embarrassed and annoyed at myself for getting into this situation, I mulled over the next steps. I called my husband for support. I walked in and out of the store several times. I talked to myself- possibly aloud. I most likely looked crazed. I needed help.  

It seemed best to start at the market’s little café. I walked up to the hostess and explained my situation. She smiled a gracious smile and told me without criticism that everything was all going to be okay. She tried to encourage me with the fact that most people would have just left (yep! But, no, not an option.) She said she would do what she could to help me find the car’s owner.

Within seconds, the hostess had a team of people in action- she mobilized the servers. She sent word to the employees in the back room and at the serving counters. The open layout of the store provided me a full view of the word being spread. With each person told, I waited to see if they would stand up and move forward to me in annoyance and irritation. It took less than ten minutes to ask everyone and no one stepped forward. I thanked the hostess for her help and walked back out of the door disappointed the situation was not resolved.

Back at the van, I scribbled a note of apology, with my contact information, on a ripped piece of scrap paper. I tucked it under the other car’s windshield with a prayer. About thirty minutes later, I received a phone call from a very nice man explaining he was the owner. “Accidents happen,” he said. He even thanked me for being an outstanding person for taking responsibility. The hardest part was over, an insurance claim was made, it was all very easy, and we all went on with the rest of the day.

This small little blip in my day had not destroyed my peace or happiness. It did not wreck my good day nor did it cast a gray shadow over it. This tiny accidental bang gave me one more intentional opportunity to test out some things I had been working on all year.

Growth- my chosen word of the year. Growth in my responses versus my reactions. Growth in my resilience. Growth in the knowledge of what’s important and what’s not. Growth in the ability to ask for help, to let things go, and to be able to accept my mistakes with grace and understanding. These things and more.

If this small incident happened at the beginning of 2018, at a time when I was stretched too thin by over commitments, running around with my priorities out of sort, and in a place of depriving myself grace, this little incident would not have been so little. It would have taken up way more emotional space than it deserved and would have skewed my perceptions of my abilities. It would have left a negative mark on my day.  

“All growth depends on activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort. And effort means work.”
Calvin Coolidge

 

In many ways, this was one of the most flourishing years of growth that I’ve experienced since becoming a mother ten years ago. It was also a continual season of hard work provided by challenging situations that were taxing physically, emotionally and spiritually. I experienced both the pain and beauty of growing. And it often came in unexpected ways at unexpected times.

The most important thing for me, was to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18.) With this as the foundation (or soil,) everything else I wanted to grow in would flow from it- the way I think, act, respond and love. When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created. The more I meditated on things of God, the more I felt a greater inclination to change and an intentional shift to focus more on life’s important things.

When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created .

My priorities needed to be rearranged. I reevaluated my schedule and our families activities. What once seemed pressing and demanding, seemed like things that could wait. I worked hard to create a balance of work and rest.  I wasn’t perfect. Many times things went off-kilter. There were times I felt overwhelmed. But instead of staying in the rushed craze, I used those times of induced stress, hurrying, and irritation to remind myself why the balance was important. I breathed more slowly, lingered with my children longer, asked for forgiveness A LOT, and prayed constantly.

By the work of the Holy Spirit, grace and love for others grew in ways greater than ever before. My eyes were open wider to seeing people for who God created them to be and seeing their need to feel loved and valued in different ways. I tried to take time to sit and listen to people, give them my attention. I felt (and feel) compelled to hear their stories, give them a chance to use their voice. I pray my words and actions in those conversations and interactions, left streaks of grace and love beaming and highlighting their lives.

The hardest part of growth is the pruning part. The part when things are cut away,and weeded out to make room for healthy growth. This year brought about a lot of change and pruning. I had to say goodbye to expectations, to some people and a role I loved. I had to keep reminding myself that it was all for the good. That it would work out the way it was suppose to, all in the right time. I tried hard not to let the “goodbyes” be a distraction, but allowed myself some time to grieve. I kept moving forward in the direction I felt God calling me too. And I’m still moving. Moving and growing. 


The hardest part of growth is the pruning part.

Growth doesn’t halt at 2019. It doesn’t change because a yearly focus word changes. It doesn’t stop, even when we wish it would. It is always a continual process in all our lives. The important thing is what we do with the opportunities and how will we respond to the situations that will grow our character. We will be embrace them? Or with the opportunities make us wither back in fear, anxiety and selfishness?

Growing is not easy. It’s messy, and effort is needed. But the end result is beautiful and good. For many of us, we do not have to grow alone. When we actively seek to grow as a person, desire to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord, and rely on dependence of Jesus, the courage and strength to do this type of character growing is available to us. There are people who want to help us too. They want to cheer us on, tell us that we are outstanding people (even when we feel unable, messy and foolish) and maybe mobilize a team of other people to help us find the things we need. Let them.  

I think all of us should start 2019 with a bang! Hopefully, not an actual, literal bang like an accident. But a bang of growth. It’s a new year to take responsibility. A chance to reevaluate priorities. A time to embrace challenge. And an opportunity to ask for and accept help more often. Be on the lookout for the beauty that comes out of all of it. You may be surprised where you find it.  I’m cheering you on. Happy New Year!

   Love,

Love,

The Gift of Today

There are many ways to respond to a gift. When the gift is something we want, it’s easy to react in delight and excitement. Unwanted, unwished for, and undesirable gifts are much harder to receive. It can be difficult to respond with gratitude and grace. It’s best to accept these presents with a polite smile, a “thank you,” and a focus on the heart and (hopefully good) intention behind the gift.

