How is it already October? What has become of this year's vision board and goal plan? For me, not much. It is the year of PIVOT! And while it's been tough, I'm finding many silver linings in this invitation and focus shift. Amidst that shifting, I do know I'm hearing this quote from Augustine and a very familiar verse, loud and clear.
"Thou has made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee." - Augustine of Hippo
“Be still, and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10
Do you have any stillness or rest in your day? Or, does stillness only find you when you crash in the chair at the end of the day after being all things to all people?
Or, does rest evade your mind because although your body is still, you rarely choose to stop scrolling or turn off the news? Do you collapse at the end of a day feeling tired, alone, or even unworthy of being still in God's presence? Are you restless?
This restless pondering and verse aren't simply about being still, are they? Nope. There is so much more than stillness in this invitation.
We might want to take note of something pretty important in the verse. The word "and" in the sentence. The scripture doesn't just ask us to be still, it asks us to be still AND know. What do we need to know?
If you keep reading, verse 11 tells us that “The Lord Almighty is with us.” We aren’t simply told to be still (I was told that in church as a little girl plenty, that's not the same as this). We’re told to be still and know that God is with us. Augustine reminds us God wants us to not only rest but to rest IN GOD. Amidst stress, overwhelm, injustice, worry, changed plans, and pivoting dreams, rest in God.
God gives us the ability to do more than just stop worrying or running. God gives us the ability to rest in God and be reminded how much God cares for each of us, especially amidst restless times like these.
Today, I invite you to find stillness somewhere in your day AND in that stillness of knowing God is with you.
Know that God is your comfort.
Know that God is your peace.
Know that your Creator longs for you to rest in thee.
Reflect: How am I reminded that God is with me? What is causing me restlessness (get specific, consider journaling or praying through these specifics)? When was the last time I experienced stillness and rest WITH God? Where and when can I rest today AND be reminded of God's presence in my life?
Action: Let's not choose to be restless in this season, let's choose to rest in God. Need a little help? Press play below and drift off to sleep in God's presence tonight.
Group Spiritual Direction was my introduction to the ministry of soul care. After my stroke, I experienced extreme anxiety. The anxiety was emotionally and spiritually paralyzing. I could barely go to the grocery amidst strangers, let alone be surrounded by people wanting to hug and communicate (at church). The church wasn't causing my anxiety. My anxiety simply didn't allow me to be present at church, which felt conflicting and overwhelming.
It was an isolating and lonely season. A friend knew I was in this searching season, trying to discover God in new ways. So when she heard that her church was offering a group spiritual direction series, she asked me to join the group. I had never heard of the ministry of spiritual direction. I was hesitant and also curious. You would think something brand new would have been harder to embrace than what I knew but what I needed in that season was simply a small group of people to hold space for me and my struggles on my spiritual journey.
This little group of listeners soon helped me hear God in brand new ways. They listened fully, completely, and without judgement. They didn't try to "fix" my challenges or change me. They helped me notice God's activity in my life and I'm forever grateful.
According to Rose Mary Dougherty, three conditions are essential to the life of a spiritual direction group:
Are you willing to be open and honest about your relationship with God (struggles and all)? Are you in a season of change, discernment, or longing? Do you simply want to learn to be a better listener? You're invited to join us for our first online small group inside our new Peace Seekers Community.
Attendance is important since our group will be intimate. Our time will be an introduction to spiritual direction so you don't need to know a thing about this ministry to begin. We'll meet for 4 Sessions on Zoom, Wednesdays from 10:30 AM - 12 PM Central beginning October 28, 2020. We'll offer safe space to share and ask questions about your spiritual journey among peers and with me (a trained spiritual director). You'll participate in weekly guided scripture meditations for listening to God's activity in this intimate group (limited to 6 participants). Your investment in this 4 sessions is the cost of 2 private spiritual direction sessions. You can find full details and register at this link.
BONUS: You'll become a member of our new online community during the time of our group. This community offers you support from other Peace Seekers, weekly scripture passages and ponderings, as well as connection.
Will you join us?
Need a mindset shift? Believe it or not, you don't have to be amidst the perfect place to recenter and refocus. Interested in an exercise to practice presence in just a minute or two, anywhere? You just have to notice.
Recently, I've had quite a few opportunities to share mindfulness tools with others. One of my favorite tools for sharing is an exercise some call 5 Senses. I like to think of it as 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
This exercise, whatever you call it, is an opportunity to use your five senses to practice mindfulness quickly and in most any situation! From kids to adults, it really is an easy way to for all of us to practice presence.
Notice five things you can see.
Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see around you. Try to notice the less obvious things or 5 things in detail (i.e. the green couch cushion rather than the couch).
Notice four things you can feel.
With your own touch, notice things you can feel. It may be your hair, your shirt or pants, the wind, your own skin, the chair you're seated in, or anything else you can feel.
Notice three things you can hear.
Quiet yourself and listen then notice three things you can hear. You may notice your own breath, the chirping of a bird, the sounds of an appliance, or cars passing by.
Notice two things you can smell.
Breathe in and notice what you smell - pleasant or unpleasant. This may be your own scent or a scent nearby.
Notice one thing you can taste.
Is there a taste in your mouth right now? If so, notice it. If not, consider savoring a taste, just one taste.
To recap, notice....
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
This mindfulness exercise is quick and a fairly easy way to shift your presence and state of mind. Then notice what you feel, sense, experience after this exercise. What do you think? Have you tried this one? Will you notice? What might it offer you to take just a moment and notice right now?
