Getting Rid of the Cluttered Mind

Has this ever happened to you?

I was out with a friend the other night and as we got up from our table at the coffee shop, I frantically was feeling my pockets for my keys.  I couldn’t find them and I said, “Where are my keys?!!!”  

My friend just looked at me.  Then she smiled.  “I drove you.”

I just stared at her, as my panic faded.  Oh yeah. How did I forget that?   

My friend told me what I already knew.  There’s so much going on and my mind can only deal with so much.  It’s cluttered.  You’ve been there, right?  I’m not the only one.

The TO DO, TO GO and WHAT HAPPENS NEXT lists are endless and our finite minds can only juggle so much.  So on the brink of summer vacation, I’m ready for things to slow down.  I mentioned rest in my last post as part of change that is happening in our family at the moment.  We are at a crossroads but with the gift of a rest as we wait on the Lord.  

So although I will be working for the summer, the rest of the household are not.  I’ve been thinking about how to rest so that we come out of this time refreshed and renewed.  On the path to health. 

I’ve come up with a few ideas.  These may be of help to you as you think about your vacation time this summer.  Or hopefully they will prompt you to come up with your own ideas of what kind of rest works for you.  These are mine:

  1. Perspective.  Although I’ll be working part-time throughout the summer, my job is pretty low key which I love.  I work in a place I love with books and get paid to do it.  Can it get much better?  For me, that’s a resounding no.  So I’m going to remind myself of that, every day I go to work when the rest of them are sleeping in or hanging out at home.  I am also going to remind myself that in a way, my job is a rest from the work of being a stay-at-home mom for the last number of years.  It’s so nice to let my husband take care of all the requests, chores and dinner prep, a few days a week.  He is more than happy to do so.  In fact, if I’d ever gotten a real job when the boys were young, he would have been the stay-at-home parent and been quite happy doing it.  Now he gets a chance to do it as he rests at home, out of the work place.  
  2. Say yes.  I’m going to say yes more than no.  When it’s appropriate and within my realm of doing so.  For many years now, I’ve said no more than yes.  Mostly to myself.  It’s been a mode of self-preservation and protection.  It means I don’t have to deal.  It lets me hide.  But I miss out on a lot.  Does it mean I’m going to go crazy and say yes to everything?  No.  But it might mean I go out with my family more instead of letting just the boys go.  It might mean I buy that London Fog once in a while.  It might mean leaving the comfy couch and my book for something else.  Or on the flip side, I give myself permission to stay there on said comfy couch some days because I’m tired.  Without the guilt.
  3. “Live in the moment.”  My husband and I have been talking about this lately.  He brought it up one day after a chat with his coach.  I thought it was baloney until he actually practiced it with real results.  It got me thinking.  I realized how much I live in my head.  I think about what has to get done next and where I have to be.  I daydream what I’d love to be doing instead of where I am at the present moment.   I’m hoping living in the present will help me say yes more.  I”m wondering if it will  make me more in tune to God’s voice.  Instead of worrying about the past or future, I’ll be focused on the here and now, open to a nudge or a quiet whisper.  I haven’t been in that spot for too long.
  4. Rest. Read. Rite.  Okay so it should be write but I couldn’t resist.  The three R’s for me this summer are these.  These things bring me life.  They make me excited.  So I will continue to do them but perhaps in more healthy ways.

Resting can be more than sleeping or lounging in a chair.  For some of us, rest embodies some ZZZ’s and a cozy place to sit.  A blanket.  For others, rest comes in different forms.  Rest is anything that brings your soul to life.  That makes it sing.  That restores your body and mind.  Doing the things we love can bring peace which is essential to rest.  It is an inside out rejuvenation of our mind and bodies.  For me, if I can find even a portion of what I’ve listed during this period of rest, then I’m heading in the right direction towards restoration.  

And remembering that my friend drove me to the  coffee shop.  

What about you?  What brings you rest?

A Season of Change and Rest

“Did she agree with his actions?  Campbell wasn’t sure.  The old law made her feel safe.  Protected…Yet her mother’s heart wanted her son happy…Given any other circumstances, she’d praise Nathaniel’s choice. So perhaps she should let go of fear and distrust.”   Rachel Hauck,  Once Upon a Prince p.320 Kindle edition

It’s that time of year.  Graduations and weddings fill up our weekends.   Year end banquets and assemblies fill our evenings.  An election is right around the corner here in our province.  The ending of one thing to start something new.  You can’t have a beginning without an end.  I think I read that somewhere.  What it amounts to is change.  

