A Day of Rest

DSC_0108

Across from me sat a precious couple who was pulled in a hundred directions. The tension, even though it was from the outside world, was taking it’s toll on their marriage. Both of them woke up every day giving the best they had to their children, their ministries and their families. Neither of them could remember the last time they had a day to themselves, to play, to nap, to go slow enough to follow a toddler’s lead.

Everything was scheduled and all of the best things in their life were being pushed out by the good things.

Listening to them was like a traveling back in time for me. My husband and I were in that very same space of life almost 18 years ago. I ached to tell this couple to honor the time they have with each other and with their little ones. I wanted to tell them that nothing is worth the rush, the ambition of getting to the next thing and missing what is right here today.

I gave them one assignment: one day a week with nothing scheduled for any member of their family. When they were asked to pull out their calendar and commit to anyone for any reason, I suggested that they pretend that one day was not even on the page. It would be like living in a world with only six days a week.

It occurred to me as we were collaborating on this cutting edge intervention for family stress, how much all of my clients would have benefited if this is where we started. Obviously, this idea did not originate in my office. Sabbath is an ancient and holy practice and it might be the cure to our cultural insanity.

Maybe we are depressed because we are overly-scheduled and exhausted.

Maybe we are anxious and distracted because we are always revving in such a high gear.

Maybe we are fighting with our spouse and our kids are fighting with each other because no one has had a break in a really long time.

We take breaks or we break.

And, friends, we are breaking.

Relationships are slow. Human development cannot be rushed. Time is our greatest commodity and we are giving it away for nothing in return. When we move quickly, we don’t remember. Even the sweet rituals of playing with our kids, driving or eating together as a family, will not be stored as memories if we are rushing through them.

Fight or flight was meant to be a useful tool for survival. When everything in our life is scheduled, we look to the clock as if it’s a ticking time bomb, we must hurry, hurry, hurry. We can’t slow down to see why our son is crying or take five or ten or sixty minutes to help our daughter learn how to tie her shoes.

While I have regrets about much of my early years of parenting, one of the things I am proud of is our decision to take back our Saturdays. Until my kids started school, my husband worked a job where he was away most weekends. When the children were 3 and 5 years old, he started a new job and finally we had weekends together. Guess where we spent all of those Saturdays? Standing with adults we did not know and could not get to know, watching our kids go crazy with twenty other children, longing for another piece of dry birthday cake as our reward for suffering through yet another stranger’s birthday parties.

We were miserable. We made a decision to make no commitments on Saturdays. It was our day. Our day to drink coffee while the kids watched cartoons for hours. Our day to spend at the park or in the backyard. Our day for the kids to learn how to ride their bikes. Our day to visit with our neighbors and play board games with our family.

I will never regret one of those Saturdays. Even if we fought. Even if there was complaining that we missed this event or that one. Even if we didn’t have much fun that particular day.

We honored the Sabbath by accident. Now that our kids have lives of their own we have to be much more flexible and inventive in finding ways to create Sabbath.

In this day and time one of the simplest solutions is having a technology Sabbath. From sundown on one day to sundown the next, no screens.

It’s amazing what we have discovered in the space of unscheduled time with no technology to fill it. Some of the things we suddenly find in our Sabbath space: books we’ve been meaning to read, those fabulous zen coloring books, conversations we’ve been meaning to have, a walk through our neighborhood, an afternoon nap, ingredients to make cookies, taking time to really pet and talk to our dog, learning a new song on the piano or drums, writing another chapter in that novel, actually watching the sunrise and the sunset.

Being a human is not easy. We walk around with the weight of the world on our shoulders and it’s not just adults that feel this weight. Children and teenagers are also burdened with overwhelming pressures and expectations.

Sabbath is an invitation to sit back and be a part of creation.

It is a time when we can receive the gifts that this day has to give us and take a break from believing that our world only spins on the axis of our own efforts.

Image

30 Days of Rest: Day 19

IMG_0337.PNGWhile grocery shopping yesterday, I laughed at my purchases as I read all of the BOLD words informing me what was NOT in my cart: additives, antibiotics, gluten, pesticides, GMOs, sugar, hormones, high fructose corn syrup.