“One day you’ll write about your relationship with food,” my counselor said.
In that moment I knew what anxiety felt like (again).
My reply at the time was, “Oh, I am not sure about that or when I will be ready. This is a deep wound; I would not know where to begin.”
I heard her words clearly as she kindly gazed at me with a smile. “One day.”
Over a year has passed since that day, and I’m not ready yet. I am honestly still not sure where to begin. Yet this is “one day” on my journey.
Today, I sit at my keyboard with homemade kombucha in my cup, a tea I love brewing and enjoying. I ate an omelet for lunch. It consisted of real food from God’s earth. But I also added pepperoni (of the turkey variety) and some cheese (from a jar).
My friends and family fall into categories of “You ate something from a jar” and “Wow, I didn’t know they made turkey pepperoni.” Maybe, you see my struggle? Maybe, you do not notice anything odd about food from a jar. If not, you’re likely in the second category and are also now Googling, “What is Kombucha?”
You see, my healing journey has taken me on some strict paths of fasting from specific food groups…on purpose. I was horribly ill at the time and that fasting and guidance from my physician brought me much healing. It helped tremendously. Yet, I’m in a season of what feels like… rebellion. For me, it’s “living large” to open a package on occasion and not check the ingredients. After all, my body responds so clearly to what I eat, and I truly must acknowledge this or I become ill. Not checking ingredients can be risky. Yet living in a food bubble is risky as well, not as much for my body but for my mind and my heart.
When rebellion happens, it is also unhealthy. My self-care habits become lazy, and my body becomes sick. I have been in this rebellion place, and it is not healthy either—spiritually, emotionally, or physically.
What is a girl to do? I have finally discovered, this healing journey with food goes beyond ingredients. What is the fine balance of finding healing on the journey when you discover you have had an unhealthy relationship with food for nearly your entire life? How is it that admitting I have an unhealthy relationship with food and what I can now state as an eating disorder feels so shameful? Why does anxiety plague me with most meals and yet I cover it up so well—and have for so long? Few know of the struggle I face daily with ingredients and labels like GMOs, organic, MSG, gluten, raw, the list continues.
As a matter of fact, it feels raw to write these words. Yet, I sense today is the day. One day. My anxiety falls low on the ingredient list for the untrained eye, yet it is present.
Anxiety is no stranger to me, but it’s been over a decade since I experienced its effects. For years, I’ve covered it up with well-balanced and managed emotional health and good diet patterns. I first met anxiety after a health trauma in my life years ago, and anxiety made its home in my heart. It took years of practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and seeing a counselor to discover freedom from the effects my health crisis caused me at that time—and to break free from the anxiety. I thought I was free.
Fast forward a decade to a fresh new season of living into my purpose and call, all while writing and teaching mindfulness tools and sharing them with others! How dare anxiety return to greet me in this wonderful season?
Yet, it has returned, as unwelcome as it is through another health episode (although not as serious), in which I am reminded of the fragility of life. Anxiety appears all around me, but especially on my plate.
Here is what I have learned on my own healing journey. The closer we get to experiencing God’s healing touch, the deeper we realize what binds us and the rawer that feels. I now recognize it on my plate and the fear I have hidden behind over the years with healthy ingredients and secret rebellious snacking. I have been afraid I may hurt those I love by sharing my wounds because much of what I know (and fear) about food was not modeled in healthy ways by my family of origin.
When others eat for nutrients, my brain plays games over and over and over again. My deep wounds surface, looking like a perfectly balanced meal to some, yet to me, it brings a conflict of inner emotions and feelings I’ve looked to food to heal. Anxiety surfaces on my plate.
Yet, it isn’t about the food at all. I eat to celebrate. I eat to mourn. I control what I eat to celebrate. I control what I eat to mourn.
Is it possible to simply eat? I see my counselor’s smile, and I ponder my Creator’s gaze. Yes, I believe it is possible to simply eat. I believe anxiety will show me how, finally.
So, today is the first day I openly write about food, beyond the pages of my journal.
Chocolate nor wine.
Fasting nor supplements.
Keto nor Paleo.
Eating perfectly won’t heal my wounds. Eating imperfectly won’t heal my wounds. Counting points won’t heal my wounds. Binging on gluten-free cookies won’t heal my wounds. Fasting from everything non-organic won’t heal my wounds.
Until now, only my Creator knows of this struggle and has heard this admission. Well, and my counselor…and newest therapist who knows this work well … and now you. While it’s taken a long time to admit, the anxiety caused by food has been a reality I know far too well.
Today is the day, and the next, and the next, and the next. I am not healed overnight, but I am admitting my weakness, my imperfection, and my struggle. And that is the “one day” I’ve longed to embrace. A day that reminds each of us we are not alone in this life. A day that I can move from the shadow of shame and cling to God’s light and love. Today is that day!
In my weakness, God makes me stronger. Not perfect, but free. Oh, anxiety, I thought you were long gone. Yet, I find that as you appear boldly before me once again, you have much to show me about myself. You are ready to set me free!
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 edition of The Redbud Post, featuring Anxiety. Since that time, my body has been adjusting to my new emotional break throughs and yet also struggling with the physical effects of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Our bodies are wise, my friends. More writing will come. For now, I'm breathing deep and practicing my mindfulness exercises. Thanks for supporting me on this journey with your kind words and encouragement.
Click here to read the most current edition of The Redbud Post.
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC