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Embrace Rest

by Kristy Lee Photography

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me,

your High God, above politics, above everything.”

Psalm 46:10

Each Friday while my little girl is in her ballet class I have a forty-five-minute window, that my goal is to write solidly for as long as I can.

Finding the time to write and have quiet in my motherhood journey has been the most significant challenge. Just a few moments of peace. A little breath of calm before I go back to the constant negotiating and boundary keeping.

Recently, I walked into the cafe, after dropping my daughter at her dance class and reached into my bag and realised I’d left my laptop at home. I felt relieved. I took the beauty of a moment to myself, free of shoulds and expectations.

The funny thing is we all have the same amount of hours in a day. We all have the same amount of minutes in an hour, but we all spend them differently.

David challenges my attention when he shouts in Psalm 46: 10 “Step out of the traffic.”

Do you struggle with the culture of hustle in our society today?

Do you sometimes feel like you can never meet the expectations of your task-driven world?

I decided at that moment to extravagantly breathe in deep my long black and my berry muffin. Giving myself a break. I took a moment to feel the beauty of the sun shining through the rain clouds and music in my ears and the taste of strawberry raw. Worshipping my Creator in the midst of doing nothing. We were created to be human beings, not doing.

The rest notes in the music of our lives are the places that bring the most magnificent beauty.

Are you filling your days with so much noise that there is no rest in the orchestra of shoulds?

We are the composers of our every day.

Stop.

Step out of the traffic.

Breathe.

Notice the rising steam off your hot coffee.

Breathe in deep the rain that stings your skin.

And do nothing.

For a moment.

Nothing.

Rest.

Worship him with the sheer pleasure of rest,

And embrace slow.

Amanda Viviers

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The power of peace in our everyday

Date, Walnut and Cinnamon Sourdough

There are many moments when I feel overwhelmed every day when I feel far from at peace. When the stress of the moment takes over and I am looking for a quiet that is beyond just noise; I’m looking for a rest deep in my soul.

We are all looking for peace and a slowing of our souls. Over and over as our world fills with obligations and shoulds, there is another way. And it is paved with peace.

Do you have moments when you are unsure of what to do next?

Moments when your mind is overwhelmed. Moments when you have a few different balls in the air, juggling life and looking for quiet.

What about when you are at work or in a conflict with a friend?

What about moments of anxiety?

There is a moment between Palm Sunday and Good Friday that stills me quietly as I read. A group of friends gather around food and opportunity, unaware that they only have a few days left together.

There is an author amongst them John who starts to unpack the journey of the week between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, beginning with story after story that Jesus tries to describe to his friends about what is about to happen.

And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!”

John 16: 33 (TPT)

It intrigues me that Jesus knew everything that was to happen that dark Friday afternoon, yet his absolute focus and concern was to leave peace that surpasses understanding with his friends who were to be left behind.

I am learning that He is the author of peace and even when it does not make sense, He has walked before us and He has paved the way. He can be trusted and he is our guarantor. There is a debt placed upon our lives and He became the surety we needed to walk with security and strength. 

A letter later in the bible chats about a strategy to employ peace into our everyday lives and empower our desire to slow. It was written to a group of people in the town of Philippi

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4: 6-7 (NIV)

The peace of Christ is transformative, he gives us peace so that we can walk peace into a world that is so deeply in need of his presence. His peace was not given just so we could feel his peace, it is an activated presence that helps us find our voice and opportunities to bring beauty into difficult times.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy; 

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love. 

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. 

St Francis of Assisi

Dear Jesus,

Help me to trust in your presence in my daily life and when anxiety rises, help me to surrender to the strength found in seeking you above all else. Little by little bring your beauty into my every day as I learn to let go and find you waiting. Help me to embrace a slower pace that is bathed in peace. Help me to love those who are in my today and to release those who are no longer in the season I find myself in today. 

With a peace that surpasses understanding.

Amen

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Discovering Vinyl Under The Rubble

Have you ever had a moment where you know it is time to get rid of the old?

