Unforced rhythms of grace

As I drove home from a very long day at work, I listened to the end of a recorded sermon from one of my favorite pastors.

The message focused on being worried and upset. The scripture she taught from is a passage near and dear to my heart because it hits so close to home in terms of what I struggle with.

  • Luke 10:38-42 Now as they were traveling along, Jesus went into a village. A woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and kept listening to what he was saying. But Martha was worrying about all the things she had to do, so she came to him and asked, “Lord, you do care that my sister has left me to do the work all by myself, don’t you? Then tell her to help me.” The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha! You worry and fuss about a lot of things. But there’s only one thing you need. Mary has chosen what is better, and it is not to be taken away from her.”

Martha, Martha, Martha.

I can relate to Martha. I am the busy one. I find it hard to even sit still and watch TV with my son without doing something else with my hands… folding laundry, flipping through my phone, sorting through the mail…you get the picture. 

In turn, I find myself holding those same expectations of others. It’s like I expect people to be busy all the time. 

As I listened to the close of her message, something captured my attention deeply.

She talked about being still, in His presence, in the unforced rhythms of grace.

Unforced… obviously means to not force something

To take that one step further, it means to be free….

Rhymth…a strong repeated pattern

Grace…the undeserved favor

When I think of it all wrapped together, it comforts and amazes me. 

And to be completely honest, convicts me.

Why?

I find it so much easier to wrestle in the unrest of anxiety and fear instead of rest at the feet of Jesus. I ask Him to please take my burdens, but I so easily take them back as I play through the game of what ifs and conjure up a multitude of circumstances.

In the famous words of Dr. Phil…. how’s that working for you?

Um, well, actually not so well. 

What if instead I chose to rest at the feet of Jesus like Mary?

How different would my life feel if I trusted in the unforced rhythms of grace?

As anxiety tugs at the deepest places within me, I ask myself those very questions.

What if I trust Jesus with my worries and fears enough to let Him keep them instead of me trying to take them back to hold onto them just a little while longer?

Could I finally find the quiet I yearn for in the unforced rhythms of His grace?

I believe I could. And you can, too.

It’s a sweet surrender…a little more dying to self. If we choose to trust Him, He promises to be right there with us.

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Learning to Relax

You would think that relaxing would be something easy to do, right? Not so much for me. I am learning to relax. I can relate so much to Martha in the Bible. In Luke 10:38-42, Martha was busy with all the work as her sister sat attentive and focused at the Lord’s feet.

Martha missed what was truly important at that moment.

I am so much more like Martha than Mary.  My son wants to watch TV with me, but I feel the need to be doing something while watching. Dinner cooking? Why not load the dishwasher? It is so hard for me to be present. 

I work in senior care, and one thing I have learned from older adults living with dementia…you learn to live in the moment. They have been great teachers to me.

I tend to wake up early even after a short night of sleep. I can relax best in the morning quiet. I love the ocean, the mountains, the lake…they all help me relax. I know I need to learn to relax where I am. Resting is important for my well-being.

I also want to be attentive with my friends. I want to be present for my family. I want to learn to relax. I don’t want to miss moments at the Lord’s feet. These moments are present every single day. 

God is with us. Rest and relaxation are okay. In fact, they are needed to replenish our tired souls.

The Lord replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 

How do you relax? Am I the only one who struggles with being able to relax?

31 Days of Gratitude: Settle 

I generally wake up early. By early, I mean before 5 a.m. Mornings are my quiet time, my creative time, my “me” time, and my devotional time.

Typically, my mind is racing through out the day of a million things that I need to do at work and home. My to do list grows faster than I can tackle it. My free time is so very limited so I sleep less so I can have this precious morning time.

The other morning, I read my devotional readings and the Bible. I had quiet time with God. I was running late that morning. I remember my son asking, “Mom, do you know how late it is?”

Yup, one of those mornings. I took him to school and headed towards work, an hour commute to mentally prepare for my day. My mind was racing unable to be calmed by the music playing on my radio.

As I drove and work became closer, I remember knowing that I needed to calm my thoughts before I approached my busy day. I grappled for the words of my devotional readings. I couldn’t remember them.

The overwhelmed, sleep deprived mind of mine was blank. Nothing. How could such powerful words I had read only hours earlier be gone already?

Immediately, I began to cry out to God as tears pooled in my eyes. 

I needed His Word. 

Settle.

That one simple word washed over my soul like the refreshing coolness of a mountain stream.

The words of my morning Scripture…

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strength, and settle you. 1 Peter 5:8-10

Settle. I love words. Some words have multiple meanings. Settle is one of those words. Yes, it can mean to end an argument or to make a decision, but it also means to quiet or to come to rest.

We often tell children to settle down. We desire for their noise and activity level to come down a few notches.

That is exactly what my mind needed to do. It needed to be quieted. It needed to come to rest in Him.

Settle… come to rest…in His tender embrace.

My mind did settle. The day was crazy, but I held onto that gift of a simple word.

Settle. 

Am I comfortable…

The other day, a co-worker walked into my office and asked if I was attending the optional training session that was starting in the next few minutes.

I looked up at her.”There’s no way. I’m drowning right now.”

“Are you comfortable drowning?”

Whoa…not the response I was expecting from her.

Am I comfortable drowning?

Am I comfortable drowning???

Drowning elicits a vision of fear, of wildly waving, flailing my arms to save myself from going under. It is like one moment you find yourself in the lake, the next, swallowed under by the wake.

