Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dare... {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is stress.
Also, it's Five Minute Friday! Bloggers internet wide gather to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then link up and share a little comment love. For more posts, more info, and/or to join in, head here!

This week has been all about stress - not about being stressed, but how to battle against it. The war has actually been going pretty well, which is very encouraging, and I've had some interesting revelations over the past few days.

Post-baby, rest has been a hard thing to come by. For the past 16 months, one of us (usually me) has been on High Alert at all times, either actively watching an active and demanding Little Person or waiting, nerves alight, for her to wake up. Come January, she will be joined by a sibling (please, God, let this baby be a snuggler!) and that doesn't sound like a recipe for increased rest to me. But I never really tried to find rest - I just assumed that it was impossible, sighed, and moved wearily on.

Stress levels spiked, entitlement reared its ugly head, and tempers flared. I lived a cycle of outbursts and apologies, awash with tears of frustration and of repentance. I whined in God's direction, wondering why it seemed so hard, but never waited for Him to reply.

But with the extra praying, reading, journaling, and just-being that I've been doing this week, a realization slowly began to filter through the fog I've been engulfed in: if I would dare to trust that God would provide me with what I need, then He would provide it. And He did. With no massive effort or exhausting planning on my part, He gave me a day of rest. It didn't look like I thought a day of rest would look like, and at first I didn't even want it, but it came exactly when it needed to and exactly how it needed to.

Dare to pause - to be still - dare to set aside the lists and the busyness that boss our lives - dare to speak to a God who listens - to listen to a God who speaks --- dare to believe His promises, to come to Him, weary and heavy-laden, and empty your hands to receive His rest.

Check out yesterday's post for a giveaway that will help you pause and open your eyes to His rest!
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Gifts {7 for 31 and a giveaway!}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is stress.

This week's gifts...
959. Mum coming down to visit for a day
960. Perfect weather for Brooklyn and I to share our favorite trail with her
961. Pinecones. They're great fun to carry, and if you drop them in the water, the turtles will come to see if you're feeding them
962. Honeybees. Pollination and the necessity of the relationship between pollinators and plants to our food supply is a fascinating thing
963. Going to the State Fair with Brooklyn and getting to say hi to Adam at the booth he was running for work
964. Brooklyn having a conversation with a little special needs boy about (I assume) the fish in a big fishtank - no one else knew how to respond to his excited outburst
965. An empathetic friend who understands the tragedy of gnats drowned in tea, and gnats in general, and was willing to exchange tweets about it
966. Being able to spend the morning with Adam before he had to leave for a recruiting event
967. Adventures to find ingredients for a Christmas gift craft, followed by a long nap for Brooklyn and I
968. Again, a sermon that aligned with my 7 topic for the week
969. Listening prayer, and specific prayer, and just the opportunity for prayer in general
970. A day of rest that was actually restful for all of us
971. Dad being in Little Rock for a military school and coming by for an hour - All The Books were read, and our long evening went by much more quickly as a result
972. Finishing most of my week's to-do list in one day, including some tasks I was dreading
973. That this pregnancy hasn't been nearly as uncomfortable as the last one (so far, at least!)
974. Brooklyn not having a meltdown when I vacuumed (it's usually quite distressing)
975. Her enthusiasm about red pepper powder - apparently, it makes everything taste better
976. A quiet evening at home, all together
977. Walking at the park with Adam and Brooklyn and Dad
978. A day to be still
979. Waking up before Brooklyn and being able to sit on the balcony in the sunshine and knit and pray before breakfast
980. An understanding OB/GYN who thought a stomach bug was a perfectly valid reason for not having gained any weight, but still ordered an ultrasound for Sprout (just to check)
981. Successfully retrieving a friend's things from the Fair - and Brooklyn's patience, since it took an hour (also, that I got both items that I had left - they nearly lost one)
982. A quiet afternoon, and a cookie that I got on our way to the Fairgrounds but forgot about until dinner time

So, this week I've been focusing on stress. I've practiced combating it with Sabbath, pauses for prayer, more prayer, did I mention prayer? We were able to have a semi-Sabbath on Sunday, and then I've been keeping up my lunchtime quiet time still.

I had a to-do list for my week written out, but finished most of the tasks on Monday and Tuesday, leaving me with a few late-week appointments that were already set and an empty Wednesday. I woke up that morning kind of dreading the day, wondering what I would do.

