The Sound of Silence

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I was chatting with a friend the other day about just how busy life can get. I remember thinking how busy I was when I was in high school. And though it was full, for sure, it was just a so much less responsible life. It was busy, but less weighty. I had to take care of school, church and youth stuff, part time work, and friendships. I didn’t have to take care of paying bills, looking after a house, fostering a marriage, raising a tiny human, buying groceries and cooking meals. And did I mention finding matching socks when folding the laundry? Damn you socks.

But it’s not just the stuff we do that makes life busy. It’s the noise. Social media. News. Music. Chitchat. Clutter. Entertainment. Games. Books. Advertisements. Fluorescent lights. The things that fill our senses, minds and souls day in and day out. It’s wearying.

Being relatively new to the country has afforded me a unique opportunity to be more considered about what I decide to add to life. I really don’t want life to be so full of stuff that I don’t have margins. Space for people, energy to play Duplos with Judah, room for spontaneity. I am increasingly aware that if I want life to look this way, then it’s going to have to be intentional.

I’ve always considered peace to be something that kind of falls on you. You know, like the dove when Jesus got baptised. I pray and it just descends, fluttering its sweet comforting wings (but not pooping on my shoulder). I’ve prayed for peace a million times for myself and others, and it always goes something like this; “Lord, let your peace that passes understanding just fall on _____ now.” You know the one. But what if peace is something we have to create space for? What if peace doesn’t so much come to us, but we go to it?

I guess my hope was that peace would imbue whatever I was doing in life. And I’m not saying it can’t, by the way. But I always thought of it as something added to the craziness of life; something to make me feel calm whilst I go about doing whatever. However, what I’m discovering, is that as I’ve become more deliberate with liturgical and contemplative prayer, peace is waiting for me. It’s waiting in a secret garden. It has a bench for me and Jesus to sit on. Beautiful green grass, a big leafy tree and a river running right through the middle of it. My liturgy is like the path leading to the gate, and then I enter the gate and just sit there. It’s so colourful and vibrant, that almost always when I open my eyes again, the world around me looks a little pale in comparison. And it’s completely full of peace.

I’m not gonna lie, I get a bit irritated reading some of the authors that write about this stuff. Not because they’re not amazing, and encouraging, and right. But because they’re often 50 plus male theologians. Likely at a time in life where they don’t have small kiddos and suffer sleep-deprivation. Not tied up with a work week that leaves them physically exhausted at the end of the day. Even Jesus was able to just take off into the wilderness for extended periods of time to pray. I would love that luxury. Please, send me to the wilderness by myself! But, my life is my life. And if I want to experience peace, then it’s my responsibility to create space for it. In small ways, this has meant that I find myself turning the radio off in the car more often. Allowing silence to settle around me. In bigger ways, it has meant carving out half an hour everyday to pray and sit with Jesus.

I read recently that silence restores our souls. And after just experiencing the relentlessness of daily life, my soul gets bedraggled. It feels likes it’s fraying at the edges. It has trouble holding itself up. It needs restoring. Not just for me, but so I am ready and able to be who God’s asking me to be in this world. I need to give from a place of rest and peace, not striving and strain. I may just need to say no to a few things in order to be able to take an intentional journey to a place of peace; to the Person of peace.

Deb xx

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Soul Vacation

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Well, hello social media! After writing last week’s blog, I went on a one week soul vacation from Facey and Candy Crush. It was an enlightening experience; not one of those ‘shout out loud’ moments, but more a small gentle waterfall of revelation. So here are my thoughts from my week of technological silence:

Returning to social media was underwhelming. Giving up Facebook was more difficult than giving up my wee game. When the highly anticipated moment arrived, I said to Caleb with a glint in my eye (and only half joking), “See you in three hours.” Well. Twenty short minutes later, I had caught up on all my notifications and was left somewhat deflated. All those little red flags promised so much but delivered so little (apart from a few special words from friends). All I had really missed is that Prince had died. That was weird. My immediate thought was that FB is such a false reality. It leads us to believe that we’re involved in a rich community of relationship, and while it is handy for keeping in touch with those friends afar, it is absolutely no substitute for genuine soul connection. It’s kind of like snacking when you’re starving for a proper meal.

Candy Crush and FB filled different purposes in my day. Playing a mindless little game was a way of filling time, keeping myself entertained, distracting myself from being still, and gaining an odd sense of achievement. Being a stay-at-home-mum is so frequently this relentless day-in-day-out mishmash of intangibles. There’s not a lot of readily measurable accomplishment and success that is verifiable. When I pass a level on Candy Crush, the deep American voice tells me I’ve done a good job. Why thank you Candy-Crush-man, I appreciate your feedback. Although to be fair I pushed Judah through a puddle in the pram the other day and he was like, “Good job Mum.” So. Cute. Anyway, the long and short of that story is that I deleted Candy Crush halfway though the week. Because I realised I was addicted and I actually didn’t enjoy it that much. Plus it freed up time to read, play with Judah, and spend some time tree-gazing in my back yard.

As already mentioned, giving up Facey was much more difficult. And since I wasn’t playing a game, I had time to think about why. It’s become more apparent to me in recent times that there’s this deep cavernous void in the pit of my soul. It’s a place that was formed because of many childhood experiences (more on that in another blog – maybe next week). It’s a place that needs to be filled with the love and light of Jesus, but I try to fill it with other stuff. Mostly I try and satisfy it with other people’s approval. Enter Facebook. It’s so temporarily nice to get likes and kind comments on posts and photos. Going without that affirmation for a week highlighted the state of my soul more clearly.

