Why We Need Rest & Solitude {And What That Looks Like For Me}

“Solitude and stillness create space for the spirit of God to speak.”

As soon as my pastor said the words, I started squirming.

I’m terrible at resting, being still and seeking solitude. I like to go and do, rather than stay and be.

I’m an expert multi-tasker and I tend to overload my plate. Most days I rock my To Do List but it’s totally the boss of me. I tend to run on less than half a tank and I feel weary often.

Yeah, so resting makes me restless.

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Yet something about his words made me long for quiet and solitude. And I kept feeling pulled toward the small inner voice saying, “Come to me, you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Because doers can only do so much.

He went on to talk about Jesus’ need for solitude, so much so that he separated himself and spent time alone with His Father. And if the Son of Man needed to create this space, how much more do we?

I took a good long look at my life and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d rested well, completely unplugged from the noise and got alone for hours–days–just me and Jesus. It’s time most of us can’t afford, but if I’m honest with myself, I know this is mostly an excuse. If I can squeeze in a girl’s weekend once a year, I can surely make time to be alone a couple of days with God.

By that point during the sermon, I was begging for a quiet corner to confess. Why is it that we think we can give to others without first receiving what is freely given to us?

se, I have to be still and quiet.

Before I made it to the car that Sunday afternoon, I answered that email and said, “Please, let me come and rest.” Honestly, three days alone on a solitude retreat intimidates me. But it also excites me. I can’t wait to create the space for God to renew and speak to my soul.

How are you resting? Do you carve out times of solitude to be alone with God?

Continue reading over at (in)courage. . .

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

I sat on the edge of her bed and she didn’t even look up. I was visiting a friend who was not okay.

It was more than a bad day, it was a sad season for her.

But I wasn’t deterred from my mission to cheer her up. And I tried everything.

I suggested fun activities, reminded her of good times, quoted inspiring Scripture and offered to play encouraging music.

I got an occasional head nod and a shrug.

As I sat there in silence, I thought back to days when I haven’t been okay. Some days I could name the pain I felt and others I couldn’t. And I remembered what I needed the most.

And so I did what I should have in the first place: I hugged her and whispered in her ear, “It’s okay to not be okay.”

She sighed in relief. Permission to not be okay is sometimes exactly what we need.

We sat in comfortable silence for a long time. I reminded her that God loved these days the best–the ones we can’t fix on our own. Because He is there with us. He doesn’t always change our circumstances and we don’t always feel something new, but we aren’t alone. Sometimes that’s all we need.

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The Best Way to Discover Which Way to Go

When my kids were young, we moved from the lush green hills of Arkansas to the brown rocky landscape of New Mexico.

I didn’t recognize the beauty in either place, until I left them.

The Sandia Mountains  in the desert of New Mexico

It was the season when I did nothing for anyone.

Including myself.

I felt like I lived in circles. Doing the same thing I did the day before. And just thankful to get through it.

I was tired and life was hard.  I was stuck in a job I hated. Struggling in a broken marriage and the monotony of motherhood. I was always looking for the next “big thing” in my life to give me a temporary high. Sometimes it was shopping, sometimes it was eating.

Sometimes nothing worked.

Now when I look back, I don’t see wasted time. I see fertile ground.

Because sometimes you have to get so sick of your life, your mess, your view that you begin seeing those around you.

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God’s Mission for the Family is Expanding God’s Family

I wasn’t even home yet when I heard words that made me cringe.

“I love what your family is doing, but we could never do that. We are just too _______ [insert one of 1000 reasons].

The statement makes me uncomfortable, but I also understand it.

I feel the same way about 365 days a year. “I can’t do this mission. Our family is too human. We don’t know what we’re doing, I can’t even keep up with laundry. I yell at my kids. We are argue and live this grace thing out in ugly ways some days…”

My list of “I can’t and I shouldn’t” is endless.

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But living on mission doesn’t start with doing something for God. It begins with what He has done for us.

The question isn’t Is my family called to a mission?

That question has already been answered.

It’s simple really. God has called all of us-families included-to welcome others into His family.

God’s mission for the family is expanding God’s family.” -Ann Dunagan

We are called to GO.

Click to read in its entirety at (in)courage….

Be Brave Today

Sometimes my family sits around the TV with a big bowl of popcorn and we watch movies.

Home movies. The kind we made years ago with a video recorder when my now teens were toddlers.

