Don’t Rush Ahead

Do you remember going for walks or bike rides with your family as a kid? Were you the one who always went as far as you possibly could because you were just too excited to hold back? Did your parents have to tell you to stop and wait for them to catch up, to not go any farther than they could see?

I don’t think I really did that when I was a kid. I have always been really cautious when it comes to things like that. But I do think I take a similar approach to other things in my adult life.

I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared. And, if at all possible, I want to get ahead. I want to feel like I’m buying myself extra time by skipping steps or getting things done faster now so I can have a buffer later. And I certainly don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my time doing things that I don’t need to be doing.

I don’t like waiting. I don’t like doing the foundational work that feels like nothing at all. I want to get to the big, fun, challenging, heart-of-the-work things that produce results and give me something to show for all my work.

I have a bad habit of cheating myself out of my stretching before and after my workouts. I do stretch some, but not nearly as much as I should. And, of course, I never realize it until the next day when my muscles are sore and tight because I didn’t take the time to stretch them properly.

The problem is that I don’t give stretching its due. It feels useless. I have limited time allotted for working out, and I don’t want to “waste” it on stretching when I could otherwise be doing cardio or strength training- things that make my heart beat harder or strain my muscles in ways that I can feel in a more tangible way right then in the moment.

When I was in school, I always loved the professors who gave out course calendars and detailed rubrics for projects ahead of time. I loved knowing what was coming and what was expected of me. It allowed me to plan out my time and energy efficiently. In courses where I didn’t have a clear view of what came next, I found myself wondering what laid ahead.

And I’m finding myself in that place once again. I started a writing course a couple weeks ago, and I’m having a really (REALLY) hard time not rushing ahead. I did the prewriting exercises faster than the standard course timeline laid it out, but now I’m finding myself itching to look at material I’m not slated to encounter for a few more weeks yet. And I really don’t need it until then. But this little part of me just wants to know it all. To be prepared. To avoid surprises.

The more I think about it, the more I come to realize I do that with all of life. I want to avoid big surprises. I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared.

But life’s unpredictable. And if I run ahead, I might encounter something sooner than I’m meant to, and I might not be prepared to handle it because I didn’t let the waiting do its work. If I skip steps in my writing, I can most likely come back to them later. If I forget to stretch, I’ll be sore the next day, but I’ll survive just fine. But if I skip steps or rush ahead in life, I might make wrong turns, poor and uninformed decisions, and find myself ill-equipped to handle obstacles because I didn’t let my character grow before plowing forward. And if I knew everything all at once, I would certainly get overwhelmed.

I know it’s important to take things one step at a time. The steps exist for a reason– they make the journey easier, allowing me to tackle just one at a time instead of the whole staircase. I just sometimes need the reminder to not skip steps and try to rush ahead without doing the important foundational work first.

So today I’m reminding myself: Take life one step at a time. Don’t rush the process. Don’t skip steps just because you can’t see why they’re important right now.

 

Do you tend to run ahead? Do you have any tips for taking things one step at a time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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Rules for Rest

Rest. I’ve heard so much about it, and yet I still feel like I don’t really know how to do it. But despite my efforts, I still feel like I’m just not getting enough poured into me to be able to pour back into every area of my life.

Unless I consciously think about it, I habitually run and run and run from one thing to another until I’m completely running on empty. It’s incredibly easy for me to run on autopilot, simply going through my normal routine without really thinking about what I’m doing or whether the very things I’m doing are serving me or draining me and how I might be able to adapt them.

In my attempt to really learn how to rest and change my habits, I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open to the wise words of others– those I know personally as well as those whom I only know through the wonders of the Internet.

One great resource I came across recently was a post by Stephanie Mae Wilson, in which she discussed some tips for incorporating more rest in our lives. Here I’ve mentioned a few, but I encourage you to look at the full list on her website.

Create a to-don’t list. At first, I didn’t think this sounded like something that would really benefit me. After all, things that come to mind are all things that need to get done, right? While that may be true, I need to remind myself that not everything that is important is urgent, and not everything that is urgent is important. I don’t want to get caught up doing things today that could very well wait until tomorrow, or putting off things I need to do right now just because they don’t seem as productive.

I have enough to fill my plate without adding unnecessary tasks that I can delegate to someone else, let go of entirely, or wait to complete until another time. And I don’t want to equate productivity with value; there are plenty of things that are important that aren’t necessarily accomplish a task, like spending time reading my Bible, reading a novel, giving myself a mani-pedi, or going to bed early. But those things are still important components of self-care and rest, and I need to learn to value them as much as the more productive things.

