Love Yourself and Let Yourself Go

tropical beach wallpaperImages of pristine beaches, faraway places, and exotic foods pop into my head when I think of travel.   My pulse beats faster, and I feel excitement bubbling up deep from within.

Standing with a long hatpin ready to burst that bubble is my Practical Side.  “There’s work, school, obligations, no time or money to schedule a trip!”

Both perspectives are valid, need attention, and balancing them is challenging.  Too immersed in living spontaneously brings instability and debt. Too focused on life’s responsibilities makes life mundane and boring. Too often we get stuck in the latter.

That’s why exploring and enjoying this world is a great way to express love of self, others, and life. Traveling is enriching to us and can have a positive impact on those we meet.

Everywhere we go we have a chance to gain or share the insights we have been given by being kind, helping, serving, or enjoying the area.  This is an amazing world.  Each area has its own unique features and animals.  Our perspective on life changes when we see the variety of people, cultures, and landscapes.

To love others well requires self-love. Travel is about following your dreams, breaking from the routine, seeing new things, being adventurous, or making a difference in the world. Going places adds spice and helps us feel good about ourselves and life.

People may stay home because they or significant people in their lives aren’t interested, don’t want to spend the money, take the time, or allow fear hold them back.  Several examples come to mind of missed ventures.  Going to a friend’s wedding in another state, traveling to the Middle East, and seeing Garth Brooks perform in Central Park stand out as lost once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Conversely, cruises, trips to the South Pacific, Europe, Scandinavia, mission trips to Mexico, traveling the United States, exploring Colorado, and camping show up as high points in my life.

How to get started? Think about where you want to go.  Write down the goal. Then research to get a sense of what you want to see and experience while there. Estimate the cost, and divide by the number of months between now and the estimated travel date. Start saving for it.  Think about what you willing to sacrifice to save the money: Fewer gourmet coffees? Eat at home? Work extra hours? Consider: “Would I rather have this coffee or that trip? Sometimes the coffee will win, but as the savings build up, the anticipation of the trip builds.

It takes courage to love yourself enough to carefully evaluate your own priorities and pursue them.  Sometimes we must stand up to opposition or our own internal naysayers.

Those who value themselves and their dreams pursue them…to the ends of the earth if that’s where it takes them.

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Finding True Rest

Hebrews 4:6 New International Version (NIV)6 “Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest…”

In my last blog, I wrestled with trying to find rest in the midst of my restlessness.  Since then, the idea of being able to rest has been simmering on the back burner of my mind.  How do I actually rest? How do I ignore the myriad of things that need to be done to rest?

I had an epiphany.  I was trying to accomplish ‘resting’ by using the same rules I used for working!  I was trying to power through, to check off ‘rest’ just like I would a task on my to-do list at work.  I was trying to do this on my own, controlling how it got done.

Last week, I decided to ‘rest’ differently than I had ever done before.  I decided to ask God how I should go about it.  I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.  One realization I had was that to rest does not mean ‘sit quietly in the corner with your hands folded and legs crossed.’ It is a different kind of active.  It’s a break from the normal routine of my life.

I also realized it is not a rigid ‘this is how it is done every week, the exact same way.’  Matthew 12:12 informs us that Jesus caused an uproar with the Pharisees because he picked grain on the Sabbath day, yet He came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17).

So if Jesus never broke the Sabbath day law, how was what Jesus did not ‘work’ even though it involved picking grain which is ‘work?’

I finally understood the difference last weekend during my day of rest.  I asked God to be in my day of rest, and guide me with all that I do.  That caused me to ponder, what activities can be ‘restful’ even though they might on the outside appear to be work to an observer?

I realized that underlies any activity is the motivation behind which an activity is driven.  On one day, futzing with my plants outside can be enjoyable and relaxing, on another day, it would be work. Connecting with people can be work (taking care of business) or restful.  Most of the time going to garage sales would be work, on one day it was a divine connection.  Most of the time, picking grain is work, on that one day, it was divine communion.  If it’s stressful, it’s not restful. If it’s striving, it’s not thriving.  If it’s forcing, it’s not freeing.

