Snow can be beautiful the first time, and the second, ...., but eventually it feels just cold and wearing!
Come February, many of us have decided resolutions are for the birds. We've already failed to eat only whole grains, or drink enough water, or exercise 30 minutes every day.
Many years ago when I had hit my own wall during a particularly draining time, I looked at my life and thought, "How am I still doing this? No one knows how hard my life is. I'm still waiting for answers to prayer, for changes in other people in areas where they rub too hard against my ideals and desires, for my life to get a little easier. I have friends who are leaving their ideals because they're just worn out. Can I go on?"
I didn't want to just get to heaven with my hair flying every which way, nostrils flaring, gasping out, "Well, I made it! Barely, but I made it!" and then collapse just over the finish line!
As I sat on the bench that day, a sudden movement caught my eye. In the center of the square where I was reflecting, a young boy was dancing. His head was back, arms spread, and he was twirling in utter abandon. The look on his face was priceless--he was so full of joy! Unaware of anyone else, he danced among the falling leaves, perfectly happy.
Then I heard the Lord speak to my heart and say, "That's what I want for you. I want you to be like a child. I don't want you to bear the burdens of your life. I want you to live a life of joy."
So the question becomes, what do we need to do, so we won't lose our ideals--so we won't arrive gasping at the gates of heaven?
Godliness,wisdom, graciousness, joy ... these are qualities we want to have, and they don't happen by accident! They must be cultivated intentionally. We must develop habits that will help us build a foundation in our own lives to receive and experience and pass along His grace in our lives.
How do we experience God's gracious heart? His grace flows from channels He created us to experience! But we must make time for His provision and priorities if we are too busy following the world's dictates.
Some of the most necessary habits for us to have are these that determine how we live and invest for life each day, because they help us to live and finish well. Here are just a few of the habits I have found to be most important.
The habit of rest
We see one such habit displayed and modeled for us very early on in the Bible--so early, it happened in the very first week of time!--that of a Sabbath rest.
God intends for us to stop and rest. Contrary to all the commercials for this and that product made to help you keep going despite your cold, your exhaustion or your depression, the truth is that God understands and wants us to sometimes take a break from all the activity happening around us. The Hebrews were given a law about setting one day a week aside for rest; they were forbidden to do work of any kind. Jesus told us that that Sabbath rest was made for us--not to impose another burden but rather as a rhythm of life that would encourage us to rest.
In our home, we decided to be very intentional about making every Sunday a special day of rest and fun. Sunday breakfast feast and coffee and community. We have a delectable treat for teatime. Board games come out, mystery series to watch, going out with friends to a local cafe at night, glorious naps, and we have lively conversations where nothing serious or stressful is allowed! Resting from worry and strife and work helps us meet Mondays with renewed strength!
An important part of rest is making time for soul recreation--no blog articles, no cleaning, no bill paying--just some time every week that is a break, fun, enjoyable to fill your soul. I love movies, books, walks--(walking anywhere in nature soothes my soul), tea time with a friend (or coffee), trips and adventures, time to just sit-and not feel guilty for sitting.
I think sometimes we stay busy because we are insecure. The voices in our heads tell us we are supposed to do all that our friends are doing, even if it leaves us in a frenzy. We have developed the idea that if we stop--if we don't meet the needs of everyone around us, every second of the day--if we don't answer the phone and take that position at church and and and --the world will stop on its axis, and somehow we will be disappointing God.
Busyness does not equal productivity, accomplishment, or excellence.
Pacing ourselves, through regular rest and intentional inactivity, insures that we will have the strength to finish our course and hold on to ideals. Burn-out is a real issue amongst many women I know because they have not learned to rest and to have a break. And the funny thing is, often when we are burning out, we blame it on God, who would have had us rest all along!
Surely, I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me." ~Psalm 131:2
The habit of time in God's Word
You can't be spiritually deep if you never take time to interact with the spirit of God. The more you spend time with God, the more like God you will be.
Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. Yet, peace is only possible if we have been in the presence of God long enough to see our lives from His perspective and to rest in His will and ability to provide what we need. We cannot provide peace by our works and by trying to fill our own needs. We run around in circles when we do not have God's perspective, priority and direction.
I think many people think they can't spend time with God correctly (whatever that means!) because they just can't find time in their days for an hour of concentrated time. Yet even a few minutes at a time adds up! Just as walking a little further through the parking lot on your way to the store, just a few minutes on the treadmill, one more glass of water--all add up to help you toward health, we can also take moments of our day and offer them to God and they will add up! God doesn't just sit near our armchair from 5-6am every morning waiting to meet with us and then shake His head, disappointed, and go on to run the universe! He is always there and He loves to meet us in our moments.
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." ~ Psalm 103:13-14
The enemy would like to destroy every woman of ideals, because each of us has the potential to change history as we persevere.
There are so many other habits-- fellowship, prayer, gratitude, initiating friendship-- that can help you better know and experience God's grace in your life. I discussed them at the 2010 MomHeart conference, and you can listen to that very talk to hear them all! You can find it here as an instant download for only $2.99: Renewing Your Habits.
I pray that you will join me in determining to draw near to the heart of God, who loves us and gave Himself for us, who paints beautiful sunsets and fed multitudes and loved children and created music, that you too will develop habits to help you experience His grace and love and pass them along to everyone around you.