Schedule time for rest. I’m big on planning and scheduling, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet. I like to know what my day looks like before it begins. I feel more comfortable knowing what the plan is so that I know how much time I have allotted for everything, ensuring that everything can get done and I can still maintain some shred of my sanity in the process. But I typically put rest time on the back burner. I’ve heard time and again that rest is important (after all, it’s my word for this year), but I’m not particularly good at planning time for it. I plan to change that and set aside time to rest without guilt, knowing that it’s good for both my body and my soul.

Ask yourself what it is that you need, knowing it changes over time. Instead of just reacting by habit or reflex, I need to take a moment to ask myself what I really need. Do I need to do my laundry right this minute, or would I be better serving myself if I took five minutes to read, sip some tea, or just sit still? Do I really have to run to the store today, or would it actually be a better idea to go this weekend when I have time to go without rushing through it, allowing myself to enjoy it? Do I need more “me time” or “others time”? Knowing whether I’m in a season of neglecting personal time or time with others helps me discern what I need to balance things out when they start to go awry.

I hope that by paying greater attention to what I need to refuel myself, I can regain some balance even in the midst of the craziness of moving and travel plans. After all, I’ve been told that life only gets busier. I might as well get used to it and learn to enjoy the ride. : )

Do you have any tips for making room for rest in your life? I’d love to hear them!

 

 

Further reading:

My Heart Came Back To Life This Summer, And Here’s How… by Stephanie Mae Wilson

What Are You Gonna Do About It?

Have you ever felt like things in life just aren’t quite the way you want them to be? Do you get that nagging feeling that you’re not living life to the fullest, like there are things you can’t quite put your finger on that are slightly off-kilter?

I know how that goes. I’ve gone through times of disengagement and vague dissatisfaction, not quite sure what was “wrong,” so to speak, which left me unable to do anything to change it.

But when I started really thinking about it, I could do more than I initially thought. I can reflect on my strengths, talents, gifts, and personality, trying to see how God uniquely made me, and begin to search for ways to lean into them. I can evaluate the different areas of my life, asking myself whether I’m satisfied with them, noting what is going well and what areas I can improve in. I can process through how I can use my strengths in the various areas of my life, allowing more passion into my daily rhythms. And I can do what I can to improve my circumstances and choose to be content with the things I can’t change.

Looking back on previous seasons of life to see what worked and what didn’t reminds me of part of Tsh Oxenrider‘s book Notes from a Blue Bike, in which she talks about missing the culture of Turkey after returning to the US. She missed the laid-back atmosphere and the loose concept of time, being able to drop in on friends and stay the whole day without calling first or feeling like she was imposing on them. She knew it wasn’t practical to treat friends in the US the same way, since it rubs against the way our culture functions, but she challenged herself to incorporate the things she loved about Turkey into her family’s life in the US as well as she could, changing what was in her power to change and accepting the parameters around her as they were. When I first read her book, I couldn’t believe how I could have missed such an obviously beneficial practice for creating a life I really love.

As I prepare to move to a new place, I’m reflecting more on what I’ve liked and disliked about places I’ve lived in the past, as well as places I’ve visited, like friends’ homes. I’m working to incorporate some of the things I’ve enjoyed into my new space, and trying to find ways to avoid the things that didn’t sit so well with me.

Taking the time to think about what things I’ve liked about where I’ve been allows me to get to know myself better. When I think about my preferences, I catch a glimpse into a part of my heart that isn’t often exposed. I can move from a vague feeling of discontentment to knowing what it is that isn’t quite working to actually taking steps to change so that things do work well. Throughout the process, I continue to learn what works best for me and how I can work to build a life I love, even if figuring that out takes some trial and error.

I liked living with friends in La Crosse and in the Cities. I loved being able to walk nearly everywhere I wanted to go when I was in school, too, instead of having to drive like I do now. I now know that working in sales doesn’t suit my personality. I’ve also learned that being able to be involved in strong community is a must. The summer I moved home after college was hard without a good network of people to support me; since I have gotten plugged back into a church family, I’ve felt more encouraged, supported, and connected, and I plan to continue engaging in community everywhere I go. Not knowing my neighbors in my apartment building has been uncomfortable at best and guilt-inducing at worst, so I plan to make greater effort to get to know and interact with my neighbors when we move.

