Flourish in All Seasons

Grace-Full Rhythms: Silence and Solitude

This ENFJ, Enneagram 2W3, Extrovert girl LOVES to process and learn along-side fellow believers. I can often get in the “bad habit” of signing up for to many studies or conferences because I just get excited to dig into Scripture with my people, it’s what sets my heart on fire.

But, the good heart work of listening to our souls begins with cultivating a practise of silence (time spent in quiet) and solitude (time spent alone).

The soul is like a wild animal-tough, resient, resourceful, savvy, self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places. But it is also shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush. If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out. But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently by the base of the tree, and fade into our surroundings, the wild animal we seek might put in an appearance.”

Parker Palmer

I’ll never forget my first introduction to the practice of silence and solitude. I was in college attending a discipleship training course put on by the Navigators. Time well spent learning, growing, serving, and deepening our faith with fellow believers in one of my favorite places in Northern Wisconsin.

Towards the end of our time together, we had a 3 hour “Time alone with God” (or TAG as we called it…insert eye-roll here). I was curious and a tiny bit anxious.

We were each told to go find a place alone, apart from anywhere else and just be with God. There were no questions to walk through or topic to cover. Only me, God, my bible, and the great Northwoods.

I found a comfy spot outside (no surprise there!) to read scripture, pray, and listen. I was excited and expectant to what God might reveal to me during that time.

I wish I could tell you I had some great earth-shattering revelation, but my mind would not shut off. I kept thinking, dreaming, and planning. My thoughts ping ponged between ideas and trivial concerns. Before I knew it my time was up and I felt like I never really spent time just being with God. I quickly jotted a few things down to share with my team, but there was not a depth there and the experience felt lacking.

When I look back on that experience, I see a girl with so much to learn but one who truly wanted to “get it right”. And here is the truth my friends. There is no perfect formula or prescription for silence and solitude. It will look different for everyone and it will change in each season.

In the years since my 3 hour TAG, I’ve learned to let go of expectations and just enjoy the time.

Our hearts, minds, body, and souls live at a frantic pace. There is always more to learn, consume, do, intake, or make happen. Our culture thrives and pushes us to be constant consumers or creators. The practice of silence and solitude forces us to put aside our inner voice telling us to “do, go, produce”, and forces us to just be. It humbles us to realize that HE is the ultimate Creator and author of our lives.

Silence and solitude it one of the most life-giving rhythms in my Rule of Life, but it is also one of the most difficult to keep. I live alone, am unmarried, have no children or pets to care for, and yet I struggle to make time for silence and solitude in my days.

When I choose push aside the to-do list, light a candle, and just be still my soul is renewed and my heart recentered on my Creator.

A life that is full of God’s amazing grace begins with quieting our souls to hear our Father. There are countless examples of Jesus stepping away to lonely, quiet, and desolate places to pray alone.

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.

Matthew 14:23

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Mark 1:35

This practice will take time to cultivate in your day. It will feel akward and challenging to begin with. But friend, it will be so so worth it.

I would encourage you to take just 2 minutes today to sit and be still. Turn your phone on airplane mode, get away from people (lock yourself in a closet or bathroom if you need), and be with your Creator.

If you find your mind anxious or full of hurried thoughts, hand them over to your Father. I like to make a practice of beginning my time in silence and solitude with praying out-loud or writing down any concerns, worries, or anxieties that I’ve been carrying.

The tangible act of speaking my concerns help shift my heart and focus into a posture of letting go, and prepare my heart to listen.

I will often light a candle to signal to my soul that it’s time to rest and settle in. When my brain starts tip toeing into overdrive, I take a few breaths and focus on the flickering light.

Friend, God desires to be with us and hear our hearts cry. The one prayer God will always answer with a hearty yes is “Lord, be with me.” After all, during this season of Advent we are reminded that He is our Immanuel, God with us.

Grace Notes:

Tips and resources to help you on a grace-filled journey.

Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton

Pause App by Jon Eldridge

John Mark Comer’s Guide to “Un-Hurry”

Episode #3 “Noise vs. Silence on Jennie Allen

Flourish

Grace-Full Rhythms: Sabbath

Growing up our family prioritized church and family on Sundays. I remember the house being so quiet and still after Sunday lunch, because everyone was napping. It was the perfect time for me to sneak away into my room and devour whatever book I was reading at the time. I would look forward to those Sunday afternoon “binge reading” sessions all week long.