We are a culture obsessed with not putting anything bad into our body. My daughter was reading about some of the terrible chemicals and toxins that humans were exposed to in the 1950s she closed the book and said, “I think our bodies are made to filter the bad stuff out.”

Yes, she is right. We call it waste.

My friend, who is a healer, tells me that our cells, which are continually taking in everything and keeping the good and getting rid of the bad, are how our immune system takes care of us. He says that when our bodies experience stress our cells are being cramped like little raisins and do not have access to the tiny internal system that keeps them keeping us healthy.

He believes that it is only through healing our stress-worn bodies that will allow us access to our immune system. He also believes that our lifestyle is making us sick. We use up the superpowers of our body to manage daily life instead of allowing a savings account to accumulate for that rainy day.

Sometimes it can feel like every day is a rainy day.

I tried to do some research on cells for you. Even the dummies books were too much for my brain, but this made sense to me:

“Cells rely on garbage disposal systems to keep their interiors neat and tidy.

If it weren’t for these systems, cells could look like microscopic junkyards—and worse, they might not function properly.

So constant cleaning is a crucial biological process, and if it goes wrong, it can cause serious problems.” https://publications.nigms.nih.gov/insidelifescience/cells-take-out-trash.html

When we rest, we give our body what it needs in order for that garbage disposal to function properly.

Our brains go through a similar filtration process when they are healthy except with our brains attention is our immune system.

Thomas Davenport and John Beck, in their book The Attention Economy, write,

“Attention has become the new currency. We have to invest it wisely and carefully and guard it as our most precious commodity. We may call ourselves consumers, but we in fact are consumed by the information we ourselves. Attention is filtering things out to focus on one thing, not trying to be aware of and deal with many things.

Nobel prize-winning economist Herbert Simon points out the cost of the increasing demands of our attention. He writes, ‘What information comsumes is pretty obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hense a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention'” (Toxic Success by Paul Pearsall).

Imagine how much information you take in every day. Your mind needs time and space to decide what of that information is valuable and important to you and what it needs to let go of.

May your mind and your body keep what they need and let go of everything else.

Image

30 Days of Rest: Day 18

IMG_0251.PNG

It’s been a busy Tuesday morning.

What I had planned for the day did not go according to plan. Because I have a sick kid at home, I also have the car for the day. It suddenly seemed like I had so many options of where I could be and what I could do. I almost forgot to eat breakfast in the midst of all of the possibilities.

You would laugh if you could see the Laurel and Hardy act that goes on inside me. It’s hilarious, all of these parts tripping over each other, accidentally and intentionally hitting each other over the head trying to do sixteen things at once and not being remotely productive toward one of them.

And then I laugh at myself, Oh yeah, I need to write my resting lesson for today. Hey, how about you learn a resting lesson today, Jenny?

This is what came to my mind:

Two of my friends are currently training their dogs. Both of them are teaching them about going to “place.” Do you know about Place? It might be new on the dog scene. We didn’t learn it about it in Pup Scouts 🐶. But I am a fan.

“What if instead of jumping around like a lunatic when the doorbell rings, your dog waits politely in a down position? Or, instead of circling the dinner table like a shark, your dog lies quietly in the other room? Training a dog to go to a specific place is one of the most useful behaviors. In the following exercise from her bestselling book, Control Unleashed, Leslie McDevitt explains how you can teach your dog the command “Go to Place.” http://www.clickertraining.com/node/3308

That was me this morning, jumping around like a lunatic when my email chirped, circling the kitchen trying to remember what I am doing. As soon as I thought about writing this email to you, I realized that I have to land somewhere before I can tell you where I am, before I even know what I am thinking. I heard my neighbor’s kind but strong voice telling his excited dog, “Place,” and all my little overwhelmed parts found their way back to home base.

Rest is my place.

