Tag Archives: breathing

yes to quiet

31 days of WTHKW

I have been writing a lot. Much of it hasn’t ended up here; in fact, most of my 31 days haven’t ended up here. Maybe because there are some thoughts that are just better held close to my chest for awhile. One of the lovely things about writing for me is that, the more I do it, the more layers of myself I uncover. Which is beautiful and terrifying simultaneously. Terrifying because it feels so exposing, and I always feel the need to hide in the quiet for while.

So I’ve been hiding in the quiet a lot. But today, my thoughts are clear and easy and not quite so inward turned.

Last week, I was talking to a dear friend and mentor, someone I love very much. We were talking about me being exhausted and sick, about my body just leveling me with one thing after another. And I was explaining to her a little bit about how I believe that’s stress related, that my body was responding to a lack of rest, a lack of good food and proper hydration, a lack of general nourishment. And she made the comment that it’s just how life goes. That busy is just the way it is.

The older I get, though, the more I don’t really believe that. I believe that we’re as busy as we choose to be. I think of “yes” and “no” as currency these days. And I believe that when we’re exhausted and overextended and tired and sick, it’s because we’ve lost track of our yes and our no. We’ve decided that someone else gets to spend the yes and the no for us, and we just have to go with it.

I don’t think that’s true. I do believe that there are certain seasons that are naturally busier than others. I know this to be true in my career. Last week, half the reason I was so worn down was because work was really busy and really stressful. Saturday was solo contest, and trying to prepare twelve middle schoolers for that is just stressful. It just is. And I do know that was half the reason I was so tired, and likely a large chunk of the reason I felt so sick.

I also know that the other half of the reason was because I haven’t fully learned that, when I’m in a season of spending a lot of yes at work, it is vital that I learn how to spend my no in other areas for that season. In the same way that, when work is slow, I know I have some more yes to give to other areas of life.

I know as well that when those busy seasons hit, and I only have a little bit of yes to spend outside work, I need to be choosy about where it goes. I didn’t do that last week. I spent my extra yes on a lot of junk food and a lot of time with TV and social media when what I really needed to be saying yes to was making sure my body was properly cared for, with good food and plenty of water and long baths and phone calls with my best people and writing sessions and yoga and meditation and maybe a few naps.

I’m not doing this perfectly, the spending of my yes and my no. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I am growing. I am learning how to re-chart my course a little bit more quickly than I used to.

For example, I know I should have spent my yes more wisely last week, and made more use of my no, but I didn’t. I am, however, mapping out this week to look a lot more like last week should have. I’m giving myself the margin and the downtime I need. I slept in a little today. I went to yoga. I watched one episode of Gilmore Girls and then turned the TV off, rather than spending the entire day marathoning my way through Netflix. I got groceries so my home is full of good food. I took the time to cook for myself. I’ve been drinking plenty of water, and nothing else. It’s 7:30 pm, and I am curled up in bed, snuggling my dog and listening to absolute silence while I take the thoughts in my head and put them on paper. I’m not planning to stay late at work this week, or to go out in the evenings. I plan to spend plenty of time snuggling with my puppy and my husband, or curled up with a book, or painting my nails, or coloring. Doing something that allows me to stop trying for awhile and just be.

It’s time to quiet down. It is always my choice to say yes to quiet.

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under the sky

Sometimes, church is pipe tobacco and a shared bottle of wine.

In moments like that, the Texas sky seems exactly as big as all the old country songs claim, freckled with stars and nearly swallowing the moon with all its navy blue.

I didn’t know that first night, months ago, how immediately they would be our people. You know the ones. The people you sit around the dinner table with, laughing and talking, and a split second later, you look up to find that hours have passed and it’s tomorrow already and you instinctively know that this conversation has only just begun.

The night ends and months go by, because life is busy and there are jobs and kids and soccer practice and piano lessons and all of the things, but eventually you’re gathered around that same dinner table and it just feels like you never left.

