Bread is the New Hustle

I invited you to procrastinate together with me on Tuesday and you did that so beautifully! You’ll be glad to know I finally got serious about the work and turned in the edits yesterday with a great hoot and holler and a frozen lemonade from Chick-fil-a. And the thing is I don’t even like lemon-y things but the photo made it look so lovely and delicious and celebratory.

So I bought it and drank half and then voxed Holley Gerth and Kendra because they are both people you want to high five when you finish something.

dinner making

Next, I promptly made dinner for the family, convinced the kids that “it’s fun to clean the kitchen!” and sat with John to talk through our weekend plans. Then, I made this list to clear my head.

Master Spring Due

What is actually wrong with me? I couldn’t even enjoy meeting a deadline for 24 hours before I was making a list of all my next deadlines. And it’s one thing if that list was just a list, but it actually kept me up last night, thinking through the timing of things.

This morning I read in Mark 8, about Jesus teaching to the crowd but feeling compassion for the people because “they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance” (Mark 8:2-3).

As if I couldn’t love him any more, reading this reminds me how he pays attention to the particularities of our needs, notices how some of the people were a long way from home and would need to eat before the journey.

How thoughtful and kind.

And then he does his Jesus thing, takes seven loaves and a handful of fish and serves them up like a feast, like a bounty, like a celebration. They eat and are satisfied with baskets left over, men and women laying back on the hillside, bellies full, needs met.

But then Jesus leaves with his disciples, gets into the boat and they realize as he’s talking that they forgot to bring enough bread for the trip. They only have one measly loaf so while Jesus is using bread as a metaphor to remind them to “beware the leaven of Herod” they aren’t paying attention because they are busy mumbling together about how there isn’t enough bread.

We forgot bread! There’s just the one loaf of bread and several of us and we need bread and where is our food going to come from and whatever shall we do because BREAD!

Never mind that Jesus has the power to look at a crumb and feed a nation. Never mind that they had just seen him do that with their very own eyes. Never mind that they didn’t only watch him work that miracle, didn’t merely hand out the bread to the people, but we can only assume they had taken the bread themselves, chewed on the grain, tasted the miracle.

Never mind they were sitting with the Bread of Life in the boat.

bread of life

But instead of rolling his eyes and pushing them all overboard so he could be alone with his sanity, he asks them an interesting question. He reminds them of that one time when he fed 5000 people with five loaves, then asks them how many basket full of broken pieces of bread they had leftover.

They answer, “Twelve.”

Then he reminds them of the meal they just had, when he fed the 4000 people with seven loaves, and asks them how many large baskets full of broken pieces did they pick up.

They answer, “Seven.”

I would have probably said, “Remember how many people I fed!?”

Instead he says, “Remember how much we had leftover?”

He reminds them of the excess.

He reminds them that he didn’t only provide enough, he provided more than enough.

I don’t pretend to know or understand why Jesus did or said many of the things he did and said. I can speculate and guess and use my good Bible exegesis skills I learned from two small years at Bible College.

But I can’t deny here that Jesus was specific about the numbers, about how little they started with and how much they had leftover.

It seems to me his desire was always to move his disciples on to kingdom conversations, but he always had to keep coming back to provision. Are we going to be okay? they seem to always be asking. So he reminds them of the numbers.

Then he answers their question with a question, “Do you not yet understand?”

He’s inviting me into living differently, y’all. He’s inviting and knocking and wooing and I keep looking around distracted for more bread. He’s pointing out the leaven of the Herods of the world, the ones telling me to hurry up and produce and ship, and he’s warning me of how something as small as selfish ambition could ruin the whole batch.

But I can’t hear it because I’m all, Where is the bread! I need me some bread! There isn’t enough. I’m not going to be okay.

But this is the Jesus who had compassion on the crowd because he knew they had a long distance to walk, the Jesus who fed them and then had bread leftover.

Bread was his idea!

Yet, I still feel like it’s my responsibility to remind him that I need to eat. To worry over where the next meal will come from. To point out the lack rather than have faith for the plenty.

I say, “What if You forget I’m hungry, Lord?”

He says, “Why have you forgotten I’m bread?”

And now it begins to come together, why he doesn’t just point out the number of pieces but also points out they were broken pieces.

The excess, the leftovers were baskets filled, not with whole loaves of bread, but with broken pieces. Because the miracle comes at a cost. Why am I always forgetting the point?