And I only get here by saying no, which I had to do to three very important possibilities today in order to land right here at my own kitchen table where I made my hungry self eggs and toast. The fan in my son’s bedroom and his backpack in the middle of the living room are the only evidence I have of him being home. But I am here with him today. Lucky to be here. Thankful to be here.

Right in the place where I belong.

May you land in the place where all your overwhelmed parts can rest today.

Image

Finding Our Yes

image.jpeg

As I was printing and cutting these little cards for the loveliest group of women, it made me catch my breath to see the so many bold Yes’s surrounding each other.

It can be terrifying to say no.

When we say no, we are admitting our limitations. We open ourselves up for judgement. We let other people see who we are not and what we cannot do anymore.

When we learn that our time, energy and resources are finite, we become aware that they are limited and we only have so much to give.

Finding our YES is a uncertain and vulnerable process. We take the risk that our YES might not be impressive, might not be good enough, might not accomplish anything at all.

The women’s group I met with last night reminded me that even though I only have one YES at a time, so does everyone else. The no that was so hard for me to let go, the no that I had to say to something so important was someone else’s YES.

It just wasn’t mine.

In a different season of my life, I might have been jealous. I might have felt like I was missing out, missing the boat. But in this season, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Relieved that it’s not all on me. The world isn’t going to fall apart when I say no and neither am I. Most comforting of all is remembeing that if I do fall apart for a time, we are all in the same boat and someone else’s YES might be right there next to me.

Here’s a little taste of the conversation that we had last night:

1. Make a list of what you want to say Yes to this year.

2. Make a list of what you want to say No to this year.

3. If you could only choose one Yes what would it be:

For this moment?

For this day?

For this season?

For your life?

Image

nothing but dirt

DSC_0041

Early this summer, I went on a little road trip all by myself. This is new for me, to plan something and follow through with it when no one else’s needs or wants are my motivation.

It was strictly about my needs and wants, which for the first time in my life have had enough space to let themselves be known. When my desires speak up, I can no longer deny them. They are not a threat anymore to who I think everyone else wants me to be. They help reveal my path and guide my next steps.

Someone who was an important part of my daily life for a decade suddenly passed away in April. We have a Facebook message where she needed to cancel our lunch date because she wasn’t feeling well. The last of our thread reads, “When can we reschedule?”

While it was impossible for me to to physically reconnect with her on this earth, that pain and loss reminded me of another friend with whom I had lost touch.

I needed to be in her space and out of mine. I needed to share with her what had become of me these past few years. I needed to be with someone who knew me before I belonged to so many others. Her friendship was a shelter for me when I was the age my kids are now.

I became desperate for the comfort of that shelter.

Our time together was sweet, it was real, and it was beautiful to see and connect from our new places in the world and old places deep inside. I was gone for around 24 hours and in those hours I journeyed to parts of myself that I had forgotten. The gift of connecting with my lost friend was weaved together so beautifully with connecting to lost parts of myself, I don’t know which happened when.

I expected to come home refreshed by this time. In many ways, I was, but there was also a deep sadness that surprised me. My friend was able to sit and listen to me process through this past year and as she did I was able to witness for myself the magnitude of both the internal and external shifts that have happened, the life and death that have taken place in and around me.

When I returned home to our apartment, I was shocked to see that my little plant (which had just been showing buds of new life) lay completely limp. Not like dried up and died, but like someone held it at gunpoint and shot it dead while it was still full of potential. I actually gasped when I saw it and babied it for several days, sure that there was some mistake and if I fed it the right plant food it would open its eyes and tell me it was just teasing me.

Eventually the plant dried up and I put the whole pot, dirt and all in the trash. We are moving again, this time to a tiny cottage that I want to live in for the rest of my life. I am in my Marie Kondo phase again, a little addicted to that feeling I have when I am getting rid of everything that I do not need and does not give me joy.

Here’s the crazy thing about that dirt: I think I need it. Even though it does cause me a wave of grief that this flowering plant did not survive our transitional season, there is also something sacred about the dirt that held its roots together, that nourished my beloved plant and seemed to be unchanged by the life happening in and through it.