Do you have a love/hate relationship with change?  I do.  I like the thought of something new or different but at the same time, I get very comfortable in the old ruts, even if they aren’t always healthy or in any way good.

Change, however, can become our best friend, but we often treat it like our worst enemy.

Change can breed fear and distrust.  We fear the outcome of said change.  We fear God does not have our best at heart.  We fear disappointment and loss.  We distrust people.  Sometimes it is wise to do so if they have been abusive but many people are good yet we keep them at arms length.  We distrust the process of change.  I mean if it’s not broken, why fix it?

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We may think the old ways protect us, like in the quote above, but do they really?  Maybe they need an overhaul too.  Just like us.  Just like me.

Part of me fears change because it means I have to examine the blackness of my heart.  Why resist so ardently?  Why fight so ferociously?  Honestly it’s easier to fight or hide than it is to face the hard truths about ourselves sometimes.  But change is a way God brings these things to our attention, doesn’t He?   

How?  Sometimes when change occurs, there is a stopping.  A rest.  It may be long or short but there is a break in the chaos, the milieu around us. There is a silence. Do we use it to root out the blackness or do we hide?  It’s up to us.

 

Is it going to be a pleasant experience?  I think not.  But it’s got to be better than the fear, the distrust, the anger that courses through our veins as we resist it, right?

It’s a time for healing not fighting.  To let God come near and do what needs to be done as we rest, and have time to reflect.

It’s a time to accept hard truths.  About ourselves. About others.  About circumstances.

It’s also a time to look at the lies and take them apart.  What have we believed that was not true?  About God?  About our circumstances?  About people? About ourselves?

It’s a time to gain strength as we stop and rest.  Because it’s not the end.  It’s the beginning of something new.  It’s a time to grow so we can enter into this new phase prepared for what God has planned not just for us, but for His glory. We forget, I forget, it’s not just about us.  God cares about each detail of our lives but there’s a bigger picture we conveniently forget about.  In the stopping, maybe we can get a new perspective too.

We have a choice as we enter a time of change or just the slower pace of summer.  We can stay in the fear and distrust.  We can remain stunted.  Or we can embrace the change, the stopping, and let go of it.  So we can continue to grow into the person God prepared us to be.  To be ready for the beginning of something new. 

Busy vs. Beloved

“The world pressures me to make things happen. Now. But when things don’t go as planned,I often try to regain control – by shutting down my heart.”

Bonnie Gray, from her new book, Whispers of Rest

 

Wait! What?

“But when things don’t go as planned, I often try to regain control – by shutting down my heart.”

I think I inwardly wince as I reread those words. Especially the last five ones. It’s Day Seven, entitled Beloved, in the 40 Day devotional book, Whispers of Rest.

I write in my journal, “Do I do this?” and then draw an arrow pointing to the quote I’ve just written down. I don’t really have to think hard about it. I know the answer.

Yes I do.

It’s not the discovery that I do this that bothers me.  I know it but can I accept the truth of it? I would prefer to stay in denial. If I accept the truth of it, I need to open my eyes to where I shut down in my life. Where I am trying to do or strive, that it costs me my heart.

We do = we count. At least that’s what it feels like. If we aren’t doing something, what’s wrong with us? The world tells us we are lazy. We are stupid. We don’t matter. I need to contribute to be a part of acceptable society. To do so, I shut down my heart, so I can get my To Do list done. The cost is a cold hard heart.

If I don’t feel, I can’t get hurt. At least that’s what I tell myself. If I don’t allow my heart to get involved I believe the lie that I can control the situation or the people. Maybe more importantly I am telling myself that if I shut down my heart and emotions, I can control myself. Escape unscathed.

But that’s not the point, is it?

Further on in Day Seven, Bonnie writes; “Jesus didn’t shut down his heart. He opened his heart to love and brokenness, so that he could one day make your heart his home. Your story is his story.”

What would it look like to open my heart to love and brokenness instead of shutting it down? I write in my journal.

Jesus lovingly turns to us in our brokenness and mess. He meets us right there. He invites us to a life of healing, hope and wholeness in Him. 

What if we turned to those around us, in our own circles, in love? Instead of turning away from their brokenness, their mess, we turned to it? What if we turned away from productivity that the world clamours for and instead turned to people? To ourselves?

