Life is noisy. Everywhere. There are televisions in elevators shouting the latest news-worthy crisis. There are horns blaring from impatient people in the cars behind us. There are children throwing tantrums in grocery stores (I had the distinct pleasure of enjoying that with my grandson just this week). And then there is the constant noise inside our own heads.
There’s something about getting away from the hustle and bustle, the noisy world we live in, to a place of respite and refreshment. Maybe it’s the silence that allows our minds to breathe. Maybe it’s slowing down to hear God’s gentle whisper of love and care for us, placing our burdens only meant for His shoulders. Maybe it’s the surrounding simple beauty that soothes our hurried souls and draws us to Beauty Himself. Maybe it’s the intangible peace we receive and feel in our very bodies when we give room and space for quiet.
Constant. Noise. Drains. The. Life. Out. Of. Us. Jesus invites us to something very different. He rarely tells us to hurry up. He often spoke the opposite to his friends when He was living in this “speed-it-up” world. He knew (for them and for us) that we humans desperately need self-care and replenishment, restoration and renewal, places that GIVE LIFE.
“Come away to a quiet place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)
This place of withdrawal is a gift Jesus so longs to give us, not another “should” on our endless list. He wants LIFE for me and for you, for us in our collective humanity, the most full and abundant life that we are designed for. He knows what we need to be WHOLE and WELL. Rest is not selfish, lazy, or impractical. It is truly freeing and life-giving, a present straight from the tender heart of God for us to unwrap.
Where is this place of restoration for you? Is it a simple walk around the block listening to your favorite music? Is it laying down for a much-needed nap on a Sunday afternoon? Is it sitting alone in your car watching the sunset from your favorite overlook? Is it putting your phone on “do not disturb” mode for a few hours, giving yourself a break from the constant buzzing and dinging? Whatever it is, do it often and regularly. Make it a part of the rhythm of your day, your week, your month, even your year. In the hustle and bustle of ordinary life, give yourself permission to retreat, withdraw and rest.
The noisy world will be calling to you soon enough.
From my heart to yours.
P.S. I am heading horizontal this afternoon.
For other posts about my journey toward rest, check these out by clicking HERE.
***HERE’S PART TWO OF THE PODCAST I AM A GUEST ON…20 MINS…CHECK IT OUT…HERE’S THE BLURB…DON’T MISS IT***
Do you sense the need to create and maintain a life-giving practice of sabbath but not sure where to start? In part 2 of Giving up the 24/7 Life, Jen continues her conversation with writer, podcaster and leader, Esther Goetz. Esther shares what she has learned on her journey, what her sabbath looks like now, challenges that may come our way and tips to creating your own rhythm of sabbath.
“Beloved one, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you physically, just as your soul is getting along well.” (III John 2)
For the past seven weeks, my body and I have been in a fight! The “conversation” has been going something like this:
BODY: “Hey! Can you help me?! I’m not okay.”
ME: “Pipe down! You are messing things up! I have a lot going on! You need to get your act together!”
BODY: “HHHEEELLLPP! I’m not doing very well. Can you please take care of me!?”
ME: “I am not happy about this! You are supposed to help me live my very important life! You’re just being a loud-mouthed, trouble-maker! I have people to see, places to go, things to do. You are not being very nice at all!”
The battle goes on and on! UNTIL…
When I decided to wave my white surrender flag. Call a truce.
I am normally a very healthy, rarely-sick human being. (Confession: I’m a little proud of that fact.) I’m a minimalist when it comes to taking care of myself.
Most mornings go something like this: hair in a ponytail, minimal eye makeup on, teeth brushed (sometimes), and super simple pull-on clothes and slip-on shoes. Top that off with nothing physical “going wrong” and I am able to get out of the house in about seven minutes flat from the time I wake up. I don’t even know if I look in the mirror again until I am brushing my teeth at night before bed (I do that for the most part unless I fall asleep watching a movie with Allen – I cannot go horizontal on our couch after 8:00 pm or I never make it past the first 15 minutes).
