Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fits and Starts, Being Stuck and being true to who you are

I absolutely love Phil Ressler's "40 Things to Give up for Lent and Beyond." I'm super excited to be working through it this Lent. But something happened, I got stuck. Week 1 Saturday, Lesson number 10: Giving up Over-commitment. Whoa, that hit home big time.

Part of being steadfast, isn't just hanging on when things are hard, it is also being steady, consistent.

Ephesians 4: 3 The Message reads   And mark that you do this with humility and discipline - not in fits and starts, but steadily pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love.

At first I was angry at myself for getting stuck, for not finishing what I started, for getting days behind. But in the back of my mind I knew there was a reason for it and there was a big lesson coming. I was being tossed around in the sea of over commitment.

None of what I was trying to do were bad things within themselves. They are all good things on their own but it was too much for me all at once. I had started to experience fits and starts. The inability to take it all in and keep up. Ups and downs of energy levels. Not just incomplete tasks, but incomplete comprehension of all this awesome material I was learning. My brain was struggling to understand and remember what I was reading in 40 Things, Stephen Ministry and daily Lenten Gospel readings. I did not feel steady at all.

I actually tried to skip over Day 10 in order to catch up! But, I knew I couldn't move forward until I went back to it. While avoiding it I started to hyper focus on all the undone things in our home. I needed to complete this project or clean out this closet. It was like I was grasping at clarifying my environment in order to feel control in chaos.

In Day 10, Phil Ressler points out that if we don't have a portion of our lives that is NOT committed to something, we create an unsustainable situation. We aren't steady. We work in fits and starts. We become overwhelmed and stuck, with no freedom to move forward.

Learning to be true to who we are, to find joy in this amazing life God has given us, is learning to be present, slow down, absorb what He is showing you. Allow quiet unscheduled time in your life and mind to hear what He is saying. To discern what He wants you to pursue. To have peace in those pursuits. And allowing God to accomplish that peace and healing in you.

All this came about among prayers to learn simplicity. When I feel most myself is when I'm not bogged down by tasks and clutter. But trying to control those external things in order to feel peace doesn't produce peace. It's like it works backwards. You have to let go of those things and their control over you in order to have freedom. It is knowing peace and then modifying those things around me in order that they no longer act as an obstacle to helping make the world better.

1 Timothy 6:11 The Message reads  Pursue a righteous life - a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. 

Breathe that in for a minute and allow your heart to be in awe of every one of those words. That is what God desires for us. That is the life only He can give us. He doesn't ask us to produce it. He invites us to participate in it. He is telling us that He has already given it. If you aren't sure how, ask God to show you.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

When Your Worlds Collide

To say there is a lot on my plate is an understatement, but I have been praying for guidance and practicing saying "NO." Tonight something really cool happened. With all the projects on my plate, I have been doing tons of reading. I have homework for Stephen Ministry Training (if you don't know what that is, Google it, it is amazing), Lesson plan prep for teaching the training, some Saint John's Bible visio divina on 1 Corinthians 13 (Google that, too) and my personal Lenten journey using Phil Ressler's "40 Things to Give up for Lent and Beyond." ALL these readings and I mean all, collided into one message tonight, that Love is patient. And it is Valentine's Day eve as I type this. Phew, that's a lot to bring all together. Only God could do that.

I spent almost all my day preparing my lesson on "The Art of Listening" to teach tomorrow at Stephen Ministry Training. Which is all about active listening in building a caring relationship that requires patience. Then there was sneaking in the time to do today's lesson in my Lent devotion, "40 Things to Give up for Lent and Beyond" by Phil Ressler. Today for the Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Giving Up Impatience. Which started with being still and quiet with God and then turned into having patience with yourself. Enjoying the journey. Also, being patient with others because we have forgiveness. Patience comes when we are not selfish. Both lessons reference James 1, to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Or as The Message puts it, "to lead with your ears."

Slowing down and taking time to be steady speaks volumes to me, hence the word steadfast. So, along with my Lent devotion, I drew an hour glass. Taking time to listen to God and others is what builds relationships. Patience gives us life. Time and life and people are precious, that is the story I tell people is the reason I have my great grandfather's pocket watch tattooed on the back of my neck, hence the word unconventional.

And finally, early this week I visited our local art museum, The Biggs. They are currently hosting The Saint John's Bible. An amazing, breath taking work of art. I was taking some photos and decided to use the illuminated text of the "Love Chapter" of 1 Corinthians as my social media post for Valentine's Day. Which of course, starts off with 'Love is patient.."

I may not know exactly where all this is leading right now, but I was thoroughly taken aback by how it all connected. Maybe my plate isn't too full. Instead it is a well thought out culinary work of art designed by my Creator.

To see the Saint John's Bible Valentine's Day post, click on my Instagram link to the right. There you will also find the drawings for my 40 things to give up for Lent devotion.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Turning a Task List into a Love List

We have an extraordinary ability in our house to take the simplest of activity and turn it into a burdensome task. Let's face it, 'To-Do' lists are not that fun. And it always seems that as soon as you sit down to make small one, it quickly turns into a GIANT one.

I know my kids have been feeling this stress lately. We have daily tasks and chores. Even down to the tiny detail of check off you remembered your belt with your uniform for school. This can become very heavy very fast. I know I hate huge lists hanging over my head but at the same time I like to rest knowing it's written down and I don't have to have it all memorized.

It is easy to take the graces of our God and turn them into a list of accomplishments, for ourselves. Heck, it feels good when we can say; I prayed check, I read the bible check. Not to mention the complete and utter satisfaction that comes with a conquered To-Do list! That one feels awesome. With my recent use of a faith planner and taking the time to enjoy my daily schedule and see God in it, I have learned a valuable lesson; make planning what you have to do pleasant. Not a pass or fail test.

Every morning after the kids had gone to school and I get my peace and quiet, I would start noticing all the things left undone. All the tasks forgotten. And it would irritate me to no end. Even more so as I resisted the urge to do it for them. Sooooo, on a whim of divine inspiration, I started to doodle out their daily to do lists. I added little encouraging sayings and sketches. I was completely taken aback at how uplifting and more positive this was, for all of us. It was a simple change that took something that was cumbersome and made it lighthearted. I love the process of putting love and care into teaching my kids how to care for themselves.

As for my faith planner, it is extremely meditative. I have stickers, stamps, pens, washi tape and they all find a way to connect me to Christ and what He is doing in my life. I pray. I ask for His help. I ask Him to guide my hand and inspire my heart. I feel His presence and am encouraged in my tasks.