The Your Stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…
Can you believe that it’s already August? Where I live in the upper left of the US, we are in the peak season of gorgeous weather. A funny thing happens in May around here, the sun comes out and people just start feeling happy. We emerge from our cocoons of seasonal affective disorder and get the chance to put away the ankle boots and sweaters in exchange for light cardigans and flip flops! Dare I say sleeveless shirts? You know you’re a Northwesterner when your closet gets an annual makeover.
Even if you don’t share my zip code, time moves fast for all of us. January is long gone. Many of you were probably making New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never been one for making resolutions because they never seemed to last. How about you? Is that new habit you were wanting to incorporate into your life when the cold winds were blowing still around in the dog-days of summer?
In the last few years I’ve started a new tradition of praying over my year and asking God what He has for me. It’s not so much a decision about what I want my year to bring, but an invitation for Him to speak change over my life. If God knows all my days before they come to be (Psalm 139:16), I want to annually take this pause to let Him prepare my heart and guide my steps for the new work He’s about to do.
This year He called me into silence and solitude. When I first heard Him tell me that this was what He wanted the tone of my year to be, I pictured a monk, sequestered in a monastery. I felt like this could be a challenge, because as a full-time teacher/wife/mom-of-teens, time to myself is a luxury. Here is an excerpt from my journal that captures my thoughts at the time:
This year, I sense that He wants me to go away with Him. To choose to be alone- with myself and with Him. A break from being with people, so I won’t reinforce the search for identity and affirmation that I too often seek from others. Instead, I am to get to know myself and how He has made me… to learn through solitude. I’m choosing to get away, not to isolate myself, which will be my temptation, but replace FOMO with purposeful, intimate time with Him.
Though I started the year with this intention, I’ll admit I haven’t allowed God the space to work this out in my life in the way He longed for last winter.
When I was a young, single Christian in my 20’s, my time was my own. It was easier back then to spend time nurturing my spirit. In this current phase of life, I’m constantly challenged by the lack of time that is left over for me. Yet I know this struggle is not just because I’m a working mom in my mid 40’s. I regularly spend time with women older and younger than me, college students and retirees who all have the same fight. Thessalonians 4:11 calls us to make it our ambition to live a quiet life. A quiet life is pretty appealing to me because the culture we live in is moving at such a rapid pace and I long to slow down. I don’t know if quiet and slow are synonyms, but my heart longs for both.
Looking back, I see that God spoke these words over my year because I was starting to conform to the pace of life everyone else was living. Unintentionally, I was becoming less like Jesus and more like the world around me. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2). My calendar had an insatiable appetite. Saying yes when I should have been saying no. Making exceptions to boundaries I had already set when someone needed me… “just this once I’ll squeeze it in.” Thinking “When this is done, I’ll take time with God.” or “This is just a busy week, next week will be better.” If you’re in ministry like I am, you have this added pitfall: sometimes we spend more time doing things for God than being with God.
Why this reminder in the lazy-days of summer? Because there are a lot of people fake resting. Vacations don’t always bring the rejuvenation we were hoping for. Ever spend a week in Disneyland or enjoy the packing and unpacking required for a camping trip? Often the times we designate as leisure leave us in greater need of rest than before we left. I long for summers because I am anticipating times of renewal unfolding naturally. Yet every year I am surprised that it doesn’t just happen on its own. We have to intentionally create space for rest.
Instead of summers, I’m living for Sundays. My family has actually tried the uncommon experiment of taking a Sabbath. We’ve had to say no to a lot of things but it’s breathed life back into our crazy. Now your Sabbath might not be on Sunday but I bet you can find a regular time in the rhythms of your life for rest and worship. This habit can be yours when weekends at the lake are long gone and you’re back in the hustle of the school year.
More than anything, I long to live a life of faith with space set aside for God to work in and through me. The attention to sense the small moves of the Spirit. The capacity to sense the presence of God and cultivate a heart of gratitude. The ability to nurture the fruits of the Spirit. Where I have the eyes to see the divine appointments He gives me each day with hurting people. To meet needs of those around me and not resent them because I already feel overwhelmed. Joy in serving comes when we give out of the overflow of a heart that’s filled up. To care for others, we need to care for ourselves.
This week, will you take time to just be with God, without an agenda? Will you quiet and still the world around you and get alone with Him? Bring along His word, some spirit-filled music, and an expectant heart. Carry that practice forward in a regular way, and you’ll be able to love others out of a heart that is satisfied with the good things of God. The promise of Romans 12:2 is that when we live differently than the world around us, even in how we decide to spend our time, we will know all that He has for us. So clear your calendar, open your hands, and receive all that your Father has for you. He desires to fill you with good things.