There was also a season in the Enockson household where we all were asked to spend at least two hours in the living room on Sunday nights. We could read a book, play a game, or talk. The point wasn’t what we did, but that we spent time together.

I didn’t know it then, but my family was incorporating the rhythm of a weekly Sabbath at a young age.

 Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 20:8-11

Sabbath keeping has been one of the most life-giving rhythms and an anchor in my rule of life. My name translates “industrious” and true to my name, I find it can be hard hard to quit the cycle of “do the next thing” and practice Sabbath. Yet when I regularly practise Sabbath, I’m reminded that the world does not revolve around me (no surprise there!) and that God wants to BE with me more than just have me do things for Him.

Sabbath is more than just going to church twice in one day, long naps, or enjoying a big family meal. Yes, your Sabbath can include all of those things, but it’s more than just a day off. Sabbath is a day that orientates our hearts and minds towards worship. The rhythms of our hearts and weeks should be orientated towards the Sabbath, either preparing for, anticipating, or delighting in our Creator.

Your Sabbath as a single mom, retired Grandma, mamma with grown kids, or single lady will look incredibly different than mine. But, there are a few ways that we all can remember to center our hearts around rest & worship when I practice Sabbath.

Stop

Sabbath means “cease from work”. From creation, God developed the rhythm of work and rest. For six days He created, breathed life, and sculpted creation and then on the 7th day he rested. It was a day like none before, a day to enjoy and savor the work of creation.  A Sabbath heart begins by stopping our regular routines and declaring one day or 24 hour period to be set-apart and look different from the rest of the week.

Grace Note: Pull out your calendar and look at the week ahead. Is there a day or 1/2 day that you could mark as a Sabbath Celebration?  Mark it down on the calendar, invite your family or friends to join you, and guard that day and your commitments fiercely. 

 

Rest

In the Jewish tradition, people observed the sabbath from sundown Friday evening to Sunset Saturday.  The Sabbath literally begins & ends with sleep.  What a beautiful picture of complete surrender.  When we are sleeping we are not in control.  Rest reminds us that we can trust in God and that He is the one who guides our path.

One thing I learned in studying was that in Jewish tradition the weeks were orientated around the Sabbath.  The first three days after the Sabbath were meant to reflect on those special days and then the following three days were preparation and anticipation to the Sabbath.  I loved this picture of orientation my week and time around the Sabbath. In order to rest well on that day, we need to prepare the other days.  If you choose to not go shopping on your Sabbath, you’ll need to find another day to get groceries and run errands.  One habit I’ve adopted is to use Saturday’s as my household chore and “work day”.

Grace Note: What are 2-3 things you could do today in order to prepare for you upcoming Sabbath?  Maybe it means running some errands over the lunch hour or picking up paper plates so you don’t have to do dishes.  Do those things now and prayerfully prepare for your Sabbath Celebration? 

Painting scripture is one of my favorite Sabbath rhythms.

Worship

Sabbath is a day set apart not for us, but for God. Sabbath without worship is a vacation 😉  True rest and contentment can only come from His presence.  Worship might mean visiting a favorite coffee shop for an extended time of quiet reflection and journaling, meeting with a community of believers, or even putting on worship music and belting it out with your kiddos.  Worship isn’t a prescription, it’s a way we connect with our Savoir and give him the glory and praise.

Grace Note: Think about the last time you felt intimately connected with God.  What was going on? Where were you?  Was there music? Where you alone or with other people.  Are there a few elements of that experience that you could incorporate into your Sabbath this week?  Write them down and put them into practice for your Sabbath rhythm. 

Play

Ceasing from work doesn’t mean Netflix and all day.  For me, puttering in my flower garden or taking a long hike can be incredibly life giving.  A few years ago I had someone recommend that on the Sabbath you cease doing the “work” you spend the majority of the time doing. If you are a landscape designer and spend your time digging in the dirt 5 days a week, Sabbath might mean curling up with a good book or watching a movie with loved ones. What is life-giving for one person may be training for the next.

