Let's try a new thing, shall we? One common thread or theme, and four books with slightly different flavors. A bookish flight of four, if you will.
These are the things that bring me back again, the things that restore a sense of calm, the things that remind me of what is good, of what is true, of what truly matters when things start to feel out of control.
I'm behind on writing for 31 days. I shouldn't be surprised-- it's typical of me to start something and then push back against the commitment and hard work of it. Anyway. I'm catching up today with four words from the past weekend and hopefully I'll stay on track from here on out...hopefully being the key word there!
Earlier this year, I wasn't sure where I wanted to be. My lease was up on the apartment in the north side of Richmond where I had lived by myself for a year. My work was remote, and I had the freedom for the first time to really go anywhere I wanted. I moved back home temporarily to figure out my next moves, but it soon became clear that Richmond was home and this city was where I needed to stay.
Lately, I've been reminded time and time again that this city is my favorite.
Spending beautiful evenings on the lawn of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts just coloring and relaxing, returning with friends on Friday nights for their happy hours, Saturdays spent by the James River and on Brown's Island for the Richmond Folk Festival, Sunday afternoons at my favorite coffee shop with open mics and vanilla lattes, leisurely walks around the neighborhood that take me past Agecroft Hall and the Virginia House and tree-lined streets of the most charming houses, restaurant and bar hopping with friends on the weekends to dance and watch soccer games and eat french fries...this River City is home. This is the place I love. I can't imagine being anywhere else.
This place is my place. I'm grateful to call it home.
Have you ever been somewhere physically but felt far away mentally? Standing on a hill by the river as bluegrass music played from the massive stage behind me this weekend, I felt that way. I was there, but I wasn't. I hated the feeling. I couldn't place it, couldn't quite define it, definitely couldn't explain it.
I wasn't fully present.
But I want to be. I want to live my life intentionally, wholeheartedly, meaningfully. I want to be present. I want to turn my phone off and keep it away, knowing the notifications can wait, that being fully present matters more. I want to eliminate distractions and focus my attention. I want to sift through the emotions and the doubt and the worry and stress and let it all settle so I can be still and be there.
I want to be fully present.
It will take effort, but it will be worth it. I want to live in the moment, eyes open, all in.
I realized recently that I'm not good at asking for things. I think I'm afraid I'll be heartbroken or disappointed if I ask for things or pray for things and then they don't happen. I'm realizing how prideful that is, that I think my desires are the ultimate best thing for me. I know my God is gracious and good, and I know His plans are best, but I hold on to my own hopes and dreams and desires because I'm afraid they won't be His and I selfishly don't want to let them go. I want to pray boldly. I want to give voice to the things in the deep parts of my heart and hold them with open hands-- if He wants to take them, if He wants to give them, if He wants to transform them, if He wants to hold on to them for longer... I want to trust His will and His way above my own wants and wishes. I want to pray honestly and vulnerably and totally openly. I want to ask. I want to praise. I want to worship. I want to pray without ceasing.
I want to look like You.
I want to act like You.
I want to move like You.
I want to pray like You.
I want to love like You.
I want to serve like You.
I want to lead like You.
I want to worship like You.
I want to sacrifice like You.
I want to be like You.
Every day in October, I'm writing whatever comes to mind when I focus on one word.
You can find all of my Write 31 Days posts HERE.
Selah. Pause and praise. Be still and know. Stop, wait, rest, worship.
2015 has been wild so far. Three months in (how...) and I've found myself seeking selah more and more and more. My soul needs it. My heart longs for it. Everything within me yearns to just stop and be still, to pause and to praise.
Schedules are crazy, hours fly by, and the pressure to hurry mounts with each passing second as the stress builds. I don't want that.
I want selah.
Evenings where the to-do list is a mile long, but I know it can wait until morning, so I stand in the front yard just to watch the sunset. Mornings where emails crowd my inbox, begging for my reply, but I keep the screens off and soak up Scripture instead. Commutes in the car with music just a click of a button away, but instead driving in silence, my heart spilling prayers and worries and wants to my listening Lord.
I want selah.
It's a choice, this selah thing. It's a choice to be still. It's a choice to be silent. It's a choice to worship. It's a choice to find joy.
I choose selah. I loosen my white-knuckled grip on control. I let go of the tasks and the to-dos. I exhale all the pent-up stress that's kept my breath shallow and shaky.
I choose selah. I sink into the true rest my weary bones desperately need. I let my heartbeat calm, surrendering to its Maker, as I let His words flood me and His mercy comfort me. I let my words be few. I let my spirit soar with His. I choose to pause and praise. I choose selah.
Though the cities will always be chaotic, though people will always hurry, though the world flies by in a mess of noise and motion, creation reflects the Creator. Beautiful. Still. Indescribable. This video shows the contrast wonderfully.
After an exhausting day of nannying combined with stress about deadlines and a dozen things that needed to get done yesterday, this sunset was ahead of me the entire drive home. And instead of worrying about the things I needed to do, instead of stressing, instead of drowning out my thoughts with the latest Mat Kearney album, I drove home in silence, just watching. Just staring at the glory of God on display before me. Just choosing selah.