He invites broken people to come and feast on broken bread and the excess is a reminder of the miracle.

I won’t stop making lists, I won’t. But I’m desperate to stop shaking them in God’s face, to stop reminding him to meet my need in my way and in my timing, with whole loaves of bread.

This morning, I hear it, the invitation to hold the bread in my hands, to see my day with kingdom eyes, to feast on him, to move forward with the energy that comes from eating the broken pieces. This is My body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.

When Your Heartbeat Feels Like a Drumbeat

Last week I bit into an apple that tasted precisely like one bottle of men’s cologne. Well that’s curious. I reasoned it cannot be possible that this fruit from God’s green earth tasted like it had actually been fed Drakkar Noir from the moment it first broke seed as if the farmer was some kind of deranged Abercrombie & Fitch model with something to prove. I had to take a second bite to be sure.

apples

When the second bite confirmed it, I turned slow-motion style to the table where the kids sat with homework and a plate of sliced apples and, just before I could launch myself toward them and remove all the poison from their reach, my daughter looked up at me mid-chew: “Mommy, this apple tastes like perfume.”

In the end, we were all okay but isn’t it true that sometimes what should be simply isn’t? It’s hard to allow yourself to long for something because what if it only ends in disappointment? What if you admit your deepest longing and then you get an apple that tastes like perfume?

I’m on a journey – and I bet you are too – of learning what it really means to live with Jesus in the midst of the desire and disappointment of everyday life. As much as I wish it wasn’t true, I’m discovering one key element to walking with him is all wrapped up in admitting what I most long for.

When my daily rhythm feels more like a drumbeat than a heartbeat, it’s time for me to pay attention to three simple realities:

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1. It’s time to admit my longings.

When I feel more like a robot with a to-do list in my hand rather than an artist with wonder in my eyes, I stop, close my eyes, open one hand in my lap and put the other on my heart and ask myself, what am I longing for in this moment?

If you do this, you might be surprised what you discover but don’t be surprised by the tears. Those tiny messengers are your kind companions, sent from the deepest part of who you are to remind you of what makes you come alive.

Listen to them and wake up to your heartbeat.

“Jesus himself routinely asked people questions that helped them to get in touch with their desires and name it in his presence. He often brought focus and clarity to his interactions with those who were spiritually hungry by asking them, What do you want? What do you want me to do for you? Such questions had the power to elicit deeply honest reflection in the person to whom they were addressed, and opened the way for Christ to lead them into deeper levels of spiritual truth and healing.”

- Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation

Desire is a gift when we open it in the presence of God. Longing is key to my spiritual formation.

The reason why it’s terrifying to admit our deepest longing, the reason why I seldom allow myself to do it, is because too often it seems longing leads to disappointment in the form of a glaring life-limitation I have little control to change.

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2. It’s time to embrace my limits.

We hear all the time about the importance of having boundaries. In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown wisely says this:

“If you don’t set boundaries there won’t be any. Or even worse, there will be boundaries, but they’ll be set by default – or by another person – instead of by design.”

I appreciate people who can say no with confidence, who establish healthy boundaries in their lives.

But my perspective changes when it comes to the boundaries I don’t choose that come in the form of lack of time, lack of energy, lack of money or influence or control. I don’t call those boundaries, I call those problems. 

And I tend to push against those limitations and forget these are the very places where Jesus wants to meet with me.

Perhaps these limits are actually gifts, pointing me forward rather than holding me back. For example, if I’m not good at that particular skill or don’t have time for this particular event, then it forces me to pay attention to what I am good at and what I do have time for. When I’m willing to see my limits as a gift rather than a liability, I begin to live my real life instead of wishing for the life I want instead.

at the intersection of longing and limits

3. It’s time to pay attention when they intersect.

When I avoid confessing my longings and embracing my limits, I live in the lifeless middle where I have no need for redemption. Sometimes it feels easier this way. When I keep those two roads running parallel in my heart, I miss out on the opportunity to meet Jesus at the intersection.

But when I embrace them both, I am able to experience life with Christ in deeply personal ways. I become more aware of myself and others, feel more alive to Christ’s life in me, and open up to his presence with me.