Today, the pot is sitting on the counter of our almost bare apartment, waiting patiently to join the rest of our stuff at our new address. I am not sure what I am going to do with it. I might add it to the dirt in our backyard.

What I am saying good-bye to is the container. As Marie says, “The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.”

I will tell the pot thank you for holding what it held for me this year, in a time and season where I felt so bare and so afraid that my life would not have any beauty in it if I really let go.

I didn’t know my friend would only be around for 51 years.

I didn’t know we would only live in the apartment for one year.

I didn’t know the plant was only in my life for a season.

What I have in my life today, I might only have in my life today. That brings along with it deep sadness.

What I have in my life today, I have in my life today. That brings along with it a sharp joy.

The joy and the sadness are woven so perfectly together,  I can hardly tell anymore where one ends and the other begins.

Image

Shadows

IMG_2788

Last weekend my husband and I went on a retreat and I spent the morning exploring. When I asked the front desk of the hotel how to get to the river I could see out my window, their hesitancy to give me directions informed me that it wasn’t a tourist attraction.

The further I walked away from the hotel, I could feel myself physically stepping beyond my comfort zone. It was a much further walk than it seemed. There were many areas that were gated off and had warning signs. I found a sidewalk on the bridge and, although it was tiny and the cars that passed seemed surprised to see me there, there was a path intended for humans.

IMG_2798

On my adventure to the bridge across the river, I was pulled by the gentle sunrise, the rushing water, this mist, the clouds, the beauty of it all. It was a little daring, just a little, but I hardly noticed the tiny fear because I wanted to experience that river and not just look at it from the balcony of my room.

As I walked back to the hotel through the big grassy fields the sun was beating down on me and my shadow was so defined it was almost as if it was my guide. I was reminded of the phrase, “facing my shadow.”

IMG_2801

On our drive to the retreat center, we had just enough car time to get into some of the deeper things that have been going on inside each of us. I told my husband that my insecurities have felt monumental. This season of rest has humbled me to my core. I am aware of everything I am not and uncertain of what I have left to offer. I told a friend of mine that I am re-naming my Sabbatical “The Undoing of Me.” It has been a season of deconstruction.

Several years ago, we bought a broken-down fishing shack. We actually paid for the little house and then, because it was dangerous and unlivable, we paid an additional $10,000 to tear it down. It was the strangest feeling to spend so much for deconstruction, to pay money to destroy the very thing we had just purchased.

We could still have that piece of property with a useless house on it, but now we have a new lake house that was built by our dearest friends who are also fine craftsmen. It has housed retreats, holidays, birthdays and many lazy days with friends and families. It is a beautiful place filled with soul and all the good smells of the memories made inside of it.

But first, we had to pay the price of removing the shack. We had to assess what was working, what couldn’t be repaired, what wasn’t worth restoring. We had to face the reality of what was there and what never would be as long as the lake shack was standing (or leaning, as it was).

This Sabbatical has been a time of facing my shadow. I know it well. We have become quite intimate. The priceless gifts of joy, love, and purpose have been especially sweet because I have received them separate from earning them. To be aware of my ugliness, my selfishness, my inadequacy and THEN experience the world’s generosity to me in spite of my inability to work for it or repay it, this is amazing grace.

My shadow has guided me through moments of this season. I am thankful for it. I am humbled to know I have hurt just as I have been hurt. Every single judgement I have held out against someone else, someone could hold out that same judgement against me. Only when facing my own shadow can I experience my own imperfection, my own sin, my own misguided attempts at everything. Only when facing my shadow can I access compassion and ultimately forgiveness.

Facing my shadow is facing my own humanity. And, in turn, facing all of humanity.

As I was walking back to the hotel, thinking all of this, I turned back around to see what was behind me. It took my breath away, the sun shining the way it was, the water sparkling, the clouds misting. And then I thought of the phrase, “casting my shadow.”

IMG_2802

When I was walking toward the river, facing the sun, I was casting a shadow. My shadow was following me. My shadow was still there but I was unaware of it. I didn’t really care what was behind me, I was moving toward something too wonderful to give it my attention.

