Back to reality

So I’ve been back from my mini retreat for just under two weeks and if the fact that I’m only now getting round to posting about it doesn’t tell you all you need to know I don’t know what will! 🙂

I had such a wonderful time away at Mt Glorious. Obviously, there was the very real break from phone calls, texts, work, other work, uni and family (as much as I love them all!) but there was also the very real experience of just basking in being with God solely for those two days. Normally, during my time with God in the mornings, one or two hours fly past and I’m very conscious of having to be ‘finished’ in order to start the rest of the day. What I loved about my time away was the uninterrupted stretches of time that almost made me giddy with joy and excitement. Oh just to be and to be able to stay was so precious. It was like experiencing a sliver of heaven, when we will be completely surrounded and filled with His presence.

So, needless to say, I came home and landed with a bit of a bump. And instead of being light and happy for my time away, I felt heavy and, well, frankly, quite annoyed! It wasn’t until I went to bible study the following week and was asked about my time away that my friend gave me the reason for my disgruntled mood – I was grieving! Grieving the loss of being totally immersed in God without interruption. Grieving not being rushed. Grieving thinking about nothing but Him.

And the funny thing was, once my friend at bible study said it, I felt complete release and was able to move on. It’s funny how, sometimes, things just need to be identified before shuffling off. My mood lightened and I felt myself slip back into the groove of the life God has laid before me for this season.

And then today, after staring at the computer all day, I snuck outside and just stood and looked around me.

My backyard.

And the similarity of the view that greeted me to the view I enjoyed while away didn’t slip past me. It was the same sort of thing – gums, blue sky, birds and quiet just not as much of it but beautiful and there to be enjoyed and revived by, nonetheless. Just like the time I spend with God here versus the time I had with Him at Mt Glorious. Here, it’s bite sized with the knowledge that there is much, much more that we will one day experience but can’t see from this life, from this current view. And I’m so excited about that! But I’m also content to wait here, with this small view and rest in the fact that the big view is coming.

And now for a year of…

…rest. Apparently.

So every year I try to have a word that is my focus and after waiting on God for this years word, I pondered what the year looked like (so far): two jobs, both needing my full attention, studying, continuing in various roles within church groups and, obviously, I still have a husband and family.

And the word that God gave me? REST.

Yeah, right. I thought it would be something like focus or intention or efficiency. But no. Rest.

rest 1 |restverb [ no obj. ] cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.

So I’m trying to rest. I really am. And I’m discovering the true rest that only Jesus can provide – “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Finding rest in this life, this world, is tricky and often unsatisfactory. But I know the One who made it all and if He says that coming to Him and resting is the only way I am going to manage this year, then that is what I will do. I will relax in His presence, refresh myself by remembering Him and all He is and I will recover strength by drawing on His spirit.

And I’ve changed the photo on this blog to serve as a reminder to rest, for there is nowhere I feel more rested that amongst His creation and in particular, when I’m near the ocean.

I’m grateful for this word. Not surprisingly, it turns out it actually is the perfect word for this year 🙂

 

 

A new direction

I’ve been struggling to write here for a little while now and it’s caused me to do some soul searching and try and nut out why.

What I’ve realised is that I’m not feeling free – free to say what I want to say, free to air more opinions as well as reflections. I’m feeling stifled which is ridiculous because it’s my blog and surely I can say what I want…?

And further investigation has revealed that as my faith has grown over the last four and a half years (yikes! Has it really been that long?), my perspective has changed. When I started this blog, I never intended it to be about my faith, more just a positive, hopefully thought provoking, place to go in this topsy turvy life we live. And now I find my direction has shifted. And I’m happy about that.

So this is just a heads up. Future posts are more likely to have a focus on an aspect of faith as it relates to my life or our world in general. You see, Jesus is my life. Talking about Him and thinking about Him is what I love doing most. If you feel the same way, I hope you stick around and join in the conversation. If you don’t know Jesus, I hope you stick around too and allow me the privilege of showing Him to you 🙂

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Potatoes, life and s**t

Potato plant

If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you’ll know we (usually unsuccessfully) dabble in gardening. And if you’re a bit of a gardener yourself, you might know that the above is a potato plant.

This is the second time we’ve grown potatoes. One of the reasons I love it is the excitement of the excavation when it’s time to harvest. Fossicking through the dirt searching for the treasure of a beautiful homegrown potato – bliss!

For those of you who aren’t aware, the best way to grow potatoes is to pile dirt that has a healthy dose of animal excrement in it on top of any sign of life you see coming from the seed potato that is buried deep in the earth. And repeat. And repeat a couple more times.

I popped out to the veggie patch (please be aware that I use that term extremely loosely) and noticed a few green shoots poking their heads above the dirt. I promptly covered them over.

And it made me think about how much that’s like life. Sometimes when we feel we are beginning to grow, another pile of s**t lands on top of us and we need to push our way through it to the sunlight. And then just when we get over that, it happens again.

