When You’re Starting the Week Weary

Gina Butz faith 2 Comments

finding rest in a weary week

A friend of mine texted last night to see if I had any time this week to get together. Everything in me wanted to say yes, but the reality was that looking at my schedule this week was already making me tired. No margin. No white space. Mostly self-imposed, but it all feels necessary (feel being the operative word there).

Anybody else staring down a week of “I’m not sure when I’ll sit down” or “so much for cleaning the house?” (I say that like I actually would have cleaned the house if I had time. Ha).

Maybe it’s not that your schedule is too full, but that the activities that fill it ask so much of you. You’re trying to balance home and work and relationships and goals, and it’s enough to wear down the soul.

I opened my email this morning and saw this great post about walking away the Monday blues. What encouraged me most from it was this version of Matthew 11:28-30 from The Message:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I want those unforced rhythms of grace. Too often I live try too hard, doing too much, one more task, one more activity squeezed in until there’s no space left. No grace. If it’s heavy or ill-fitting, maybe it’s not what He’s called me to do.

Whether it’s a quiet walk or 10 minutes of silence (maybe in the bathroom cause that’s the only place you can get away) or just a moment when you stop and take some deep breaths-He’s calling us to come and remember that He can show us how to walk freely and lightly in the midst of busy. He knows how to stare down a busy week-a week full of ministry and demands and conflict-and do it with a rested heart. He can teach us how to do it too.

Get away with Him. Get His perspective, His strength, His peace, His power. Keep company with Him this week.

 

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Related posts:

Keeping a Sabbath Heart 

When You Just Have to Do One Day at a Time 

We Need to Stop Hitting Ourselves

Gina Butz identity, personal, wholehearted 0 Comments

be kind to yourself - thoughts on how we can be our own worst enemies

If you have siblings, at some point you played the ‘game’ where you forced a family member to hit themselves with their own hands, while saying, “Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself?” This was really only funny for one of you, am I right?

Too often, though, we play this game all by ourselves. We are the ones hitting ourselves, beating ourselves up over failure and weakness, berating ourselves for being less than. We speak harshly, demanding more, demanding better, rarely letting ourselves off the hook. I know. I’m really good at that game.

This summer, I’ve seen levels of anxiety in my soul I didn’t know were there, and my natural inclination has been to pour contempt on it, willing it away. Instead of sitting with it, I want to run to a place of condemnation for what feels like weakness, failure, a lack of faith, as if that’s where I’ll find the salvation I seek.

Recently, a friend introduced me to this song, Be Kind to Yourself, by Andrew Peterson:

The line that gets me is, “How does it end when the war that you’re in is just you against you against you?”

We can live like our own worst enemies. We speak contempt to our own souls in a way that we would never speak to another. We shut down emotions that we think are unacceptable. We tell ourselves we just need more faith. When we mess up, we are the first in line to call it out and condemn. We admonish ourselves to suck it up and deal with life, rather than listen with grace to that in us which needs a voice. Who wins in this scenario?

So what do we do? For starters, we remind ourselves that we do have an enemy, and it’s not us. 

We can chose to side with him against ourselves, or we can chose to side with the One who loves us. He never speaks harshly. He never condemns. He is patient with our weaknesses. He always speaks with compassion, grace, truth and acceptance. He expects more failure from us than we expect from ourselves, and yet it doesn’t change the fact that He’s wild about us.

So tell yourself it’s ok. You’re doing the best you can with what you have. Cut yourself some slack for your mistakes. Forgive yourself when you sin. Encourage yourself to get back up when you fall. Speak grace. Speak kindness. Speak compassion. Love yourself where you are, because He does.

He is kind to us. He invites us to be kind to ourselves. Stop hitting yourself. Lay down your weapons and rest.

 

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Related posts:

How to Swimsuit Shop without Shame

When Fear is a Dictator

Why It’s Good When We See Olympians Fail

Gina Butz life lessons, truth 4 Comments

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39562

My daughter and I spent 3 hours Friday biting our nails and holding our breath, watching the US Women’s National Soccer team play Sweden in the quarter finals of the Olympics. It came down to PKs, and they lost. They. Lost.

The team favored to win the gold is out of the Olympics.

