Rest

Rest: A 3-part blog series on Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat

Let me just confess this right here at the beginning… This last stop on our Golden Hour Tour of beautiful words and sacred practices is not one I frequent enough.  I am a poor tour guide, the blind leading the blind.  The residents here do not know my name or recognize my face as I step off of the fast moving train breathless.  Rest.  Here is a vulnerable truth about me… I still haven’t learned to rest well.

But I want to.  Or at least I want to want to.

After we have Savored every last drop out our “lot in life” blessings, those common beautiful graces, and after we have recognized, remembered, and reclaimed Celebration from the world, then we must rest to do it all again (repeat).

In a world that has hijacked rest as much as celebration, what does real, soul-restorative rest look like for the people of God?  Very few Scriptures have impacted my life in the last year as much as the Message’s version of Matthew 11:28-30.  Slow down, breathe this in deeply, and picture it as a balm being poured over the cracked places in your spirit as you read this divine prescription for rest:

“Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Real rest is not found in the lies or trappings of the world… in the Netflix bingeing, or sleeping late, or even the vacation in the fancy hotel.  None of those things are wrong, and they can certainly be savored and celebrated!  But when your soul is fatigued to the point of exhaustion, you will still be worn thin when the show is over, the alarm finally goes off, check-out time comes.

Real rest can only be found in Jesus. 

We have to watch how he does it, like Matthew 11 says.  We watch how he savors a breakfast of grilled fish on the beach, early morning chats with His father, friendships with the simplest of people.  We watch how he turns water into a divine vintage at a wedding celebration.  We watch how he participates in the feasts and festivals of his culture and how he brings others in close and rejoices with them as well.  And then we watch how he rests… how his earthly life was simply following the Holy Spirit from one place to the next, from one life to the next.

Over the last 6 months I have been neck deep studying the Biblical principles of Fruitfulness. One of the most interesting concepts I came access was the idea of the Sabbatical year for the land itself.

Leviticus 25:1-7 says, “The Lord said to Moses at Most Sinai, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them, ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord.  For six years sow your fields and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.  But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord.  Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.  The land is to have a year of rest.  Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you – for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired workers and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land.  Whatever the land produces may be eaten.” 

I love how practical our God is.  He knew all about water levels, PH balances, and nutrient deficiencies in the soil centuries before farmers ever would.  He knew there was wisdom in letting a field go fallow for a year, in taking a rest… and He always has a spiritual truth for us in the physical.  Think of the faith it took for the Israelites to be obedient to this command.  Most families only had one field.  If they weren’t growing crops on it, there was not grocery store.  This was it.  Their land, their one field, was their source of sustenance. Their crops, their harvest was their life.  Could they trust that the sowing and laboring of past seasons would provide enough of a harvest in the resting?

The same is true for us.  We can only rest when we have learned to trust.  We trust that God will provide, that we don’t have to hustle for everything in life, that we don’t have to make it all happen or that we won’t fall apart in the fallow season.  He has promised not to lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on us.  We can trust the harvest because we can trust our God.

So, October was a whirlwind for me.  I was honored to speak at 2 out-of-town retreats and another local women’s night.  We also CELEBRATED fall in a big way with our 4th annual Family Fall Festival, inviting the whole city to the Ranchito.  I have committed to projects I haven’t started yet.  My kids are taking gymnastics, playing basketball, and rehearsing Nutcracker 20+ hours a week.  There isn’t a night off right now.  At the dawn of November I felt myself circling the drain… running on empty, forsaking what matters, unreasonably affected by the smallest thing.  I began to believe some old lies… “You can’t handle this.”  “Quit trying to be more than you are.”  “Close the gates.  The sacrifice for community is too much.  No one cares.”    My levels were off and nutrients low, just like the Israelite’s fields.

Time to rest.

I’ve taken a few practical steps in the last couple of weeks.  I have made peace with the term “self-care” in measured quantities.  (See, I even typed the word without rolling my eyes.  Progress).  I joined a Yoga studio and am giving myself the gift of something I really love.  I have released hosting Thanksgiving.  I have visited a friend who practices wholistic healing and let her do a little work on me, body and spirit.  I literally have “breathe and pray” and “HYGGE” on my daily to-do lists.   I am preaching rest to all of you so please hold me accountable as well.