But, like the potatoes, all that dirt and s**t, is helping good stuff grow deep down in the dark and hidden layers. It’s encouraging more growth than if those piles weren’t thrown on top.

So next time yet another pile of s**t is thrown on top of you, just think of the potatoes growing big and wonderful, ready for harvest and enjoyment at exactly the right time 🙂

 

But everyone else is doing it!


Speeding ticket

Just recently, I received a lovely yellow ticket from a man in blue on the side of the road. It’s my second speeding ticket in the 25 years I’ve had my licence, which is not bad in the grand scheme of things. I’ll leave it to you to decide if I’m a great driver or just very lucky 😉

As I sat there after handing him my licence, I felt the car rock with each car that went past. Judging by the amount the car moved, I think I could safely say that not many others knew or chose to abide by the fact that it was, indeed, a 60km/h zone. I would not be the only one to go home with a yellow piece of paper that day, I suspect!

On the way home, I thought about how many cars seemed to be speeding past me and I started to get angry. Why weren’t all of them getting a ticket? Out of all the cars going over the speed limit on that road that day, only a small percentage would pay for it. And the fact that I was one of them didn’t sit well.

I started to feel that it was so unfair that I now had a fine and loss of demerit points, while others were going to get away with it. And as I drove, I noticed every slightest traffic infringement – evidence that it wasn’t just me who did the wrong thing, so why could they get away with it while I got caught!?

We have a tendency to do this throughout life, don’t we? We base our behaviour more on those around us than on the actual standards for living. We might treat our spouse horribly but justify it by saying, well, at least I’m not having an affair or beating them. We are impatient and yell at our kids but tell ourselves that at least we’re providing food and clothing for them. We clock off work early but fill out our time sheet to reflect otherwise and defend it by comparing ourselves to the workmate who steals company stationary.

We can’t rationalise or excuse our behaviour by comparing it to the lowest denominator. How many of us have said to a teenager “Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right.”? Yet, so often, we think things are okay for the very reason that ‘everyone is doing it’.

The fact of the matter is that I received a speeding ticket because I was speeding. End of story. The fact that people speed every day and don’t get caught has nothing to do with it.

We must decide for ourselves what our behaviour and actions will be and live accordingly, rather than looking at what everyone else is doing and lowering our standards to be the same or even just slightly better.

Our behaviour is our responsibility, no-one else’s; just as we can’t control other people’s behaviour, only they can. I think we need to mind our own business a bit more, in the right way. If we concentrate on what we know to be right and good, it’s much easier to maintain the level of living that we desire, instead of being swayed by what we see others doing.

The problem with noise

I’ve been thinking a lot about noise lately. Noise has the ability to calm by way of relaxing music or a soothing voice; it can startle eg a loud unexpected bang; it can irritate like a barking dog or dripping tap. Our relationship with noise is dependent on our mood usually. I have memories of my mother saying, usually towards the end of the long Christmas school holidays, that she just needed some ‘quiet’, and now I find myself saying a similar thing!

It was interesting to note that the dictionary definition of noise included this: Informal. extraneous, irrelevant, or meaningless facts, information, statistics, etc. There is so much more of this type of noise these days, isn’t there?

I find increasingly that when I feel I need some quiet, I’m hankering to escape the ‘noise’ of the world; to take myself off where there is no internet connection and no traffic or people.
We are bombarded with noise now. Our inboxes are filled with ‘noise’ – extraneous, irrelevant, meaningless facts and information. Our social media sites, as well as giving us updates on our friends, also deals out an unhealthy amount of noise.

And, for me, anyway, that noise can be so loud that it drowns out the noise we do want to hear. We get so used to the white noise filling our heads that we miss out on other important sounds.

We miss the sound of a friend, desperate for connection because we end up skimming our facebook newsfeed due to all the other noise. We miss the sound of our children, begging us to play, to notice them, to really see them, in the midst of our phones pinging and beeping with emails and text messages.

And we miss the sound of our own souls screaming for attention in a world noisy with spiritual options, self-help mantras and conflicting dogma. We are so overcome with noise that we miss the most important sounds of all.

It’s a challenge to listen when so much noise surrounds us. It’s hard to decipher the sounds we should listen to and the sounds we should ignore. But, it is possible. It just may take some decision making, followed up with some discipline. At the beginning of the year, I ‘unsubscribed’ from many newsletters, blogs and websites. There was nothing wrong, per se, with those things, it was simply too much noise.

And you know what, I haven’t missed them! Not one bit. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. I can feel myself mentally exhaling in relief that my inbox is now uncluttered and ‘less’ than it used to be. And that’s just a start. I’ve been paring down in other ways too – picking my phone up less, turning the TV on less, checking facebook less. As a result, I’m thinking more, connecting more, reading more – enjoying more! That old maxim really is true – less is more.
Is there too much noise in your life? What sounds are you missing out on because of it? Maybe it’s time to start tuning in to what really matters and tuning out the rest.