The gift of today is unique. It will bring something different to everyone. Some of us will be delighted. Others will struggle to respond gratefully to what may seem like useless and confusing things. We may wish we could return unwanted, ugly things and situations. We can’t. Time can not be returned. We need to figure out how to make the best use of them and learn from each situation. Many times, undesirable things are useful and needed things for the future. They are surprise gifts that help us grow into stronger, more experienced people and allow us to relate to and help others.

There is something good to be found in each day. Embrace today’s opportunities as chances to change our perspectives and be a gracious receiver. Pause and intentionally choose to respond in gratitude and joy- even when it’s challenging and difficult to do. And make today a gift for others. Regift your time in acts of kindness and show love in action that will keep giving long into tomorrows.

What will you do with your gift of today? ❤

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11


Weighty Consequences

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One news story from last week caught my attention and I’ve been dwelling over the situation. Last week, a popular television show was abruptly canceled after its leading actress posted insensitive, racial remarks to social media. The weighty consequence of her words affected more than just the actress. Hundreds of crew members who worked on the television show lost their jobs and income. Those who poured their talents and time into their work lost a stage to pursue their passion. People associated with the actress found themselves in an upsetting position of issuing statements, defending their beliefs and some disassociating their reputation with the actress.

The reality of the situation highlights the power of words. Words have great weight, great consequences and far reaching impacts. They link us to those we associate with- our families, friends, co-workers, organizations, and our churches. Social media extends our circles of influence and brings a greater responsibility to use our words wisely.

How many times do we casually let words fly off of our lips and fingers without giving much thought of where they will land? Casual complaining, negative or questionable comments and posts plant seeds of negative thoughts and perspective. Maybe we do not think it’s a big deal, but seeds of negativity multiply like weeds into discontentment, entitlement and comparison.

On the other hand, truthful, insightful, encouraging words plant seeds of positive and thoughtful perspective. They grow and blossom into good, noble, just, helpful, and useful thoughts. Words have the power to change perspective, restore peace and relationships, and bring life to situations.

This week, let’s think before we speak and press the post button. Are we using words to build up or tear down? Encourage or discourage? Highlight the positive or spotlight the negative? Are we using our words for positive influence in our circles of friends, family, and coworkers? And let’s remember that even the little comment has the greatest power to change lives and situations.  Go be awesome and speak life!

21 The tongue can bring death or life;
those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

Proverbs 18:21 New Living Translation (NLT)


The Gift of a Flower

This post was inspired by a visit to Wicked Tulip Flower Farms in Johnston, RI. The farm is a special place where you can stroll along five acres of flowers and contemplate the beauty of six hundred thousand tulips in bloom.   

flowerbloom

Months ago, when the air turned crisp, when autumn leaves waved their glorious shades of red and gold, and when frost left its first icy kiss upon the earth, the soil sat and waited. It waited to receive a gift and promised to protect it through the long, harsh winter months. The gift was gently placed in the soil’s safekeeping, carefully covered with wishes and expectations, and then wooed to sleep by the comfort of its soft bed.

Above ground, the wind took a bitter turn. Leaves fell to the ground creating a patchwork quilt of shapes and colors that offered the soil extra warmth. The frost turned to layers upon layers of cold snow, frozen over by an icy glaze. In the darkness, the seed stayed anchored to the life-giving soil. Safe and snug, it rested, waited and persevered day by day through the long winter months.

When it seemed as if winter’s reign would never end, spring forced itself upon the seasonal throne. Snow began to melt and green buds appeared and unfolded in the trees. The sun warmed and kissed the earth, nudging the soil to wake the sleeping gift. The gift stirred. Out of its wrapping, a strong, green stem grew and a bud pushed its way up through the layers of darkness out into the light. It was greeted by glorious sunlight and springtime joy.

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The gift enjoyed its newfound freedom. Basking in the sun, tickled by the breeze, and anchored by its strong roots, it started to uncover its full beauty. Rounded petals of vibrant colors bloomed to reveal a stunning flower of new life and hope. The flower’s cheerful color dulled the memories of the long, dark and endless winter days. Its presence captured the attention of all who walked by and compelled the busiest, most preoccupied and heavily burdened people to stop and admire its bloom.

Without using words, the flower spoke to its admirers. Its beauty reminded busy and preoccupied onlookers of the importance of slowing down and the things they may miss if they don’t. The shape of its petals and pretty little patterns in its blossom helped them remember to give attention to the little things and to enjoy each moment of the fleeting seasons. It emphasized the fact that some things in life cannot be rushed and the best things in life often take time to cultivate before they can bloom.

To the burdened people, the flower spoke of perseverance and hope. It advised them to stay anchored to the life-giving support of God and family in the darkest, harshest and most difficult seasons of life. Its bloom validated their struggles, urged them to keep pressing forward and encouraged them to not give up hope. The flower emphasized the strength and beauty that comes with breaking through the darkness into the light and pointed out that their stories of overcoming would inspire others to do the same.

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For a short time, the flower stood in full strength and beauty. Its presence was a gift to every visitor and gave each admirer something different to contemplate and enjoy. Soon its blossom began to wither. One by one, its petals fell loose and danced to the ground. The soil caught and collected the petals. It welcomed the gift back to its protection and rest. The earth promised to care for the gift until next spring when the gift’s flower would make a glorious reappearance. But until then, the gift would need to rest. Rest and trust in the process and transformation of the seasons and look forward to the time when it could stand tall in the sunlight and give gifts of beautiful messages once again.

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