Lessons in the Silence and the Art of Contemplation

I feel the words bubbling below the surface – my voice, my thoughts, my desires, rolling on low simmer.

Boil is approaching with a life force of it’s own.

God made me this way.

Ideas and metaphors wax eloquent within my mind. Then, they make their way out into the world- their analogy becoming clearer as I type.

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Words have always been my teacher; I, forever, their pupal.

My heart is open and willing- yearning, even– to understand and empathize with their teachings.

But in the quiet, I’ve discovered a new teacher- and I have listened with fresh curiosity.

Her voice is sweet, gentle and compassionate; her lessons pointed and encouraging….

encouraging me to rise higher, to new levels of faith and prayer. 

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Silence, meditation, contemplation and the breath – this is where I’m seeing and experiencing Jesus, right now.

They help me stop, be still and know .

So quick to speak, these practices teach me the art of listening….

and in listening, I’m brought into God’s Presence – the present moment, now.

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For me to know, I must feel.

I must experience it with my heart.

Because true knowledge, for me, is heart knowledge- a knowing, so embodied, that it’s truth permeates my being…. like breath.

These practices – silence, meditation, contemplation and the breath – have helped move truth from my heart down to my heart – to see and experience Jesus in that space.

Like the lyrics of United Pursuit’s, “Head to Heart’:

From head to the heart, take me on a journey- from letting go, to getting lost in you.

More than words more than good ideals, I found your love in an open field.

I first started exploring contemplative practices about a year ago, but it wasn’t until this summer, that God took me to new and deeper levels.

It’s been three months now, since I first logged off and went silent.

I deleted all social media apps from my phone and blocked their use on my computer. My goal was one month, but when the time came, I knew I was just beginning.

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I’m slowly reemerging, but in the quiet, I learnt some valuable lessons I’ll take with me:

While “disconnected”, I feel and hear God clearly – sometimes loudly and in uncanny ways. I see Him present in the mundane and His hand, in the nuances of my day….

As if i’m standing in the centre of a windstorm, declaring:  “Can you see that?! Can you feel it?! This is God’s Spirit moving!”

Before, I was too distracted to notice.

Too stuffed to taste.

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Breath work and meditation help slow me down.

Four counts in …..

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2

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and four counts out ….

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intentionally releasing and letting go.
While focusing on my breath, I consent to work of The Spirit within me. I Feel the moment and whatever it brings, choosing to be still with it.

In time, I hear him. Then I see him or I feel him.

In the stillness I know:

The Spirit is doing a deeper work than my mind can grasp- a healing work I must simply surrender to; be open and willing.

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I’m learning to prioritize rest and self-care- choosing to love from a full tank, rather than refuelling after.

Practically, that looks like working from a place of rest, rather than resting from my work.

It means taking time each day to do the things that fill me up and keep me healthy: things like prayer, yoga, reading, naps, and getting outside regularly. Eating clean, drinking water and getting plenty of sleep at night.

It looks like asking for help and taking intentional time to be still – morning, mid afternoon and before bed.

And I’m learning to reward and pamper myself first, not after I get the job done!

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A funny thing has happened:

My joy has doubled, and my peace magnified. And see Jesus in everything. 

Revelation and wisdom come to me out of no where- and I’m eager to do the daily grind.

I do more in half the time I used to and I’m finally able to leave things unfinished.

I trust that God willl provide- the time, the resources, the knowledge, the answers – everything I need to do His will.

His job is to provide; mine is simply to ask and to trust.

 

Through the art of silence and centering, I’m taking myself off the throne and giving God back his rightful seat in my life.

Because when God puts me somewhere, he’ll keep me there, but if I put myself there, I have to keep me there!

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Where I was once was chasing perfect, I am now choosing present.

Where I once was busy and striving, I’m now intentional and content.

Where my mind was once cluttered, my heart is now calm.

And I finally feel centred in my soul...

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I’ve found the sanctuary and holy ground, where God has always dwelt.

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Breathing Room

So many stirrings.

Such depths of longing.