The Golden Hour is coming to a close.  I can see the last rays of its sunset melting away.  The dawning of the next season will be wonderful, “the most wonderful time of the year” in fact.  But it will have a different pace.  For all the Hallmark commercials and hot cocoa propaganda, we women know.  We know that for every beautiful meal, every perfectly (or imperfectly) decorated home, for every gift under the tree, and Christmas card sent, there is a woman staying up late into the night planning, baking, working, wrapping, and addressing.  And we love it.  And it is worth it.   But it can leave us circling the drain as well.

So I pray the treasures we have found on this tour of beautiful words and sacred practices stay close at hand through the holidays.  I pray we will savor all of our “lot in life” blessings, those common graces and we will view all that the coming months bring through a HYGGE filter.  I pray that we will reclaim celebration, especially during the Advent season… that we will build alters and remember and celebrate others really well.  And I pray that we will find rest when our spirits are circling the drain of exhaustion.  That we will simply watch how Jesus did it and trust in a God that commands a sabbath.

Celebrate

Celebrate: 2nd blog in a 3-part series Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat.

Welcome to the second stop on our Golden Hour Tour of beautiful words and sacred practices.  This one may be a bit more lively than the last.  I hope there are cards and banners and high fives and parties.   I pray there are gifts and candles and music and laughter late into the night. We move on from Savor to Celebrate.

Celebrate: 2nd blog in a 3-part series Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat.

The older I get, here On the Other Side of Middle, the more aware and angry I become that the enemy of our souls has stolen celebration from the people of God.  This world has robbed us of this gift.  It tells us what is worthy of celebration… it shoves it down our throats and blinds our eyes with the flashing lights of how it should go.  And I suppose if we desire to be a people set apart, sanctified and holy, then we must turn our backs on all the fun.  Right?  Oh, I hope not!

One of my nearest and dearest friends, a steadfast presence in my life for more than a decade, has a slight thing for the Green Bay Packers.  And by slight, I mean full on love affair.  She painted her laundry room green and gold.  She listens to Packer’s Podcasts as she drifts off to sleep (yep, that’s a thing).  She has a cheesehead hat and dreams of trips to Lambeau Field like I dream of trips to resorts and spas.  And she and her husband do it!  They go to the games and brave the cold and choose to spend vacation time and travel money on watching her team play.  She loves being in that legendary stadium with thousands of other Packers’ fans cheering for her boys.  I currently live in the literal home of Friday Night Lights… Let me assure you that the hype is very real.  So what is it?  From PeeWee to the Pros, from football to baseball, to basketball, to soccer, what is it?  Why is it so much fun to go to a game and shout with friends and strangers alike, to jump right into the crazy?  What does this speak to in our spirit?  I’m making the case for CELEBRATION.

My roots run pretty redneck.  Cheesy country music gets me every time and I don’t care who knows it.  I tried to be cool for 5 minutes in high school and tuned the station to “alternative,” but quickly found my way back to George, Trisha, and Martina.  So, when GARTH BROOKS made his way out here to West Texas this past Spring, I WAS HERE FOR THAT!  Being in that arena with my husband, brother, sister-in-law, and thousands of other fans singing every word along with Garth was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  Why?  It was a CELEBRATION of memories and music, of family and “Friends in Low Places.”

I believe that great concerts, big sporting events, moving movies, beautiful ballets… they tap into something spiritual.  It’s called worship.  It’s called celebration.  See, we were created to be a small part of something much bigger than ourselves… something good and exciting and worthy of all the yelling and singing and high fives in the world.  We were created to do this in community with millions of other worshipers.  When we are in a stadium or an arena or a concert hall and the celebration takes over and we are swept away in the joy and emotion, I think we put a tippy toe into what heaven will feel like.

We all know this can go too far.  I will not belabor idolatry here.  My friend does not worship the Packers.  I do not worship Garth Brooks.  But the very reason it can be a slippery slope for so many is that we were made to be worshipers and celebrators.  When we let the world dictate what we will worship or celebrate, it gets funky fast.  Does the celebration terminate on itself… end right there at the game or with the last song? Or worse maybe, do we turn our backs all together on these little tastes of heaven, deeming them too worldly to partake in, and give celebration up to the world?  Or do we credit a big, fun, creative God with giving us the gift of sports, music, art, and community to share it with?  All this fun was His idea after all!

In the classic devotional “Abiding in Christ” first published in 1895, Andrew Murray writes these incredibly convicting words:

“So there is nothing quite so attractive as JOY, no preaching so persuasive as the sight of hearts made GLAD.  This makes gladness such a strong element in Christian character.  There is no proof of the reality of God’s love and blessing He bestows, which people so quickly feel the strength of, as when the joy of God overcomes all the trials of life.”  