Now, honestly speaking, if it were up to me, they’d still be blazing a trail toward the top of that podium. I’m going to have to boycott IKEA for awhile (although I really need some RÄTTVIK). But as it stands, these women will go home empty handed, and I’m choosing to see the good in it.

Because here is a chance for our kids to see that you can be the best at something and still fail. Sometimes the game doesn’t go your way. Sometimes you miss the shot. Sometimes the call isn’t fair. Sometimes you work as hard as you can for your dream and it falls short. Sometimes you just can’t make it happen, no matter how amazing you are.

And if all that’s true, then our kids can see that being the best is a precarious platform on which to build your identity. It can be gone in a heartbeat. These Olympic games show us over and over that value built on achievement can slip through our fingers based on hundredths of seconds and millimeters of space.

So we remind them that as we reach high for our dreams, we also sink our roots into the solid ground of who we are in Jesus. That way, whatever the outcome, we are unfazed, because we aren’t building a home on our performance. It’s built on Him and it can’t be shaken.

Throughout these Olympics, we will see dreams rise and fall. What a great reminder to put our faith and hope in that which cannot be taken from us, to remember that what we do and how well we do it is never a reflection of our worth.

 

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Related:

Our Inside Out Moment 

When Falling Is Good 

What Being a Soccer Mom Teaches Me about Parenting

As the Ride Winds Down – Thoughts on the Last Moments of Childhood

Gina Butz family, growth, kids, parenting 3 Comments

when the ride is slowing down - thoughts on the last years of childhood

This summer I spent a good amount of time with my niece and nephew, who have a combined age of 3 1/2, and I was taken back to those early days.

Days when it felt like time stood still. Days when I never actually finished a story in a conversation because someone was suddenly tugging on my leg (they were such good stories too). Days when I was proud that I showered or made dinner. (Who am I kidding? I’m still proud when I make dinner).

Fast forward to me now, and the seasons go by like the days used to pass. Now it’s their stories and jokes I love to hear. They’re making dinner (praise Jesus). But I’m realizing that this ride is starting to slow down.

In a few weeks, I will sit in the silence of a house void of children as they head back to school. I know that I will blink and it will be my reality every day.

I’ve only realized lately that I no longer have to buy sippy cups or crayons or children’s toothpaste. We don’t go to the library or playgrounds to pass the time. I’m staring down the last years of their childhood. Like a kid who feels the carnival ride is winding down, I want to eek out the last moments of this precious ride.

That’s why, kids, I want you to just come and sit with me in the evenings. No, not even to do anything, but just to be together.  It’s why I linger for end of the day unexpected questions at bedtime, and sneak back in after you’re asleep just to look at you (I’m creepy like that. And also because, sweet girl, you say wonderfully nonsensical things when you’re half awake).

It’s why I love that I get to drive you to school so I can be with you just a little longer and hear your voices. It’s why I look forward to seeing you every morning and I thank God that I get you one more day. It’s why those moments when you do still need me are so precious.

I want to go crazy making sure we do all those last “we said we would” activities and vacations. I want to play games and go for walks together. I want to fight for weekly family time, even if all we do is sit around together and wonder what we should do.

This is when I wonder if we’ve taught you everything, and how you’ll do without us (I’m sure you’ll be fine – it’s me I’m worried about). I want to tell you everything I think you’ll need to know for all time (I realize you’ll just be graduating though and that we will probably continue to communicate, but just in case).

I question if we’ve loved you well and if you will say you enjoyed the ride too.

It’s slowing down, but it’s not over yet. I’m sitting alone one night and she comes in to say, “I was turning on my fan and thought, ‘I just want to see my mommy.'” He’s at home alone and decides he’s bored enough to clean the whole house for me. She has a hard day of school and decides the best place is my lap, curled up just like she used to when she was just that little. He starts each day by finding me for a hug.

I’m going to cherish every last second.

 

Let’s face it, being wholehearted is tough. We need others in the journey! Join me by subscribing to get my posts via email and let’s walk this together. Just enter your email in the right column, and be sure to follow me on twitter, where I make snarky or deep comments, depending on my mood. 

Related posts:

What I Want More than Your Happiness (one of my most popular posts!)

The Power of a Mother’s Words 

What Nobody Told Me About Parenting Teens

Embracing Imperfection

Gina Butz identity, life lessons, personal 4 Comments

embrace imperfection

You know that part of you that you wish wasn’t?

Maybe your hair curls too much. Or not enough. Your butt’s too flat but your stomach is too big (could you switch them?). You’ve got facial hair, but you’re a girl. Big feet. Big ears. You never moved past a “barely B” cup. Or you went way too far beyond that.

For me, it’s this:

FullSizeRender (6)The dreaded widow’s peak. Mine’s the sharpest I’ve ever seen. Like Dracula, I am. So here’s my big confession: for nigh on 20 years, I plucked it out. Not all of it – that would have given me a receding hairline. But just enough so that it wasn’t noticeable.

I envied flat hairline people. No, really, I did. I thought, “They have no idea how good they have it.” A widow’s peak messes up most hairstyles. It felt like a curse. My thorn to bear (ok, that’s maybe a little melodramatic).

Then, a few years ago, I stopped plucking it out. At first, it grew in curly. (There was a little girl, who had a little curl . . . ). Yikes! It’s since settled down. I’m still not used to seeing it peek out. I sometimes try to style my hair so you still don’t see it. The other day, Megan saw it in the rearview mirror and pointed out that I should cover it up. (She’s got one too that she doesn’t like. I think hers is awesome).

Nothing like seeing a lack of grace for yourself show up in your own kids. I have an opportunity in that moment not only to let myself off the hook, but to help her accept all of herself as well. I’m no parenting expert, but that seems like there’s a pretty clear choice here.

So I decided: no.FullSizeRender (7)

No more talking smack about the widow’s peak. Time to give it some grace. For better or worse, God decided to give me a widow’s peak. He’s also given me wide feet, freckles, and other things I wouldn’t have chosen. And that’s just the outside! But all of me, inside and out, is fearfully and wonderfully made. These imperfections remind me that my idea of beautiful and God’s idea of beautiful are different. I’m going to trust His idea and embrace my imperfections.

 

I’m a big fan of talking about imperfection, grace, letting ourselves off the hook, and other good things that lead to wholeheartedness. Join me! Subscribe to get my posts straight to your inbox so you’ll never miss one. 

 

Related:

Let’s Be the Grace Givers 

Beautiful 

 

Embracing Suffering – Guest post at Thrive Connection

Gina Butz grief, growth 0 Comments

suffering is inevitable. But will we let it be our teacher?

Suffering in this world—great or small and in one form or another—is inevitable. It is not something like jury duty that you just have to hope will not happen to you. You will not avoid it if you simply “play your cards right” or just “walk in the Spirit.” Nor is it some detour to get through quickly so you can get back to the real work of ministry.

Suffering in the Christian life is essential. It is a tool for transforming us into the kind of people God designed us to be.

Read the rest of this post at Thrive Connection.

 

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How to Swimsuit Shop without Shame

Gina Butz emotions, truth, wholehearted 0 Comments

how to swimsuit shop without shame

Last week I took a trip to hell, also known as swimsuit shopping. Not only do you have to see what your half naked body looks like wrapped in variously fitting and often times unflattering spandex, but you get to do it in a room designed by a sadist. Who thought fluorescent lighting in dressing rooms was a good a idea?

But I was determined to not let it ruin me.

First of all, I felt I would greatly benefit from having this girl with me:

And then I thought maybe I should just BE this girl.

I decided that whatever thoughts came to mind about what I was seeing in the mirror, I would focus on what I love. Then again, love can sometimes feel like a stretch. But grateful? I can definitely be grateful for what I have.

I am thankful that I have a whole body to dress.

I am thankful that I can stand up and shop on my own, without help.

I am thankful I live in a place where women are free to wear what they want, because I know of the oppression so many live under.

I am thankful that this body has housed my soul, been its barometer reminding me when I need to eat, sleep, breathe, for over 40 years.

I am thankful for my stretch marks because they mean I have been blessed to carry two babies.

I am thankful that the shape of my body means I have never gone hungry, when so many do.

I am thankful for a husband who praises my body, when I know that there are women who are demeaned because of theirs.

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to rest and refresh myself, giving rise to the need for this suit.

I am thankful that I have money to buy a suit since I pulled a Gina and forgot to bring any of the three I already own (and thank God for 60% off sales).

And on and on.

Gratitude can surround our hearts like a shield, protecting us from that which would tear us down. As we gather the pieces of what we can celebrate, our eyes are turned off what we lack and onto how we are blessed.

I survived my swimsuit shopping. Actually, I more than survived. Gratitude kept my head above the water, like a lifesaver made from grace. It keeps us afloat in the deepest waters.

 

If you enjoy my blog, never miss a post! Just sign up for email delivery in the right column. Join me on the journey! 

Related posts:

Let’s Be the Grace Givers

Beautiful 

What Will We Tell Our Children About These Tragedies?

Gina Butz faith, grief, kids, parenting 0 Comments

what will we tell our kids about these tragedies? thoughts on faith in the midst of terror

Our kids return tonight from a month long mission trip during which they have been out of contact and presumably unaware of all that is happening in the world. I wish the only thing I had to explain to them is why people are looking at their phones even more than usual, to the point of running into other people and walls and such.

Instead, after sending them off just after the Pulse shooting in our own city, we have to tell them that while they were gone, the nation was in uproar over the sudden deaths of two black men at the hands of police. We have to explain to them that during the protests that followed, five police officers were shot and killed. There were bombings in Baghdad and Turkey that killed over 300 people combined. And last night in France, more than 80 people were killed during a celebration. Lord, have mercy.

How do we deal out this information? How do we help them understand why? Part of me wants to shelter my kids from knowing the horror that this summer has brought, but they must know. They must know because we want them to be people of compassion, people of the world, people who enter in to the sorrow of others and weep with those who weep.

Will it make them fearful? I don’t know. Maybe. But I know the path to peace is not to ignore reality or choose to only see the parts of it that make us comfortable, that we agree with, that directly affects us. We cannot hide from the truth, but we can choose how we respond to it. 

We can choose, as a family, to be people who cling to God. We can’t explain to our kids why all this is happening, but we can remind them that there is always hope because of who He is. We can cry out to Him for mercy, healing, strength, wisdom, compassion, guidance, help. We can be people who remember that this is not our home, He is.

So we will tell our children about the atrocities our world has seen this past month. We will tell them, not to make them fearful, but to make them aware that this is the world we live in. We will tell them that this is when we look up, not for answers, but for help, to navigate this world as people who love it well but hold it loosely.

We will cry together for the world. We will pray together for it. We will live, not in fear, but in hope, in trust, in faith. We will face the truth and respond by looking to the One who alone can save.

 

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10 Books for a Journey to Wholeheartedness

Gina Butz growth 5 Comments

10 books to help you live more wholeheartedly

On the journey to being wholehearted, we need a lot of encouragement. So much of mine has come through my literary friends. These authors have been spiritual companions and guides, and I hope they may be for you as well. Let me know if you read them, so we can geek out about them together.

Abba’s Child
Brennan Manning grabbed my heart with The Ragamuffin Gospel, but this book was the one that cemented the importance of “defining yourself radically as one Beloved by God.” This is where I was introduced to the concept of the “imposter” or “pharisee within”-the false sense we present to the world that we think is more acceptable than who we are. Manning says of the heart, “wholeness is brokenness owned and thereby healed.” 

To Be Told
I’m a huge Dan Allender fan-this man speaks the language of the heart. In this book, he encourages us to ask the question, “Do I really believe that God not only wrote my story but that He also loves my story?” There are two versions of this – the book and the workbook. The book is a great place to start; the workbook is like the book on crack. You could spend a lifetime answering the questions in it! If you find yourself wanting to dig deeper into your story after the book, then pick and choose questions from the workbook to help you. They would make great discussion starters for relationships!

Strong Women, Soft Hearts
I was given this book after a tough international move; it set me on a new trajectory. She touches on so many issues of the heart-trust, vulnerability, desire, control, relationships, fear, hope. It’s not a book on transition per se, but it has been one that I returned to each time my life has shifted significantly, because it reminds me that life is not found in staying in the safe, small places of my heart, but in embracing all that God gives me. Bottom line-it makes me want to be brave.