I left the retreat center ready to move toward the next adventure in my life.  It is time to turn toward the sun again, this time aware of my shadow but not guided by it, aware of it’s limitations, compassionate and forgiving because of it.

 

 

restinglessons.com

Image

An Anxious Heart

IMG_1832

There are many myths about simplifying your life.

The most obvious one is that if you have simplified your life, your life will be simple. This is not possible. If you are engaged with life, if you love people, if you are paying attention, if you are living, breathing and growing, life is going to surprise you.

Sometimes the surprises are good, sometimes they are terrible but most of the time they are just plain unexpected. Because I am in recovery from over-commitment, my first thoughts when I have a day like today are, What did I do wrong? Did I promise too much? Plan too little? Am I expecting too much of myself? What am I missing here? 

I wrote in my journal this morning, I have a lot to do but all the time in the world to do it.

That was before my phone went missing, the shoes for camp didn’t fit, the child was doubled over with a migraine, the house closing was postponed and a major project needed another round of unexpected edits.

My racing heart and scattered thoughts are evidenced by the half-empty dishwasher, the water running in the sink from when I was brushing my teeth a few minutes ago, and the three incomplete emails open on my desktop. The next best step eludes me and every possible step has me second guessing myself.

I made a list.

I packed my purse.

I got the dog ready for the kennel.

I borrowed my daughter’s phone.

I got in my car.

I turned on the radio. Really Loud.

I put on my sunglasses.

As I was driving toward my first errand, without intention, I placed my hand on my heart.

To live simply is to design a life where I have what I need with room more, where there is grace for the surprises because I have not scheduled myself out so thinly. But many days, I am not able to do or be enough. Life throws more at me that I can manage. And I am in the crazy time that Richard Rohr writes about when he explains liminal space as, “the place where we are between the familiar and the unknown.”

What if I experienced anxiety as an invitation to this sacred space where I let go of certainty a little more while opening myself up to more grace with each breath?

I wasn’t planning to put my hand on my heart, but I did. There I was in my own crazy space accidentally honoring the anxious hum inside my heart as if it was something good.

And then I went and bought myself a box of chocolate covered cherries.

Grace comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s covered in chocolate.

 

lettering by sealed.with.a_kiss

restinglessons.com

Image

How to Get Out of the Box

IMG_3947

And the day came when the risk to remain, tight in a bud, became more painful then the risk it took to blossom.

This quote by Elizabeth Appell (often attributed to Anais Nin) perfectly describes the transformation I have felt in my own life and seen in many of my clients and friends.

It is our natural inclination to choose the pain we already know. It is miraculous when we witness a person crossing over that invisible line where they choose the unknown, the world in which they don’t have certainty, where they don’t know the twists and turns that lie ahead.

Yesterday, it was impossible to change. Today it is impossible to stay the same.

My co-writer, Jenny Watson, and I were not familiar with this quote when we created the “Out of the Box Girls” with our artist, Elizabeth McKnight Sloan. In each chapter of Unwritten Travels: a self-guided journal to charting new territory in your life, we featured a girl breaking her way out of the boxes that had previously constrained her (pictured above).

For so many of us, it is easier to find rest inside of the box.

When we are able to meet and match the expectations that we, or others, have for ourselves, there is a sense of relief. We think, I did what I was supposed to, now I can rest.

And then, one day, we can’t rest until we get out. This Out of the Box Girl, still inside of the box, but reaching out with her whole heart, inspires me. Once the heart makes it’s way out, the rest will follow.

In his book, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, Harry Browne gives us tips on how to get out of the boxes that have etched their way around our real selves.

 

How to Get Out of The Box

1. Identify the box you are in.

2. Decide what the box is costing you.

3. What will it cost you to be rid of this box?

4. What will you do with the freedom you will have when you are out of the box?

5. Pay the price.

restinglessons.com

Image

The Leader at Rest

finish

Finish (verb): 1. bring a task or an activity to an end; complete

2. to complete the decoration of

Finish (noun): and end or final part or stage of something. 

The Sabbath has gifts for all of us.