Since I got up before Brooklyn (a rare occurrence), I ended up sitting on the balcony in the sun for half an hour, knitting and praying for grace for my day. She woke up late, we ate breakfast together, and then I sat down with my Quiet*ologie exercise for the day, with frequent pauses to read Brooklyn the books that she brought me, one by one. Emily had written about being still - so with a twinge of conviction over dreading an empty day, I embraced the stillness.

We read. I knitted and caught up on everyone's 31 Days posts. She took her nap and I had my quiet time. I had time to pray on paper (I can focus better in writing, but don't always have the time). When Adam got home, Brooklyn brought him her shoes and stuck out one foot hopefully, so he suggested a walk. We went to our favorite park nearby, and met my Dad, so he carried Brooklyn (who carried pinecones) and he and Adam talked military stuff while I quietly took pictures. It was a beautifully restful day.

Then today I had a doctor's appointment in the morning. My doctor was very understanding about a lack of weight gain (apparently she'd also had the stomach bug) but since Sprout was measuring a few weeks behind, ordered a precautionary ultrasound - but scheduled it for 3 weeks from now to give me time to gain weight and Sprout time to grow (all good). Then Brooklyn and I went to the Fairgrounds to pick up a couple of items that I'd dropped off for a friend. We got the smaller of the two items - the other had vanished. Another piece turned up with her name on it that belonged to someone else (an advantage to knowing all the knitters in Fayetteville is that I was able to identify what belonged to who). After an hour (which I spent fervently praying) the (big, fine-gauge, beautiful, intricate, lace) sweater turned up - hung in a closet, assumed to be something belonging to a volunteer that had accidentally been left.

Ordinarily, that would have left me wholly frazzled and in need of a nap or some chocolate or something. But all I felt was relief that it had been found. My reaction surprised me, so I thought about why I had responded in that way as we drove home, precious knits secure beside me in the front seat. I finally concluded that my day of rest on Wednesday had emotionally prepared me for the potentially stressful ordeal.

My lunchtime quiet time, pausing at regular intervals to pray, a beautiful day of being still, taking the time each evening to write down three gifts in my (almost filled!) red journal... none of those things are big in themselves, but added together they become big enough to hold stress at bay. Moments stand against moments, and if we'll just give the gifts a chance, they can overwhelm the things that threaten to overwhelm us.

"Thanksgiving is the acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our yes! to His grace."

[from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp]

At some point next week, I'll hit one thousand gifts counted, in just under a year. Because it's a wonderful practice that I plan to continue, and because I share the things I believe in, I'm giving away a copy of Ann Voskamp's book that started it all, a journal, and a pen --- just comment with three things you're grateful for today!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will trust in Him.
[Lamentations 3:22-24]

Won't you join us in counting (and recounting!) His mercies anew? Just grab a journal or notebook (it doesn't have to be fancy) and a pen and write them down, then join us each week to encourage each other by sharing all of the blessings we've spotted. Catch up on everyone's posts and if you don't have a blog, feel free to participate by commenting, instead!

Check out these #NewEveryMorning hosts, as well, and don't forget to use the hashtag on Twitter so that we can find each other:
   Kayla [at] Renown and Crowned
   Kelsey [at] Faith Fun and the Fergusons

Tell me three things you're grateful for today!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Priorities {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is stress.

Something I've been learning this entire month is that I have time for what I make time for (yes, I know that lots of people have said something to that effect, but I can be a bit dense sometimes). So if I really want to be closer to God, to eliminate distractions, to live a visibly Christian life, and to experience consistent renewal... I'm going to have to make time for them, both by sacrificing the unnecessary things that eat my time in big bites and tiny nibbles, and by capturing in-between moments that I've been letting slip through the cracks of my day.

Do the priorities you live out align with the ones you talk about?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do Unto Others {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is stress.

Most (ok, ok, all) of my stress is self-imposed. That's not to say that hard things don't happen, but ultimately I'm the one who chooses how I will respond to them. My lack of faith in God leads to all sorts of tension and upsetness.

Another factor is selfishness. The best (note that I did not say "easiest") cure for mild depression is to think about someone besides yourself (there are depths of darkness that no amount of happy thoughts can lift you out of - this I know because I've been in them - and the only way out of those is if someone or Someone comes in with a lantern of hope to find you), but I've found that sitting and thinking about how rotten I have it is rather depressing, whereas shifting that focus onto others lifts my mood by giving me a purpose (any person or situation can be prayed for as soon as a need is realized, and sometimes I'm even given the chance to be the answer to that prayer through physical action).

