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.

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!

 

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.

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.

Smart and Simple Solution #3

Today, I made myself a Sabbath Basket. I’m calling these simple solutions for a reason… this might be something everyone BUT me already had figured out! It’s super simple, but I expect it to be a significant solution to my rather scattered approach!

I am a random (scattered) thinker – and as a result, I don’t have a lot of routines, structure, or systems that stay the same for very long. My house gets pretty scattered, my bookshelf is very scattered, and things often end up in very strange places. Let me be real and honest for a moment and confess that I lost the same cup of coffee four times today.

So as I was looking for solutions that might help me do better at keeping my Sabbath focussed, I decided to start by just gathering things up for easy access.

My basket is filled with things to pull out both for my Sabbath times, and for my daily devotion time. And, I also picked a spot in my house to keep it – our house is small and I haven’t had a designated quiet space for myself (I didn’t even have a bedroom of my own until July!). Today I picked a corner to try and use consistently so I have a space with everything I need ready to go.

I put a Bible and a notebook in there, and a pen for taking notes. (My Bible looks a little worse for wear… but, this isn’t about being pretty!)

I put a very simple short devotion book in, and also two of the next books that I’m hoping to finish reading.

And I put in a colouring book, and a few art supplies. I am not super artistic, but I feel like space for creativity is important for me when trying to get my brain into a place of stillness. Colouring seems to engage just enough of my brain that I can really settle.

It’s important to note, all of these items were in my house. I didn’t have to go buy anything, I just had to think intentionally and gather things up.

I’m curious, do you have a basket or zone in your house that you designate for quiet times? What helps you focus? I’d love to have you comment below, or come join the conversation in our Seeking Sabbath Facebook group.

Keep my Sabbath days holy…

Ezekiel 20:20 says “Keep my Sabbath days holy, for they are a sign to remind you that I am the Lord your God.”

I wish I was the kind of person who didn’t always need so much reminding! But honestly, I easily lose focus, get sidetracked, and am prone to wander off course.

As I am striving to find a consistent Sabbath practice in my life, I know I am at risk of creating the conditions of Sabbath, but losing the purpose. And, resting is part of the gift, but it isn’t the purpose unto itself.

Keep my Sabbath days holy…. this week, I want to head into my Sabbath time in prayer – dedicating my time to God, setting it aside as His.

For they are a sign to remind you… I am so thankful for a God who knows I need reminding! Another reason Sabbath is such an amazing gift.

That I am the Lord your God. I can rest because God is God. If I was in charge, there could be no rest! If everything in life really fell on my shoulders, there could be no rest. But, the Lord is my God. His promises are so good. He’s my provider, my defender and my father. Who He is, that is what allows me to rest.

I want to make sure I keep my focus without creating a whole new set of “rules” for myself. Anyone have favourite ways to keep their Sabbath holy and focussed on Christ? Add comments here, or head over to our Seeking Sabbath Facebook group to join in the conversation.

Smart and Simple Solution #2

I knew I was heading into a crazy weekend. A crazy, no window for rest kind of weekend. But, I got a little strategic in finding ways to simplify and managed to still make Sabbath a reality.

I decided this weekend needed to be as kitchen-hassle-free as possible. My smart and simple solution? Crock pot pulled pork for the win.

I have literally the easiest recipe EVER ever and knew I could easily make one crock pot cover multiple meals.

My pulled pork recipe involves covering a pork tenderloin with BBQ sauce and turning it on. That’s it. Prep time, maybe 90 seconds. 120 if the sauce pours slowly!

Which BBQ sauce? Really doesn’t matter, I go with whatever is on sale.

I put the pork in on Saturday morning. We did pulled pork sandwiches with salad on Saturday night.

I put the inside of the crock pot in the fridge over night, plugged it back in on the lowest setting on Sunday and we had pulled pork and rice Sunday night.

We ate well all weekend, and I really didn’t even cook.

Oh, and since my kid’s schedules didn’t all fit together, I also had take away containers packed and ready. So easy!