As I’ve learned more about how I’m wired, I’m able to make some small changes that allow me to spend more time doing the things I love, feel more comfortable in my surroundings, and pour passion and purpose into my life. Setting aside time to reflect and actually write down lists of things that have made me feel alive, things I’ve absolutely loved, things that have just fit, gives me a greater ability to focus, to say “yes” and “no” to the right things, and to feel like I’m slowly moving in the right direction and becoming the best version of myself. I highly encourage you to do the same.

 

What things in your life aren’t quite satisfying you? What are you going to do about them?

Sabbath Heart

“For the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said: ‘You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence.’” –Isaiah 30:15 HCSB

I’ve been catching up on forgotten podcasts lately, and this particular episode of Megan Tietz’s Sorta Awesome show really resonated with me, as one of the hosts discussed the concept of Sabbath. We’re commanded by God to observe the Sabbath, but as this episode uncovers, many of us have no idea what that looks like.

Kelly, the guest host of the episode, explained how the word used in the Bible when referring to God resting after creating the world really means to sit back, reflect, and delight in the results of one’s work. She says as it’s important to create room in one’s schedule to observe the Sabbath, it also takes cultivating a Sabbath heart. It’s not enough to just set aside time, we need to actively engage in the process of resting by setting aside everything else competing for our attention and waging war on our hearts.

As my goal for this year is to rest, I found this focus on cultivating a Sabbath heart to be really interesting. It challenged my ideas of what Sabbath is and what it isn’t. Kelly, the host, quoted Dan Allender who wrote a book on the topic, saying Sabbath is not a break from routine, a chance to find respite before going back to our “normal” lives, but an encounter with God.

Sabbath rest is:

  1. Rest— a break from work. This requires slowing down, acknowledging our weariness, our busyness, and being still. In order to do this, we actually have to stop running around and working, right in the middle of the chaos, to take a break from the crazy.
  2. Restoration— to heal the fractured pieces of our souls. It’s only when we rest and take a break that we give ourselves the opportunity to grow. We need seasons and moments of rest to prepare for seasons and moments of activity.
  3. Reflection— taking a look at what’s going on in our hearts and lives. We are to listen carefully and watch intentionally to see things that are happening all around us.
  4. Rhythmic— regularly returning to rest. Making rest a part of ordinary life makes it more of who we are in the deepest parts of our hearts. Making moments of rest a regular part of our lives demonstrates its importance and teaches us to incorporate it in every season of life.
  5. Remembranceremember, to put back together the image of who we really are. In the midst of a world that tries to tell us so many lies about who we are, we must regularly return to God’s truth about who we really are.

Sabbath also means delighting in life. We need a break from our adult responsibilities to enjoy the things we love– whether that means taking a nap, reading a good book, going for a run, cooking up a storm in the kitchen, or getting outside in the sunshine. It’s giving ourselves permission to set aside all the things we ought to do, and enter into a time of truly enjoying whatever activity will bring us joy.

Life is meant to be more than just day-to-day drudgery. In a world where hard work and ambition are highly praised, it’s all too easy to think taking time to just enjoy life, beauty, stillness, and the things that bring us pleasure is lazy or wasteful or unproductive. But these are the things that give us life, and we need to revel in them to gain the strength we need to carry on. Let us each cultivate a Sabbath heart and set aside time to rest.

A Christmas Prayer

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Let your heart be light.

From now on, our troubles will be out of sight.

Take just a moment to think about what it would look like if we lived like those words were true. Because this is how the Christmas season ought to be. Our troubles should be miles away, worries thrown out the window, concerns long forgotten in the light and joy of the celebration of Jesus’ birth. In comparison with that wondrous gift, that moment when all of history was forever changed, how can our little concerns (and even our big concerns) possibly compete? They ought to be dwarfed, completely eclipsed by the sheer greatness of our God and the celebration of the gift of His Son.

In the place of this kind of holy holiday, when we gather with extended family for this annual event, old feuds rear their ugly heads, tensions rise, and tempers flare. Impatience reigns, and stress isn’t far behind. Our troubles and stresses certainly aren’t out of sight; instead, they loom before us like physical foes ready for battle.

Instead of letting the truth of the season and the significance of the celebration work its way into our hearts, we only let it permeate our calendars. We fill our schedules with things that seem connected to Christmas but really bear no resemblance to the spirit of the holiday. We fill our days with activity without taking a moment to pause and relieve our hearts of the burdens they carry.

