Be.“You buzzed? Is everything alright?” the nurse asked.
“Yes,” I said, “I was just wondering why you haven’t brought my baby in yet.”
“Well, she’s sleeping. You don’t want me to wake her, do you? It’s 3am, why don’t you get some rest.”
This was my first baby and I was so excited to just hold her. I had heard how babies never slept through the night as newborns and so I was sure the nurse was holding out on me, keeping my baby away so I would have time to rest. And that would be a logical assumption considering I had just delivered my sweet baby less than 24 hours ago. I know, silly me, I should have cherished the rest. But I just wanted to be with my baby so much! I was the same way when my second child was born.
My love for these precious newborn babies knew no bounds. Even though they were completely helpless, ever so demanding and didn’t make any real contributions to the family, I still loved them so much. I simply loved them for “being”.
In a world that places so much value on “doing” it is so hard to appreciate the joy of “being” – like the joy of being uniquely created by God and the joy of being still in His presence.
Do you believe it is possible to be loved and valued by God even if you weren’t able to contribute one meaningful thing to this world?
Pause before you answer. Think about it for a minute. Really search your soul on this one.
The answer is absolutely yes! God is love. He created you just to love you. And He simply wants you to love Him. Of course, He has other things for you to do here, but that doesn’t make you any more lovable or valuable. Intellectually you may agree with me, you may say, “Yes, of course!” But is that how you feel in your heart? Or do you struggle, like I have, with being okay with just being?
That is one of the challenges to the practice of the spiritual discipline of stillness, silence and solitude. It feels so unproductive. Shouldn’t we be doing something? We should at least be praying or praising. Why? Why is it not okay to just be before God and let Him love us, to let Him speak to our souls in that stillness? God loves us in the same way that we love a newborn, not for the great thoughts they think, or what they can contribute or do, but for just being. Maybe that is why, in scripture, He is continually encouraging us to be like children.
I decided to use a scripture verse as a way to bring my mind back to a place of quiet during my time of stillness with the Lord. Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God, seemed perfect to me.
It starts with be. It’s a good place to start. Just be.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13
Stillness. “Do you want to join me in a day of stillness?” my daughter asked.
I knew that the company she works for allows employees to take a day of stillness, a day spent in prayer and reflection, in quiet community with the Lord. What could be better than a day of reflection spent side by side with my daughter, two sisters in Christ sharing a day of stillness? Sign me up!
The blankets were spread out on grass in the shadow of the National Cathedral. The sunshine was warm, the flowers bright, and the location quiet. We each had our share of books, our Bibles, different colored pens and journals ~ it takes a bit of gear for a day of stillness, or so I thought. I started my time of reflection reading God’s story, delving into some specific scriptures, and jotting my thoughts into my journal.
Then my attention turned to a book my daughter had about the spiritual discipline of solitude and silence, and I began reading. The author spoke of her journey, born out of a sense of despair and desperation, to seek God in solitude and silence. It wasn’t something she came to on her own ~ there was no divine revelation, no best-selling self-help book that inspired her on this journey. Instead, a Christian psychologist suggested that the answers to her struggles might be found in stillness before the Lord. And so she took the first step.
Why not? I thought. Why not try taking that first step? So I pushed aside the books, my pens, my journal, even my Bible. I closed my eyes and tried to just let my mind be still and quiet, to let myself settle, allow my soul the space to connect with God. Doesn’t that sound so poetic, so wonderful? You know what? I realized that I have a very noisy mind and I am not sure I even had five minutes of the silence, solitude and stillness I was seeking.
I could relate to the author’s struggle to find stillness in her busy life and in this noisy world that demands so much of our attention; but now I realize that even if I put myself in a quiet environment free from distractions, I can still be a victim of my own overly active mind. Now I understand why it is called a spiritual discipline ~ clearly it is going to take some practice! But I think it is time.
