This is a guest post by Jennifer for our Love in the Real World Series. Learn more about Jennifer at intentionaltraditions.com.
How do you escape, recharge and remember who you are, even if only for an hour and a half?
As a busy parent, I know that it’s good for me to get out of the house and spend time reflecting on life, reading, journaling and praying. It’s the most helpful, authentic “self-care” that I need because I am drawing away to let the Lord attend to my needs. And He knows how best to care for and steer my true self on the path I am made for.
But I struggle with an unmerited guilt that my family needs me ALL the time! That they might resent or question that I needed time away from them.
But I know that the space and time away makes me return home seeing them in a different light. I need to Lord to re-direct me, re-shape me, remind me. I need time with Him alone in order to be the me that my family needs.
Why do I struggle to make the healthy decisions?
Whether for my body or my spirit, I’m quick to choose a poor substitute for what would truly make me better. The cookie instead of the vegetable. The TV time instead of Bible time. Running errands instead of sitting alone to re-coup my sanity.
There are a million ways to spend this time alone with the Lord and I wanted to shed light on a recent worthwhile outing – to show how He is shaping and re-directing my thoughts, helping me to observe and process life around me and re-centering my thoughts so that I return home grateful for my wonderful, noisy, mess-makers. All on a simple coffee date.
Time was made for Observations, Reflections, Conclusions that reflect His perspective and restore mine. Ready to walk with me?
My Solitude Narrative: A Morning in the City
“Sometimes I like to pack an ambitious stack of books and drive to the downtown part of our little city. Lynchburg’s roots go back to the 1700’s but downtown there is a spattering of ArtDeco intermixed within walking distance of Victorian mansions and Italian style villas, though now their glory is stained, faded, crumbling and unpolished.
They are working, building by building, to revitalize our downtown. I think that’s what I like about it. You can see the beauty it was created with and imagine all of it made new. Occasionally the scaffolding is removed and cloth dropped to unveil the store-front again as it should be – clean, whole and reflecting its true color.
Some drive through and see the past, but I see the coming future.
There’s hope among these ruins. Only time, precision and care in the right hands can reveal them new again. As they ought to be.
I guess it gives me hope for my soul.
I’m drawn to ask Him to revitalize me, giving the precision care needed to reveal what He had intended, clearing away my wrong intentions and masking debris.
I pass through the crowded streets and find a spot a few blocks away so I intentionally have to walk a bit. Though in my own town, I pretend I’m in a foreign big city. I clutch my bag under my arm in the cold wind and enjoy the jingle of my boot buckles as I skip across the crosswalk, like I’m some sort of independent woman in a different place, I imagine that I am walking down from my cool apartment instead of a suburban brick house with sticky jelly-spattered floors. If you grew up in a rural setting like me, perhaps you can relate to the enigma of pushing the button signal to cross the street and putting coins in parking meters. Foreign.
I push open the ornate gold handles into a beautiful coffee shop in perfect 1920’s extravagant style. It’s in the bottom floor of an upscale hotel. I’m not sure if I want to more admire the beauty of the shop or the intrigue of the busy streets outside so I sit in a corner where I can view both. Outside is one my favorite buildings, what we call the “Empire State building” of our town. The beauty in man’s design fascinates me.
I sip steaming coffee from a mug I won’t have to wash and pretend to have all the time in the world as I scrawl in my journal and daydream. I pick a Psalm and re-write it back to the Lord and get a hint of that restoration I was hungry for. My soul has time to steep in God’s Word and perspective and turn again to what He calls good.
I am reminded here to appreciate the beauty in the busyness that’s always around me and to simplify my idea of “time with Jesus” sometimes. I ask Him to imprint deeply this still moment of peace and beauty in my memory.
As I am relishing this quiet moment and the last of my croissant, an arrow of distraction tries to pierce through His shield around me. I watch a beautiful older mother and daughter pair enter in, with sunglasses on top of their head, in matching camel pea coats, order matching bottles of San Pelligrino. Their perfect teeth shine as they laugh over the somehow-amusing wine menu. Their bulky bracelets jingle in unison and I suddenly feel left out, alone and under-dressed. I feel out of place in this place I came into first.
But then His Spirit quickly reminds me that I am His and that no circumstances like this on this earth really matter. There will come a time when I compare myself to no one and the only place to be or not be will be all His. I will choose to live in that Kingdom now, where all territory is His and where I am always an honored daughter and my wealth is in His inheritance for me.
I smile at them and return my thoughts to my silent coffee date and the empty chair. I feel at peace again that there is nothing more I need to be than attentive to Him.
As the time to be home draws near, I bundle up again to face the wind and find my car. As I drive carefully around the one-way streets and construction cones I also look carefully at the faces as I pass, knowing each has a story, many whose lives need revitalized too. I pray for God’s Work and the mission field within minutes of my home.
I notice another pair of women, one very young and one older at a corner by a run down school on a street I rarely need to travel, both shabbily dressed for this chilly day. The younger woman is holding a baby girl and you could feel the delight on both of their faces, staring into the infant’s eyes, touching her hands and making her laugh as they shiver in the cold. I feel such a strong, instant connection with their joy, thinking of my own little ones.
I know that look.
I’m reminded that this element of life, this inexcusable joy, this delight in others, in our children, is available to everyone. The women in camel pea coats had felt it before too, I was sure. Seeing the women and baby girl had reminded me and my heart filled again with love for my family. The Lord has built in us a delight in life, in Him and in each other.
And though my family may have been what drove me out of the house in the first place, I am drawn again now to get back with them, carrying this renewed peace within me. Their joy has rekindled mine.
I’ve come full circle. In an hour and a half.
Each of these moments are the simple lessons that are re-shaping life, bringing up the mundane for Him to carve into right perspective. It’s not seeing the ruins but the potential. It’s not feeling overwhelmed but peaceful and connected. It’s not feeling separated but belonging. It’s not feeling tired from your kids but remembering the joy in their eyes that made you love them in the first place, because He created you to feel that. These are what ought to be; the fabric dropped, unveiling life with Him as it ought to viewed.
These are why hour-and-a-half’s alone are worth it.”
Hope. Beauty. Simplicity. Belonging. Joy.
Reminders revitalizing my dusty soul for real life.
So, where to begin when you have the chance to walk alone with Him?
- Invite the solitude to begin from the moment you get in your car and not end when you get home.
- Don’t wait for circumstances to be perfect in order to begin.
- Ask Him to speak into every observation you make and show you how to pray.
- Look at life differently and ask Him to speak to you about change.
- If you live in the city, go for a country drive or find a quiet park bench by the water. Get outside if you’re always at home or in an office.
- Go somewhere you don’t normally go.
- Notice how you’re feeling and ask God if there are lies about you or Him lining your heart. Give those over to Him and ask Him for the truth to replace that lining.
- Write down observations, reflections, and conclusions and thank Him.
- Make this an intentional tradition in your month and do not feel guilty for giving the Lord this time to give your captive attention to Him. Your family will reap the blessing of your closer walk with Him.
READ MORE FROM Jennifer ON HER BLOG AT intentionaltraditions.com.
CHECK OUT OTHERS IN THE LOVE IN THE REAL WORLD SERIES.
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