My key intention over my soul vacation was to create more space to focus on Christ. And what I discovered was that in the stillness I found an unexpected gift; peace. I though being still would unleash an anxious voice in my soul. But what I found was tranquility. It was as if Jesus had provided a secret garden of peace, but I had to walk through the gate to enter. I have a massive aversion to trinkets and ornaments. They are contraindicated in my life. There was a period of time in my adolescence when it seemed like every gift I received was a teddy bear or a candle. It was so ironic. Like how I really don’t like dogs, and they sense it and try really hard to be friends with me…and then they go and stick their heads in my crotch and I’m left doing the super-awkward leg-cross-bend-over-while-high-pitched-laughing thing…anyway, I digress. Somewhere around that time someone gave me a wee card with my name and a corresponding scripture on it. I wouldn’t normally keep something like that, as I said, contraindicated. But for some reason I stuck it on my mirror, and it said this, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, he whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee.” That verse from Isaiah rung true this week. I discovered that life has a million flashing neon signs that are attempting to steal my gaze from God. It’s part of my call as an apprentice of Jesus to train my focus onto him. And I’m discovering more and more why he wants us to do this. The rewards are infinitely priceless.

Moving forward, I can guarantee that other attractions will try to replace the distractions I’ve farewelled this week. But I’m going to continue with my new habits of contemplative prayer and mindfulness…which basically means really noticing what’s around me. Being present. Feeling the breeze float over me. Breathing deeply. Sitting with Jesus. It’s a sweet, gentle and rich new adventure.

Bless you guys,
Deb x

Peace Out

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I read a Buzzfeed post a few years ago about the game ‘Candy Crush’. Big mistake. I was just curious. It sounded like my kind of game. And now I’m to a level that I couldn’t possibly mention (except to say that it rhymes with bifteen shmundred and peighty). I know right? But I just love it. It’s the perfect filler when you’re waiting for the doc, or kiddo is watching some inane children’s programme, or you’re bored, or should be sleeping, or paying attention to what your husband is saying…

I was late to the smartphone game. My little neon pink Nokia served me so well and pretty much refused to break no matter how many times I dropped it. I was kinda proud of not owning a smartphone. Then I had a wee windfall and Caleb encouraged me to bust out and get an iPad mini. Which I did. And I loved it. And subsequently turned into Gamey McGamerton. But at least it stayed at home and was less portable than a handheld device.

iPhones are really expensive in New Zealand; you either have to sign up for a monthly plan that will leave you eating a lettuce leaf and a Tic Tac for each meal, or pay a really big upfront price for the handset. However, upon arriving here we discovered we could sign up for a reasonable plan and get iPhones for $99 each…so we bought 12 of them. Not. But we joke about it often.

Now I can crush candies and stalk my friends at an arms reach. And my phone recharges next to my bed at night, and instead of reaching for a book before I sleep, I listen to music and stare at my little beacon of entertainment. I could try and justify this is any number of ways, but the bald truth of it is that I’m addicted. I find myself halfway through a show or movie and needing to check in to see if the little red flag of wonder has a message for me.

The dichotomy of my phone is that it both feeds and distracts me from anxiety. A moment of revelation in my life was when my counsellor said to me, “You know Deb, it seems like you’ve been living with low level anxiety for your whole life.” Upon reflection, I used to sleep way more than a kid should. I would take naps after school, and no joke, my ultimate dream when I five was that my bed would have wheels and an engine so I could drive it to school(!). That’s not normal. I also used to have trouble getting a full breath and I was diagnosed with juvenile asthma…but the inhalers never helped. I had quite a bit going on under the surface.

Over the years I’ve worked through truckloads of my stuff, but to be honest I have trouble being still. I love to relax and read and chill, I’m not a workaholic, but I literally have trouble sitting still. I’m a Fidgety Bridget. I’ve become more aware of things I do when I read or sit still; I bite the inside of my bottom lip, gnaw on the skin around my fingernails, pick at any zit foolish enough to raise a wee bump, or twirl my hair around my finger. I went to a small group recently, sat in a comfy armchair and was stoked to realise that it swivelled from side to side. Because I like to move. Weirdo.

The thought of going on a silent retreat has always had this magical appeal, although in reality I’d probably chew my hand down to a stump before running naked through the woods howling at the moon. I even briefly (for like one second) considered becoming a nun because of the stillness and simplicity in monastic practices (of course I really wanted to get married, and I’m not Catholic, but still…). Something in my soul is screaming for solitude and serenity. I feel like it’s got things to say to me, but I’ve been blocking it out with my Candy Crush, and Facebook, and fidgeting. It’s easier to distract myself then allow my soul to speak its mind. I may not like what it has to say. But I don’t want to continue feeling the disquieting murmurings of my inner voice attempting to catch my attention.

So I’ve got a plan. From the moment of posting this blog, I’m going off the grid for a week. No Facebook. And the only candies I’ll be crushing are the leftover Easter jelly beans. I’m going to read more. I’m going to sit outside and look at the trees and listen to the birds and the wind. I’m going to be more intentional about being present. I’m going to invite my soul to tell me some of its secrets. I’m going to ask Jesus to make Himself more known to me.

Only a week you say? Yes. For a start. I’ll let you know how it goes next week. I anticipate each little red notification to be like a red flag to a bull. It will drive me crazy. But I need to do it. So sayonara friends. Thanks in advance for your comments – I’ll rip into them like a kid on Christmas morning next Wednesday. I’m already so looking forward to it!! Aaaahhh! Here I go…

Over and out,
Deb x