I stood in my studio and breathed deeply at the sheer overwhelmedness of it all. The books were falling off the shelves and the papers were knee deep. Little bits and bobs that held no home in my heart but a whole heap of shoulds on their shoulders.

Piece by piece, weighted responsibility after responsibility I sorted through the chaos looking for silence. This room seemed to hold the remnants of the last year of our life. From receipts to cookbooks, manuscript leftovers and presents left homeless.

In the midst of this cleanse, I felt so overwhelmed that I lay on our couch with my husband trying to convince me of the purpose of letting go. Embracing slow is a noble notion of clearing space for light and love but without releasing the old I am not sure it is truly possible.

If we keep doing the same we have always done expecting a different outcome then that is insanity. However when it comes to the pace of our lifestyle and the opportunities we are seeking for silence and recreation unless we edit out our life it is impossible.

Unless we strategically place limitations on what we give our time to and carve space for the new, we will stay in the same holding pattern of yesterday. As I carried box load after box load of treasures to the op shop my heart was heaving at the awkwardness of letting go.

I discovered vinyl records that I have not played for years underneath the rubble and they reminded me of moments from long ago when I dreamed of being in the place I am in fact today. This slowing of time to remember was powerful because I realised that I had grown and gathered. I had overcome and reinvented.

I walked around my studio and stood amongst the light and space finding a painting standing in the corner that had not been on my wall in over a decade. I picked it up and hung it above my desk seeing the words from Exodus 15: 1-3

“I will sing to the Lord for He is mighty exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him my father’s God. I will exalt Him. The Lord is a warrior, the lord is his name”

This was a song that Miriam sang as she remembered the powerful deliverance of her people with miracles that were in motion. There was something powerful from this story of movement and deliverance, letting go and beginning again that reminded me in a moment of the power of perspective.

There is a ritual awaiting you in the midst of the slow. Clearing space to find clarity often amongst the rubble of seasons of unmet expectations.

When was the last time you reinvented the space you exist in every day?

What about a cathartic releasing of the old to create space for the new?

Embracing slow is a season of letting go and honouring the present moment we sit within. Breathing deeply, releasing forgiveness to others and ourselves, discovering hidden memories from our past that remind us deeply of how far we have come.

Dear Jesus,

Help me to surrender to the rhythm of the old and create space for the new. Give me the wisdom to know what I need to let go of and the courage to step into the new. When I look back over the waters we have travelled together, help me to see the power of your presence no matter the darkness of the season. Slow me, Oh Lord, so I can see the miracle that is in motion and help me to surrender to the awkwardness of trusting you above all.

Tenderly,

Amen

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The circle of stories

The rain is dripping slowly down the window where I am typing, and my coffee is getting cold as I remember stories throughout my life that have changed me. Women were communicating their truth to other women. Circles of wisdom that have encased my perspective.

Have you ever felt stuck in a season?

Seasons have that ability to hold us captive, shrinking our capacity to see beyond the holding pattern of the moment. Then a story comes, filled with freedom, inspiration, and opportunity. Somehow the sharing of another’s struggle opens our hearts to the possibility in the midst of our current difficulty.

The power of another’s story has always inspired me with encouragement and strength.

As women, it is easy to ignore the awkwardness of gathering with other women because of our insecurities and baggage. Comparison and competition become the calling cards of our heart, and we shy away from any moment that unveils our feminine condition.

Have you ever heard another women say that they don’t like gathering around women?

I understand the pain and the discomfort often caused by painful experiences when women have held each other captive by nasty words on the tip of our tongue. However, when we embrace the stories, brilliance and courage of another something powerful can happen.

When was the last time you embraced listening slow and gathered with other women?

Women nurture. It is in their nature. When you gather around in a circle, where they are all on a level playing field, the stories that come as we sit together are life-changing.

There is a story of an Aunty in the Bible who has been waiting for years for her dream to have a baby to be fulfilled. Just as she has had this miracle answered her young niece, (scholars would say she was just a pre-teenager) came bounding to her house to say she was now pregnant also.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice, she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leapt for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!” (Luke 1:41-45)

I heard this story over and over through my childhood, but only recently I have understood the pain and the public shame that immersed in this admission from Mary.