So you take it outside, under the sky, because all the best things should always happen under the sky, and conversation like that is the best thing. Honesty like that is the best thing. Laughter like that is the best thing. Hope like that is the best thing.

In those moments, with the voices and and the stories and the sky and the same pipe tobacco Tolkien loved and the red wine, I feel it in my chest again. Church. I believe in it. I always have, but some days it comes easier than others. Some days it’s a picture I can see clearly, and some days the picture looks like nothing, clouded as it is by my own imperfect vision.

I sat out there, stars blinking and wind blowing my hair, and I wondered if this was what it felt like in the beginning. If this was why Jesus felt so strongly about gathering with people around a table. If maybe, when Jesus talked about the church, he was talking about this. This lack of pretense, this lack of politics, this lack of a business model, this lack of programs, this lack of agendas, this lack of cultural success. This presence. This presence of real, messy, disastrous, beautiful human beings who just want to know Jesus and do things the way he did, love people the way he did. Even when that feels impossible, wrapped as we are in humanity so frail it’s been known to shatter.

I want that. I want so much more of that. All of the fibers of my being strain toward it. Toward Jesus. Toward his people. Toward church, for the first time in so very, very long.

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on rest that recharges and restores

On Sunday, in a quiet elementary school cafetorium, Travis nudged us to think about this summer. To question what rest, actual rest, looks like for us. Not unwinding, but real rest, the kind that recharges and restores.

Since I’m a person who needs to unpack things one step at a time, a big part of figuring out what rest is for me is figuring out what rest is not. Surprisingly, in a way that’s not actually surprising at all, most of the things that I know are NOT rest for me are things I do constantly and try to pass them off as rest.

Rest is not marathoning TV shows or movies. I get into this habit all the time, because it is just so very easy and mindless. It always feels good while it’s happening, but afterward, I don’t feel recharged or better. I either feel exactly the same or worse, as though I’m wasting large chunks of my life on something that has literally no value to me, which I am. Let’s call it what it is.

Rest is not consistent screen-time. And I don’t ever really feel that until I feel it, and by the time I feel it, I feel it heavy. There is little to no transition time between “I’m fine” and “I am FREAKING OUT” on this one. I’m trying to learn my internal cues on this one, the small reactions that lead up to the big meltdown, because I know they exist. Sometimes it just feels as though over time, staring at a screen numbs me down until I’m not even aware of my own thoughts or feelings until they’re huge. Until the very sound of my text message tone makes me cringe and consider throwing my iPhone out the nearest two-story window.

Rest is not going and going and going. It is not constant doing, constant plans, constant activity. Rest is not chaos. I remember days when that worked, when that felt right, when it didn’t feel exhausting. But these days are not those, this much I know. I am a girl who used to seek the chaos, but has come to love the quiet, and to find herself there.

Rest also is not full days without people and interction. I need short stretches of alone time often, but too long and I get fidgety and weird. And not in a good way. I thrive on community and conversation and laughter and stories and shared memories.

Rest isn’t any of those extremes for me. The older I get, the more I understand that rest, for me, often doesn’t feel like “rest” in the moment. Especially at first. Most often, the things that recharge me actually feels like work in the beginning. I have to talk myself into them, to remind myself that life and breath are found in them.

Rest, for me, requires the space and quiet to think my thoughts without throwing any more of them into the mix. It hinges next on the output of information, spoken or written. I sometimes feel as though I’m always taking in information. Input, input, input. Although input isn’t a bad thing, my brain isn’t one that naturally releases information. It’s like it just hangs out in my brain until I consciously drag it out. I remember conversations, books, blogs, quotes, moments. It all sticks around, it all feels valuable. And sometimes my head is just so very full. Like lungs that only ever breathe in, only ever expand, only every fill up.

I am only just learning how to exhale, or even that I need to. I am only just learning that breathing out comes in seasons, like the rest of life. Seasons of solitude, seasons of community, seasons of quiet, seasons of letting the words fall out. I am only just learning how to let the seasons come and go as they may, without grasping at their coming and going.

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