Yet, few words will form- or suffice.

I want to make concrete these stirrings I have- this growing hunger for more: more space, more freedom, more ease, more breathing room- but I can’t quite yet.

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It comes like a leaky faucet- in drips and drabs and droplets: the prayers, quotes, songs, pictures, and metaphors of others. Ones for now, I’ll gladly borrow:

The TeacupIlluminata, Breathe with Love. The Coffee ShopStarlight in the Darkness, yoga in the morning. Floating Clouds, open ocean, rustling wind within the trees.

They whisper my unformed words – silent soliloquies.

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It’s a tune I recognize from a pit of knowing-  the woman who longs to emerge and stay:

Who wants more love, less judgement.

More being, less doing.

More get to’s, less have to’s. 

More listening, less talking. 

More living, less striving. 

… In both my external world and my internal.

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In these four weeks of silence, I’ve rediscovered a best friend- the voice I once knew and followed with passion…. my soul.

I hear her again. And her voice is so sweet.

We’re starting at last to honour our own discomfort, to think that maybe we weren’t crazy after all, chafing for years under the oppressive weight of our cultural nonsense.

Millions of us now reach out for our lost, buried souls, and once we begin the search, we’re bound to find it. – Illuminata by Marianne Williamson

….  like an old familiar friend or a cozy sweater; a timeless love song, set to a moody ballad.

At first her voice was quiet, like a soft whisper I strained to hear. But now she’s singing with octane and the innocence of an untamed child.

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Curious, she is; whimsical and passionate; in love with life- her life.

She sees good and beauty everywhere; from an orange, to a butterfly, to the faces of neighbours passing by.

She knows what she wants and it’s not the things this world tells her she does.

She worships in surrender, with a kind of teenage love. Uninterested in religion, but fiercely hungry for God.

She’s inclusive of others, regardless of differences- asking questions without forming opinions first.

She shines bright- Light in poise and manner. Unconcerned with words, she sees no need to explain herself. She lets actions, speak louder.

It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. – James 3:13 (The Message)

Like a lighthouse, she feels no need to draw attention inward. She shines outward for the sake of others- a light left on for pilgrims on the journey.

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She delights in her senses and revels in flavour.

She feels at home – in her body and her community.

She sees abundance in place of scarcity and trusts implicitly.

She flourishes in simplicity and blooms inside the margins- with time, in the waiting. 

She’s unhurried and unrushed, trusting in the process and her pleasure.

It’s the journey she’s after- one of meaning: connection and joy; contentment and faith.

This is the legacy she wants to leave.

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As I’ve listen to her voice and befriended her longings, I found new space to thrive- breathing room.

It was there all along, like an unopened present, just waiting for me to see it.

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I was too busy and distracted to notice; to hurried in my tasks to care. I chose instead, the beat of expectation- my own, the world’s, what I thought the church (and God) required of me. 

Now, I find myself rebelling- pushing back against the fence walls that boxed me in and stifled the lyrics of my soul.

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Like my ideas of faith and God, my life is expanding- and in that expansion, I’ve found myself, again- my true self, my soul.

Like a reunion of saints:

Her innocence, my maturity. Her whimsy, my experience. Her freedom, my longing. Her joy, my suffering.

Together, we are better. 

In our union, we’ve found home. 

 

 

 

 

A New Kind of Courage | Devotion. Emotion. Movement. Breath

Courage these days looks different than it used to…

Where it once was loud, it now stays silent. Where it once was proud, it now bows in humility. Where it once was seen, it now seeks solitude.

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Courage has taken on a new posture in this season of life and the truth is, it’s a dance- one I’m learning the steps to, far too slowly for my former striving self.

I’m fumbling and stumbling my way through it.

And yet, each day, each week, each lesson, I find myself dancing this new courage by heart.

Devotion and Emotion. Movement and Breath:

The basic fundamentals that encapsul this new courage.

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1. Devotion to God through the brave act of showing up

– of coming to him every day just to be with Him, no agenda. To hear from Him, to talk to Him and to read His word. Allowing this time to penetrate my heart and remake me every new morning, from the inside out.

