Breathing through the Clutter

Clutter. 

This past Sunday, I came home from church and looked around at the current situation of my downstairs. From the busyness of our lives, everything had become cluttered. Nothing was in its place.

My life had been feeling a bit cluttered, too. I was spiraling from feeling as though things were out of place.

With the “voluntold” help of my husband and son, we spent hours decluttering and organizing our downstairs that day. An unwanted chair that had become my son’s dumping station for school stuff was taken to Goodwill. An old couch was placed on a Facebook garage sale group and sold. We picked up, we pitched, we organized. 

The minimalist look of my front room, my reorganized laundry area, and my scaled down living room have left me with breathing space.

I needed to declutter.

I needed some whitespace.

Life gets like this. 

Sometimes, we need to declutter the distractions around us and quiet the noise. We need to evaluate all the things that compete for our time and decide what really matters to us.

Sometimes, we have to say no to something so that we can say yes to something else. Sometimes we need to strip down our lives to the essential things that matter most.

We have to fight through the noise of the clutter so we can catch our breath.

This morning, I sit in my living room. The hum of a light is my only noise. I savor these moments before I must begin the day. 

A life uncluttered, focused on those things most dear to my heart, Christ as the foundation…that is the life I seek.

What “clutter” in your life might you be able to declutter so that you can see more clearly and catch your breath?

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Exposed

I am on vacation. So, why, oh why does my body insist on me being awake at 6:30? 🤔 And to add to this, there is a time change so it was really just 5:30 when I popped out of bed, mind already racing with thoughts.

We are staying in a restored farmhouse tucked away in the woods. Our friends whose son is also from the same orphanage as our son are here with us. It is a great time of fellowship with family and friends.

I find that I best disconnect from my day to day life in places like this. I need to be in the nature, away from the noises of the world. 

This morning, sleep is eluding me so I have escaped to the basement. Here, it is quiet…just me and my thoughts.

Down here, I look up at the ceiling. Everything is exposed. Nothing is hidden.

Have you ever felt like this? My friend and I have talked about feeling as though our lives are being peeled away layer by layer much like an onion. As I pray to grow closer to God, things about myself, areas in my life, suddenly feel very exposed.

The definition of expose is to make something visible. When things and areas in our lives become exposed even if just to our own awareness, it can leave us feeling vulnerable. Typically, I think most people would agree, this doesn’t feel good. When we feel emotions of guilt, shame, anxiety, weakness…it doesn’t feel very comforting. 

I came across this passage in the Psalms…

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Point out anything in me that offends you,

and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24

The psalmist was inviting God to search his thoughts, to expose anything of offense. Why would he ask this knowing God already knows? I believe when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, when we willingly invite God to examine our hearts and lives, I believe He will expose areas in our lives that may feel much like layers of an onion being peeled back.

I look up at the open ceiling again. I can see the light bulb. I see wires, a nail, a cobweb. Nothing is hidden from my sight. 

Are we willing to be this transparent with God? With others whom we trust who can help us grow? 

Feeling exposed isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is what we do with these feelings that makes all the difference in our lives. When we understand how our behaviors and feelings impact our motivations and actions, then we can understand and begin to make changes.

For example, being told I second guess myself by someone initially upset me, but as I prayed and reflected over it, I have been able to see and understand the reasons I have second guessed myself and to now change my thinking.

Being brave enough to confront our areas of exposure in our lives can open doors to some exciting opportunities for personal, professional, emotional, and spiritual growth. Keeping a prayer journal, having a prayer partner, and spending time with God in spaces where you can disconnect from the flow of life even if just for a few minutes, will help funnel exposure into growth.

Are you willing to invite God to search your heart and thoughts? You don’t have to walk this journey alone.

Solitude

Solitude. 

Sometimes, I just need stillness.

Silence. Do you find it comforting or does it make you uncomfortable?

At my writing group the other day, my friend captured the essence of why I must write.

She said… I find writing a time of solitude to connect with my inner self.

Sometimes,  I feel as though I will emotionally burst if I do not write. I keep a prayer journal. I write poetry. I blog. I write devotionals.

Writing is sweet release. It is also my sacred time of quiet solitude.

As my friends and I talked about solitude and silence, one of them made the comment that some people can’t handle long commutes because of the solitude. I look forward to the quiet of my commute. I pray. I listen to music. I think. I calm my thoughts.

Connection with others is a great thing, but sometimes you need solitude to reconnect with yourself first. In these quiet moments, I can pray. I can calmly breathe. I can put things in perspective. I remember Who is in control. 

This morning as I prepare for a whirlwind of a day, I take these few moments of solitude to refocus. Everything will be okay.

In what ways do you find your own place of solitude?

Saying No is Uncomfortable but Necessary

I sit this morning in the coffee shop welcoming just a few more minutes of lingered time before I leave to conquer my day…. caffeinated. Today, I chose the largest size of coffee because well, it’s just that kind of day.

This morning began early with a phone call. This phone call presented me with the opportunity to be anxious or to trust. I am continuing to learn to trust.

Last night, I experienced the tug of war within myself. It is so easy to slip back into anxiety. There is something oddly comforting about anxiety because it has been a familiar companion much of my life. It is a battle within to  tell myself I am not doing anxiety, that I am surrendering it all to God to trust Him. 