I imagine Jesus standing at the crossroad of my longing and my limits. And while it’s true he doesn’t always satisfy my longing in ways I expect, he does always offer to be enough where before there wasn’t enough. At the intersection of longing and limitation is where the miracle happens, both the water from wine kind and the joy in the midst of suffering kind.

I’m learning a big part of living a redeemed life now, in this moment, is to pay attention to those moments where my longing and my limits intersect, to stand there with my friend Jesus, and together wait for the seed to grow.

“The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows – how? he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-28

May we walk in this newness of life in our ordinary moments. May we wake up to our longings and hold them out to you. May we confess our limitations trusting you with outcomes. May we keep company with you as we wait for seeds to grow.

If you were at the Beautiful Life conference last weekend, you’ll recognize a lot of these words as I shared these thoughts with the women who came. At the end, I shared a prayer I wrote, some of those lines included here at the end. If you would like the complete prayer to print out, you can download A Prayer as We Wait for Seeds to Grow here.

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On Learning to Leave Things Behind

Sometimes you need a lot more margin than you plan for and last week was one of those times for me. I went dark online as I prepared to serve at a conference here in my hometown.

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I fight this inability to multi-task better. I mean, I had two babies at once! I could make grocery lists and nurse babies and breathe all at the same time. I am a professional multi-tasker. But when it comes to writing a talk to deliver to local women I know and love, the preparation took on a life of it’s own. And that life was bigger and heavier and more all-consuming than I expected.

Part of it was that I was hopeful and the other part was that I felt afraid. Before I could embrace the hope part, Jesus and I needed to work through my fearful obsession with myself.

There have been some things I’ve been holding on to for many years, hurts and expectations of myself that, though I’m not sure exactly where they have come from, I definitely know they need to go.

One catalyst for this letting go came several weeks ago as I watched the live-stream, along with many of you, of Christine Caine speaking at the IF Gathering in Austin. Something she said poked  me awake.

“If the horse is dead, it’s time to dismount.”

I have many dead horses I’ve been trying to ride and when I heard these words, I sensed a quiet whisper – or, more accurately, the voice of a tiny Australian woman – inviting me to let some things fall gently away. Like the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey said to Edith, “You must learn to leave some things behind.”

The last several weeks have been for me a tangible practice of learning to leave some things behind.

Now that the conference is past, I’m looking back thankful for the opportunity to speak, but more I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the kind, talented, prayerful women who I’m a privileged to call friends here in Greensboro. I’m thankful for the lessons they have taught and are teaching me, about love, support, prayer, and friendship.

Beautiful Life with Angela Thomas

I hope to settle back into a rhythm of writing and yoga and hanging my clothes up instead of flinging them all over my room like Nellie Olsen. And hopefully the movement will be a little lighter this week as I’ve decided to leave some heavy burdens behind.

When Doing Leads to Undoing

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I’m learning to crochet. Is that dorky? I have a feeling what the hipsters do with yarn these days is knitting. But I’ve heard that takes two needles which is completely intimidating. So for now, it’s crochet.

The girls and I took a class at a local craft store, and after three hours we learned one stitch — if that’s even what you call it. We make rows over and over again in a line, turn, and make another line.

It’s too narrow for a blanket, too wide for a scarf, and it doesn’t matter anyway because I don’t know how to read a pattern or do anything, really. So far I’ve worked the yarn through Mr. Bean’s Holiday, one episode of American Pickers, and lots of conversation.

I want it to be relaxing, but so far I mainly work tense. I hear that shows up in the yarn. Of course it does.

Of all the things on my to do list, crochet doesn’t show up once. But maybe it should, as I’m learning sometimes I need to engage in an activity for the single purpose of disengaging from productivity. Today I’m writing about the importance of making an undo list over at (in)courage. Join me there?

Learning to Walk Without an Agenda

Most of the time we walk in order to get somewhere. But sometimes we need to walk in order to remember where we are.

I’ve come to recognize when my soul needs a little more space than I’ve been giving her, a little more room to think and consider. This morning as I sat in the corner of my sunroom sofa, holding warm coffee and reading in Matthew 6, I felt it like a switch – You have to get outside. Go now.

Like much of the east coast today, our town is covered in a snowy, icy mix. I walk out into morning, frozen yard crunches beneath my feet, mismatched gloves uneven on my hands.

how to walk without an agenda

I’m mostly concerned about falling. Slipping is only funny when it happens to someone else and only rarely when it happens to you as long as you don’t fall all the way down and are with a group of people who love you.