As I was contemplating exactly what a restful day to delight in the Lord looked like, I decided to ask God to lead me.  My goal was to have community with God.  What I felt inspired to do was to go to a community garage sale.  It was different than any garage sale experience I’ve ever had. I found community with God at a community sale!

The first difference was that God was front and center on my mind…the whole time. I was not focused on my usual hunt for ‘something I didn’t know I needed’ until I found ‘something I can’t live without.’

It wasn’t a mad rush to go from one place to the next and catch a deal before the person ahead of me snatched what I wanted.  It was relaxing.  It was looking for opportunities to say little things that would be a blessing to others or put a smile on their faces.  It was an opportunity to bolster the confidence of 8-year-old lemonade-stand entrepreneurs.  It was an opportunity to practice listening to the almost-imperceptible nudge of God-with-me every step of the way.

Do I go left or right? In response I felt ‘turn right’ though it seemed it was going away from the highest concentration of garages spilling out their contents.  The sale I came to boasted ‘DVD’s for sale.’ I remembered I wanted to get the first ‘Ice Age’ movie because my grandson is really into it.  Our old VHS copy of it sports so much ‘snow’ in poor quality that I think that’s how the Ice Age started.  I ask if she has ‘Ice Age’.  The owner pointed to the woman standing there with a pile of DVD’s in her arm. She got it!  My first thought was “I missed my opportunity!” My second thought was, “With God there is abundance and no lack.’  I decided not to be upset.

Where do I go next? ‘turn left.’ Okay.  I did.  Next stop there was a brand-new looking fan rake for $1.00.  Ours had given up its ability to be useful and found its way to the trash a couple years ago.  This place also had DVD’s…and ‘Ice Age’…but it was the 2nd movie, not the first one that my grandson loves.  So I asked the gentleman, “Do you happen to have the original one?” He thought all the movies were already in the garage, but he said he would check inside just in case.  He came outside, with my request in hand!  So I got what I wanted! God provided.

I learned: I don’t have to be jealous of what others have, because God has infinite ways to provide.  I also can trust His provision….If I’m willing to be patient and wait for it to come in the manner He deems best.

I find that easy to do with small things.  It’s not easy at all with big things.

That day, I had more fun stopping at sales, gathering useful things, being in fellowship with God the whole way, positively interacting with others, and resting!  I also heard ‘okay, we’re done’ after a couple hours.  Normally, I’d be at it all day.  I felt content. Complete.  And I hadn’t even spent all my money!

It wasn’t about acquiring things, though I did.  It wasn’t about getting amazing bargains, though I got some screaming deals.  It wasn’t about shopping, though I was.  It was all about resting.  It was unconventional.  I also suspect that is not normally how I will be spending my rest days.

It was a lesson to teach me that a ‘rest day’ is about connection with God and others.  Things are a means to help with that connection. I cannot predict how future rest days will look because God is one who likes surprises, variety, creativity, and uniqueness.  I have learned that rest is more about attitude, motivation, and community.

I can be doing things that look like I’m outwardly resting, but my mind can be going a million miles a minute.  That’s not rest.  I can be doing things that may appear to be working but done with the right attitude and intent and it’s not work. Only I know when I’m truly resting and when I’m not.

What to you is truly resting? I encourage you to ask God weekly what and when is the best way for you to rest.

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works,[e] just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:9 (NIV).

Rest

In my first blog, one` of the things included in my long list of ‘wants’ for my life was to ‘rest.’  As a counselor, I hear about the elusive desires of many people. To have time to ‘rest’ is something many struggle with, including me.

I grew up on a farm where there was an endless list of things that needed to be done…at all times.  Take care of the animals, keep up the yard, the house, the machinery.  Sow, plant, reap.  Grow food, weed the garden, harvest food, store food for winter.  Make meals, clean up afterwards. Buy or make clothes, wash and dry them, repair, repeat.  There was an abundance of work.  This has followed me all of my life.  There is still an abundance of work, though what falls into that category is different.