  • Maybe we would be more open to getting our hands dirty in the messiness of life because we don’t have a To Do list to check off.
  • Maybe we would be more willing to stop and really listen to someone instead of thinking of what we need to do next or look at our watches, thinking that time is slipping away.
  • Maybe we would comfort more rather than scold.
  • Maybe we would be a better spouse and parent because we are engaged in the moment.
  • Maybe we would shed the chains of what we think is control and instead experience the freedom of actually living life. Experiencing both the ups and downs instead of trying to control them.
  • Maybe we would let ourselves off the hook.
  • Maybe we would turn our hearts back on. Maybe we would accept the love that is offered to us by the One who never turned away from us even in our mess.

Life might actually look radically different.

It’s so much easier to shut down. No doubt about it. But we miss out on the abundant life if we do. We may have our list all checked off but in the end what does that do for us? Nothing. It’s lifeless and cold.

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We don’t have to prove anything. We don’t need to produce any worldly thing. We just need to be loved. Beloved. See that? Be Loved = Beloved. Louie Giglio points out that little word play in his book, I am Not but I know I Am. You just have to be loved to be the beloved.

“Before Jesus performed a single miracle, he was already beloved.” Bonnie writes. God loved His Son. He loves us too. Because I am beloved, I can open my heart instead of shutting it down. I can share the love that God gave me.

 

I have had the pleasure of being on the launch team for Bonnie Gray’s new book, Whispers of Rest. It’s a 40 day devotional that invites you to rest in God.

I have really enjoyed the invitation to rest and go deeper with God in those periods of stillness that this book offers to each reader. It releases today.  You can find it here at  http://www.whispersofrest.com

The Invitation of Wide Open Spaces

When trouble surrounded me, I cried out to the Eternal; He answered me and brought me to a wide, open space.   Psalm 118:5-6 The Voice 

We finally took down our Christmas tree. We left it up much later this year than is usual for us. We were savouring the lights in the early mornings and evenings. Our rabbit loved to sit under it. So we lingered at the tree a little longer.

But this weekend it was time for it to come down. I took off all the decorations. My husband and our oldest son dismantled it. (Too many allergies for a real tree, sadly.) Then my husband cleaned up not only the mess from the tree (yes fake ones have needles that fall off too!) but the whole room too. He managed to clear up in an hour what I haven’t been able to do in a week.  (I KNOW!)

My point?  This morning, I am enjoying some space.

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The Christmas tree is beautiful but it takes up some prized real estate in the house. After it’s down, the house always seems to expand.

It’s not just the house that is feeling roomy. As I look at the weeks ahead, my calendar is looking rather empty. I had to take some breathing room and I said no to some regular commitments.

It’s a good feeling to have space. To be able to exhale. To take stock. To rest. There is something freeing about having space to move, to think and to be.

I came across this verse from Psalm 118 this morning. I have always found it interesting that God not only answered the writer but took him to a wide, open space. Why? The psalmist says God had answered him. Does that mean that the answer was He took him to an open space? He was rescued by being taken away?

Or does it mean something else?

That in the open, when you have space, things can suddenly become clear? Chaos fades.

When clarity comes, you can see. Things you missed in the claustrophobia of busy, of deadlines, of to do. Clarity brings into focus what is important, what was being blocked by the frenzy and the panic of the rush. The walls that close in as we try to do more, as we try to control.  As we give in to fear.

In a wide open space you can see God. Because He fills it but there’s nothing claustrophobic about Him. A wide open space will let you see see yourself in relationship to Him. What does it look like? How far away are you from Him? How close?

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The next verse, the Psalmist says, The Eternal is with me, so I will not be afraid of anything. If God is on my side, how can anyone hurt me?
Maybe being brought to the wide open space, he could see that God was indeed right beside him so he could be brave. With a God so big that he fills the world with His presence, what was there to be afraid of? Maybe the psalmist saw that in the wide open space.

I could be totally wrong. I’m not a biblical scholar. I’m fascinated by wide open spaces.  I like them.  A.Lot.

Besides opening our eyes to the presence of God, a wide open space can do a few other useful things for us.

 

Wide open spaces invites deep cleansing breaths. Which clears the fog and cobwebs.

Wide open spaces entices one to lie down and rest. To gaze at the sky. To bring your body to stillness.

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Wide open spaces also inspires creativity. After the rest, comes art. A wide open space is a dance floor, and it calls for some dancing! Or skipping. Running. It lets imagination and play run wild.

Wide open spaces suggest an emptying of what is not needed and a filling of what is.

Wide open spaces are a wooing from the Eternal to draw close and see Him in the open. Like we never have before. To see Him as our Defender. Our friend. As our one and only God. As Creator. As Lover.

I look at my wide open calendar spaces. They have the feel of an invitation. To come. To see. To experience. To get to know Him as He fills in the blanks.