But walking through the neighborhood alone, knowing every single person is most likely in their houses and at any given moment can glance out and see you, slipping is not an option.

I am more aware of this than I would like to admit. But I just did so now you know.

I’m mean, it’s fine, it’s whatever.

Walking Without an Agenda

It’s a discipline to walk without an agenda, to let yourself carry concerns with an open hand rather than trying to untangle them.

Because of the ice, my rhythm was broken a bit today, but maybe that’s just as well. The world is broken and the rhythm fits, doesn’t it?

I downloaded the Caring Bridge app to my phone a few weeks ago, two friends fighting their way through cancer. They’re both too young. Sunday, one went home. We’ll go to her funeral this week.

I try to untangle it, but no. Carry it.

From what feels like one end of a long tunnel, I’ve had my eye on the news this week, unsure and timid as to what to think or how to pray about 21 Christians beheaded in Libya. I want to drop it, if I’m being honest. But no. Carry it.

The long list of to-dos pile up in my mind, an unwelcome tally that always seems to be in the background of everything. You don’t belong here with cancer and beheadings. Go away now.

I want to shame the daily task from interrupting these serious concerns. But no. Carry these, too.

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And so the walking continues in a kaleidoscope of tragedy, grocery lists, dreaming, longing, and disappointment. In the uneven, careful rhythm of my steps, I recognize something of what it means to be human. Our bodies work in repetition – heartbeat, circulation, respiration, chew, chew swallow.

But the soul isn’t so easily measured. I think that’s why walking helps her to breathe, to release some of the tension she holds onto. Our bodies teach our souls when it’s safe to come out.

Walking without an agenda offers the soul room to emerge.

I know the directive be still and know that I am God is good for me. But I have to be honest and say sometimes the best way to still my soul is to move my body. He comes more fully alive in me as I walk.

It’s the first day of Lent, a time to make space for God.

“During Lent we are called to stop (or at least modify) whatever we are doing, no matter how important it might be, in order to enter more intentionally into disciplines of prayer, self-examination and repentance. Hopefully, as we kneel and receive the ashes today, we will come with some sense of how God is inviting us to enter into the Lenten season—the more concrete the better.

As we enter into this wilderness time, may we recognize a sense of anticipation about how God will meet us in the space we are creating for him.”

Ruth Haley Barton

As I hear the uneven rhythm of my shoes on icy ground, walking helps me remember the brokenness in the world and my role in it.

As I expose the concerns of the day and the world into the presence of Jesus, walking helps me remember we are moving forward even in our sorrow.

As I remember the comforting words to be still and know God, walking helps to quiet my mind and in turn, comfort my soul.

Arriving home, I have no answers except knowing in all of this, Jesus is present. For all of this, he is enough.

Becoming a Soul Minimalist

After a weekend out of town, I head to the gym to work off pent-up energy from van riding, airplane sitting, and waiting through flight delays.

airplaneAs I approach the elliptical, I look forward to the exercise as well as the chance to catch up on the Art of Simple podcast hosted by my friend, Tsh. I choose one called Freedom From Stuff, an interview with author and blogger Joshua Becker.

I’ve enjoyed Joshua’s blog, Becoming Minimalist, for a while now but I’ve never heard an interview with him. He and Tsh have an easy conversation about stuff, simplicity, and the difference between too much and enough. I immediately warm to Joshua’s perspective of becoming minimalist, emphasizing how the journey is important even if we never quite arrive at the destination, something he is careful to acknowledge.

At some point in their conversation, Joshua says we have regular, seasonal input of stuff into our homes – Christmas and birthday gifts, school papers, various decorations depending on the celebration – but we don’t often have regular output. As a result, the clutter builds up in our homes.

When he says this, a thought comes to my mind and I pause their conversation to let it fill out.

Just like my home, my soul receives frequent input with infrequent output.

Even in this moment, I am listening to a podcast while exercising in a crowded gym with not just one TV in front of me, but eight all in a row – FOX News, NBC, QVC – the works. (QVC! I mean really, nothing says motivate me while I work out like cubic zirconia). Meanwhile, a woman in front of me pedals fast on a stationary bike, two men to my left work with those giant rubber band things I never know what to do with, and behind me I’m aware of movement in the pool on the other side of the glass.