One of those tangible ways to help has come up recently, after years of trying to make it happen (can't rush God, as much as I'd like to). The church we're going to here in Little Rock, Fellowship North, is letting me teach a learn-to-knit class in November, as well as start a Warm Up America! chapter, to augment the work that their quilting ministry does. There's an encouraging amount of interest, and quite a bit of curiosity (who is this person we've never heard of whose name has suddenly appeared in the bulletin?) and I don't think I've been what anyone envisioned "the knitter" looking like, but I just appreciate them trusting me to do this and getting excited about it with me.

Until then, my sewing-in-a-straight-line skills are adequate for the quilt blocks they have for piecing each month - if I can find a time when Brooklyn isn't around to "help" me by playing with the presser foot of my sewing machine (I'm perfectly capable of sewing over my finger on my own, thanks though - or burning myself with steam from the iron).

Handicrafts of all sorts are wonderful that way - the action itself is distracting and cathartic and beneficial to you, and then the fruit of your labor can go on to bless someone else. This project has been wonderful for getting ahead on Christmas gifts... over the summer I've been knitting washcloths (I kept one in my bag to redeem the in-between moments, and used discounted discontinued colors to reduce the expense), which I'm planning to package in some felted bowls that I made awhile ago. The dear little glass bottles left over from the package of Starbucks drinks I got inspired me to hunt up hand scrub recipes (upcycling!) - and I was able to find one through Pinterest that used mostly ingredients I already had. A $2 carton of coarse sea salt, a tiny bottle of tea tree oil that will last forever, and less than a dollar's worth of lemons are all I lacked, and now I have more than enough supplies to fill my four little bottles.

As a side note, the residue left when you peel the labels off of those little glass bottles is alcohol soluble. I filled each bottle with hot soapy water, waited a minute to let it soften so I could remove the labels more easily, then gave each sticky spot a swipe with a washcloth I'd squirted a dab of rubbing alcohol on to. I was amazed at how well it worked - I didn't even have to scrub!

Unallocated money for supplies and time to do things are both rare gifts (especially with a busy, curious toddler) - but I'm going slowly, starting early on Christmas (instead of waiting until the week before), and giving myself grace, looking for small moments to fill with quick projects, and for projects that can be left and come back to as needed.

Serving and the giving of gifts should be a blessing on both sides, not a point of stress. How do you maintain a joyful attitude while serving/giving during this season of life?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Surrender, Pray, Listen {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is stress.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the concept that each area of excess leads to a corresponding deficit (after all, we only have so much attention to give). When I was journaling through that idea at the end of September, I listed seven pairs, a 7 topic with whatever it was overshadowing, and next to Stress I wrote Prayer (in part because that's the Good Christian Answer).

I've been keeping up with a few other 31 Days series(es?), one of which is 31 Days of Resting in Him over at Abiding Love, Abounding Grace. While I highly recommend all of her posts thus far, the ones that have stood out the most for me are on listening prayer. That's not something that I'd ever heard of before - to pray, asking specifically to hear from God, then journal through whatever happens next (and check it against Scripture afterwards). While I've definitely read through a passage of Scripture (or some other book), jotting down words and phrases that stood out, and looking at my list afterwards as a method of personal introspection, writing down thoughts and attributing them to God seemed a bit... iffy. Like something that would have a lot of potential for coming up with the answer I wanted instead of the answer I needed.

However, a side effect of stopping and praying every three hours is that I've begun to run out of things to pray about (after I go through my nice little list, and the default topics, my imagination fails and my mind begins to wander). So after yesterday's sermon on worship I took my journal onto the balcony to work through the notes I took, and decided to finish with listening prayer. Because I can focus better on paper, I wrote out my prayer, pausing to consider possible answers before beginning. Read more. Memorize Scripture.  Doing-y things. Then I started writing. Please reveal to me specific steps that I can take in order to grow closer to You. Before I was even finished, three words pressed themselves firmly into my mind: Surrender. Pray. Listen.

Not necessarily what I wanted to hear (as a recovering legalist, I kind of like doing things and those are very non-do-y things) but undoubtedly what I needed to hear. It's true - I do need to let go of both my hopes and my fears, actually pray (instead of whining in God's direction), and then pause to hear His reply (you know, like, a conversation).

So I've been trying to actually apply the steps that I was given, since I asked for them and all - I'll write more about how that's going later this week. It's only day two... I wonder what the next five days will hold?