What about you?  Do you have any wide open spaces?  Or do you need to make some room so you can have some space?  What do you see in those wide open spaces?

The Art of Rest

I recently had the opportunity to go away on a retreat for five whole days. It was a week away with some fellow writer friends. The plan was to get away to a cottage and write. No distractions. No other people to worry about and care for. Just us and our writing projects. I had never done anything like it. I was excited for it. The timing was perfect.

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It’s been a couple of busy months. I had had a couple of speaking engagements which was new for me. It was fun but tiring. My creativity was tapped out. My brain tired. I needed a rest with no guilt attached to it. Ever feel that way? We try to rest but our houses need cleaning, laundry is waiting to be folded or dinner time is fast approaching. No rest for the weary or maybe it’s the wicked. Perhaps both.

Whatever, rest is put off or if we do take a few minutes, any enjoyment is strangled by the nagging guilt of something else that needs our attention. So a getaway to a cottage with a couple other writer friends sounded like heaven.

It was. If you are creative, you will appreciate how important it is to give your mind the space to just let it wander and think, imagine. Staring off into space can get you some weird stares sometimes. Not at our little retreat. It was perfectly normal.
It was also a time to engage other creative outlets.

I read. Drank coffee – yes it’s an art form too, especially brewing that perfect cup!  Sketched.

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Went for walks and read cooking mags and PEOPLE. We watched movies at night and I read some more. I sat by the water even though it was a tad chilly. Walked along the beach. Watched the sunset. Took a plethora of photos.

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The one thing I did not do, which I previously would have, was force myself to write the first couple of days. Or feel guilty about it. Was I not at a writing retreat? Why didn’t I write? I’m learning you can’t force it. At least for me the process requires a time to sit. I call it “baking”, it needs to bake in my brain. And sometimes I need to talk it out with someone, which my fellow writers helped me with mid-week. They asked a few key questions and I was able to get back at it. Focused.

In the recent past I would have fretted over the fact I wasn’t writing and felt guilty and basically killed any creativity that was left or was on the verge of returning. Not this time. I let it go. I took the opportunity provided to not just write but rest and give my mind and spirit what it needed. To fill the creative bank with fun things I love. It was highly restorative. And surprise! I did meet my writing goals for the week. This idea that if we work ourselves to the bone we will be more productive is a lie. I took time and rest to rejuvenate and unwind and I still produced and got done what I wanted.

Perhaps the key really is balance. Work, play and rest. Monday-Saturday and then Sabbath. Work all the time certainly does make us dull. It dulls our senses and we forget to engage in life. We miss the signs of love, beauty, and kindness all around us, whether it’s from God or our families and friends. If we give ourselves time to rest, to play, suddenly the world becomes a much livelier place. A more beautiful place. More peaceful.

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We all know this but still, we get sucked into the “we need to work or the world will fall apart” vortex. In reality, if we stop working every once in a while, it actually helps to pull our world together not apart.  Because work, play and rest work together to make us stronger.  When one dominates, it makes us weaker.  What area do you need to work on to have more balance and enjoy life?

Six Things I Learned (AGAIN!) This Summer

The sounds of summer are becoming a faint echo as days shorten and leaves change colours.  Shouts of joy at the pool, the sound of the diving board as bodies are flung forward, the screech of bike brakes in the driveway.  They are being replaced by the echoes of voices in the hallways of school, the squeak of shoes on shiny floors as feet adjust to being encased once again.  The sound of books banging together in a knapsack.

Summer is over according to the calendar.  The lunches have been packed.  A small fortune spent on shoes (both indoor and outdoor).  Backpacks are bulging.  The countdown to school has been on for days here at the Willcock house.  As pointed out by my boys, the night before school is almost as hard as Christmas Eve.  I agree.

As the summer came to a close, I thought about how it went.  Summer is always hard for me.  It’s not just the weather.  I usually come away feeling like a complete failure.  This year has a decidedly different flavour.  We changed a few things up.  I threw out the schedule.  I kept the boys busier than I have in the past.  It was a better summer.

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As I thought about the summer, these things stood out for me.  Nothing new really but lessons I needed to be reminded of again.

1.  Saying Yes is a good thing.  I’ve asked myself repeatedly, how do I want my kids to remember me when they are grown?  As moms, we fall into the habit of saying no because we have lots to do.  We say no to doing, going, being, because we’re too busy.  This summer I said yes more often.  Yes, to participating in life rather than just observing or hearing about it second hand.  It may have been baby steps but I feel like we made progress.  I am not where I was two months ago.  Saying yes makes me feel better about myself as a person and a mom.  I have good memories of family times that in years past I would have said no to because I was too afraid to go.  How do you want your kids to remember you when they are grown?

