Embracing the Imperfect & Balancing Mary and Martha

“Martha, Martha,” the LORD answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42.

When it comes to hospitality and housekeeping, I wish I was wired just a little more like Martha – especially heading into the Christmas season! I have this vision of how I’d like things to be heading into Advent, and instead of setting the perfect table for my family this weekend, I can’t even put out my wreath yet! First, I need to dig out my table – which is currently buried under piles of craft stuff, homework, unopened mail and other artifacts proving that a busy family without a Martha mindset live here!

With or without a clean table and a wreath ready, Advent is starting tomorrow and I don’t want to miss it. I love Advent. I have lots of memories of sticking evergreen branches and candles into circular Styrofoam bases as a child, and the first candle lighting signaling the start of the Christmas season in my world.

The great news is, that despite my Martha-deficit, Jesus reminds me that the one thing that matters isn’t how pretty I make my table, but having a heart that is focused on hearing from Christ. For these four weeks, I’m seeking to spend time daily sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning from his word – choosing what is better. Just like Mary, I’m seeking to focus on that one thing that is actually needed.

It’s a balance though – I don’t want to awaken my easily frustrated and disappointed inner perfectionist that will stress about irrelevant details and notice what we lack from how the commercials, malls, and social media posts tell me that Christmas should look. I know that I don’t need a pintrest perfect holiday, and that if I try for pintrest perfect, I’ll stress myself and my family out to the point that we won’t enjoy any of it!

I’m prepared and ready to celebrate an imperfect Advent – honestly, it’s in those imperfectly real moments that memories are made, and I will embrace that! But, my inner Martha does need to wake up just a little and clear the table! I need just enough of a Martha-mindset to be ready and able to extend hospitality and comfort to my family so that we have space to sit around the wreath, light our candles, and prepare our hearts together. So, I’m off to work to get a few things prepared and ready.

What are you seeking this Advent season? Are you ready for an imperfect Advent season too? What do you need to get there? I’d love to hear your comments, ideas and goals in the comment section below.

 

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Disarming Comparison

I had a crazy commute today – it was dark, rainy, and SO slow. I spent a full extra half an hour in my car, which made me late and frustrated and it could easily have felt like so much time was wasted, BUT I’m trying to make the most of my commute time to set the tone for my day.  So, I’m choosing to mentally reframe my very dark, dreary and long commute, and I’m instead considering it “bonus quiet time.” (I know, driving isn’t Sabbath… rush hour traffic, definitely NOT Sabbath! But check out my post on setting the tone on my commute here!)

Today, the bonus time in my car afforded me the opportunity to listen to a full “Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey” podcast. She was interviewing JJ Heller. They had a great discussion covering lots of themes. They talked about JJs music and career, they talked about comparisons, wrestling with and overcoming anxiety and depression and redefining your success metrics (which was very significant for me). It was a great episode – I highly recommend you listen to it and will add a link at the bottom of this post.

Near the beginning of their conversation, there was a brilliant little nugget that I want to intentionally stop and pause and think about. They were talking about our tendency to make comparisons between ourselves and new people we meet, or people we connect with on social media etc. Often, those thoughts are self-critical – our judgements and assessments are often directed internally and can do a number on our own self-identity, confidence and value, which is then reflected in how we live out our relationships.

JJ Heller said something that I think may re-define how I approach all future relationships, and encounters or interactions with people in general. She suggested instead of making assessments, comparisons or judgements about ourselves or others, that we ask ourselves two questions: What can I learn from this person? And, how can I bless this person?

Now, you might argue that this is off topic in a blog about seeking Sabbath, but I would argue that it really isn’t. One of the biggest threats to my search for Sabbath is my tendency toward striving. My tendency towards striving is fed deeply by my propensity toward comparison and always feeling like I come up just a little bit short, a little below standard.

If I can disarm comparison in my life and my relationships, I will move closer to successfully defeating my striving habit, which will move me ahead in my search for Sabbath and my willingness and readiness to rest in Christ.

How can I learn from you? How can I bless you?

That’s going to be what the voice inside my head is asking when we next connect. Listen to the full podcast here.

Lay Down Your Weapons and Be Still.

My third born child is funny. He’s funny on purpose now, but when he was little, he hadn’t learned to harness his superpower yet and so he was just funny.

At the ripe old age of three, he learned Bible verses in his Sunday School class. They memorized the words of the verse, but not the location. They were just little. The verse words were enough! Reciting verses got him LOTS of attention. One day he was with my mom and recited his verse of the week. She said to him “Oh, sweetie, that was wonderful. Was it taken from the Bible?”