I get amazed at those of you who spend lots of time plucking your eyebrows, carefully applying makeup, diligently flossing, shining your shoes and choosing just the perfect outfit. (Confession: I secretly wish to be you and often wonder why I don’t take care of myself better.) It’s been a lifetime battle to do any of those things, one I have asked God about quite a bit (I’ve never plucked my eyebrows)! Sometimes, I wonder if it’s because I’m a third-culture kid or if it’s just me. Probably a little bit of both.
I guess God heard my plea and decided the age of 53 was a good time for me to practice what I preach. “TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF (and your stuff)!!” is one of my big mom mantras! I’ve shouted it from the top of the stairs, the front of the car, the texts on my phone and here on this blog! I know in my head it’s the right thing to do. But living this out day-to-day-to-day-to-day is another.
Having a body is tons of work. I have to get up, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, floss, take a shower, primp, eat, take vitamins, exercise, drink, sleep and then do it all over again. The amount of energy and time my body needs to keep on ticking borders on ridiculous (at least according to this underachiever). It’s a lot of my day. Add in some (ahem) parts screaming at me for lack of care and my day feels consumed.
I am not lost on the irony in all of this. My Word of the Year is “shalom,” which means true human flourishing (BODY INCLUDED)! I spend lots of my time and energy on other flourishing (mental, emotional, spiritual), but my body gets neglected. Not a good “look”(pun intended) on this Dolly Mama.
The “conversation” (I mean fight) continues even after I decide to wave the white flag:
ME: What am I supposed to do when you take so much time just to look presentable, much less not as old as you are? And now you are really making a fuss!
BODY (Shouting back!): Hey! I’m genuinely important. I house the “real you.” When I’m not working right, the “real you” suffers (as you’ve now noticed).
ME: But… But… my time could be spent better doing something of more value like making my dreams a reality, writing this blog (for all of my amazing and wonderful and lovely readers), spending time with my family and working towards my goals!
BODY (more gently): You have friends who are really struggling right now with their own version of me. You’ve even had a taste of this these past seven weeks. It’s really really hard! So, my sweet caregiver, would you mind sending me a little love?
(Somehow, in the middle of this, GOD pipes into the “conversation.”)
GOD: Esther, my Esther, give a little listen to Me just for a moment. I love bodies. I love yours. They are so very important to me! I came in one after all.
ME: Okay. Okay. You’ve got my attention (at least for a minute).
GOD: I used My body to communicate My love for you in the most tangible way. I wanted to know what it was like to be you, right down to your gall bladder and your toenails. I couldn’t have done this FULLY any other way. I’ve given you your body to enjoy all the wonder and beauty I have for you right here and right now!
ME (defensiveness diminishing): So true! So true! I hear you.
BODY: Just remember, supposedly “wise” Dolly Mama, the ways I am working to make God’s dream for you to know pleasure and His love for you in all their fullness come true!
My eyes provide the way for you to see your precious grandson’s smile and the gorgeous sunset over the water in LBI.
My ears are for you to hear the “I love you Mom” on the phone from one of your kids and the spring peepers as they call out to each other in your yard.
My nose brings the joy of a Mother’s Day lilac and an early-June peony and the delicious smell of chocolate chip cookies baking.
My tongue tastes a hot cup of tea (with all your favorite sugar and light cream) and gives a way for you to experience the pleasure of a stuffed cabbage and perogie from S&D Polish Deli in the Strip District!
My skin helps you to receive the loving touch of Allen and the feel of the fuzzy blanket on a cold winter day.
I allow your soul to wonder, your mind to grow and your heart to love! Don’t forget your Word of the Year when it comes to me! Shalom, my dear Dolly Mama!
ME: Okay. I give in. You win, my precious body! Thanks for all you are and do! It feels so good to have called a truce for the moment! Keep fighting back when this “conversation” keeps happening (as we all know it will again and again and again)! Please be patient with me in the process! I’m a little pig-headed and a have a long way to go!