Andrew Murray quote in JOY

Celebration, joy, gladness in our lives will win more souls for Jesus than preaching any day… certainly more than “holier than thou” or “holier than fun” living ever will.  So is it?  Is joy and gladness and celebration a strong element in your life, in your Christian character?  Never underestimate its power.

Let me state the obvious: we cannot celebrate what we do not recognize.  I’m afraid our fast-paced, drive-thru culture has rushed into our faith walks just like it has rushed into every other aspect of life.  We order up a prayer request, a new gift to savor, and by the time we make it to the window we are hungry for something else.  The Bible gives the command to “remember” over and over and over again.  We cannot celebrate what we do not remember.

Has God been gracious to you, even in hard times?  Has He answered just one prayer?  Are you in a different place in your marriage, with a difficult child, in your finances than you were 5 years ago?  Has He illuminated things in Scripture for you that have changed your life, your faith, given you hope where there was none before?  Has He spoken quietly, “this is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21) to you and now your feet are on a different path?  Has He just let the Packers win or granted you some sweet Garth tickets?  All of those things deserve recognition, remembering, and celebrating

In the Bible, the people of God not only remembered, they set up alters when God did a mighty work.  They rolled bolder upon bolder into place.  Their remembering took time and sweat and left sore muscles and a lasting, visible evidence of God’s presence in their lives.  Their celebrating took weeks, and preparation and travel and pause.  They knew, God knew, that they needed those alters and feasts so that they wouldn’t forget because they were human just like we are.  They had kids and jobs and natural disasters to worry about too.  They had a new set of desires every day just like us and they first needed to take a breath, say thank you, and celebrate.  We all need reminders that God was faithful before and He will be faithful again.

I know the hubs would think I was crazy if I started building actual altars around the Ranchito every time God answered a prayer or came through for us… if his weekend “honey-do” list included rolling stones on top of one another.  But I have my own alters.  I have journal upon journal of prayers prayed for my children, my husband, my tribe, myself.  I can go back and celebrate those victories over and over.  When things are tough and I am doubting, I can re-read those prayers and marvel at how far God has brought us.  Those are altars of remembering.  My youngest child sort of came into this world in miracle fashion and his birth was an enormous victory for my faith.  All our kids are special, but his birthday is an alter of remembering for me.  God hears.  This humble 7 acres that I sit and write these words from is an altar.  There is a literal pipe fence around an altar to obedience, and staying when we wanted to quit, and trusting and praying and honoring childhoods and community and messy floors and real life friends.  When my kids ask if I have ever seen a miracle I can open those journals and read them the stories of their God moving on their mother’s behalf, I’ll show them pictures of a crowd of warriors around a birth center bed and a 10lb. 11 oz “surprise,” I’ll walk them around the perimeter of the Ranchito and tell them of His goodness.  Build alters.  Remember.  Celebrate.

And just like there is more to Savor when when learn to enjoy our “lot in life,” everyday gifts, we have more to celebrate when we learn to celebrate others well.  Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”. I think maybe we put the mourning on a spiritual pedestal while giving the rejoicing a bit of a cold shoulder.  How well do you celebrate others?  Rejoice with those who rejoice?  Just like discontent can steal our ability to savor, envy can steal the joy of celebration.

The older I get, the more FOR the women in my life I become.  I am FOR every single one of them running their race, doing their thing, finding their lane.  I may have given this lip-service in my 30’s but I am all in at 40.  I use to live under the cloud of a scarcity mentality.  You know, like there wasn’t enough to go around… Not enough blessing, not enough gifting, not enough calling, not enough Jesus.  Crazy, right?  We serve an endless God and if we believe Jeremiah 29:11, that God has a good plan for each of us, then how can your plan, your blessing, something to celebrate in your life ever steal mine?  It can’t.  Your calling does not lessen mine.  My race isn’t going to cause me to steal your prize in the end.  If I know anything about our God, it is that His character is generous- it is the opposite of scarce or lacking.  When we root ourselves down deeply in this truth, it frees us up to celebrate others well… which ultimately increases overall celebration in our lives, and brings us one step closer to looking like Christ on this earth.

The only way we can truly celebrate others well is by knowing them well… by being a real part in their real story, by letting them into your own, by honoring their vulnerability with your own courage to step out.  Every baby shower is a lovely celebration, but when you have walked through infertility and loss for years with a sister, that’s a whole different party!  The graduation of a friend’s child is exciting, but when you have sat on the floor with her for years praying and crying and believing for favor and maturity for that kid as they have struggled through school, that celebration is a victory!  Marriages restored, business succeeding, callings clarified… All of those celebrations are increased when you have driven a spiritual stake deeply into them.