Input, input, input.

In the midst of this highly stimulated exterior world, I make a discovery about my interior world – the input is automatic. Where is the output? How am I regularly getting rid of the soul clutter I no longer need?

“If your life is a constant blur of activity, focus, and obligation, you are likely to miss critical breakthroughs because you won’t have the benefit of pacing and negative space. What’s not there will impact your life as much or more than what is.”

Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative

What would a de-cluttered soul look like? Maybe something like this:

  • courage to move toward others in love without a complicated agenda.
  • wisdom to begin to give up what we no longer need, like fear about the future or regret over the past.
  • willingness to face the silence within and not worry so much what we may (or may not) hear.
  • energy to be fully myself in the presence of others without fear, pretense, or defensiveness.

I don’t know if it’s realistic to live in a constant state of simplicity. After all, we are naturally complex creatures – nervous system, circulatory system, digestive system, not to mention relationships, emotions, dreams, hurts, and desires. All these are all part of our human existence and not one of them are simple.

Complex has its place, to be sure.

But when our souls are filled with clutter, what is meant to be complex and awe-inspiring can become complicated and exhausting. When that happens, I crave simple.

I have to be careful not to glorify simplicity, to worship it by itself, to try to carve out a simple way in life and call that peace when really it’s just the outcome of my own effort toward order and control.

When my soul feels like this crowded gym, lots of movement, hurry and input, perhaps it will bring a bit of peace to embrace minimalism in my soul when I become overwhelmed on the inside.

I can’t say what the result of this might be for you, but I can tell you for me, the best way to uncover a bit of whitespace in my own soul is to be still.

Stillness is to the soul as de-cluttering is to the home.

It’s how the soul sifts through the day’s input, holding on to what we need and releasing what we don’t, making space to access courage and creativity, quieting to hear the voice of God.

There is no wrong with this – simply find a few minutes to sit, relax, close your eyes, and listen.

Are you able to be still long enough to let the chatter grow quiet, the whirring in your chest start to slow?

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This post, Becoming a Soul Minimalist, was originally published in Hope*ologie, a membership site I co-created with my family to help you turn towards hope no matter how things appear in your family, in your home, or in your soul.

Become a Hope*ologist today and receive immediate access to eleven months of content, including posts like this one as well as this month’s printable by Annie Barnett, videos, DIYs and a special Sister*ologie podcast. Visit Hope*ologie to learn more.

I hope you’ll find a little soul space today. Maybe we can help.

How to Have Eyes Outside Your Body

We stand for the sending song at the end of the service and I stare down at my shoes, remembering how I’m wearing my son’s socks this morning. Reaching up to tuck a stray lock of hair behind my ear, it hits me: Everyone else has a better idea of what my hair looks like from behind than I do.

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You thought this was going to be a serious post, didn’t you?

I allow myself a minute to follow this childlike (childish?) train of thought and realize it’s not only my hair, but really everything about the way we look is more familiar to other people than it is to us. 

I don’t watch myself laugh in a mirror.

I don’t know what I look like when I’m angry.

I can’t recognize fear on my own face.

I’m still shocked when I see photos of my profile. Shocked, I tell you.

It’s why we get all weird when we see ourselves on video or when we hear our own voice on voicemail. I look like that? I sound like that?

Sometimes I’m surprised when someone comes up from behind me and says hi. I’m all, But how did you know it was me? I wasn’t even facing you!

Like a child playing peekaboo, I still secretly believe people won’t recognize me when I’m wearing sunglasses.

As familiar as I am with myself, I’m on the inside looking out. And though my knowledge of myself is thorough, it isn’t complete. I need other people to help me see myself fully.

friendship

And so we sit across small tables in coffee shops and dare to ask curious questions. We let ourselves say what we really think rather than what we’re supposed to think.

We turn ourselves around and whisper expectantly, will you just tell me honestly what my hair really looks like back there? 

Our friends, they show us what we can’t see.

While we are the ever experts at highlighting our own weaknesses, shortcomings, and inabilities, our friends reflect back beauty.

They remind us who we really are.

They remind us we don’t have to do this alone.

They are the eyes outside our bodies.

I’m learning to trust what they see.

And just when that feels too risky and vulnerable, remember they don’t know what their hair looks like, either.

Oh, how desperately we need each other and how often I forget.