This smart and simple solution made my weekend so much calmer and helped create space for rest. I’d love to hear if you try this recipe, or if you have a go-to easy meal for busy weekends. Be sure to leave a comment with your ideas. We’re in this together!

Back to School, Busyness and Sabbath?

I work on call during the summer. My work can be quite predictable and fairly easy to gauge, and so I was pretty confident that I had this whole week off work to get organized, do housework and focus on back to school stuff. BUT, things didn’t go the way I planned.

I got called out to work for the whole balance of the summer. Financially, this is AWESOME. But, in every other way, it really isn’t! I will not have a week day off to get anything significant accomplished, or fit in some rest before we go back to school.

This year, my youngest child is entering her last year of elementary school. My third born is entering his last year of high school. And, I made the big decision to take a year long educational leave and go back to university myself. So there are some serious milestones attached to our back to school. Oh, and did I mention, child #1 is getting married in less than 6 weeks. And, child number 2 got engaged just this week! YAY!

When I talk about my life, and I talk about busyness, I feel a bit like Paul boasting about all the things in his resume in 2 Corinthians! Let me show you just how gifted at being busy I am…

Honestly, this is my reality. And each season seems to bring its own busyness. I don’t think its going to get naturally less busy any time soon. But, at least I can hold Paul’s perspective that my confident has to come from something other than what keeps me busy.

I had a lot of things I had hoped to get accomplished during my days at home this week – and that didn’t happen. If we are going to be honest, I’m further behind than when the week began. I’m heading into this weekend, and my windows for rest are small. I’m already questioning whether I’ve set myself up for a Sabbath fail!

But here’s what I know to be true:

1)      I need to choose to rest even in the middle of chaos

2)      There will ALWAYS be something that looks like it needs to get done “first”

3)      I don’t have to be legalistic, with a whole bunch of self-imposed rules to judge my Sabbath

4)      Sabbath rest is God’s gift to me. Appreciating it, and spending time honouring him is my gift back. And no stack of dishes, pile of laundry or shopping trip is worth missing it.

So, as I head into this weekend, already aware that I’ll be practicing Sabbath is a pretty imperfect way, I invite you to also find your time to stop. Rest. Breathe deeply. Don’t miss the gift in the midst of the mess or endless to-do list.

If you are serious about seeking Sabbath for yourself, or curious as to what that even might look like, head over to our Facebook group – where we can connect and chat and encourage each other. 

Smart and Simple Solution #1

To create space for Sabbath, I’m finding that I need to be intentional and intelligent in how I approach my “normal” six days – so when my window for rest comes, I’m not such a scattered or disorganized mess that I miss it!

My goal is to test and blog about one “Smart and Simple Solution” each week that makes my day-to-day life easier to manage – and makes seeking Sabbath just a little easier too.  

My #1 new favourite thing and the #1 Solution I’m sharing with you is… drum roll please… online grocery shopping.

This is seriously the best thing.

My closest grocery store has a Click & Collect service, where I can make my online grocery list, confirm a time slot, and hit click. I used to grocery shop on my way home from work – and typically finished tired, hungry and a little miserable… And, then I’d still have to get home and cook! URG!

Now, it’s like I have an assistant who will run to the store for me. And, while I can’t really afford a personal assistant, I can afford the $3 fee that the store charges for this luxury. (It’s $5 for a prime time or weekend time slot).

I am saving myself a whole lot of hassle. It’s giving me back well over an hour a week. My planning is better. I literally “stick to my list” in the store and don’t end up with impulse purchases. I love this service! It’s definitely a Smart and Simple Solution worth sharing!

If you want to try this, and you live near a Great Canadian Superstore, message me and I will send you a link for a code for $10 off your first order. If not, google and see which grocery stores in your area offer this service and try it.

Leave a comment and let me know how this solution works out for you, or share a Smart and Simple Solution of your own. We’re all seeking together and I’d love to hear what’s working for you!