So have you?  Are you?

Are you connected enough with a few souls, that their blessings, their celebrations feel like your own?  ARE your own?  Have you invited others into your own story, your own life deeply enough that they can celebrate with you when that prayer is finally answered… they can come over and help you roll some stones into place for the latest alter of remembering?

At this moment in history, when there are so many to mourn with, so much tragedy, so much loss, can we, the people of God wave a banner of celebration as well? Can we recognize God’s goodness, remember His works, and reclaim celebration in His name?  I believe it would be a kick in the face to the thief who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

So, throw another baby shower, host another birthday party, keep someone’s kids so they can toast another anniversary.  Spill out little tastes of heaven everywhere you go. Joy is powerful. Celebration is holy work.

Celebration is holy work!

P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe for a chance to win the “Savor the Season” Fall Bundle, full of beautiful gifts to usher in a moment of HYGGE for yourself and celebration for your people (even if it’s as simple as sharing a yummy cup of coffee over candlelight with close friends).

Savor

Savor: a 3-part blog series on Savoring, Celebrating and Resting

The first stop on our three part series is a warm and cozy one.  There may be a fire in the fire place and a soft, plaid blanket to wrap up in, your favorite sweater, something hot to sip…

SAVOR.

What is the first thing you think of when you read that word?  Savor.  It deserves pause, a slowness all it’s own.  Maybe you think of food, like a savory meal.  Tell me I am not the only one who has gotten sucked into the Netflix series, “Chef’s Table.”  It is the most fascinating look at the world’s best restaurants (like there is a real ranking) and the chefs that have made them so… everywhere from rustic Padagonia to chic San Fransisco.  It tells the story of these innovators, their journeys with food, and their signature dishes.  Some of these meal are unlike anything I have ever seen before.  They bubble and fizz.  They are on fire or frozen inside of layers of something else.  They are simple and beautiful.  It is so captivating to me because, in the end, it is just dinner.  I mean, how many different things can be cooked in the world?  How many different ways can you plate grilled fish or chocolate cake?  After watching a few episode of “Chef’s Table,” I believe the answer is endless.

There are endless flavors to savor in the world.  Endless.  This is the world our God created, full of endless flavors to savor in food, people, seasons, experiences, and nature.

The definition of savor is this; “to give oneself to the enjoyment of; to savor the best in life.”. Does that feel a bit worldly to you?  A slippery slope perhaps?  Hedonistic even?  I get it, but I am here to fight for your right to savor as the people of God… honestly we should be the very best at it.

For wisdom on the art of savoring we will look to none other than King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live.  I Kings 3 chronicles young Solomon’s rise in wealth and wisdom by way of a dream in which God said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give to you.”  Wow.  I wish I could tell you honestly that I believe my request would have been as noble as Solomon’s.  Probably not.  But this is about him- not me!  

So Solomon says to God, “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David.  But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”

God is pleased with this request and answers, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked.  I will give you a wise and discerning heart so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there every be.  Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for- both wealth and honor- so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.”

So, that’s our boy Solomon… the richest and wisest man to ever live.  He was born to King David and Bathsheba as a healing balm after losing their first son as a consequence of their sin.  Though his father David desired to build the temple and the Spirit had put the plans for it in his heart (I Chron. 28), God said that it would be Solomon who would act as contractor for the job.  We fall in love with his hot and heavy love story in Song of Solomon… life is good for this guy.

And then we get to Ecclesiastes, the book Solomon pens late in life, and we read this opening verse: “Meaningless, meaningless, utterly meaningless.  Everything is meaningless.”  Great, right?  It seems that at the end of this very rich, eventful, blessed life, we see Solomon looking back over it and wondering what the point was.  In all his wisdom, here is his conclusion: “Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least that is good.  It is good for people to eat and drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life.  And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it.  To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life- this is indeed a gift from God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NLT)

Think about the experiences Solomon’s life had been full of… being born into royalty, riches and knowledge beyond anyone’s comprehension, every earthly pleasure known to man at his fingertips… And in the end he says it is good to eat, drink, and enjoy the health, life, and possessions God has given to each of us.  Our lot in life.  He says it over and over:

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil.  This too is from the hand of God, for without him who can eat or find enjoyment?” (Ecc. 2:24)