Do you take pauses in the midst of your busyness? (Head here for Karrilee's post on listening prayer - it's a perfect pause!)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

To Give Us Pause {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is stress.

Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy. The fourth commandment. After making sure that our relationship with Him is on track, and before moving on to our relationships with others, God gives us a gift - a chance to stop and recalibrate our busy lives. And as such, it may be the easiest one to overlook and dismiss as culturally irrelevant, or simply impossible.

A few days ago, I was aggravated at Adam (not over anything dreadful - we just both decided to act human at the same time). I put Brooklyn down for her nap, ate my lunch, and seethed. It was giving me a headache, so I sat down and prayed about it, then curled up on the couch. When I woke up two hours later, my headache and my frustration were gone. I feel like that's what Sabbath does - it derails whatever mindless train of thought we're on and then offers us an opportunity to start again on a better track. Sure, I might have gotten the dishwasher emptied if I hadn't taken a nap, but I would have fumed the whole time and our evening together after he got home from work would have been less than pleasant - and that's not really a worthwhile exchange.

Still, trying to get a whole entire day of rest as a family with a Little can be more stressful than renewing - so I'm learning to embrace Sabbath pauses, like my new ritual of sitting on the balcony to eat lunch, then spending some time reading, journaling, and praying. Even though I've only been doing it for a few weeks, I've already begun to love and look forward to that time, and to guard it jealously, even from my own impulses and cravings. Hmm, Chick-Fil-A would be nice for lunch... no, I'll just snarf it down in the car and then I won't want to sit down to rest later. I actively miss it when something comes up to keep me from being able to take that time, even if it's something enjoyable.

So this week I'm focusing on pauses. Jen observed the "seven sacred pauses" - seven times of prayer spaced out over 3 hour intervals throughout the day. I'd like to make an effort to pause on hours that are multiples of three and spend a few minutes praying - over my family, this project, and Mercy House, specifically - as a modified version of that (in this season of life, sleep is a gift that I do not want to throw away. If I'm awake at midnight and 6am for some reason, I'll pray. If not, I'll worship through the surrender of sleep in the presence of a wakeful, watching Father). I'll also maintain my now-beloved lunchtime quiet time, and I'd like to work through the Quiet*ologie journaling exercises that Emily Freeman writes each month for Hope*ologie (coincidentally, there are seven of them so far).

In this season, what does rest look like for you?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Three Rs {7 for 31}

This month I'm writing a new post each day about my own version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment. For more posts and an introduction, head hereToday's 7 topic is spending.

The end of spending... or, at least, of Spending week. Consumerism is a near-inextricable part of Western culture, and while I know there are self-sustaining people out there who grow their food and make their clothes and only set foot in a store every few weeks, that's not really a possibility for a Southern city dweller.

That said, this project has gone extremely well so far - events have conspired together (or maybe that's God...) to have sales on things we need and would have to buy anyway, a drop in gas prices, a busy work schedule that reduced eating out opportunities, a visit from Fayetteville (instead of us driving up), and even almost silly things like having a free ticket to the State Fair and not having to pay for parking either, or a jeweler Adam got me a Christmas gift from a year or two ago sending a "free pearl earring" postcard in the mail for our anniversary (I took them up on it - I love pearls!)

I've still had to be intentional - slowly retraining myself - and I've discovered that wise spending (at least for us) can be encapsulated in three Rs:

Reduce... Just buy less (I know, I know, just buying less isn't that easy) - examine need vs. want, and if we're feeling deprived, we should compare ourselves to someone who has less than us (they do exist) instead of more. Make things out of what we have instead of buying them, or just make do.

Rethink... When we have to buy, consider the source. Choose fairtrade, second hand, or exchanges with friends whenever possible as alternatives to big box bargains. Check the book out from a library instead of buying it (especially if you've never read it, or tend to collect unread books). Just because they make it (and put it in an engaging package with a temptingly low price somewhere near the check-out) doesn't mean we have to buy it. And a little preliminary research will reveal all kinds of specials and promotions that allow us to attend events and attractions for less than the general admission.

Restore... balance and community. Every time we reduce and rethink, it's a blow to consumerism. And if we mindfully pass on the things that are still usable (imagine being well enough acquainted with the needs of those around us to be able to bless them with needed items!) and recycle (hey, another R!) the things that aren't, we're doing our part to help out our global community and respecting God's Creation - both the resources He's provided and our fellow souls.

Tomorrow I'll be starting a new focus and I hope you'll join me - and thanks for sticking with my journey so far!
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