Exposed

I am on vacation. So, why, oh why does my body insist on me being awake at 6:30? ūü§Ē 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.

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Traveling to or through

I spend hours on the road commuting to and from work. Since I drive interstates and the toll road, I see lots of trucks.  Trucks travel miles through towns, counties, and states on the road to a destination. 

As a kid, I was fortunate to grow up with parents who loved to travel. Although we flew occasionally, I actually preferred to do cross country road trips. We traveled miles, and I loved looking out the window at the passing scenery. Some vacations if we had time, we would stop at unplanned destinations as we passed through somewhere. Those were some of my favorite memories.

Are you traveling through or traveling to?
In life, we all go through struggles and challenging times on the way to a destination. Maybe this destination is a much hoped for new job, college courses to your degree, a relationship, the quest to buy a new home, or a million other things. While this journey may be painful, if we are paying attention, there are lessons to be learned as we go through the journey. 

Some of the most difficult moments in my life as I struggled through on my way to something greater have taught me the most amazing lessons. For example, the painful journey through my anxiety struggles these past few months have taught me coping strategies. The journey through has brought me to a greater sense of peace. 

Don’t miss the scenery as you pass through on the way to your destination. There are lessons to be learned along the way. If we look, we can always find something meaningful along the way. 

Redefining Vacation

My cousins and I were having a conversation last weekend about our views of what vacation should entail. They named off sightseeing, shopping, amusement parks…Those kinds of things. My thoughts on vacation are much different. My children are older, so I don’t feel the need to entertain them as much on vacation.

Vacation growing up was cramming as many sights into as few days as possible.  I love that my parents have taken me to so many states. I appreciate the experiences I have had.

My husband has given me another view of vacation, though, and it has been a true gift. He has taught me the value of rest and doing nothing. Sure, we enjoy taking in the sights especially natural beauty such as Yellowstone, the Great Smokey Mountains, and beaches, but we enjoy simply resting. I have learned to be content sitting by the beach or leisurely riding a bike. I find peace in rocking in a wooden rocker on the deck of a mountain cabin with my morning coffee and devotions.

Life is busy and fast paced. It is busy physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Vacation provides time to detach from the daily bustle, to reconnect with family and friends without the typical distractions, and offers an opportunity to be still.

To settle my soul before God.

I long for quiet. For moments of stillness. 

I don’t desire glamorous vacations with cruise ships and exciting ports with activities. I crave quiet. Simple moments of laughter over board games with my son. Slow paced mornings over the Word with coffee.
I need to learn how to capture the moments of stillness into everyday life. 

I need to give myself permission to rest.

I am looking forward to a few days away in a few weeks. I am looking forward to the seclusion of a mountain cabin. I am looking forward to time with my family and friend. I am craving quiet and stillness.

The definition of vacation is an extended period of recreation. I am exchanging the word recreation for rest. 

Vacation is less about seeing the world and more about reconnecting with my world. 

Our extended weather forecast looks rainy. I know weather forecasts can change daily but I am fine with rain. I am looking forward to reading, writing, board games, laughter, cooking together, sleeping in, conversation, and morning coffee and devotions on the deck. If we never leave the cabin, I will be fine.

Jesus acknowledged the importance of quietness. 
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place where they could be alone. Mark 6:31-32 NLT

If quiet rest is important to Jesus, then it should be important to me.

Learning to rest is a journey I am on. I encourage you to find your own journey of quiet rest.

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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It is What it Is….

Carefree…spontaneous…at what point in life do we transition from carefree, spontaneous child to serious, schedule and task oriented ruled adult…

I am learning to be still. To enjoy living in the moment. To accept myself for who I am flaws and all.

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Yesterday, as we biked through the beautiful Hilton Head Island, my carefree 11-year-old son was singing…”Waffle, waffle, waffle” without a care in the world without caring who was listening. Later, we ate at a cute coffee cafe called Watusi for lunch, and he told his father he could now cross something off his bucket list…he had eaten at a cafe. As we played putt-putt golf at a Legendary golf place, my daughter read all 18 Bible verses at each of the 18 holes without caring who was listening.

I want to be able to eat a square of dark chocolate without any guilt or worries. I want to be able to not be so hard on myself because I didn’t finish everything on my to do list for the day. I want to accept I am still on my journey to my dream career and writing goals. I want to realize I am still learning to live with food intolerances, and it’s okay if I mess up one day…tomorrow is a new day.

Yes, I am on vacation and reality is only a few days away. Yes, I like routine, but I am enjoying this break from daily stress and routine. But I want these life lessons and reminders from this week to resonate and stay with me just as I want the peaceful sound of ocean waves to stay forever etched in my mind.

I know learning to manage day to day stress is important…sleep, exercise, devotion and prayer, healthy eating, positive relationships, writing, quiet time…all help me to release stress. Sometimes life is what it is, but I can choose how I react to it. And the best part…each morning is another chance to try again!

Mercies are new