Skipping the creation of written reflection in June was rewarding. Although I now experience a touch of writer’s block, I’ve come to know that what’s in my heart is easily expressed when I consider the importance of realness in my life. As a quiet person, my mouth often remains closed. But my heart is silently filled with many expressions of anticipation to share outwardly. Both are strange instances for me because I long to be still and observe, without saying much, and yet, God prepares me each morning to eloquently convey elements dwelling in my soul.
Much has come up this year. In February, I made the difficult decision to remove myself as the principal founder of a resilient center I created to complement my recent research study. Although my title at the time of my pending exit was co-founder, I think back on all the work I put into its creation and thank God each day for providing me the wisdom of nonprofit concepts. In the last week of June, I composed a final email with instructions on how those now in charge should move forward. This experience of the previous three years taught me so much about myself. I learned mostly about the imperative of kindness and grace, and why I must always walk this life with these two as guides. With recent developments in the team-ran ministry God has given me, I remain in awe of what continues to be placed before me. Again, I am so thankful.
Mastery of anything takes hard work. And I believe grasping the skill of controlling emotions is one of the most challenging. What life throws at us each day brings a toll even on the calmest of people. Reactions can either create peace or strife. Aiming for peace seems ideal but is often quite difficult to attain. Strife and discord frequently seem to be an easier path, especially since the world seems to be on this course anyway. Why not just fit in, right? I’d say that the most accessible system is not a beneficial option for anyone. The time it takes to fix issues some may consider as growth. Sure, it is! It is, in its frenzied model. Conversely, wouldn’t it be so much more fulfilling not to always fix the messes we cause? To breathe before we speak. To think before we write. To keep our mouths shut and just listen. To offer kindness and grace! To me, I find this process so much more appealing than the other.
Getting to Simple, likewise takes work. Even as a child, I recognized that I only wanted this. Yet, my life lived before turning forty was far from simple. To risk sounding like a broken vinyl record, those of you who have read a few of my previous reflections know of this life. So, I leave those in your hearts right here.
A life experienced far from simple is the one I had. A life offering more and more provided eye-opening circumstances of wanting less. Less of the world’s ideas and competition. Less of fighting wrinkles and visits to the salon to cover my gray. Less careerism, less needing to be heard all the time, less confusion and misunderstandings, and fewer mistruths, manipulations, and engaging with those who cheat. And, no, I am not taking the morally high ground here! These things exist! I’m sure you know they do! But with the free will God has given me, I’ve willed and prayed myself to be free of them.
Now I come to this verse, this guided verse that helped me to move toward this simple-graceful living I speak. The type of living, which in most cases cast out the current customary ideals of the world I must inhabit. Here, I am trying not to be paradoxical. However, as a woman who lives right here on God’s green earth, it is sometimes tough to breathe in this existence of what His world has become. For I want so much to remain in the space of self-created simplicity and grace as often as I can
So, the verse I referred to often in my early forties is:
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.”
Psalm 42:5 (ESV)
You see, when I turned forty-one, I revisited the life I always wanted as a child. My soul, though heavy at this juncture of my life, was equally filled with great hope. Through prayer and self-talk, this heaviness became lighter. I slowly understood that to reach this life structure; I must maneuver through the handling of myself. I must also decode the popular first part of Psalm 46:10, which tells us to “Be still and know that I am God.” Trailing with this verse, I longed to know what it meant to and for me. I trailed, kicked small rocks, found smooth paths, and sat beneath large trees to find answers.
The word still derives from the Hebrew word rapa, meaning to just stop. It means to slacken, let down, or cease. Matching my personality, what this verse meant to me was to be quiet. To observe and to listen. And I did just that! David reflected on his thoughts and questioned himself in the first verse I’ve chosen. In my early forties, I did the same. I wanted to know so much about what mattered to me most.
I consider this:
The more we give ourselves over to those things which are good and right and true and beautiful and lovely, the more they take root in us and shape us (Brian Tallman).
Quiet time with God. A simple meal at home. Time with family and friends. Crafting, riding my bike, hiking in the forest. Growing food. Holding on to modesty and sending hand-written notes instead of an email or text message. Setting up tea and picking flowers for a plain but beautiful arrangement. Making bread and making jam. Sweet phone calls and more!
Amy Carmichael (1896-1951) was a missionary to India. In this note to you this week, I must also express my liking for this quote of hers.
“Sometimes when we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. I feel that I shall never be like that. But they won step by step by little bits of wills, little denials of self, and little inward victories, by faithfulness in very little things. They became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps. They only see the accomplishments, but even so those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph, no spiritual maturity that is the work of the moment.”
This simple-graceful life took a lot of giving up getting here. But now that I’m at the place where my heart waited, I know, I only belong here. Right here, at this simple-graceful life I share.
Growing together, inside and out!