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2.  Play is important.  Part of saying yes is giving yourself permission to play too.  With the kids.  On your own.  Hard to do!  We’ve cut out so much of play in our lives that you have to be intentional about it.  Kids are naturals if we don’t stomp it out of them.  I’m the one who gets in the way.  I let worries and fear take over.  I want to hover.  Loosening the leash in appropriate settings this summer was good for all of us.  It gave me time to indulge my reading addiction. How did you play this summer? If you didn’t why not?

3.  Rest works.  I threw out the schedule I had rigidly tried to stick to over past summers but the one thing I did keep around was a quiet time.  We didn’t do it every day but we did it a lot.  It gave all of us space from one another.  It gave us rest from the computer.  It gave us time to quiet our souls and soothe frayed feathers.  The week away at the cottage was extremely restful.  I think it was the weather.  It was cold.  I didn’t mind.  Whatever the reason, there was an atmosphere of rest and peace.  It was extremely invigorating.  How did you rest this summer?

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4.  Challenging yourself is good for you.  My boys are brave.  Much more courageous than I was at their age or even now.  One went to overnight camp for the first time on his own.  The other went to a basketball day camp.  He wanted to go but still experiences much anxiety in new situations.  Both overcame their fears and the challenges in front of them and enjoyed these new experiences.  I see them test themselves on a daily basis.  My oldest checks whether he can swim one length of the pool underwater each time he goes swimming.  He also had to swim fourteen laps for swimming lessons!  Do we challenge ourselves with new experiences and daily tests? I’m not sure I do. I am good at avoiding new things. When I do try new things, I feel good. I feel smart. I feel satisfied. Why then do we always try to go for easy rather than good?

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5.  I am still a student myself.  As my boys learn so do I.  Sometimes I teach them things but mostly I learn from them and others.  You are never too old learn and change.

6.  There but for the grace of God, go I.  Amen.

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As it rains today why not take a few moments and ask yourself, What did you learn this summer?

 

*All photos are personal photos of mine.  Please contact me if you wish to use. 

 

Upon Returning From that Week Away…

A week away can do wonders for perspective.  It can also set you up for a huge let down as you reenter the real world.  You know that planet.  Where you walk in the door and you are met with a million requests, ninety-nine hundred of them requiring money.  Or everyone wants a snack or a meal, and the kitchen never closes.  You go back to running from one thing to the next in a matter of a nano second of entering your house.  It’s a fact of life in this season of life.  It’s better to laugh about it but some days it makes me want to cry.  Especially when I’m sleep deprived.
The enemy always wants to take you out after you’ve rested and reconnected with your heavenly Father.  I know this and yet I still find myself ill-prepared for the onslaught.  This morning I am awakening to this reality.  After a rough start, I’ve decided to fight back.
What about you?  What are you facing this Monday morning?  Are you prepared or have you been in denial?  Were you caught unawares?
We really shouldn’t be surprised by attacks because we know that if we are walking alongside Jesus, the enemy will do everything in his power to get us to go to the left or the right instead of staying focused on what Jesus is asking us to do.
The past week in the Muskokas was fantastic.  It was restful.  One of the first times it has seemed so.  Maybe it’s because the boys are older now.  Maybe it was the cooler weather.  Maybe it was changes in me.  Whatever the reason, I felt rested.  I felt challenged under the teaching at the conference.  I felt like I could actually take what I learned, look at, study it.  I felt challenged to Do.It.

There are days I feel like I play at being a Jesus follower.  I’m tired of it.  I want to live it out.  Even if it’s inconvenient, irritating, or not on my schedule.  That’s what I took away this week.  There is no time to play at this.  It’s time to live it.
So why am I surprised by distraction, sleep deprivation, impatience, sickness when I get home?

The answer is I shouldn’t be shocked.  You shouldn’t be either after a time of reflection or serious study. Peter tells us to be on our guard because the enemy is prowling around, looking to devour us. (1 Peter 5:8)
This really isn’t the blog I’d thought I’d write upon returning home.  I was hoping to be super encouraging.  Maybe the things I learned will translate into an inspiring blog at some point.  But today as I struggle, I’m writing this more for myself than for any reader.  Sometimes putting into words what’s going on brings clarity for my limping brain.  Writing I’m going to fight back makes me realize that that’s what I’ve got to do.  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being the punching bag of the enemy.  To quote a song from the 80’s, I’m not gonna take it anymore.  What about you?