Join me on The Bench tomorrow where I’ll share in my monthly letter to subscribers how I’ve been suffering a bit from decision fatigue and how depending on the “eyes outside my body” have helped to ease it.

The Importance of Following Clues

The sun went down laughing last night, leaving behind evidence of a beautiful exit. I never saw her directly, though it wasn’t for lack of trying, let me just tell you.  But she had her path and her timeline and she kept to it, no matter if I could find a good perch to spot her from before she slipped away for the night. Still, it was obvious she’d been here.

sunset

The trail of beauty left behind points to a source beyond itself.

And you know what? Burdens leave a trail, too.

 “The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke.”

John Ortberg, Soul Keeping

Since my soul wasn’t made for the easy life, I know hard circumstance aren’t my problem, not really. My problem is in how I carry them. When my soul feels downcast, it starts to show evidence that I’ve taken in the burdens of life in a way I’m not meant to – anxiety, overwhelm, frustration, defensiveness. These are signs of the heavy yoke. Burdens don’t come without leaving clues.

I’m writing more on what your soul really needs you to know today at (in)courage. Join me there?

The Spiritual Discipline of Wearing Better Pants

When I graduated from high school, my youth pastor gave all the seniors a book on the spiritual disciplines. Good girl that I was, I marked that book up in all the best ways, purposing to tackle a discipline a week for however long it took to become the best possible version of myself – prayer, scripture reading, fasting, etc.

Bible in the Sunroom

I knew I couldn’t be perfect but I thought it would be alright to get closer than anyone else.

Several years of Bible college, marriage, and mothering later, I realized that good girl in my head was a perfectly annoying mirage and if I wanted to really know Jesus and BE A SANE PERSON, I had to go let go of my constant attempts at trying to earn my way and performing for acceptance.

One of the casualties of my good girl detox was shedding my misconceptions about the spiritual disciplines. I needed to give myself permission not to practice them for a while because I couldn’t figure out how to do them without thinking I was earning something.

The past several years have been a re-entry of sorts into the world of the spiritual disciplines. It’s different now – kinder, gentler, tender, and more free. My definitions have changed as has (I hope) my demeanor.

I now understand the fundamental truth beneath the spiritual disciplines, that “if a discipline is not producing freedom in me, it’s probably the wrong thing for me to be doing” (John Ortberg).

Reading about the disciplines in Living in Christ’s Presence, I was further struck at this perspective:

“Discipline depends on what you are training for. If you are training to win a pie-eating contest, what discipline will you have to engage in? Pie eating. If every day you eat as much pie as you possibly can, a year from now you’ll be able to eat much more pie than you could eat today.

So, what counts as a discipline depends on what I am training for . . . The whole purpose of disciplines is to enable you to do the right thing at the right time in the right spirit, so if something doesn’t help you do that, then don’t do it.”

In short, practicing a spiritual discipline is not about trying to earn something, prove something, or win.

Practicing a spiritual discipline is more about receiving power to live in the kingdom. It’s about training my mind and my will to practice what my heart deeply believes. It’s about knowing that each moment is packed with grace but sometimes I need practice to see it.

It’s about becoming the person I already am in Christ.

Really anything can be a spiritual discipline when we recognize the presence of God with us in it.

Last week I had a full day of work in front of me, but I decided when the kids got home, work would be put aside and I would practice the spiritual discipline of presence.

I recently wrote a post about the spiritual discipline of learning nothing. John Ortberg may not write a chapter about that particular discipline, but there it is, and it was good for me because it produced freedom in me and helped me to live more fully in the invisible kingdom of God.

A spiritual discipline may be something we do, but it may also be something we abstain from doing. For years now I’ve been writing under the tagline creating space for your soul to breathe, and I’m finally beginning to understand what that means. With the discipline of silence and solitude, I abstain from worry and hurry, teaching my body what it feels like to undo rather than always do.

But y’all, this weekend I took the disciplines to a new level as I began to sift through my clothes. I found some jeans I love in the bottom of my drawer, pulled them on and continued to tidy up around the house.

Ever so slightly, my mood began to shift. I started feeling irritable, discouraged, and not great about myself. When I retraced my steps, I realized why. My jeans were making it hard to breathe.

And because I’ve been thinking about my tagline a lot lately, and because I’m always aware of how the outer life affects the inner life, I quickly made the connection between breathing in my soul and breathing in my body.

