God has done so much in our lives this year. Through highs and lows, there’s been a lot to praise Him for, but I’m afraid I was too busy to really pay attention to a lot of it these past few months. Now that we’ve adopted, moved, and are recovering from the chaos that took up the first half of 2016, I’ve had time to pause and reflect on where we’ve been.
Looking back, I get more glimpses of God’s grace and leadership, but I wonder how much I missed or forgot because I didn’t take the time to sit, dwell, reflect, and rest.
I don’t want life to be so insane that I don’t see the Lord at work.
Something has to change.
If I’m not intentional to look for the things God is teaching me, I’ll miss them. If I don’t record it, I’ll forget it.
So I’ve decided to join the many bloggers who share monthly lessons learned. It seems like a great structure for noticing and remembering what I’m learning.
Without further adieu, here are the top things I learned in the month of July:
It’s easy to think your identity isn’t found in anything but Christ until all the other things are gone. Then the heart makes itself known.
Of course I haven’t been stripped of all that’s dear to me, but moving to a new city has shaken me up a bit. Here, I don’t have the relationships that I had there, and I don’t do any of the same activities I used to. I’ve stepped out of roles and responsibilities that had become a huge part of who I was, and now I’m just waiting to see how God will establish us in a new community and where He’ll use us.
The in-between feels so weird. I never thought I looked to those roles and relationships for security, but they did provide some of it. I just didn’t realize that until I moved away.
There’s no sense of the familiar in any of my days now. Nearly everything about life here feels different and new and strange, and I’m forced to face what’s uncomfortable about that. Am I unsure about who I am without those comforts? Without my friends? Can I be joyful in this season of rest and waiting now that I’m not so caught up in doing?
By God’s sweet grace, I’m not falling apart or overcome with sadness, but I do have my shaky moments. What I’m learning is to run to my Father in those moments and face the realities of what I’m feeling and how I’m struggling. I can be honest about my insecurities and let Him work on those in me. I can do this because the gospel is enough. It just may be something I have to keep learning again and again.
2. Slowing down is wonderful. And it is HARD.
God’s been teaching me to prioritize rest over rushing, and some days this feels like the most freeing thing ever. On other days, it feels like the most unnatural thing ever. I’m beginning to believe it really is both.
Lessons about rest began immediately upon moving to Dallas, brought on by going from an ultra-busy, super full and fast-paced spring and early summer straight into a season of pretty much zero activity and connection. I’d always thought there was enough margin built into our lives to keep the crazy from overtaking us, but now I was literally doing nothing and realizing I’d never experienced life at this slow of a pace.
The slowness began to heal parts of my heart I didn’t realize needed it.
I found that I was able to take breaths and think before speaking to my children. I could pause and give slow responses because I had time to. Physically, my body’s stress went down as I didn’t rush anywhere. Long empty spaces of the day gave me opportunities to pray and dig deeper into the Word. I read more books. I enjoyed cooking more. I had more energy to engage with each of my kids. I wasn’t as distracted from the home life I’m called to because there weren’t externals pulling at my attention. It was just my family, all day, every day.
During those first couple of weeks, God was clearly working in me to appreciate a slower pace and see the gifts these empty spaces provide. But I also recognized that while I loved it and knew I needed it, I also wanted God to hurry and fill up some of this empty space. I felt ready for MORE. More community, more clarity of mission, more feelings of purposefulness here. Empty space is restful, but too much of it makes me restless. I was hungry for more, more, more.
As I prayed about it, I sensed the Lord as the source of those desires. I have no doubt He is going to give us more in those areas, but He was reassuring me he’d do so by going first in the direction of less, less, less.
That feels strange, unnatural, the opposite direction the world takes.
And I need to trust him that slow is what I need right now.
I remind myself of these encouraging quotes from John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping:
“In the Bible, God never gives anyone an easy job….The Bible does use the word easy once though. It came from Jesus. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Easy is a soul word, not a circumstance word; not an assignment word. Aim at having easy circumstances, and life will be hard all around. Aim at having an easy soul, and your capacity for tackling hard assignments will actually grow. The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke.” (p. 126)
And because this is so difficult to understand,
“The grace of significance liberates me from the need to hurry….there is a world of difference between being busy and being hurried…Being hurried is an inner condition, a condition of the soul. It means to be so preoccupied with myself and my life that I unable to be fully present with God, with myself, and with other people. I am unable to occupy this present moment. Busy-ness migrates to hurry when we let it squeeze God out of our lives…I cannot live in the kingdom of God with a hurried soul. I cannot rest in God with a hurried soul.” (p. 134)
It’s clear now how I needed this season away from busy-ness in order to focus more on un-hurrying my soul. It scares me a little to move into a busier season and still retain these lessons of soul slowness.
I’m already feeling the tension of more activity added into our lives. As we get better connected here and prepare for the start-of-school whirlwind to hit, it’s essential that I guard my time and energy well, conserving what’s necessary for soul-replenishing time in God’s presence.
I hope that’s what I learn in August.
3. I miss writing!
I’ve gone too long without writing out my thoughts, and I don’t want to do that again. Sometimes I start out thinking I want to encourage others, but I’m always the one refreshed by it. I need this. Even if it’s not perfectly edited. I just need to do it and not be so scared of the “publish” button.