Soul Keeping
John Ortberg is one of my writing heroes. I have a theory that he shares the same Enneagram* type as me (I’m a huge fan of the Enneagram) which makes me like him even more. This book is a gentle punch to the gut reminder that we cannot thrive if we are not caring for ourselves at a soul level. It’s a call to slow down, recognize our needs, and learn to drink deeply from the Source of life. “The unlimited neediness of the soul matches the unlimited grace of God.” 

Rising Strong
I first encountered this book in audio form, read by Brené Brown herself; it was like walking with her every morning, which is ah-mazing. It was so good, I had to re-read it in paper form so I could take notes. My favorite quote? “grace will take you places hustling can’t.” It’s given me words for the moments when I hustle for my worth, instead of trusting that I am enough, and has given me a process by which to untangle the “story I’m making up” when I am tempted to doubt myself. I can’t say enough about how much this book encourages me to be brave in the arenas of life where God has called me.

The Faces of Rage
This book is out of print, which is a crying shame (but never fear – you can still get used copies!). In recent years, my awareness of how rage and contempt keeps us from being wholehearted has increased. This book reveals how we use contempt to avoid feeling pain and loss, and the ramifications of choosing contempt instead of moving into those areas of grief. More importantly, it gave me hope that God can heal those places of pain so that we don’t have to use contempt and rage to cover it. Perhaps most convicting, “When we spend our lives consciously or unconsciously avoiding loss, we aren’t available for meaningful relationships-not with God, ourselves, or others.” Uff da.

Inner Voice of Love
Henri Nouwen writes in a similar vein to Brennan Manning, which is probably why I love him. Both of them camp out in God’s amazing love for the broken hearted (which is all of us). This book is a collection from his private journal during a time when he struggled to hold onto the truth of God’s love for him. “Keep saying, ‘God loves me, and God’s love is enough.’ You have to choose the solid place over and over again, and return to it after every failure.” Indeed. These entries encourage me to keep listening to His voice speaking truth to me.

The Return of the Prodigal Son
Nouwen has been such a companion on this journey, he lands himself on this list twice! He wrote this book after an afternoon of staring at the painting “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt. He shows us how we can find ourselves in both the younger and older sons of the story, and how, ultimately, we are to become like the Father. I have always identified most with the older brother. What broke me from this book is that the older brother is just as lost as the younger brother, because he lived like a servant who had to earn his place, rather than as a beloved child. But, “whether I am the younger son or the older son, God’s only desire is to bring me home.” 

Sacred Parenting
Hands down best parenting book I’ve ever read! Yes, I tend toward hyperbole, but I am not exaggerating in this circumstance. I love it because it’s not a how to book. It’s a “here’s how God wants to shape you through parenting” kind of book, and I needed that. Two principles stood out to me. First, I can’t be a perfect parent who never sins against my kids, but I can be a confessional one who apologizes to them when I do sin. Second, when I apologize, and when I discipline, these are moments to show our kids not how to behave, but that they desperately need Jesus. It was challenging and encouraging all at once.

Bravehearts
It’s hard to find good books about relationships for women, but this book nails it. I love that she casts a vision for loving extravagantly, which involves embracing the deeply vulnerable desire for relationships while trusting God for the fulfillment of them. This encouraged me not to kill that desire but to seek healthy ways for it to be lived out.

*bonus book:
The Wisdom of the Enneagram 
I was introduced to the Enneagram about eight years ago from some other leadership coaches. My initial reaction was, “This is a load of crap,” which is how I respond to most personality assessments. Mostly, that was because I didn’t want to own the results it was showing me. (I’m a 3, by the way). Not surprising, because the uniqueness of this personality typing is that it doesn’t just tell you what you do-it tells you why you do it. It reveals core desires, needs, sin, and how you live those out. For me on this journey toward being wholehearted, it has helped me see where I seek life and love apart from God, trying to meet my own needs through less than satisfying ways. It’s also helped me understand my family members and friends in such a way that I can love then better (I think. I hope). Be cautious in looking into this online though-there are several websites on the Enneagram that have a strong new age foundation. I would recommend The Enneagram Institute, which is the site associated with this book.