BODY: I’ll keep an “eye” on you! I’ll be cheering for you when you reach for your toothbrush, your eye patch, your mouth rinse, your vitamins, your pillow and all the small, but very kind ways you are taking care of me and reminding me how valuable I am! When you floss tonight, don’t forget to clean out all those crevices with a vengeance! WOO HOO! You’ve got this!
“Now may the Lord of shalom Himself give you shalom always in all ways.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
A “Word of the Year” is intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of you during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads). It’s a friend that accompanies you during your journey. (The Dolly Mama)
When I was a young girl, I had the New Year’s resolution every year of reading through the Bible. On January 1, I would read 40 chapters of the book of Genesis and then by January 8, I would be on Genesis chapter 43. I’ve made that same resolution about 20 more times at points in my life and guess what, I have never read through the whole Bible no matter what I’ve tried. It’s been the same for me with exercise plans, diets, organizational goals, etc. You know what I mean. You feel the same pain. Bottom line. Resolutions don’t work.
On the flip side, I’m all about HOPE. I love a fresh start. A new day. A new week. A new month. And especially a NEW YEAR. Hope is what “rocks my socks.” And God knows this about us. That’s why we have fresh starts every morning, even every moment. I don’t know what I would do without the place where I can begin again, take a first step toward change, growth and healing, and then come to that same redemptive position again and again. HOPE.
Hope, my first Word of the Year (hereafter known as WOTY) in 2015, is the main reason why I opted to throw away all New Year’s resolutions and choose a WOTY. I need hope. Hope is an inner, gracious guide that allows room for us to change and grow. Resolutions are harsh external masters that heap shame on us when we “fail” to keep them. Here’s why:
A resolution concentrates on “DOING.” A WOTY values “BEING.”
A resolution instructs. A WOTY inspires.
A resolution is mandatory (“work out three days a week”). A WOTY allows for room to go at your own pace (taking the next baby step).
A resolution is limited in possibility (“lose 10 pounds”). A WOTY is expansive and limitless.
A resolution can be “broken.” A WOTY cannot (it is a gentle friend).
I am so thankful that my husband stumbled upon the idea. It has been life-changing as we approach the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one.
If you’ve never done this, it’s a lot of fun. While you hopefully have some “time off” from your regular duties (unless you are a mom, of course), today or tomorrow might be a good day to spend the time. Or any time in the next couple of weeks. I know people who spend an hour (me) and some who spend a weekend (Allen). (Click HERE to understand why that’s the case.) It’s not a race. It doesn’t matter when. But it might matter if. It might seem overwhelming. It’s not. It’s just fun. Give yourself the treat.
Concentrate on who you want to BE(come) this year, not what you want to get done.
Be true to yourself. You want your word to represent your unique needs and desires.
Remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect. This isn’t traditional goal-setting. This is grace-filled friendship-making. There is plenty of room to change your mind.
It’s intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of you during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads…I call that “shoulding” all over yourself). It’s a friend that accompanies you during your journey.
Ask yourself a simple question: What do you need? Many times, we concentrate on improving ourselves instead of being kind to ourselves. This is a huge starting place. Don’t skip this step. Write down all the random things that come to your mind.
The next question can be (after you haven’t skipped the first one) who do you want to be(come)? Write down a few of the most important things that jump into your head.
Make a list of words that come to mind. Write as many as you want. It can be a noun, verb or adjective. If you need help, click on this printable alphabetical list I put together for you for some ideas. ( Word of the Year Ideas)
Cross out the words that don’t work for you. Narrow your list down to at the most 10 words.
Check out the definition of each of the words, its origin, synonyms and antonyms. You might just be surprised at what you find out!
Give yourself some time to process the list. Allow yourself to “try each one on for size.”
Take a deep breath and choose your word. Take a few minutes to write your thoughts about how you hope it might play out in different areas of your life and relationships.
Write your word down on something and post it on your mirror, your car, your computer, wherever you will see it every day. You can even buy a customizable bracelet by clicking HERE(I don’t get anything from this. Just thought it was a cool idea.) I found a picture and put it as the background of my computer (it will feel weird to change it out). Look at it each morning and remind yourself about this friend who is with you today.