This stroll down memory lane makes my kids laugh. They point at our big hair and wild clothes and their childish antics. It makes me realize how fast time has flown, how old I’ve gotten and how many times I used to say “be careful” to my adventurous children.

No, seriously. In every video, I say it over and over. Don’t get too close to the edge. Watch the waves. Don’t get in over your head.

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I am not brave.

I like safety. I like control. I like comfort.

When I said yes to God, I didn’t know where it would take me, but I knew I couldn’t live another day for myself, in my safe “be careful” world. I didn’t know leaving behind my known comfortable life and the American Dream would take me on a journey of wild obedience.

But it has.

There has never been a wild thing about me–not my hair, my clothes, my lifestyle, my past. Nothing. I have always lived a calculated, well-planned, safe life.

But now, with a God-sized yes tucked under my belt, people assume I am courageous.

(Click to continue reading over at (in)courage)

Four Things We Can Do in Our Pain to Help Ourselves and Our Neighbors

My husband reached for his phone and his finger paused mid-dial. I turned to ask him who he was calling, but I stopped as a shadow of grief clouded his face and I knew . . . for just a split second, he forgot she was gone.

I put my hand over his and reminded him forgetting was also part of healing.

Losing Rhonda, my husband’s sister and my dear friend, left a void in our family two years ago. Life has moved on, like it tends to do, but it’s different without her amazing laugh and fun personality. Grief is the kind of pain that constantly changes but never completely goes away. It’s the kind of pain you have to live with.

Pain is often the norm in our lives, not the exception. Think about all the seasons of life and how each brings beauty and happiness and often pain along with it. I once heard we wouldn’t recognize joy if we didn’t first know pain. We experience it in so many ways — through physical suffering, depression, financial struggles, betrayal, new seasons, and grief.

Pain feels helpless. And sometimes hopeless.

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Recently, our family took the challenge of memorizing Psalm 23 together. My husband and I learned it as children, but it was fun to relearn the passage with our kids as we quoted it verse-by-verse around the dinner table. As I listened to my 8 year old say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” she stopped and asked, “What does that mean?”

“It means that every life will have valleys of pain, but Jesus is with us, so we’ll be okay,” I answered.

Continue reading over at (in)courage…

Nothing Is Wasted

My little one brought me a photo album she found in the bottom of the closet. She curled up beside me and opened it. We snuggled on the couch while we slowly flipped the pages.

She stopped at an old picture of me, standing against a car, looking forlorn. “What’s wrong with you, Mom? You look so sad.”

I looked at the picture and wondered how it ended up in a recent photo album. A flood of memories hit me hard. “I was sad. I wanted to be a mom so bad. I lived in sadness because it took so long. Those were my wasted years,” I said, surprised at how bitter my words sounded.

“What does that mean? Wasted?” she asked.

I wished I could take back the words. “Honey, I just couldn’t see very far in front of me. I sort of lived out of focus.”

perspective is the best looking glass - incourage.me

She thought about my answer and flipped the page to a more recent picture of the two of us, laughing.

“Well, maybe there’s no such thing as wasted years.”

Her words hit me hard. There are no wasted years.

(click to continue reading at (in)courage….)

The Question God Wants Us To Ask

“Aren’t you tired?” She asked over pizza while our kids giggled around us in the booth. “I mean, you’re a mom and you have a busy life, you write and have Mercy House and now you’ve added Fair Trade Friday to your plate.”

Good friends ask hard questions.

I think about her question and stifle a yawn before I answer.

“Yes. I am. Tired.”

Good friends give honest answers.

I thought about my hectic day of carlines and deadlines…. I remembered the early morning wardrobe drama and the tears over a lost library book and then the very full day across town serving refugee women in my city.

After a long pause, I answered, “I spent the first 30 –something years of my life wavering between the pain of the past and chasing the American Dream and I was always asking God the same kinds of questions–to help me, to heal me, to give me more of something.

But when I changed the question to  “What can I do for you, God? Instead of what can you do for me? He answered.

When I stopped trying to fix my problems and tried to help others fix theirs, God helped me. He healed me. He gave me something deeper and more fulfilling than I could have dreamed. I’m overwhelmed and tired, but I don’t want to live any other way.”

If I had to name a regret in my life—it would be this: That I didn’t discover the breathtaking beauty of serving others sooner.

there is only one love language

It’s not only helped other people; it’s helped me.

Continue reading at (in)courage….