No word of a lie, he looked at her with a horrified expression and sputtered “No, Grandma… It’s still in there!”

(I can’t make this stuff up!)

My past few posts have been based on a message I delivered on Psalms 46 last month. I really wanted to only speak on Psalm 46:10, “Be Still and know that I am God…” but every time I sat down to prep my talk, that silly memory verse story came to my mind and I seriously kept hearing his three-year-old voice reminding me that this verse wasn’t taken from the Bible… “it’s still in there”.

So… I decided that I’d better be sure to understand more than just 8 words before I started to speak – and I did some serious study on the whole Psalm in context. In fact, I got myself totally twisted up and confused and sideways trying to make sense of all the commentaries. What I learned is that while this verse is often just used as a call to quiet reflection and communion with God, the really smart scholars will tell you, it’s about much more than that.

In my mind, I wanted to just talk about being still, but the verse in context calls for more! In fact, it’s actually a call not just to quiet, but to a laying down of weapons – on GotQuestions.org its explained like this:

“ this is a call for those involved in the war to stop fighting, to be still. The word still is a translation of the Hebrew word rapa, meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.” In some instances, the word carries the idea of “to drop, be weak, or faint.” It connotes two people fighting until someone separates them and makes them drop their weapons. It is only after the fighting has stopped that the warriors can acknowledge their trust in God. Christians often interpret the command to “be still” as “to be quiet in God’s presence.” While quietness is certainly helpful, the phrase means to stop frantic activity, to let down, and to be still. For God’s people being “still” would involve looking to the Lord for their help; for God’s enemies, being “still” would mean ceasing to fight a battle they cannot win.”

Hmmm… a stopping of frantic activity

Hmmmm…. looking to the Lord for help

I’m not in a physical war and I’m not fighting a physical battle, but I will tell you that I often seem to be frantic and I see lots of other frantic people around me! And I’m not always quick to look to the Lord for help.

I also tend to want to fight – if not against people or God directly – I’m inclined to fight against my circumstances. I’m a problem solver – and I’m sure that some of you are the same. I love a good problem to solve – and it can be mine or someone else’s. I’m becoming more and more aware that I sometimes even step in and fight on behalf of others against circumstances that God intended for a purpose – and for their good.

Now, I’m not saying that we should never fight circumstances – for ourselves or others. I’m not suggesting that stillness needs to ALWAYS be our response – I don’t think scripture suggests it either. God sometimes calls us to action. If he’s called you to Nineveh, don’t go sit under a tree to be still! If he has told you to march around a city gate, march around the gate. Sometimes Jesus healed with a word, sometimes he told the person to go and DO something.

Do what God calls you to do – sometimes that’s an action. But, scripture also reminds us that sometimes we need only be still because God wants to fight for us. Its not just Psalm 46 calling us to be still. Psalm 37:7 says to be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Exodus 14:14 says the Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.

In my right, healthy, and well brain, I know that I’d rather have God fight for me… In the moment, when I see the battle or challenge or problem though, it can be HARD to trust and be still and wait patiently for Him.

I think it’s important that we pray for discernment to know when to fight and when to lay down our weapons be still. I’m curious, how often I fought my circumstances and missed the blessing of God being my comfort and my strength in the midst of the circumstance instead. How often when I felt too exhausted to go on, but kept going anyway, was God really calling me into rest (and I missed it!).

Can you relate? Leave a comment or join us of Facebook to discuss.

(The other blog posts from my Psalm 46 talk can be found here and here.)

Smart and Simple Solution #5 – Set the Tone

Our Smart and Simple Solutions are about intentionally and practically creating space and time to help calm chaotic schedules – making it a little easier to facilitate your Sabbath practice.

This year, I am commuting A LOT, and I’ve come to realize that setting the tone during my commute helps me be more aware of and prepared for Sabbath moments during my day.

