Tuesday, March 13, 2018

When You Desperately Need a Little Soul Care, This

Tuesday is often my favorite day of the week because Tuesday holds a small pocket of time in which I find the space for my soul to breathe amid the complexities that is both life, and honestly me.

There are eight of us in our family right now, meaning five children, one adult friend, my husband and me, plus the two dogs, which makes the extrovert in me feel abundantly happy and grateful to be surrounded by these precious souls day in and day out.

And also leaves the introvert in me feeling like I need a good stretch of quiet to just breathe and process before I rejoin the goodness of community.

Note: Before I had five children, I didn't know I had any introvert in me at all; in fact, I had never been happier than I was when four of our Slovenian friends, on an exchange program during our senior year of college, decided to "stay longer" than the original two weeks with me and my roommates in our small two-bedroom flat. When I married John, I found it awfully boring to have only one roommate because where was the fun in all that quiet? We have since been blessed with five children, and I have since been educated and humbled to learn I'm still getting to know me, and that part of me has very introverted needs. 

As the years have gone by, our circumstances have changed and I've grown into more of myself, I've realized I need {yes, actually need} quiet-filled spaces just as much as I need the times of connection and togetherness; knowing this and practicing it honors who God made me to be and gives me a greater capacity to love well those around me.

Lately, I've been finding quite a bit of life-giving encouragement in a few different places, and it's my hunch that maybe you might as well.

Illuminate: A 14-Day Audio Devotional

Delivered to your email doorstep daily for 14 days, Illuminate is a beautifully written and recorded podcast by my friend Renee. Sometimes we just need the gift of remembering who God is, and sometimes we need the practice of digging deeper into His heart of love.

Illuminate invites us into both remembering and digging into the character of God so that we can stand encouraged as beloved daughters of God.

Renee's calm and beautiful voice is an extra gift that encourages my heart!

The Next Right Thing podcast by Emily P. Freeman

At a max of just 15 minutes per podcast, I wondered how my friend Renee could list the Next Right Thing, as one of the most soul-feeding times of her week.

It only took one listen to realize how much goodness could be packed into one little space in time.

Emily Freeman describes her Tuesday podcast as a place that's intentionally in helping our souls to breathe, a place to clear away the clutter so we can land on simply the next right thing.

Nearly every week, I listen to the podcast several times over. Nearly every week, I am encouraged and challenged in the most gentle, loving, kind ways.

In the pages of the Ember series 

I don't know how S.D. Smith did it in his series of books aimed at middle-elementary aged kids, but
he has helped me, an adult with an affinity for good story, fall in love with rabbits with swords.

Maybe it's the thoughtful scene-setting, maybe it's the witty prose, the beautiful narratives, the in-depth characters or the riveting story line just drenched with truth ... but I'm reading ahead of the kids in book three, Ember Rising, and I don't even really feel that badly about it, despite the fact that it's part of our homeschool curriculum.

When I'm reading it alone, I slow and soak in more of the timeless truths uttered by wise rabbits. I see the themes of love, sacrifice, serving, growth and integrity shine through the stories of the the two main characters especially. Being lost amid the tale of the characters seeking a mended world (a mended wood, as the characters are rabbits), makes me feel encouraged, understood and hopeful.

In the shared thoughts of writers who have slipped into eternity 

The depth of love and hope, honesty and truth in the letters of Jeanne Guyon and personal journal of Henri Nouwen leave me feeling refreshed and undone simultaneously.

Both strike me as cognizant of the world's noisiness and inspire me by their diligent seeking of the quiet spaces of life to connect with Jesus and let their souls rest.

Nouwen inspires me to "come home to myself" and hear "the inner voice of love" and Guyon challenges me to remember that Jesus is as close as my breath. I find such companionship of spirit in their words.

Near the window

Lately, I've been sitting nearby a new widow in our home daily, just looking, watching quietly as spring unfolds in the chirping of birds, the movement of winds and the budding of trees.

Sometimes I sing, sometimes I pray, sometimes I just listen while I watch. All of the time, though, a calm just rushes over my soul as I realize I am just one small part of a very big, very beautiful and challenging story.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

On How Remembering Well Can Actually Bring Us to Our Best Places

I didn't know what to expect when my friend Renee and I bundled up and drove up north to the shores of Lake Michigan for a writers retreat that spanned the better part of four days. 

And to be honest, I didn't really care as long as my time included good conversation with Renee (and hopefully other friends attending) and sleep, glorious uninterrupted sleep. 

But God, God was up to a lot more in my life than just sleep and good conversation that weekend, though both of those gifts were included in my time away. While Renee and I were sitting in our cabin, listening to the waves crash on the sandy shore just outside of our windows, we began talking about the challenges that come along with meaningful writing, and at one point one of us said to the other something like, "maybe we just need to stop and reflect on who God really is ..." We sat quietly for a bit, waves churning outside, and reflected on that before conversation resumed. 

After we left the shores of Lake Michigan, I thought long and hard about the true character of God for weeks. Not long after the retreat, Renee wrote me and shared she had been writing day after day after day of a devotion about God's character, and the words just kept coming, they just kept flowing and would I edit this project? 

I don't always know answers to these kinds of questions immediately, but I knew in my spirit it was a yes moment. I knew God was speaking to my own heart about His character, about knowing and also remembering who He actually is; remembering God's character actually gives us strength for each moment we face, peace for each new day and an anchoring love for times of hardship as well as celebration ... so as Renee finished writing, I began editing.

Most of the time when I edit a project, I distance myself from it so I can see what works, what doesn't and deliver honest questions and feedback along with in-depth proofing for mistakes. When I edit I like to do this all in a timely manner. 

Try as I may to distance myself from each day of the devotional while editing, I just couldn't. All I could do was allow God to draw me deeper into knowing His character. It took me double the time to edit because while I was editing God was editing in my heart my understanding of Him, inviting me into a deeper relationship with Him.

Soon Renee will be releasing a 14-day study,  illuminate: seeing God by the Light of His Word. I can't say enough about illuminate, and not just because I had a small part in working on it -- but rather because God used illuminate to work in my own heart, drawing me closer to His heart of love.

There is great power in knowing God and in remembering who God really is; it's life changing when we slow down long enough to soak in more of His heart of love because His love is the kind of love that truly changes the map of our hearts. I pray you're as blessed by these 14 days of journeying closer to the Father's heart as I have been.