Grace Note: Take a few minutes right now and write down 5 things that inspire and uplift you.  Consider incorporating just one of these playful activities into your Sabbath.

One final note.

“Sabbath was made for the man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

Sabbath is a beautiful command, but it can easily become a day of rules and regulations that ultimately distract us.  Questions of “Should I drive a car on the Sabbath?”  or “Can I make bread on the Sabbath?” have been topics of debate over the years.   Yet, when we focus only on what we should or shouldn’t do, we miss the heart of the Sabbath.  Sabbath is going to look different for people in different seasons.  I know that my Sabbath, as a single woman, looks vastly different from my friends with kiddos.  But when we begin with the intention honoring God’s command and choosing one day to set apart for Him, the activities don’t matter as much as our hearts.

Friend, I close this little post with the encouragement to give yourself grace.  Sabbath doesn’t have to look a certain way to honor the Lord.  If you listen closely & obey to Him, you’ll encounter the true rest and peace that He can bring. And discovering the heart of God is what Sabbath is all about.

Faith, Flourish

Grace-Full Rhythms: Rule of Life

Self-care is more than green smoothies, long baths, and massages. Those are all good things, but they are not everything. Our self-care rhythms are not what fix us, instead they help us push aside distractions and open our hearts to our Creator.

In my previous post I defined grace-filled self-care as:

Grace·filled self·care //  rhythms we engage in on a regular basis to restore and deepen our relationship with our Heavenly Father so that we can use our gifts fully for the Kingdom. Comprised of spiritual, emotional, physically, intellectual, and relational.

We are whole beings with a mind, body, and spirit. God created and called us to love Him with our whole selves.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Matthew 22:37

Before we dive deeper into the different aspects of grace-full self-care, I want to share a framework with you that has been incredibly helpful to me over the past several years.

Four years ago I met with my mentor at a local coffee shop to swap stories of God’s blessing, provision, and the struggles of leading an “out of the box life.” I shared with her the tension I was feeling of doing much for, and never yet feeling like I never had enough time to just be with Him. My quiet times were more like “get it done times” than true connection with God, and I deeply missed a true relationship with him.

She graciously listened to me and towards the end casually mentioned “The Rule of Life.” Our time was drawing to a close, so we didn’t get to a deep dive into what it was. But, she said just enough that when I did go home, I did the next logical thing…I googled it.

The concept of “Rule of Life” was new to me, but it is an ancient practice dating back to the third century AD. The first examples of a Rule of Life came desert fathers, a community of monks looking to live a life that Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10

The world rule might conjure up negative images of a black and white chalk board, stern teacher, or parent with a long list of restrictions. However, what is truly meant here is the rule being a guide or trellis on which we allow our lives to flourish and grow .

If I were to just let the tomatoes grow without staking them up or using support, they would grow but not flourish.

There would be disease because of limited light and air flow. There would be overcrowding without pruning.

There would be broken branches because the plant can’t support the weight of the fruit all on it’s own.

So, every Spring I construct an elaborate trellis that supports my little tomato plants, encourages to grow towards the light, and creates space for health.

That is exactly what a rule of life is.  It’s a series of daily, weekly, quarterly rhythms that ultimately bear fruit for His glory.

When we start with the foundation of His love, He will produce much fruit in our lives: Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness…

Typically a rule of life is split into body/physical, mind/mental, soul/spiritual, and people/relational.

Each category spend time listening to the Holy Spirit to discern your unique rule of life. The Rule of Life is not meant to be black and white or set in stone, I infact revisit mine twice a year (My birthday and New Years) to ensure that it’s working for my current season and allowing me to truly connect with my Creator.

If you are interested in creating a rule of life, some of my favorite resources are:

  1. Discern and Decide Guide by Emily P. Freeman
  2. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero
  3. Creating a visual Rule of life by Stephen A. Macchia at Crafting a Rule of Life
  4. Episode #2 of Work and Play with Nancy Ray “Rule of Life”

Over the next few weeks as we learn more about grace-full self-care, I’ll be using the Rule of Life as our trellis. Our support to guide you towards a life that flourishes. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite rhythms, walk you through crafting your own rule of life, and maybe even have a friend or two chime in.