Not in pursuit to “be better and do better”, but to receive, in my perpetual neediness and surmounting weakness- knowing and trusting that in my humanness surrendered, He is strong and mighty and most powerful.

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2. Giving my Emotions to Jesus and Taking Authority over Lies

Instead of willing myself different, I’m learning to be brave enough to welcome my emotions in whatever form.

Be it anger or resentment or frustration or guilt or shame or panic, I’m inviting Jesus to walk parallel to those emotions, feeling His easy lightness alongside the dark heaviness.

Feeling both coexist in the same space- my heart- allowing His presence to fight for me, rather than trying to “fix myself.”

And when His Spirit nudges- when I recognize the lies for what they are – the lies taunting me with untruths about who I am or what I need to do

I’m learning to courageously take my authority in Jesus and send them away… because for too long, I gave lies centre stage and an open mic night in my heart- free reign and an all access pass to harass me and my every thought.

But it stops here.
I will be brave enough to say, “no more”, because I am more: More than a conqueror. More than my mistakes. More than my weakness. More than my imperfections. More than my immaturity. More than my inability to meet others expectations and please every person in my life.

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3. Movement as Worship.

For everything there is a season and this is my season to fly- to learn to fly, anyway. I am no longer a caterpillar in a cocoon, but a butterfly, entirely new in Christ Jesus.

After a season of physical rest- of trusting the good in non-movement– I am finding a new stride: dance to music in my living room, yoga on my patio, running outside in nature.

For a former exercise addict turned nothing-but-walking, these humble beginnings feel awkward and hard.

Every movement is a brave act of surrender and in humility, I’m trusting that with time, I will find my footing and my strength- a new strength, firmer and more grounded than my former self.

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4. Breath as a life line- my connection in every moment to Love and Presence and Life.

Meditation and Centering Prayer and the simple act of intentional breathing.

To stop takes courage.

I’m learning that whatever it is, can wait, because in this moment, what I need more, is Him.

More than to get it done, more than to exercise my rights, more than to be heard or understood,  to fix it or figure it out, what I need now is Jesus.

Breath has become my wordless prayer.

I’m still waiting for the gifts of tongues, but until then, when words fail me or I can’t articulate what I feel, I’m bravely allowing breath to bring me home – to usher me into God’s presence and his heart.

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Devotion and Emotion. Movement and Breath…

All of this feels new and foreign and yet none of it is new or even foreign. They’re old truths and old practices. Ones that find homage in many homes and hearts and cultures and religions. And yet Im learning them with new intensity and intentionality.

I am a student of rest, learning to mother herself back to Love.

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—//

I’d love to know:

  • How do you intentionally connect to Love?
  • What rhythms of rest has God led you to implement?
  • How has sabbath become a lifestyle rather than just a day?
  • How is God teaching you to mother yourself to wholeness?

We’re in this together- sojourners on the pilgrimage to Christ.

 

When life feels slow and you’re itching to Go

I’m in a season of rest right now and there’s no denying it….

A season of slow mornings and ample coffee breaks. Of midday walks and evening strolls. Of impromptu visits and lingering longer. Of time with Jesus and then some more. Of thinking and mediating and relishing quiet. Of reading every book I swore I’d finish. Of letting her lead, because there’s just no agenda and rounding the block for something to do. Of running errands to break up the day and counting down minutes ’till daddy comes home.

So this morning I got up and decided to make bread. 

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I’ve always loved making bread; I adore it and find the sweet result one I get giddy for every time I do it…

The fresh aroma as is bakes in the oven and the buttery goodness of my first bite. It never got old. And there feels something special – almost holy- when I consider the fact that I made it with my own two hands in love. 

I used to make bread all the time; every few days to be exact but in the past few years, it ceased to be a “good use of my time.” And the oxymoron of that statement is that, in the last few years I’ve had more time than ever to make bread!