When anxiety wants to strike, I remember all the times God has protected me and walked with me through this journey. I listen to music, I pray, and I breathe calmly. I cling to the belief that my God is greater than anxiety. 

Still, saying “no” to anxiety is uncomfortable. It should be freeing, but it is a struggle of retraining my mind to think and respond differently. I am making progress, but it is a journey. It is uncomfortable but necessary.

Growth is painful but exciting. One breath at a time.

Thank you for sharing in this journey with me. In one of my favorite Casting Crowns songs Oh My Soul… there’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.  I find that encouraging.

God is greater than anxiety. If you struggle with anxiety, what encourages you?

God, grow me…

I should have anticipated this might be a hard week. I should have expected it would not be easy. As I struggled and wrestled through some difficult issues last weekend, I found myself at the one place I know can make all the difference…on my knees.

I prayed through these situations last Saturday in the quiet of my home. I felt uncertainty. I felt like a failure. The tears flowed freely as I prayed, “God grow me.”

I kept praying through the weekend and as the week started. I prayed. I’m​ not going to sugar coat this…it wasn’t easy. The anxiety was at an all time high. I woke up in the middle of the night with anxiety. I have learned, though, what to do when the anxiety strikes. I pray through Philippians 4:6-7. It helps the breathing to calm so I can I sleep and so the dark clouds of doubt do not overshadow peace.

As I worked through the issues, God was there. In the midst of my anxiety, He was there. Anxiety tries to tell you the worse thing possible. It tries to blind you from all the positive things around you. I know. I have lived in the land of anxiety.

This time, I decided I would not stay in that land. I would pray through the anxiety. I would take ownership. I would share my reflections, my ah-ha moment with someone. I did. God extended His grace. God answered my prayers​ and continues to answer my prayers…God, grow me.

What does it mean to be a better person? People say this a lot…but what does it mean? To be a Godly leader, a good mom and wife, and a loyal friend…so much truth is found in Proverbs. 
For me, this concept of being a “better person” is grounded in “God, grow me.” It is being open to His teaching, His loving discipline, and His revelation of areas in my life where I need developed and refined.

I told my amazing leader that growth is painful. She provided a much different perspective for me in her response…”Growth is exciting.”

She’s right, so right. 

Tonight, something I saw something on Facebook related to my issues from this past week triggered an anxiety attack. I wasn’t staying there. I prayed. My friend prayed for me. I went for a walk. I filled my soul with life breathing words of truth through the music flowing from my headphones to my ears to my heart.

Yes, God’s grace is so sweet. Dear friend, don’t give up. Stay the course. Stay very, very close to Him. And don’t be afraid of growth…it is so exciting. It may seem slow. It may be subtle. If God is in the midst of it, it is worth celebrating!

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 NIV
Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5 NLT
You see, when God gives a grace gift and issues a call to a people, He does not change His mind and take it back. Romans 11:29

Tears of Transparency

My heart is sad this morning. It has been a restless, short night of sleep. We learned of my husband’s uncle’s completely unexpected death last night. We are devastated. The hardest part of being a parent is seeing your children cry and to know they are hurting. It is our son’s first experience losing someone close. Our daughter is in another state and unable to come home for a few days. It is hard to not be present to console her.

Knowing your children are hurting is so difficult as a parent. As much as you hurt, seeing the tears of your child is that much more heart wrenching. We have always tried to encourage our children to share their feelings with us and to be open.

Transparency in my feelings… something I am not always so great at. Being willing to be transparent and vulnerable in your feelings with someone you trust can open the floodgates to understanding. Yes, it feels risky and uncomfortable especially if you are like me and not used to talking about feelings. I would rather suffer in silence, but I know God doesn’t desire that for us. And, I certainly don’t want to model that behavior for my children.

So, through this difficult time right now, we will pull together and comfort one another. Tears are the unspoken language of transparency and vulnerability. They are a bridge to understanding.

Life is often not easy, but with God and the support of those we love and trust, we can walk through the valleys and know we are not alone.

Right in Front of You

It’s Friday….I always seem amazed when Friday shows up again. I greet the day with a sigh of relief…I made it here again.

This week I particularly feel a sense of relief. It has been an emotional rollercoaster, but God is good and continues to breathe His truth into my soul. 

In Psalm 37:3….trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness…

When I read that passage recently, I reflected on the name of​ my blog. Faith. Hope. Love. Food. My original intention for my blog was to share my food struggle journey, but God revealed a different focus to me.

The food that fuels my soul…His faithfulness, His goodness, His love, His peace, mercy, grace… have ​been so clearly evident and alive this week in my life.

Sometimes, what you are searching for is right in front of you, you just need a reminder that it’s there. My prayers this week have been an intense sense of needing direction, His direction. I have been feeding on His faithfulness and staying in the Word, praying His promises.

Ever heard someone speak to you and know it was exactly what God needed for you to hear? Ever received a hug and felt the love so deeply? I did this week. The answers I sought were right in front of me, I just needed reminded.

If you are struggling with making a hard decision, feed on His faithfulness and keep praying. The answer you yearn for just may be right in front of you.