Give yourself permission to change your mind. If you want to, take the time to reflect and re-evaluate your word at any point in the year. I did that at the three-month (click HERE) and six-month marks (click HERE) during 2018.
An Update From Yours Truly:
My WOTY for 2018 was “tend.” This friend is not something I want to give up. I love her. She’s been a kind, yet forceful voice in my life, the best of the best. I have a long way to go in this friendship with “tend.” The good news (light-bulb moment just now) is that just because I make a new friend does not mean I have to give up my old one. “Tend” can come along with me into 2019 and who knows, maybe my new word will stand hand-in-hand with her. When I think about all my WOTYs since I’ve started, it makes for one wonderful Dolly Mama posse (HOPE, BECOME, DEPTH, and TEND). That makes me super happy.
Now, that I’ve welcomed them all, I would like to invite another new friend into my life for 2019: my Word of the Year is SHALOM!
SHALOM means the “presence of true human flourishing in all areas – social, emotional, physical, mental and spiritual.” I want to make decisions for myself with this friend as my guide. I am really excited about what she will bring into my life.
I pray today that you would consider joining me on this journey. May your Word of the Year provide the Shalom that you need!
Would love to know your Word of the Year once you’ve chosen it. Write it in the comments section (if you remember to come back here after you’ve done the process) or even more fun, a comment on Facebook or Instagram! I like those more!
“Yes, please get a new cup every time you get a drink of water.” (No Mom Ever)
I lie alone in my bed on a very normal Wednesday night at 11 pm here in our sleepy little town. My husband, the heart of my heart, is at his apartment 350 miles away, where he works three days a week. Our oldest is hopefully sleeping soundly snug next to her husband with her baby boy a few short steps away in his crib (praying he is not sleeping like a baby, but more like a teenager) over two hours away. Our blond hair, blue-eyed first-born son, is probably nodding off in his apartment after a really long day working. My away-at-college senior might just be tackling a paper he has procrastinated writing. My baby, 19 year old curly-headed musician, is the farthest away, probably jamming away with friends on guitars, keyboards and microphones. My house is empty and my heart is scattered all over the East Coast.
Only eight short years ago, life was completely different. On those weekday nights, after showers were taken, toilets were flushed, teeth were brushed, homework was done, video-game playing came to a close, hugs were given, “I love yous” were said, all five of these people who my soul loves lay their heads on pillows within 20 feet of my own. My house was full and my heart was in one place at one kitchen table under one roof.
Yet tonight, as I lie in my very empty house, and although my heart is scattered, it is not empty. My heart is FULL. Full because on the very ordinary day, I have been loved by all the incredible people I shared the better part of my life with in one place at one kitchen table under one roof.
“Thanks, Mom, for all you did for us today.” (phone call from oldest as she was finishing up dinner with her new family after I had spent time caring for her baby and doing their laundry)
“See you this weekend, Mom.” (reminder from third-born about Friday night)
“Shalom to you too, beautiful wife.” (text from hubby as he heads to dreamland after our discussion about what peace really means)
“Love you too, Mom.” (text from son in response to our discussion about us getting him a puppy for his birthday)
Just as I cuddle up under my covers and am about to turn off the light, I receive one last “ding” on my laptop. It is the last of the bunch, our “Bug,” as she is known in these parts. And it is for no reason at all.
Lest you get some crazy notion from all this loveliness that this is how it’s always been or always is even now, let me set the record straight. Under this one roof at one kitchen table in one place, we had our moments. Fights over the huge and minuscule (there was even one earlier this week and it was a doozy). Broken rules and boundaries. Critical spirits and hurt feelings. Addictions and mental illness. Slammed doors and silent treatments. Sickness and sadness. Harsh words and ignorance. All the things that make up normal FULL family life.
But as today reminds me, this is NOT all there was or is now. Under this one roof at one kitchen table in one place, there were also “I’m sorrys” and “I forgive yous.” Respect and authenticity. Forgiveness and encouragement. Freedom and healing. Open hearts and honest conversations. Health and joy. Kind words and understanding. All the things that make up normal FULL family life.
