The sun peeked in and out of the clouds warming my skin as I lay near the shore. The wind blowing across the lake lapped the water on the rocks, while the golden leaves rustled the trees overhead. With my eyes closed, I listened. Laying still on the ground, I released.
Released all the struggles that had been weighing on me. Released the resurfacing grief that had descended as the four year anniversary of my husband’s death rolled around. Released the hardships and sorrow of working at a hospital during a pandemic. Released the struggles and disappointments that entering the dating world presents.
It felt like the first time in five months when I could actually let my guard down. My tight shoulders and neck were finally releasing. My jaw was unclenching. I had no agenda. No responsibility. Not a single person was expecting anything from me.
Only the current moment mattered. I was fully present.
This much-needed weekend camping trip with friends felt critical to my well-being. The only thing we hoped to accomplish was rest, relaxation and fun.
For me it had been a long stretch of adulting that included two of my grown kids getting married. The joy of the weddings, where family and friends gathered, was wonderful. And, all the responsibilities that go with these meaningful events left little time to focus on just myself.
Not that I wanted to be focused solely on me. I just needed some time where I had no expectations, whether good or challenging, to take time away from my focus for rejuvenation.
I was running on fumes and needed to catch my breath and recharge my batteries. It felt so selfish at first, as I lazed about near the water’s edge. It was hard putting my own needs before others, and yet that was what was needed.
Even my morning time with God had been forced and rushed in the last half a year. I was short-changing the One whom I knew could get me back on track. It was time to reclaim my time so I could continue to serve others in my home and work life.
Afterall, even Jesus took regular breaks from His whirlwind 3 year ministry. He did so because much was being asked of Him day after day. Mark’s Gospel tells of how Jesus got up before others: “Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where He could be alone in prayer.” (Mark 1:35 CEB)
It wasn’t long before the disciples found Him, and off they were to the next place for ministry. But Jesus knew He needed to be intentional about getting this prayer time away. (Check out Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:46, and Luke 6:12 for more examples of Jesus going off for some quiet time with God.)
Living a life of service and compassion is so worthwhile. And, without taking time to step away and recharge, I come to a place of having nothing left to give. Even to those who mean the most to me.
The Creator calls us to set a rhythm for our lives that is balanced and life-giving. That includes service to others, AND time for prayer and contemplation before serving.
So I set aside time daily to be with the Creator. I call it my quiet time. Prayer comes easy for me at this time because I’m not rattling off a list of demands, but instead I'm just present with the Creator.
The time isn’t just about sitting quietly, either. If only I could meditate in such a way! Instead, to prevent my mind from flitting from one thought to another, I journal or draw or write poetry. If I’m able to sit on my screened porch, I listen to the Creator in the birds, in the wind, in the insect sounds of the morning.
Often I read scripture and wisdom from Fr Richard Rohr or Brene’ Brown. It provides perspective about my relationship with the Creator and with those around me.
It would be great if this time always kept me on a path toward greater connection with the Creator. Unfortunately, I still wander away and try to serve without the much-needed connection. Even the prayers I write for the hospital lack depth when I don’t get this critical time.
Which is where I found myself recently, as I struggled to release the stresses of these past months.
Laying on the grass with the breeze tickling my bare feet, it seemed that the Creator was trying to break in and help me slow down. My role in it all was merely to BE in God’s presence.
I was being led see the Creator in the beauty around me. To hear the Creator’s gentle whisper in the sounds of creation. To feel the Creator surround my aching muscles and experience release.
So relaxation came to me. The Creator’s presence did that. The laughter, kayaking and biking with friends helped, as well. And the campfires long into the night offered peace.
I discovered that going back to work on Monday morning was easier than imagined. I had taken the time to catch my breath, and it made all the difference.
Now the challenge is to keep that connection with the Creator, even when the calendar gets too full. To stay connected to close friends even when I desire to just shut down and isolate myself.
I’m not any good to anyone if I don’t take the time to stop burning the candle at both ends. So I pledge to stop. To talk less and listen more… to the Creator and to friends and family.
To manage my schedule so there is space and time to do the things that bring joy. And I will call on the Creator in ALL things and situations. For guidance. For support. For help in catching my breath.
Creator, I know that You want to guide me in all areas of my life, so forgive me when I try to go it alone. Show me where I can carve out extra moments to connect with You and with those who mean the most to me. You know that relationships are important to me, so allow me to nurture those relationships that need extra attention. Thank You! Amen.
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