“I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil- this is the gift of God.” (Ecc. 3:12-13)

Do you know what the wisest man to ever live is telling you today?  He is urging you to savor your life, to give yourself over to the enjoyment of the the stuff of everyday.  After all, what do we all do every single day of our lives?  We eat.  We drink.  We work at things.  So with each bite, or sip, or task, we can choose to accept the gift that it is.  We can savor our ability to enjoy the simple things.  King Solomon doesn’t tell us to wish for grand events or royal ceremonies.  He isn’t singing the praises of life in the palace.  He doesn’t say that the best thing in life is arriving at the place where wealth is so plentiful toil becomes unnecessary.  He isn’t talking about feasts and festivals and holidays… He says the everyday stuff is the good stuff.

Why is this so hard?

I recently finished Mark Batterson’s book Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God in which he discussed the six “cages” he believes Christians are trapped in, keeping us from wholeheartedly chasing God.  One of those cages he calls the “cage of routine” in a chapter entitled “Dictatorship of the Ordinary.”  He contends that that we easily lose the joy of living when the sacred becomes routine and says, “We take constants for granted.  And that is the problem with God, if I may say it that way.  God is the ultimate constant.  He is unconditionally loving.  He is omnipotently powerful.  And His is eternally faithful.  God is so good at what God does that we tend to take Him for granted.”

I would add that we tend to take His provisions, the gifts He gives, those common graces for granted as well.  In September, the eye wall of hurricane Irma passed directly over my childhood home with my parents, brother, pregnant sister-in-law, and two-year-old niece inside.  After a sleepless, scary night- both in Florida and here on the Ranchito- the damage was minimal and all were fine.  But, as you can imagine, they lost electricity and water for close to a week.  Something they had taken for granted just the day before, something most of us take for granted everyday, they were suddenly without.  After 6 days with no power and no running water, you can bet they savored that first night sleeping with air conditioning again, that first real shower, that first time to flip a switch and have a light come on.  Everyday stuff, a great gift.

Listen, I love a fancy hotel.  In fact, I think “Fancy Hotel” is my love language, but I seek to savor sunsets on my very own front porch.  I enjoy a beautiful meal, but I seek to savor pizza picnics with the kids under the lights at the Ranchito.   I love opportunities to speak to groups of women, but I seek to savor funny group texts with my tribe.  An expensive bottle of wine is lovely and never lost on me, but I will savor the dog out of a Route 44 Vanilla Coke from Sonic. Why?  Which of those things happen more often?  Which are the things of the everyday?  In my life it is the sunsets, the pizza picnics, the Vanilla Cokes, the group texts.    When we look through the filter Solomon is teaching us about, we have opportunities to savor all the time.

As my favorite poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning says, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.  But only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit round it and pluck at blackberries.”

During this Golden Hour, may we take off our shoes.

I believe the disciple of savoring, of enjoying our “lot in life” as Solomon puts it, is deeply spiritual and much more than a warm and fuzzy word to throw around the fire.  Luke 16:10 says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”  When you cannot savor the little things, the ordinary things, the constants, you may be blocking the blessings God has next.  When your tastebuds are burnt from discontent, you will never be able to taste new flavors.

Here is a bonus word on our little tour that I have recently come across it and am currently obsessed with…  I now own a sweatshirt with it printed on it and it will be my theme for our holidays (you are welcome to share):

HYGGE.

It is a Danish word and practice, pronounced “hue-guh.”  Here is a summary of what it encompasses: “a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary experienced as cozy, charming, or special; only requires consciousness, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present but recognize and enjoy the present; the art of creating intimacy, coziness, charm, happiness, contentedness, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, kinship, and simpleness, being aware of a good moment.”. Do you love it?

This is my goal as the holidays approach.  I want a hygge filter.  I want to create intimacy with my people my God.  I want to open our home up every chance we get and have the hygge spill out onto our community.  I want to not just be present in the little things, but I want to savor them.  I believe it is holy work.  I believe, as Solomon said, it is a gift from God.

So here’s to hayrides and hygge… to fires and friends… to something warm in your cup and Autumn in your heart… to Solomon and savoring… to S’Mores and simple gifts… to Ecclesiastes and every common bush being afire with God.

Take your shoes off.

And remember to subscribe for a chance to win the “Savor the Season” Fall Bundle, full of beautiful gifts to usher in a moment of HYGGE for yourself. (Can I win my own give away?  Seriously?  It’s all so pretty!!!)

Fall Savor the Season Subscriber Incentive