So, Fellow Ordinary Moms and Wives who are…
STILL UNDER ONE ROOF:
I see you. I was you. It’s hard. Look up, Sweet Mama. Keep up the good work. Hang in there. You are amazing. The days are long, but the years are short. You’ve got this. Your family is normal. These people you love, but are ready to kill at any given moment, are worth every ounce of love you can muster and are pouring out and into them. They will make it. You will make it. You will never regret it. It may seem like there’s no end in sight, and your stuff feels huge (AND IT IS), but it will (AND THEY WILL) be okay and even possibly wonderful. Never forget this one truth: LOVE IS ALWAYS THE RIGHT DECISION!
ALONE IN YOUR BED:
I see you. I am you. It’s hard. Look up, Sweet Mama. Our hearts are scattered, yet they reach more places. Our love that we gave and are continuing to pour out is multiplied beyond measure. Hang in there. It will feel sad some days. It does for me too. I miss those times under one roof at one table in one place. But it will (AND WE WILL) be okay and even possibly wonderful. Even though the end is in plain view (and possibly in the rear view), we must keep loving and giving ourselves to our people. Even though our houses are empty, our hearts can be full. Never forget this one truth: LOVE IS ALWAYS THE RIGHT DECISION!
(One heart-wrenching note: for those of you who have lost children, I can’t even imagine. Your heart has been shattered beyond belief. It’s hard for me to speak to you because I don’t understand. I really don’t. But I do know that the love you showed them while they were here is not wasted. It’s continuing to multiply over and over again because love is like that. You loved them with your whole heart. In turn, they loved others with theirs. That’s what this world needs and you have given it freely and sacrificially. Thank you for taking that risk we all are taking as we love our children with our fierce mom love. I’m so sorry, Sweet Mama. My heart is with you and all us moms collectively salute you and hug you with our hearts.)
When our daughter became pregnant with our precious grandson, I was giddy. Not because she was going to produce a grandchild to me, even though that’s a lot of fun, but because she was going to join the massive, never-ending “Mom’s Club” that I am a part of. There’s nothing like it. We understand parts of each other that no one else does. We take a gigantic risk loving this human being, but we can’t help ourselves. We give each other that look (maybe of desperation or joy) across the room and the other mom sees our hearts behind our eyes. There’s nothing like it. We turn to each other in times of great heartache and are comforted. When we can’t speak with our mouths because the joy or the pain is too deep, we receive unspoken affirmation through hugs from each other. There’s nothing like it.
So Sweet Mama, thank you for loving. Thank you for sharing your heart with another. Thank you for making your little world a much more beautiful and safe place. You’ve got this! And together, we’ve got this in spades!
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
If you asked me even five months ago what I thought peace meant, I summed it up as “the absence of conflict.” In fact, a quick search on Google backed me up on this. My husband also cheered this idea in spades. He loves an atmosphere where everyone gets along (how one Facebook friend defined it), especially us. It’s like heaven to him. Having a house with four very unique and spirited children did not lend itself to this. The constant conflict and fighting sent us to our beds exhausted many nights. I would mutter to myself (and sometimes scream loudly to my kids which, if you take a second, is pretty ironic), “Just a few moments of peace is all I’m asking!! Is it too much?” I know I don’t have to talk any further without a bunch of nods of the head, muttered “mm-hmms” and loud “AMENS!”
Whether it’s the constant arguing of politicians and political analysts on “news” shows, gut-wrenching war across our world, bickering among children or family members over the latest “who-knows-what,” co-workers disagreeing over how a project needs to be done, or late-into-the-night discord (or should I say straight-up fights) among spouses, it is just plain tiring. No wonder we want some peace. Some quiet. Some “everyone-just-get- along-please” moments. We are saturated with it all day long.
YES, THAT IS MY SON AND HIS SOCCER TEAM AT HIS SENIOR PASTA PARTY!
Sorry for the diversion. Back to the blog post. I think you understand my point.