I remember one day when I was probably 10 or 11 years old.  We had just completed a hard push of baling hay and securing it in the mow away from the leaching fingers of rain and the caustic bleach of the sun.   We sat down under the large maple tree whose branches spread over us like wings of an eagle to protect us from the hot sun.  There was a soft breeze pushing away attempts of humidity to cling to us too tightly.  We lay sprawled out on the grass with an ice cold glass of water freshly pumped from a pristine well coursing down our throats cooling us from the inside out.  Laying there, looking at the clouds idly wandering across the sky, I harbored no thoughts whatsoever of what task to rush to next.  I was deliciously in the moment without a care in the world.

As I think about that moment close to a half century ago, I wonder why it stands out as such a rare event in my life.  After all, I used to ‘keep the Sabbath’ which technically meant resting one day a week, on Saturday. You would think I’d have lots of memories like that where I could savor doing nothing, uncluttering my mind of things undone, unhurriedly enjoying the day.   Not so much.  My experience during the years I was legalistically ‘keeping the Sabbath’ day were characterized by a mad dash on Friday to get everything done by evening so I could ‘rest’ on Saturday. On which I often watched the clock for the end of the day, like a racer poised for the starting gun to go off, so I could get back to my unfinished list.

While it is true that many of those Saturdays included longer sleep-ins, frequent naps, time spent with others who were like minded, and a cessation of weekly routine work; I never got to the place where I actually gave my brain, spirit, or soul a rest.  My mind was filled with ‘what needs to be done’ ‘what I didn’t get done’ and worry about ‘how is it all going to get done.”

What eluded me, what I was unaware of, was what motivated that line of thinking in the first place.  What was driving that gerbil-wheel thinking was the grand illusion that there would come a day when everything would be done, all at the same time, after which I could truly ‘rest.’ Until such time as all the house is spotless, all the chores complete, all mending and repairs finished, painting done, weeding  and trimming done, everything that needs doing neatly filed in the ‘done’ category along with all papers, I am not able to ‘rest’.  Truly, when will that happen? When I enter eternity. Not a moment before.

The other culprit in the tyranny of taking time to rest is fear.  It is hidden fear that tells me if I take this time to rest, I won’t get it all done.  I will miss out on something better. Essentially, I’m afraid that I can’t trust God to stretch the rest of the time I have so I can fit in everything else.

Ironically, when I have had to courage to make myself be still, I’m amazed at how smoothly those days go.  You’d think that would be sufficient incentive to make that a daily habit.  Not so much.  Fear snaps me back into my old habits as rapidly as a stretched rubber band returns to its shape once let loose.

I have a rest disability.  I can’t be still for very long.  I’ve been trying to rest all day.  I can relax for about 15 minutes before something pops into my mind that must be done immediately.   ‘Be still, and know that I AM God’ (Psalm 46:10) is very hard for me to do more than a snippet at a time.  It would be no problem if the injunction were ‘go fast and let a fleeting thoughts of God flit through your mind at 70 mph.’ I might have a chance of doing that.

I just got up for the gazillionth time in the process of writing this article to do something that occurred to me.  Even writing about rest causes restlessness in me.

I’m going to keep working on it.  On resting.  Wow, I have to work at resting!  Maybe it will happen if I move ‘rest’ to the ‘work’ category.  I’m good at working.

Does talking about rest cause restlessness in you too?  In what ways are you successful at resting?

What I want

What I want for my life:

Most of my life I have not been consciously aware that these are things I want, so I have not been intentional in my pursuit of these things.  They turn out to be more haphazard and accidental.  I just realized that it is when I DECIDE that is what I want (a conscious, in-the-moment thought), I then follow that up with taking action.
To have a relationship with my Creator
To have joy
To live in peace
To live without fear
To love and be loved
To be accepted by others for who I am….not what they expect me to be
To have fun
To laugh
To be engaged in meaningful work.
To make a positive difference in the world
To have a balance between time with others and time my myself
To have variety
To have beauty
To have purpose
To be creative
To explore
To rest
To try new things
To travel
To be in good health
To be in good shape
To look forward to eternity
My new ‘want’ is to decide every day which of the above list will show up in my day, my week, my month, my year.  Then I will take action to make what I want happen.
What do you want?