This playlist was on the top of my Spotify page when I opened it up, and I turned it on as I started to work on some writing and blog updates. I expected songs with lyrics, but there were none. Before long, I felt calm and at peace. Before long, I felt my eyes welling up with tears. The simple melodies were all my soul needed to finally breathe, to finally let go, to finally release. I stopped working and just sat and listened as the music filled the room and filled my heart. Who knew a simple "Stress Relief" playlist could bring such sweet selah?
It helps me to get out of the house, to be in a place where there are people around and the smell of roasting coffee beans and the white noise of conversations and clanking plates. It helps me to change my surroundings. It helps me to sit at a new table, pull out my Bible and journal, and pour my heart out onto paper. For an hour or so before the real work of my day begins, this helps me. Intentionally making an effort to pause. Intentionally making an effort to praise. Intentionally carving out room and choosing to devote my time to selah.
May the next three months (and the rest of this year) be even more devoted to selah. May I choose to pause and choose to praise, no matter what comes. May I choose to make the Lord the focus of my days, today and every day.
Hi friends! Newsflash: It's June. I know I'm not the only one amazed at how fast time is flying by, but really, it's crazy that summer is here again.
After reading an incredible blog post by my friend Erica (that you'll see in a few weeks on Rethink), I was challenged and motivated to make changes in June. Some are simple, some are meaningful, some are going to be tricky. All of them are going to push me to be better, to engage in the world around me, to really listen and hear and see, to strengthen my mind, my body, and my spirit, to draw closer to my Creator.
I'm not one to usually make New Year's Resolutions in January, but this June, I'm making a list of challenges for myself that really are resolutions. I'm calling it New June. You can follow along on social media, I'll be using #NewJune!
Here's my list. (every good list has a Legally Blonde reference, am I right?!)
If you want to join me and make a list of your own, it's not too late! Join in the fun. Let's team up. It would be awesome to see how you're setting goals to grow too. If nothing else, please shoot me a text or a tweet or call me up and ask how it's going and help me stick to it-- I'm going to need accountability, trust me. Also, please don't spoil The Bachelorette for me!
My prayer for this month of June is this: that I may be increasingly more in tune with the words and the ways of the Lord. that I would put only good things into my body so I have the strength and the energy to live and glorify God in all I do. that I would work to make my body strong and healthy instead of hating the skin I'm in. that I would lean in to the silence and turn off the noise and distractions, lean in to hear the Spirit's voice, lean in to my own thoughts and questions. that I would soak up the Word, and that I would devote time to crafting my own words. that I would seek community and accountability and relationships without waiting for them to find me. that I would grow ever closer in intimacy with my Savior, that I would talk with him ceaselessly. that more and more His ways would become my ways, His heartbeat set the rhythm of mine. that my prayers would be bigger, bolder. that my belief would be unwavering and undeniable. that when July rolls around, I'll be different, more brave, more whole, more content, more like Jesus.
It's a whole new June. I'm ready to cannonball in, ready to feel the sun on my skin and the wind at my back, ready to discover more of my Maker and more of myself.
My Savior is alive.
All morning, throughout worship and the message at church, I was in awe of that. He is alive. Living, breathing, moving, working, healing, saving...alive. I've known this, it's not new to me. But I'm in awe of it still.
He is alive in beauty. I mean, seriously, have you seen the sunsets this past week? He is glorious. Beauty unimagined, and those fiery skies are just a glimpse of His splendor.
He is alive in answered prayers. He is listening, hearing, responding, providing. He is opening doors and creating opportunities and making a way for us one step at a time.
He is alive in community. He is among is when we gather, around fireplaces and crowded living rooms in small group, in spacious sanctuaries with the masses, around dinner tables and in coffeeshops. He is bringing us together, holding us together, uniting us as His body in the flesh.
He is alive in worship. He is in the chords and in the harmonies, the sweet melodies and the joined voices, in the tunes and the words and the simple and beautiful praises we give to Him. He is glorified in out worship, He is praised as we humble ourselves before Him, He is lifted high as we lift our voices and our hands to all that He is and will be and has always been.
He is alive in perfect love. He is our Father, loving us relentlessly and wholly and so deeply, filling every beat of our hearts and every depth of our souls in ways we didn't know possible. He is our Creator, the one who knit us together as we are for a purpose so specific and so intentional. We are His. Nobody could love us the way He does, endlessly, perfectly, with all-consuming love.
He is alive in victory. He conquered everything we never could. He went to the places we are scared to go, He went to the cross, He went to the grave, He went to the darkness and the deepest depths, and He came again in glory and in victory, conquering it all. He took our very worst and He became our salvation. The grave didn't hold him. Death didn't keep him. He defeated it. He rose. He has risen. He's alive, He's alive.
Let us, the body of Christ, come alive. Let us shake off the fear, the doubt, the worry, the apathy, the uncertainty, the excuses. Let us wake up, open our eyes, come alive again.
"Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
All morning, I kept repeating as I worshipped, "You are alive, You're alive, You, my Savior, are alive." And then, the worship team played this song, and I just laughed as I sang, as I lifted my hands and rejoiced in the words and the worship and the praise of my God who is so very alive.
Christ is risen from the dead Trampling over death by death Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead We are one with him again Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave
Oh death! Where is your sting? Oh hell! Where is your victory? Oh Church! Come stand in the light! The glory of God has defeated the night!
Oh death! Where is your sting? Oh hell! Where is your victory? Oh Church! Come stand in the light! Our God is not dead, he's alive! he's alive!