That vision does not suggest a positive experience.

So….am I comfortable drowning?

As I ponder this, I relate this to life…how often do we accept the status quo as okay? We accept the busy and the crazy of our lives as our reality.

So, am I okay with drowning? Am I okay with being so busy…so busy at work, so busy at home….that I don’t take time to rest.

Have I accepted the reality of being so busy, so bogged down, so overwhelmed that I am comfortable with drowning? That drowning somehow feels familiar and comforting?

I don’t have an answer to this question. 

What I do know is that I need to rest. Rest my mind. Calm my soul.

Sometimes, God can use a simple but profound, unexpected question to help us pause and reflect.

Am I comfortable with drowning?? Or am I willing to reflect and seek the calm waters…. I still believe they exist. At work. At home. In His care.

Oh, to fly away and be at rest…

I am doing something this week on vacation I don’t normally do well-rest. Now, of course, this is much easier here than at home…fewer responsibilities, the ocean just a short distance from my front door, and no alarm clock buzzing at me to wake up and start the day. I can take a walk when I want to take a walk. I can drink coffee at my own leisurely pace instead of during my commute into work. I have no meetings, no deadlines, no agendas…just time this week. Yesterday, I actually sat by the poolside for two hours and just rested. It was wonderful.

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This is much needed rest. So many changes in my life the past few months. Left a high stressful job. Started another job…still stress, but much better environment but lots of hours. Husband lost his job…so many decisions needing to be made. Daughter to graduate from high school in a few months. Decisions, decisions, decisions. My mind seems to be always racing. My body aches some days from the unpredictable effects of fibromyalgia. I always push through because I need to.

Here, now, this moment, I rest. My mind is calm. My body is calm. The ocean and sky a peaceful blue, meshing into one. A leisurely bike ride. My children, also relaxed, far removed from the pressures of homework and decisions beyond what to eat for dinner…we laugh, we enjoy the moment, the beauty of just being in the presence of one another. My husband enjoying the memories he is making here, one of his favorite childhood vacation destinations. My best friend and daughter’s best friend, both here for the first time, enjoying the beauty and the calm.

If only I could bottle up some of the ocean-the tangible things, easy to captute…salt water, sand, sea shells. It’s the intangible things-not so easy to bottle up-the calm, the quiet, the peace, the slow pacer, the freeing bliss of no schedule…

Oh, that I had wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest… Psalm 55:6

I need to practice this, this thing called rest. No, I can’t fly away and be at rest, but maybe, I can find ways to be better, more intentional, at rest when I return home from this blissful week of rest. One of my fellow leadership team members at work who is my direct supervisor and who I happen to greatly respect and admire had a “Mom” talk with me at work my last day before I left for vacation. She talked about rest and about finding and maintaining balance between work and family. She recognized something in me that she says is very similar in herself-we place high expectations on ourselves…a performance driven type of mentality. It is hard to transition from this type of mentality to one of intentional rest.

For this moment in time, I will savor the peaceful rest, the lulling sound of ocean waves, the laughter of those I am with, the beauty of no schedule. When I return home, I want to carry a piece of the ocean with me…I will fly away and be at rest, if only for a moment, to breathe and ask for His peace, His strength, His rest.

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A Relaxed Mind

It’s 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, and I am wide awake. Yes, I went to bed around 9 on a Friday night….I was tired from the week….but my biological clock has said, enough sleep, up for the day. So what to do at 4:30 on a Saturday morning? Enjoy the quiet. Write. Drink tea. Sounds like a good start to the weekend to me.

I was introduced to tea when I was in high school by my boyfriend’s (at the time) mother. I remember it was a lemon herbal tea, and I remember liking it. After that, I went to the store, bought a box of herbal tea, and have been a tea drinker ever since. I love coffee, too, as I have shared before, coffee tends to give me the jitters, give me headaches at times, and messes with the pH levels of my body. So, I have been drinking more tea lately.

One of my favorite tea brands is Yogi. I love Yogi tea because it’s like a fortune cookie (which I can no longer enjoy….not complaining, really I’m not). Each Yogi tea bag contains a thought-provoking, inspirational thought. The one that really resonated with me was this one: A relaxed mind is a creative mind.

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There is a lot of truth to that simple expression. When I am stressed, tired, or overwhelmed, my entire existence feels emotionally and creatively drained. I do my best writing in the early morning hours. I am most motivated in the morning. In the morning, the weight of the day’s demands have not yet demanded anything from me beyond a chocolate lab needing to go outside. In the morning, it is calm and quiet.

Yet, I belive I can take away more from that simple expression. I need to learn to control the level of stress in my life. Easier said than done. I have learned a few helpful things…sleep, exercise, morning yoga, writing, praying, talking to a good friend, and being mindful of my emotions. For instance, yesterday at work, someone snapped at me. It offended me but not on a mad level, more on an emotional level. I wanted to react, but I did not. I realized this person was stressed and was not snapping at me personally but because she was overwhelmed. So, a later while later, I approached her and simply said, “‘I’m sorry today has been so stressful.”

The mind is a powerful thing. It’s important to keep it clear and focused on the things that matter in life. When my mind is clear, I can keep my perspective on the things that truly matter. Food issues become trivial. Work drama can stay at work and not travel home with me in my mind. So, today I am choosing to focus my mind on what matters most to me.

peaceful mind