I loved how Elizabeth created space for this season to thrive under her roof and the way she extended her life and love to this young teenager, who was sure to be shunned, was nothing short of extraordinary.

It goes on in this story to describe how Mary stayed with her aunt for three long months. Elizabeth created a circle of encouragement around her young niece, and it was powerful.

When was the last time you slowed enough to acknowledge another women’s story?

When we slow the power of encouragement embraces those parts, we want to hide and helps us become whole.

“For thousands of years in villages and tribes around the world, women have come together to share, to teach, to listen and to learn. The pulse of these women still beats within us. Their wisdom flows through time, whispering to us the song of female connection and beauty. We only need to stop long enough and put our ear to our heart to hear the call.” Heather Ash Amara

Dear Jesus,

Help me to remember that every woman I met is facing a battle I know nothing about. Please help me to be kind in the face of opposition and to slow myself enough to listen with my whole being. When my daughter feels afraid, help me to listen and to share wisdom from my library of stories. God help to slow, so I can truly hear.

Amen

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In Her Eyes

Last night after a speaking engagement I stopped a lady and said: “Excuse me, I have I met you before?”.

My heart and life were immersed in her eyes and I couldn’t shake the feeling that we had encountered each other profoundly. She said to me I’m a midwife and my knees buckled slightly.

I smiled and thanked her “yes indeed you were my midwife when I gave birth to my son six years ago.” As I sat and chatted, internally I was trying to shut down my memories.

Breathe in and out.

They flooded as I looked into her eyes remembering that moment after midnight asking without words whether my child in distress would be okay?

The birth of my firstborn Maximus was far from the slow breathing I had expected. After a day of labour and waiting, my husband took me back to the hospital on a whim. As this midwife put the heart rate monitor on my stomach, her face betrayed her emotions as she quickly exited the room.

It was my first pregnancy and experience of birth, so I was slightly confused, but across my experience, I had found hospital staff to have the position of giving as much information as necessary and empathy was far from their calling card.

She ran in with an obstetrician (who was not my own) and quickly shouted that I needed to remove all my jewellery because I would be going straight into surgery. It was her eyes that drew me. If she had not moved that night quickly in February, I would not have my little boy snuggling into my side as I now write.

One of the lessons I am learning in embracing slow is to look into another’s eyes and acknowledge the pain they are facing even if it remains unspoken. We can pick up so much in our everyday worlds by just slowing our eyes to connect deeply with people we meet in our daily lives.

“Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.” Luke 7: 44 (NIV)

This story in Luke takes us to a moment when the disciples were trying to move Jesus on so that they could quickly pass the drama of the story.

Eyes tell a story that no Instagram filter can cover. They are a window into the soul and when we slow to look into the eyes of another the empathy that is available to see is a gift. Have you ever walked the street and not wanted to engage in someone’s story, the first point of reference is never to look them in the eyes.

Eyes engaged. Story entered.

Before this passage in Luke, Jesus had listened to the disciples try and move him on from this woman and her story. Insert “Don’t look, Jesus, you don’t know what she has done.”

“When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner.” Luke 7:39 (NIV)

The power of embracing slow is having the time to engage in someone’s story, even when it is awkward. To take a chair and to sit with those present in the midst of suffering. We don’t need to offer answers but just the dignity of looking deep into their lives.

My goal this year as I embrace slow is to look into the eyes of those before me. The barista, checkout operator, the cleaner in the bathroom and those standing to wait at the end of my speaking engagements. It is easy to move quickly through a crowd to remain unnoticed but when we purposefully listen to hear rather than formulating our answer empathy is empowered.

Dear Jesus,

Help me to look into the eyes of strangers and bestow compassion as you did. Help me to slow in my awkward moments to listen as to understand rather than reply. And lastly, teach me how to ask questions that honour the story of those in my presence.

In the name of Jesus
Amen

This is a part of a 40-day journey called Embracing Slow. You can find more devotionals in this series here and here