If you also find yourself driving a lot, here are a few ways to use your commuting time to set the tone (totally adaptable on public transit or walking):

  • Play worship music while you are driving and sing along. Making a joyful noise in terrible traffic both alters your mood and sets a different tone. (If you are on public transit or in a shared ride situation, maybe use headphones and sing-a-long in your head).
  • Pray out loud. I am often an “in my head”‘ kind of prayer person. I can get into a real and good conversation mode out loud with God while driving to or from school now. There’s lots of time, few interruptions, and plenty to talk about. (Again, in a shared vehicle, maybe not out loud, but if you are in a vehicle with family or friends, consider praying together!)
  • Listen to an audiobook or podcast. Audiobook options are limitless, and there are a crazy number of amazing podcasts available on almost any topic. You can study and learn, be encouraged or challenged, and often grow and be entertained while you listen. Download them before you go and play and learn along the way. I listen to one podcast specifically designed to encourage Christian single moms, a couple of home management ones, a Christian leadership one, and several lifestyle ones too. We’ll be talking about our favourite podcasts over in the Seeking Sabbath Facebook group today. Click the link to join that conversation.
  • Practice silence. In a life filled with constant noise, Sometimes the very best thing I can do for my spirit is to have a silent commute. No radio, no podcasts, just absolute quiet. Restorative quiet.
  • Sticky note scripture snippets in places you can see them without distraction. Be careful with this one. For years, I would have the odd sticky note on my dashboard. I will still occasionally put a main thought somewhere that I can see it and reference it easily, but it’s really critical to not be distracted while you’re driving. So use caution with this one!

Intentionally capturing my commute time has helped me be more aware and focussed all day. It’s given me some beautiful worship and prayer moments, and I arrive in a better mood and better ready to respond to my colleagues and family. It’s also meant that my heart is in a better place and more prepared for my Sabbath time.

I hesitate a little to suggest this though, because I don’t think quiet time in the car is your best option for growth and deep study, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m suggesting dropping other times with God because your prayed or worshipped on the road. Multi-tasking is not always your best spiritual growth tool! So consider using this Smart and Simple Solution as a supplement not a staple in your Seeking of Sabbath.

Stillness Defined – with a little bonus math!

I was speaking on Psalm 46 a few weeks ago, mostly on “Be Still and Know that I am God.” I thought it would be a good idea to make sure that all the ladies I was speaking to had a shared understanding of what stillness actually is, so we turned to the dictionary.

The KJV Dictionary says this:

STILLNESS, n.

  1. Freedom from noise or motion; calmness; quiet; silence; as the stillness of the night, the air or the sea.
  2. Freedom from agitation or excitement;

I wrote my whole talk, including this section where I had planned for the ladies to stop and talk about other words we could use to describe stillness, like hushed, serene, tranquil, or inactive – and opposite kinds of words too, like anxious, disturbed, agitated, noisy, fussed, distracted, clamoured…

Right before I was about to speak, I read my notes back over and noticed something I had missed altogether. Did you catch the word that repeated in the definition? I hadn’t seen it the first seven or eight times I looked at it! It was like my eye bounced right over it and I almost missed it.

Stillness is freedom.

It’s right there at the start of each definition, yet I nearly missed it!

Being still before God is choosing to enter into freedom from the worry, anxiety, pressure and noise that would steal my peace.

And, I use that term “choosing” very intentionally, because stillness for me is HARD and entering into it requires a choice. It feels like it shouldn’t, but it does.

In my mind, there’s a kind of stillness math that basically boils down to this equation:

Physical Stillness + Mental Stillness + Emotional Stillness = Spiritual Stillness

I’m bad at this kind of math! Usually, this is how this plays out for me. First, I get myself physically still, but as soon as I’m ready for some quality quiet time with the Lord, and my body is still, my brain will suddenly decide its time to download. I’ll start wondering whether I locked the door, I’ll remember that I was supposed to buy milk and call for an appointment, and if given enough space, I’ll move to bigger things – like problem solving and life planning.

I’ve also discovered that staying very active either physically or mentally keeps my brain from having to process anything emotionally, so if I do actually get to a point of being physically and mentally still, I’m suddenly emotionally aware too – and stillness remains a step beyond my grasp.

I genuinely believe that stillness is intended to be freedom – to release the cares of the world and enter into fellowship with God – but it is also a discipline that takes practice and intentionality.

If you are struggling to be still – either physically, mentally or emotionally, consider practicing being still. There are lots of ways to start. Try simply sitting and being silent. If silence is hard at first, try playing worship music very softly in the background. Take several deep breaths. Be aware of the quiet. Be mindful to not allow your to-do list to start yelling at you.

If doing a more guided exercise would be helpful, consider trying this… In his book 24/6: A prescription for a Heathier, Happier Life, Dr. Matthew Sleeth suggests a meditation using the words of Psalm 46:10. You begin by saying the whole line, and then remove one word at a time until you come to the last word.

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know that I.

Be still and know that.

Be still and know.

Be still and.

Be still.

Be.

Don’t rush through this. Allow your mind to slowly embrace stillness with each line, and when you finish the meditation just sit and enjoy a moment of simply being.

Do you have a strategy for quieting your heart and mind and embracing stillness? Please share it here or jump over and join our facebook group to join in the discussion and to see an affiliate link for Dr. Sleeth’s book. We are here to support and encourage one another!

 

The formula for successful stillness

Be still and know that I am God.

I have been giving a whole lot of thought to these eight words from Psalm 46 over the past few weeks – and I think I may have stumbled across something I likely should have always known! God gives us a formula for successful stillness in the words “Be Still and Know that I am God.”

Can you see it?

We can be still BECAUSE we know that GOD IS GOD.

We can rest because God is God.

We can find peace.

We can stop striving.

We can just be… 

Because God is God. 

Let’s look at Psalm 46 together for a minute (copied from Bible Gateway – click on the link to visit Bible Gateway directly).

Psalm 46[a]

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth.[b] A song.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Looking at the Psalm, we see that the people were called to be still despite the earth giving way, the mountains falling, or the nations going into an uproar and kingdoms falling. How on earth is anyone supposed to be still when the world is literally falling apart around them?

I haven’t personally lived through a significant natural disaster, but despite feeling distanced from physical realities, I have had lots of times in my life that felt like the ground had shifted under my feet and all my stability was gone. My dad’s death and my divorce come to mind immediately! But, even challenges on a much smaller scale can knock the wind out of me and leave me feeling shaken. Looking back, I’m curious, how often I personally have missed the blessing of God being my comfort and my strength because I forget in the midst of the chaos who God is.

Before the Psalmist tells us to “Be still and know that God is God” – he tells and reminds us about who God is:

God is our refuge (v. 1)

He is our strength (v. 1)

He is an ever present help in trouble (v. 1)

He is with us (v. 7 & 11)

He is the God of Jacob, and our fortress (v. 7 & 11)

He is exalted among the earth and the nations (v. 10)

My wandering and distractable heart sure needs reminding!

Are you Struggling to find stillness? Struggling to find real rest in God? Take a moment to remember who God is. He really is our refuge, our strength and our help. We can be still BECAUSE of who God is.

Let’s take a minute to remind ourselves and encourage one another about exactly who God is. Do you have a favourite verses that describes God’s character? One of my favourites is Psalm 68 – “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” Share your favourites in the comments or over in our Facebook group. Let’s be people who remember and people who encourage!

Smart and Simple Solution #4

I’ve just gotten back from a weekend long retreat with the women from my church. And, while I realize a full weekend break is a luxury that I can’t often afford, retreating is a smart and simple solution that I want to become more intentional about using to help navigate the reality and chaos of my busyness.

I don’t naturally stop well. In my house, my car and my office, I have trouble turning off my to-do list brain and focusing. I need to step out of my reality more often – literally and physically – I need to step out of my routine, my house, my work and my chaos

I’m trying a new solution, and I’m walking away.

Walking out my door, even just into my yard, my brain switches and I have a much greater probability of focusing my heart and mind.

Taking the whole weekend to retreat was amazing. The extended time away to focus and rest has been deeply rejuvenating. Going to a full weekend retreat isn’t a smart and simple solution that I can take into my “normal” life very easily though, but I’m going to aim to work a mini-retreat into my next few Sabbath times and see if physically stepping out of my house helps solve my focus problem. I’m going to try to include a mini-retreat like one of these:

·         Walking mini-retreat – I am going to walk for at least 20 minutes and look for prayer triggers in my community. I’m going to start by thanking God for my home as I exit and be intentional to engage my brain for prayer as I pass neighbours houses, the local school and park etc.

·         Coffee Date with Jesus – I am going to take my journal and Bible to a local coffee shop, buy a fancy coffee (which I rarely buy), and settle in to read and journal and enjoy the change in space and pace.

·         Find a friend – I realized this weekend just how important the relaxed fellowship aspect is to my relationships. I am going to connect with a friend outside of my house and ask good questions and be intentional and active in listening and praying.

I’d invite you to join me in stepping outside your normal space as a smart and simple solution to help you focus, either as part of a weekly Sabbath practice or as a daily habit. Join us over in our facebook group to chat about other ideas for stepping outside your normal and focusing better on Jesus.

Motherhood is Seasonal

When I asked my son to be sure to include a mother-son dance on his wedding agenda, he was skeptical. When I told him that I would need to explain it before we danced, he just complied and made it happen. Smart man.

See, when my boy was a baby, God gave me incredible clarity about one thing (and it felt like one thing only!) Motherhood is Seasonal – and seasons will change often and fast and sometimes with out notice.

Our family is in a huge season of transition. I’ve gone from a single mom with four kids at home, to only two kids at home seemingly overnight. But it wasn’t overnight! It was a long road. And I’m so glad that God has been putting rest, Sabbath and self-care higher and higher on my agenda. I think that’s what’s making this season change manageable.

I’m posting a link to the video of my mother-son dance explanation in hopes it blesses you. It’s just a video one of my daughters shot on a cell phone – quality isn’t stellar, but you can see and hear and get the message.

If I was a better organized blogger, I’d include an affiliate link for Kleenex. I’m told people need it!

(Oh, and the tie at the end is not explained, but is a tribute to my father who died when my son was 9…)

Click here for the video:

https://youtu.be/QmczYbD1id0

I pray you are able to embrace and enjoy today’s season! Whether it’s a hard season, or a great season, or a miserable one… it’s a season, and seasons change!

Supermom Does NOT Live Here

I had a paper due at midnight, and I handed it in with almost two hours to spare. That’s pretty much the story of my semester. I am 10 months away from becoming a teacher and it’s crunch time – loads of assignments, presentations, and starting to visit the classroom where I will gain my actual teaching experience. It’s exciting. And, it’s busy.

Plus, my son got married last week. My daughter came home for the wedding from out of province. My other two kids continue to go to school, come home, and expect to eat and have a relatively functional parent and normal life. Oh, and I was in a car accident AND spoke at a women’s retreat too.

Reality check – I am not super mom! There’s a stack of dishes on the counter, a pile of laundry knee deep in my bathroom, and Sabbath (in the full sense of the word) is not happening right now.

I told one of my professors that I blog about pace and rest and seeking sabbath in a chaotic life. She literally laughed. She suggested that I shouldn’t expect to be resting until July.

I don’t know how to tell her that I’m not planning on giving up on Sabbath. Logically, she’s right. But, spiritually, she is very, very wrong.

Someone prayed for me last week. I told them all the pieces I was juggling. They said that God had given them a picture as they prayed. They saw me eating a giant pie, one piece at a time. And, she said that when the pie was finished, I said that it was good. How amazing is that. It’s really a fabulous picture and a wonderful strategy.

All I can do is manage one piece of the pie at a time – slowly and intentionally. If I try to rush through the whole pie, I’ll make myself sick. But, if I stay slow and steady, I can enjoy each piece. I can finish. And, I can say that it was good.

So, my past few weeks have been unsuccessful when it comes to full Sabbath rest – but they have had moments of peace, quiet and rest. It’s been a matter of taking life one bite at a time, resting in between, and knowing that it’s good.

Super mom doesn’t live here, and that’s OK. I’ll get through what’s important and do what I can each day. And, I’ll be OK with the reality of the season. I won’t give up seeking Sabbath, but I’m not going to beat myself up over my Sabbath-fails along the way.

It’s always a good time to stop and seek God, and I will.

I will rest. I will stop. I will breathe deeply. And, I will manage just one piece of pie at a time.

Stop is a verb

I had mistaken the definition of stop. It’s clearly a verb. It’s an action word.

Stopping is not passive. It doesn’t just happen. So why do I expect it to?

In my world, stopping only happens with intention, planning and prioritizing.

The school year has hit our family in full force now. My kids are in big and busy years, but different this year is that I’m in school too. I’m in an intensive, full-time professional program. You should see the reading lists for my classes. Oh my word! So. Much. Reading.

It would take almost no effort at all to justify stopping any attempt to seek, find or practical Sabbath this school year. Everyone would understand. But, God has put it so strongly on my heart, that I can’t let it go.

Instead, I’m doing the opposite and have explained to my children that we are trying something different this year. We are calling a stop to all school work for Sundays. I want, no… I need one day a week where I’m not doing it, not thinking about it, and not nagging my children about it.

Let’s be honest, this isn’t going to be easy and we may not manage it perfectly. We are going to have to be diligent, intentional and focussed the balance of the week… and organized (which I am not). But, having the boundary in place is our best chance of actually keeping a day of rest.

Do you have boundaries around your Sabbath practice? Are there things you have to be intentional to stop or to start? I’d love to know how this works in your life. Join in the conversation. Comment below, or jump over to our Facebook group, where we can chat.