The navel gazing in review

So the weekend away didn’t quite go as I had expected. There were no spas, relaxation with wine on a balcony, or long walks in the rain. No, it turns out this was more about looking upward than inward. Which was just fine by me 🙂

I met some wonderful people, was immersed in Godly teaching, ate heaps, was waited on, laughed, cried, felt challenged, felt encouraged and generally had a blast.

Sometimes, even when your focus is not off-centre, you need to just spend time with that Centre and truly appreciate it. Seventy two hours spend in the presence of God and His people helps you do just that.

And even though I also scored a head cold out of it, I feel thoroughly rejuvenated, refreshed, reinvigorated and reinspired to fully love and live.

Oh, if you’re interested in maybe signing up for a seventy two hours like I did, check out Walk to Emmaus and then let me know. I’d be happy to talk more about it with you 🙂

Navel gazing and all that malarky

Tonight I’m off to a three day spiritual retreat. No phone/emails/internet/games/texts/messenger – aka no contact with the outside world. I will also be deprived of happily going without wine and anything that resembles a decent cup of coffee. Oh, and my family (maybe they should have been first on the list…oops).

I’m keen to go but also have concerns that this is just another navel gazing exercise. I’m all for introspection and self reflection but the there-are-so-many-people-and-causes-that-need-attention part of me kicks into overdrive when I feel like I’m not out there doing good. So it will be an interesting exercise in letting go of all that and giving myself over to the weekend.

If you’re a long time reader here, you’ll know I bang on about the fact that we are ‘human beings, not human doings’, so I’m no stranger to being still, or silent (okay, I’m working on that one!), and am all for not being busy, busy, busy. Still, it’s always hard to give yourself permission to step back.  And not just from the things in our lives that may be causing us irritation and distraction but also from the things that are wonderful and worthy of our time.

We need space to breathe and just be.

Aaaahhhhh, just writing that sentence makes me feel relaxed.

I’ll see you on the flip side, friends 🙂

It’s the little things that add up

This week has been ‘one of those weeks’. It’s felt like what could go wrong, has gone wrong. Sickness, teenage dramas, accidents, computer failure, it’s had it all.

Do you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the ‘little’ things? Sometimes, I think we are better handling the big things, rather than a lot of little things in a row.

The old adage about a slow drip making a hole in stone comes to mind. The relentless, constant dripping of the small things can undo us in the end.

The little things seem insignificant on their own. And they are. It’s the sum of them we have trouble with.

Anyone in counselling will tell you it’s not usually the ‘big’ issues that break up a marriage, turn people to drugs or alcohol, it’s the myriad of little things that have piled up over time.

And when it’s ‘little’ things, we look at others around us who may be experiencing ‘big’ things and we tell ourselves to ‘get over it’, ‘harden up’, ‘get it in perspective’ – none of which makes us feel better, in fact, usually we feel worse! (And here I must make a public apology to a person in my house – sorry for trying to give you a ‘reality check’ when you really just needed a hug.) We feel guilty and ungrateful and then we feel cross with ourselves! Doesn’t seem productive to me!

I wonder if, instead of ignoring it, and telling ourselves there are much bigger problems we could be having, we could just accept them and acknowledge they are real and affecting us. If we don’t take the time to either process it, or recognise that it had an impact, albeit small compared to the big issues of life, it’s easy to see how the small things add up.

Taking time out each day (which I’ve struggled to do this week!) can allow us the space to clear our mind and thoughts of those little things, and yes, gain some perspective on them, so they don’t add up and cause us to be stressed, overwhelmed and wishing the world would just go away for awhile (like me this week!).

Anyone else feel the strain of the little things?

Are you guilty?

There is a severe lack of guilt in our society today. We shift the blame; we deny culpability; we refuse to accept responsibility. We assuage each others tendency towards feeling guilty by agreeing they are not to blame.

We excuse, rationalise and justify our actions so we can quickly go back to feeling good about ourselves. It seems to me, now more than ever, that we are a society that is obsessed with feeling positive, happy, and ‘good’ about who we are. And this leaves little room for feeling guilty about anything.

In our world of ‘do what feels good, just don’t hurt anybody’, of ‘live and let live’, of our insatiable quest for ourselves, we can’t afford to feel remorse or guilt over our actions lest it moves us off the path to eternal happiness.

Guilt is to the soul what pain is to the body – an indicator that something is wrong, that we need to stop what we are doing and reassess.

But we’ve no time for guilt and it’s call to introspection; we’ve no time for anything that doesn’t lift us up, stroke our ego and tell us endless platitudes about ourselves and our ‘inherent’ goodness.

It’s no wonder the world pays little attention to the historical events of Good Friday.

Heaven help us if we should dwell on anything that confronts us with our tendency toward evil and sin.

Heaven help us if we listen when being told that we are not good, or that we need something outside ourselves to save us from ourselves.

Heaven help us indeed.