In the midst of the craziness and busyness, I want you to take a breath right along with me and focus on the good. Instead of adding more and more to our wishlists this year, let us count the abundant blessings we already have.

Whether your plans include gathering all the extended family together for a big, loud dinner, or a sweet, small celebration with just a few of your nearest and dearest, may you truly have a merry little Christmas. I hope you and I can both remember that it’s not the size of the group, the culinary quality of the meal, or the cleanliness of the home that makes this time special. It’s about time spent together as we pause to reflect upon the joy and peace that can be ours if we will accept the gift being offered to us in a still, small voice that we can only hear when we slow down and clear away the clutter.

The holidays can either be rife with stress, tension, and hastening from one thing to the next with arms full of unwanted, overpriced gifts, or they can be simpler times of joyful company with the minimized importance of gifts and the focus shifted to what really matters– the hearts of those nearest and dearest to us.

In the spirit of the season, let us choose to cherish this time with our loved ones, no matter what else happens. Let us deliberately approach these next few days with a clear head, pure heart, and positive attitude. Let our hearts be light, free from overwhelming stress. If the turkey burns, that’s okay. If we don’t get everything we asked for, that’s probably a good thing. If people arrive late or have to leave early, let that teach us to be flexible and forgiving. If it doesn’t snow and we’re left with a rather brown Christmas, let us rejoice in roads without ice that take us safely to our destinations.

I don’t know about you, but I want to look back on this next week with a smile, knowing I didn’t strive in vain to create a perfect experience that will inevitably disappoint, but that I recognized that there is a time for everything– a time to prepare and a time to plan, and then a time to set things aside, declare them done, and just relax and spend time with people. And I have a sneaking suspicion that you would agree.

My prayer for us this Christmas is that we would set aside our differences, refuse the temptation to stress and worry, instead focusing on our many blessings, valuing people over presents, and truly make this Christmas one to remember as we gather together to praise our King.

 

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A Moment of Peace

Let’s set aside our to-do lists for a moment. Let’s ignore our phones, take a break from checking our email, and remember that the world of social media will go on without us just fine for a bit. Tune out all of the distractions, and just breathe.

We are so plugged in so much of the time that we miss the small joys of life- a picturesque sunrise, flowers blooming in early spring, an ear-to-ear grin of a precious child, a book with a good plot twist, fresh berries, or hearing a favorite song on the radio.

But in this world of working around the clock and always being available through all the social media apps on our smartphones, how can we possibly find even a moment of peace in the middle of our busy lives?

Peace can be found in the midst of chaos only when we take a moment to step back and acknowledge that the things we are consumed by and struggling with are so very small when compared to life as a whole and the God who created it. Until we see the bigger picture, release the worry we harbor over trivial things, and celebrate the little joys in life, we will miss out on a great deal of peace available to us.

Let’s begin embracing the idea of rest. We were given instructions to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy, were we not? God knew we would need time to take a break from our hard work and rest. We’ve gotten too bogged down with ambition and hard work that we can’t see the need to pause from our striving and unwind. Whether you choose to do so on Sunday, or another weekday, or in smaller bursts throughout the week, I encourage you to deliberately spend time relaxing, whatever that looks like for you.

For me, that looks like curling up with a good book and a cup of tea, going for a walk, unhurriedly cooking some delicious food, watching some of my favorite TV shows, and spending time with friends and family. I have chosen to set aside Sundays as relaxing days, which means I have to get all of my work done before Sunday rolls around so that I can have an entire day to unwind. But it is desperately needed before I jump back into my work week again on Monday morning, and it is completely worth the extra effort it takes to finish my work by Saturday night.

It looks different just about every time I do it, but I decided it’s imperative that I make time to not work. I spend so much of my time at work or doing projects around the house, crossing things off my endless to-do list, without feeling like I really ever accomplish anything because there is always more to do at the end of the day. I look forward to my unwinding time each week, knowing that I have set apart Sundays to refuel before putting my nose back to the grindstone on Monday morning.

Celebrate the little things like sunsets, kind words, green stoplights, delicious food, and laughter among friends. Linger with friends after you finish a meal, realizing that the time you spend in relationship is far more important than checking another task off your to-do list. Take some time apart from technology. Get outside. Enjoy the fresh air. And cherish your moment of peace.

What would a moment of peace look like for you? What would it take for you to make it happen today?