Wherever we are, whatever we need, whomever we serve, sabbath is the bonus waiting at the end and the beginning of each week: the weeks that were good, the one’s that were bad, those days that were such a blur, you can’t remember what you did. Good or bad, accomplished or unfinished, the Sabbath is there waiting to take you, wrap you up, feed you, and send you back out again filled up with the experience of rest.

The more “important” we are in our world, the more challenging it is to accept the gifts of sabbath. When I was a server at Lone Star Steakhouse, if I could not work for any reason, it was relatively easy to have someone else cover my shift. If I wanted the money, I had to work, but the restaurant could easily function without me.  As we move into positions of leadership, it becomes much more complicated to get someone else to cover for us. For example, the manager of Lone Star had to either be really sick or seriously plan ahead if he could not come into work.

When I think of some of the greatest leaders in my life, I realize they embodied many of the gifts of sabbath to me. Those strong and supportive individuals represented the very definition of being at rest. Knowing they were on deck meant I could feel safe or less worried.

My husband is the first person to wake up each morning, he wakes up the kids, takes Schroeder for a walk, and brews a pot of coffee. Last week, I started sleeping in, first because I was tired and then I realized there are very few times in our family lives these days that it is just him and the kids. I am sure he appreciates this gift I am giving him. But what I am so deeply thankful for in those blurry early hours while I am listening to the sound of our family from the comfort of my bed (this morning included a lost phone and a shattered water bottle) was that I can only be “at rest” because I know he’s got it covered.

It is impossible to be at rest when we are the ones taking care of everything and everybody.

This is one way Sabbath also can assist us in working more intentionally, using our time taking care of others to help them learn to take care of themselves, or to train other people learn how to take care of them.

The sabbath gives all of us a chance to not be the single most important person in any system.

A true leader is someone who uses their strength, influence, wisdom and courage to protect, defend, teach, and guide us while we are learning to become someone who can do the same, first for ourselves and then for others.

Practicing weekly sabbaths and yearly sabbaticals has exponential benefits for those in positions of leadership. It provides us with consistent times and spaces where we let others practice be leaders.

Our real work begins to prioritize making space for others to rise up and take their place in our world, the highest level of work for those in leadership.

art by Sealed with a Kiss

restinglessons.com

Image

Go with the Flow

IMG_3871

The simplest definition of flow is how you feel when your skill and the challenge you are facing are increasing at the same pace.

IMG_3874

The simplest definition of stress is how you feel when you do not have the skills or resources to meet the challenge you are facing or when the challenge itself has unclear or impossible expectations.

IMG_3872

The simplest definition of boredom is how you feel when your skill set is stronger then your challenge. When we are bored, we look for quick fixes that put our minds and hearts on pause. We look for things to entertain or preoccupy our time. We sometimes create our own stress just to make us feel something.

IMG_3873

“Flow is natural because we personally do nothing to cause it to exist. Whether or not we give it our conscious attention, it just is. Sometimes we may hardly know it’s there: when obscured by our fear or anger it can run underground like a river. But when we move into greater awareness and trust, it emerges in all its strength and power.” (From The Understanding Flow by Charlene Belitz and Meg Lundstrom.)

Obscured by fear or anger: As I have written many times before, so much of my reality was constructed on fear and anger. It’s fair, there is so much to fear and so much to be angry about. When we are operating under the laws of fear and anger, we are knotted up in stress that oppresses us, chips away at our immune system and steals our joy. That stress blinds us to seeing where our skills can be sharpened and when it is time to let go.

Strength and power: The challenges we face are not going away, but we access the skill to face them when we are able to accept that fear is a part of being alive and of being in love, and that our anger is giving us clues all of the time about the passion that runs deeply through us.

IMG_3876

According to Linda Caldwell in TimeWise: Taking Charge of Leisure Time (pictured above), Flow involves:

*Intense levels of concentration and focus

*Being one with the activity; being totally absorbed

*Not being worried about the outcome of the activity

*Not feeling bored or wondering when you can do something else

*Being mindful of the activity and of your body and mind in connection with the activity

 

 

RestingLessons.com