My soul yearns for a closer connection to God, for complete oneness with His spirit, for overwhelming peace that can only come from knowing God and knowing who He is on a deeper level. God has spoken to my soul in quiet times past in a way that produces nothing less than joy ~ in spite of all that was going on in and around me. Silence, solitude, stillness ~ call it what you will, it is a worthy spiritual discipline that I desire to incorporate into my life on a more consistent basis. I will take small steps to start this journey, just ten minutes of silence and solitude to begin, knowing that God will be faithful to me in the process. How about you? Will you join me on this path that will lead us closer to the Creator of, not only the universe, but our very souls? Let’s enter into God’s sanctuary together ~ He’s waiting for us!
But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. Psalm 73:28
Wonder. Today I had the chance to hold a newborn baby girl in my arms. That’s two newborn baby girls I’ve held in a week ~ two nieces, two beautiful little sleeping bundles of wonder. Can you say blessed? I couldn’t help but look at them in awe.
It really is amazing when you think about it ~ for nine months, give or take a little, a woman will carry within her womb a growing child. Her body will provide everything it needs to flourish. She breathes, eats, and cleanses toxins for that precious baby. What an incredible ecosystem God has created!
And then, at the appropriate time, the baby is birthed into this world, through hard work called labor ~ and called labor for a reason, just ask my sister-in-law and niece! The baby’s intricately designed body immediately adjusts to a new way of breathing, eating and processing toxins. Just like that…it really is incredible, when you stop to think about it, isn’t it?
But how often do we stop to think about it? How often do we stop in our busy, overly stimulated, over the top way we live just to contemplate, with wonder, the miracles of God? For me, not enough. Yet every day God’s wonders wait anew and I am given another chance. I need to look around more. I need more wonder in my life. What about you?
More star gazing… people watching…ocean admiring…butterfly gazing…child playing…melody making…husband hugging…cloud dreaming…color bursting…rock climbing…flower smelling…baby holding wonder.
Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare. Psalm 40:5
Outcomes. “Lynne, I think you need to focus more on the process. Let each stepping stone be revealed as you are ready to take the next step.” That was a paraphrase of the wise advice given to me by a writer’s mentor and editor at a recent conference I attended. It sounded so good. So wise. So doable. After all, for one year “process” was my favorite word. Everything was about process. Life is a process. Navigating this challenge is a process. Losing weight is a process. In my conversation with you, there was bound to be a process or two woven in. And yet, I still find myself focusing on outcome in the midst of the process. Is it a bad thing to be product oriented as opposed to process focused?
In some areas of life, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to focus on outcome. Take, for example, doing the taxes. There is nothing enjoyable to me about the process of getting our records together for our accountant. Nothing. Enjoyable. At. All. In fact, I will postpone the inevitable for as long as possible. So focusing on the outcome, a possible negative outcome that may include garnished bank accounts and hefty penalties helps me get the job done.
My daughter recently got married. Preparing for a wedding is no easy task, especially when you are a detail-oriented person. It is a process that is long and sometimes joyful and often stressful; but I believe this is a time to embrace the process along with the outcome. The wedding planning process can be an opportunity to make more memories that add to the wedding story itself – to the outcome that is so fleeting in comparison to all the planning that comes before the big day.
I am trying to apply this advice of appreciating the process and not focusing on the outcome to my writing, but I am finding that I need to enjoy and focus on both process and product at the same time, like two chords in a musical strain. For me, I need to know that I am working towards something tangible, complete and hopefully meaningful to someone somewhere. I want to know that the chords of words I am stringing together will ultimately make a song. All the while, I want to be able to enjoy the tempo of keys being stroked, whether the cursor is moving forward or backward, and ideas taking shape and stalling out and taking shape again. I really want to enjoy the movements, the solos, and the accompaniments along the way; but I also want to relish in the finale, applaud the finished product and cheer for an ovation.
And so it is with my Christian life. One day I will stand before the Lord, my life a final product, and He will look at the outcome. On my own I would come before Him in filthy rags. Nothing I have done or will do on my own will make me good enough to stand before a Holy and Perfect Creator. But because of Jesus, I can stand before God in white robes of righteousness. Still, I want to make the most of this process called life in the tiniest of hopes that I will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I need to embrace the process of refinement that God so graciously and lovingly applies to my life so that my outcome, my life, will serve as a living sacrifice to the one who gave all for me…and for you. Perhaps the better choice is to be both process and outcome focused: two parts, two chords, one beautiful song.
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6