To combat it and try to find some measure of inner calm, I find myself doing one of four things: fighting, running, avoiding, or just standing there with a blank stare not knowing what to do next. This is the natural response from our human bodies when we feel threatened and overwhelmed. It’s our “lizard brain” (as I like to refer to the amygdala) doing what it can in the moment when the adrenaline rush takes over to protect us. Psychologists refer to these responses as fight, flight, faint or freeze.
As I very feisty and passionate individual, I naturally gravitate to fighting. As we all know, this does nothing to help. It escalates the issue and then the whole house is in an uproar, hurt and angry. It becomes a mess. Allen, on the other hand, is drawn toward fleeing. He shuts down, gets quiet and goes into another room. Our kids vary on the spectrum, with some fighting, some getting quiet, some going to their room to watch TV or sleep, and some utterly dumb-founded, not knowing what to do. It makes for a little bit of a “not-so-peaceful” house.
ENTER COUNSELING and the beginning of understanding that although, in the moment, those responses are normal, they don’t restore harmony. We are working from brokenness not health.
ENTER VACATION with family members (nine people plus baby for seven days). Arguments and behavior patterns and all that good stuff. (You know what I mean?!) I figured out that nine people make up 36 different relationships. That’s enough to start a war.
RE-ENTER BOOK. Reminder that all of the above are really just shattered shalom(the fancy Hebrew word for peace).
I have always believed that shalom had the same meaning of peace that I had in my head. Come to find out I am missing something. A huge thing. And it just might really make the difference in my own little world with my own little group of people. But it also might make the difference in our huge world with all the groups of people (like seven billion and counting much to my son’s chagrin as he’s a little paranoid about over-population).
So what is it? What is this shalom?
SHALOM IS NOT DEFINED BY ABSENCE. Instead, it encompasses the PRESENCE of true human flourishing(my friend’s Word of the Year): socially, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Larson reminds me that it is “ultimate harmony.” Shalom speaks of fullness, completeness and wholeness, hardly the absence of anything, except perhaps division (as another Facebook friend reminded me). In Ancient Israel (where the word comes from), when a crime was committed, the central point was not on the outer (the broken law and restoration of order), but rather on the inner (broken shalom and restoration of peace) for all involved: victim, community and even offender. It was important that ALL would flourish, all would be brought back to wholeness.
As I stated above, our human body responds to conflict in one of four ways: fight, flight, faint or freeze. We are naturally drawn to one of those responses when it comes to personal conflict. However, somewhere among attacking, running away, avoiding and becoming paralyzed lies a completely different way, one that is more difficult, but offers much in the restoration of this fuller peace, or shalom. In fact, sometimes conflict and disagreement are required to achieve it.
In the flight, faint or freeze responses, the focus is on “ME.” I am looking for what’s easy, convenient and non-threatening. Protecting myself becomes the highest priority. However, in the fight response the focus is on “YOU,” blaming you and expecting you to solve my problem or my pain. Again, protecting myself becomes the highest priority. The peace-making, shalom-restoring response shifts to “US.” The restoration of the relationship and the flourishing of ourselves and the other becomes the highest priority. Wholeness, fullness and completeness come to the forefront. Conflict happens and disagreements occur, but the relationship is not threatened. In fact, clashes and variance might just provide the avenue for greater wholeness than without them. The move from YOU vs. ME to US changes everything.
For this girl who tends to blame others and fight, this is really BIG. A huge change of thought. And practice. It’s not enough for me to “not have fighting,” the absence of conflict. I want more. I want wholeness and healing and true flourishing. In every area of my life. For me and for you. When I think about Jesus, the “Prince of Peace (guess what the Hebrew word is there),” this makes more sense now than ever. He doesn’t just want “quiet” for me. He wants shalom. He wants me to flourish. He wants the same for you. And he wants the same for our world. Here’s to restoring it more and more every moment and every day. I hope to start right now.
Thank you again for reading all the way to the bottom. WOW! Please like this here and especially out on social media if you can! Comment here or there as well. It means the world to me!