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Sure I was struggling to even walk as I grew a human inside me and then once I had said baby, I was learning to navigate the trenches of motherhood. But I recall vividly many days, where I sat longing to be in a different season; to be doing, going and accomplishing.

As if my resting was a waste of time and the season of slowness I found myself in, a reflection of inadequacy and wasted potential. 

I was so used to doing and striving that when time stood still, I discovered foreign thoughts taunting me with their chatter…

Who was I if I wasn’t doing [anything seemingly important]? What use are my days, if I’m not working towards a goal or striving to grow personally?

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I hadn’t yet fully learned how to just be – me in that moment without wishing it were different- or more accurately,  I were different. 

I believed that because I could always be doing something or working towards something, that I should be! Even if my body were still, my mind never ceased to rest and just be ok.

Don’t get me wrong, I know what I do doesn’t define me – God began a work in me long ago in this area- but I was so used to always doing, that I never had time to experience the whispers that now taunted me about my character, in quiet. 

… That I was wasting my potential, being still.

….That I would never grow or become a better person – a better Christian!

…. That if I didn’t work on something or on me, that things would never change or I would never change! 

And so I filled my days doing, even trivial things, to hush the taunting that played on repeat. I tried to master this thing called mothering, as well as the title I swore I’d never wear: homemaker. I did ample for others to the neglect of the things I needed most, mainly the rest I was called to and so desperately needed in this season.

God knew what I needed when I entered motherhood. He knew that I would want more than anything to savour the simple moments with my daughter before they were gone. He knew I’d need time and space to process the trauma and healing journey I was embarking on.

God knew I needed to learn that while I was made to “move and do” [that’s who he made me to be], it was very much ok and necessary to rest and be slow; that even though there are always things that can be done and there are always parts of me that need to change and be matured, God still likes and delights in me exactly as I am today… and so too, should I. 

I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be. I’m ok and I’m on my way! – Joyce Meyers

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This season of slow is exactly that –  a season – and if I look closely, I’ll see it for what it is – a gift waiting to be opened- a gift I may never get again.

If I wish it away- if I waste it filling it with stuff or forcing it to be something it’s not- I will eventually look back with regret. And I hate regret than anything!

My biggest fear is realizing I’ve gotten to the end of my life and spent it chasing the wrong things!

I’m so grateful God has spent the better course of three years teaching me about joy, contentment and what really matters. Because it’s those things that have grounded me and helped pull me away – from the noise of others, distractions of social media and the need for approval of others–  from the things that for too long, stole my joy, killed my confidence and destroyed my peace. 

In learning about what [who] brings me joy, in learning contentment regardless of circumstance and discovering the legacy I want to leave when I die- I see everyday as an arrow that’s pointing to an end goal; I can see clearly if this thing- what I’m doing-  is going to aid me or pull me away from the things that will matter when I’m eighty. 

And I truly believe that is been these lesson that have refined my heart enough to recognize the goodness of this season and given me the permission I need to love it and not rush through it.

I can embrace this season of rest, while simultaneously not denying the restless stirring inside me, because it’s God given. Both can coexist without the need to “fix” each other.

‘Cause when the time comes – in God’s time and not mine- the gates will open and I will hit the ground running. 

If you put yourself there, you’ll have to keep yourself there. But if God puts you there, he’ll keep you there! -Anonymous  

I’m done pushing, done striving and forcing life because it’s tiring and ultimately, fruitless. Sure it feels good for a while, but in the end I’m beaten up and more defeated than when I began.

But when I simply walk where God is calling me –  if I do only what he is calling me today, in this season– then I discover a power within me greater than myself to do and accomplish more than I could on my own; an ease and a joy in life that follows me.

We’re in no hurry, God. We’re content to linger in the path sign-marked with your decisions. – Isaiah 26: 10

Right now, he’s calling me to rest; to slow down and savour the goodness of days extended and moments prolonged. 

So if you need me, you can find me in the kitchen baking bread ….. or on the floor playing with my daughter or walking around the block for the upteenth time, because I can and I’m enjoying it. 

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