So there they are-some of the books that have changed my life. What has God used to help you grow in wholeheartedness? I’m always looking for a new read, so tell me!

Keeping a Sabbath Heart

Gina Butz faith, life lessons 0 Comments

Keep a sabbath heart - how to have an attitude of rest in God day to day

5 days in to my sabbatical and I was zen, y’all. I was so relaxed and peaceful that one night I actually chose to cook. It’s a magical place if Gina feels enough emotional margin to invest time in something she both dislikes and is average at.

My zen-like state remained throughout the next week, and I felt like I could have tackled anything.

And then I got tackled.

First, it was the teenage boy realizing the ACT was going to be harder than he thought, resulting in two days of major angst (there’s no angst like teen angst). Then it was the attempt to pack for every contingency of a month long trip for our kids, with the accompanying anxiety of “Oh my word, we’re sending our kids to the other side of the world for a month!” Add in a few extra teenagers and a giant dog for the last days leading up to departure, and friends, my zen was GONE.

I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed with myself (well, I could, but it would be a bald faced lie). Two weeks of connecting with God and my own heart, and all I found dissipated within a few days? Sabbaticals are a wonderful, beautiful gift, but surely there’s a way to maintain the kind of peace I touched in that time beyond them, right?

The fact is, we can’t always take the time away from our schedules to be restored. And when we do, we want to be able to carry that spirit into our regular life. It is both a time and an attitude. So how do we keep the attitude?

The next two weeks, as I settled back into my time of rest, I asked God to show me what it would take for me to keep a sabbath heart regardless of the circumstances. Here’s what I walked away with:

Respect your humanity
I’m not very good at respecting my own limits, as I’ve made clear before. But to have a sabbath heart, I have to recognize my own humanity. I can add task upon task, attempting to accomplish as much as possible, and pretty soon I’m overwhelmed. I’m learning to take moments to step away and just be, even if it’s for 5 minutes. The tasks will be there when I return, but the time away reminds me that I’m not a machine. I’m human, and humans are limited and needy. Owning that keeps me at a better pace.

Set good boundaries
It’s not just ourselves pushing the pace, but often the needs and demands from the people around us. It was a strange feeling to field requests for help during my sabbatical – everything in me wanted to say “yes” to them, but the buffer of sabbatical gave me a nice pass to say “no” (and I appreciate that everyone respected that). Without the excuse of something like sabbatical, it is easy to respond to needs without considering whether we have the resources to respond well. So I’m trying to stop for a moment before committing myself – not because I don’t care, but because I want to be able to care more in the long haul.

Do what truly feeds you
It’s easy to want to get away from our responsibilities for a time, so we take easy routes like Facebook, television, getting lost on the internet. But there is a difference between escape and restoration. This sabbatical reminded me what truly feeds my soul, and it’s activities like worship, silence, scripture. Nothing wrong with those other things in moderation, but when I need a break and my time is limited, I know I’m better off grabbing something in that window that’s really nourishing.

Keep a short emotional account with yourself
You know the scene in The Incredibles, where Mr. Incredible is being shot by big black balls? They stick to him and slowly expand. At first, he ignores them and tries to keep running, but eventually they engulf him. This is how I tend to deal with emotion. Feelings take time to process, and they won’t go away on their own. Having a sabbath heart requires me to keep a short emotional account with myself so I don’t end up carrying anxiety, anger, or other emotions that can pull me down. I’m learning to stop and bring my emotions to God more quickly so that I can exchange them for peace.

Stay close to the well
A few years ago I wrote a post for my friend Judy’s blog about staying close to the well.  I reflected on how God has an abundance to offer me, but I’m not always inclined to go for what I need. Our souls are like gardens that need tending, and in times of trial and stress, we dry out more quickly. It’s easy to keep pressing on, thinking, “I’ll rest someday” which is ridiculous when you think about it – like living a few steps from a well and dying of thirst. Yes, it takes time to go to the well, but it has what we need. When I’m busier, sometimes I literally have to write in my schedule time with God or it will get sucked up by more pressing issues.

So these are the lessons I’m trying remember and practice as I’m back in the real world. I can’t say I wouldn’t have loved living in that sabbath place all the time, but hopefully until the next time this will help me keep a restful attitude.

 

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