In order to let my soul breathe, it’s good to be able to actually breathe. Literally. In my diaphragm.

Y’all, I’ve been wearing clothes that hurt me and it has got. to. stop.

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So I had a DTR with my closet and we came up with an understanding we could both live with.

I will keep her clean and organized if she will stop harboring the enemy in the form of clothes that are too tight.

“Isn’t it amazing what we will do at our own expense? I’ve decided that even if I have to wear something with a  stretch waistband the rest of my life, I’m not going to demean myself by wearing clothes that hurt me . . . No more bad pants.”

Leeana Tankersly, Breathing Room

I started to make a pile of pants (and some shirts) that either physically hurt me to wear or caused me to feel badly about myself. As the stack grew, so did my confidence. I even logged into Stitch Fix to inform them I have moved one size up in pants and I may not be going back.

In those few moments in my bedroom, I was profoundly aware of the kind presence of Christ, that he doesn’t stop being relevant just because I’m cleaning out my closet. And while I still value taking care of my body and engage in other practices to maintain my health, I also want to be honest about my own expectations of myself and be careful not to compare my health to someone else’s.

I struggled with feeling oddly guilty about making something as trivial as getting rid of pants that are too tight into a spiritual practice. But then I remembered how life with Christ is about being a whole person, not pieced out into important parts and non-important parts.

In this one day I can carry both serious concerns in my soul and a pile of old clothes to the car.

clothes

Making that pile of clothes was a spiritual practice for me that day, finally taking the time to honestly confront some of the small ways I’ve been disrespecting myself by keeping clothes I don’t need and that don’t fit.

So I’m calling a truce with my jeans and practicing the spiritual discipline of wearing better pants. Is there anything you need to call a truce with? It’s Tuesday, so maybe it’s a good time to remember how Christ is with you in every ordinary moment, no matter how small. Are there any unconventional spiritual practices you might need to engage in to remember that?

I’ll be on Instagram sharing some of my own moments using #itssimplytuesday. I hope you’ll share yours, too.

After you get rid of some tight jeans, perhaps you’ll want some ideas on how to let your soul breathe. Join The Bench (my monthly newsletter) and you’ll receive a free copy of my ebook, Seven Little Ways to Live Art, practices to help you take a soul breath today.

The Spiritual Discipline of Learning Nothing

Releasing My Lesson Obsession

Last week we walked through a profound disappointment with one of our girls. I use the word “profound” because that’s how it feels when you’re eleven. Basically, she longed for something that, in the end, belonged to someone else.

As her mom, I see all the necessary parts of growing up happening in this one disappointment — the spiritual discipline of letting go, the practice of faith, the understanding that smallness is not always something to run away from.

But in her most vulnerable moments, lessons don’t help her, at least not the kind you teach on purpose.

Still, I sensed the tension within myself – on the one hand I felt like I should be teaching her something in all this, helping her to see the markers. On the other hand, I just wanted to comfort her and to remind her she isn’t alone.

It’s true, learning is good and disappointments are an opportunity for growth. But I’ve grown weary of trying to squeeze a lesson out of everything, of always asking what God is trying to teach me in every circumstance, of seeing the world through lesson-colored glasses.

I am guilty of managing my experience of difficulty so my struggles don’t feel wasted. In this action, I fear I’ve missed sacred times of healing in the darkness because I’ve wanted to rush ahead to the more understandable light. I have bullet-pointed my soul so that things make sense and have regarded God only as my teacher, forgetting he is also my friend.

School is good and necessary, but in my heart I long for home.

The words of Paul come to mind as I remember he didn’t say “To live is to become Christ-like.”

It sounds almost right, but it’s completely wrong.

Instead, he said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

To live is a person, Christ himself.

Sometimes I teach my kids stuff on purpose. Mostly, though, I just enjoy their company.

Today I’ll practice walking into the great mystery of God. I will practice encountering Jesus as a person and not a character. I will live this day as a daughter first and allow the student to tag along behind.

Today I’ll grieve the losses, laugh at the jokes, sit in the silence, and move through the routines. I’ll keep my eyes open for Christ’s presence rather than trying to figure out his plan. And as I carry each moment as it comes, I will release my obsession with learning a lesson and instead begin to learn the person of Christ, whatever that might mean today.