I just realized that I start almost every poem with “And…” as if the words that follow are simply the next breath.
Because these days I write poetry like breathing.
It began again one day about two months ago with a sudden spark of inspiration from an obscure corner of the web where one brave soul had posted beautiful, honest words.
It drove me to pick up my peach felt tip and for the first time in forever, I scrawled halting lines in the yellow notebook. Suddenly I can’t stop.
Suddenly everything and everyone is a poem and I tuck it all away in pages both physical and digital.
I chuckled to myself the other day about how my brain works – how I can bookmark certain thoughts or moments that I know will become poetry – return to them like dog-eared pages in my mind the next time I have a moment.
And every spare moment is a moment to write…to dream, to think, to process – in meetings, in coffee shops, tucked behind friends on motorbikes.
Some days I can’t see straight until I scatter thoughts across paper to clear the fog of them all.
Some days I can’t make sense of my heart until feelings are emptied and dealt with in lines and rhythm.
Rhythm has always been healing for me. It’s why I write, really – to breathe easy and deep.
I have discovered the stability of a soul that lives in rhythm. And even in the craziness, the absence of schedule and routine, this soul finds her rhythm.
This rhythm of inhaling and exhaling beauty and heartache in each one’s time.
And in this way you can find delight even in the tired days.
“Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered…” Luke 12:7 ESV
I’ve been fascinated with him, ever since I picked up a book titled The Jesus I Never Knew. Philip Yancy writes frankly of his surprise at the contrast of the mild, almost timid Jesus he grew up being taught about to this suddenly bold, character who waltzed into the middle of comfortable Judaism, so sure of himself, arguably arrogant with his lofty claims, this daring rebel who defied tradition and spoke like he created the universe.
And it’s been argued for centuries who he really is – liar, lunatic, or the Lord he claimed to be.
Yet if he really was this – this person with the fullness of the mighty God all wrapped up in human flesh – what does this mean for us?
For the God of the universe to have visited this little planet…dare we grasp the gravity of its connotations?
Sometimes I forget. I walk blindly through my days, apathetic to the person of Jesus – who sweat agony in a silent garden – Very God humbled to submission. He took on all my guilt and shame and worries along with the rest of the worlds’ and how can I not fall humbled in adoration at the thought? I worry like it’s my right when the God of the universe suffered so deeply that I shouldn’t have to… I insist on carrying my own guilt like a punishment, on earning my way back into favor like His kind of love could possibly falter at a little thing like human weakness. He already knows. He knew in that moment when he felt every failure on his shoulders.
And he loved anyway. He died anyway.
Ann Voskamp once wrote of how we’re left wrung out when we try to climb rungs we weren’t meant to – as if we could reach God by our own efforts – because the task is kind of like dragging camel humps through needles’ eyes and we will never earn our way to goodness or happiness or fulfillment. Yet still we insist on trying. And God watches us with gentle eyes, always waited for us to give up – and give in to the Love that closes the distance between the weary heart and His own.
So I read this Jesus the Messiah: a Survey of the Life of Christ and even the tedious details cannot hide the wonder of a God who gave up splendor for human brokenness to break through our thick-skinned apathy to him.
Because we had grown tough. Humanity swallowed centuries of disappointment and hearts swelled heavy with the burden of religion, of blind repetition to redeem their constant failures. Continuously reminded of their shortcomings, they grew so heavy – jaded. Distant from a God whom they could never reach.
I prayed like that for years – throwing my prayers upward, figuring most times they bounced off the ceiling, but if I was faithful enough, fervent enough, they would be just strong enough to touch the gates of heaven and bounce weakly into the throne room.
And it wasn’t until reading Brother Lawrence that I suddenly knew in my spirit He was here right in front of me and behind me and beside me and inside me and no matter how quietly I whispered to this God of mine, it was as loud as could be because He was here, leaning into every word.
And this God wore His heart on His sleeve for hundreds of years, aching deep at generation after generation of rejection yet ever patient, waiting for that perfect time to send His biggest gift. The one He’d been saving…anticipating since the first breaking off in the first garden. His presence in human form – Immanuel. So we could touch Him and hear Him and know Him. So He could dwell with us and in us. So we could once more be like Him.
This is Salvation.
And this is the truth our souls ache to seek out, to explore the mystery of this God who once limited Himself so there would be no limit to knowing Him.
Thanksgiving passes and my heart still swells with gratitude for the people and time and life I’ve been given.
Advent begins. It’s my favorite time of year. We talk quiet around candles and good food about the Greatest Gift – the one given 2000 years ago that only gets sweeter.
We talk of how her womb swelled round with that precious gift from heaven. Sweet Mary waddling heavy with the skin wrapped God-child that would save this broken, aching world.
Anticipation swells and these dreams burn in me. It’s a dangerous and glorious thing to give ear to desire.
With desire comes wild hopes and random tears and ugly fears – and space for soul-searching.
With desire comes healing and life abundant.
I fall sick again, but in shivering skin and dizzy headaches, dreams and plans run wild and close.
His strength comes yet again through my weakness.
This year holds big things. I feel it already and this time I’m not afraid. Perhaps the biggest things always happen inside of us anyway.
The Christ-child grew in human belly and he grows in us as we make space for him. His greatest present to us was His presence – Immanuel, God with us – and we can become walking tabernacles of His presence. Every moment is a miracle when we know this deep down.
His greatest present was His presence and in turn our greatest present to Him is ours. May we become ever more aware of His nearness in this very moment.
to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength
to depend on, be grounded in
to place hope, trust, or confidence in
an object that is used to support something
I’m coming to realize that simplicity is cultivated from a heart at rest. Trying to minimalize one’s surroundings feels unnatural and unnerving when the heart is in discord. Yet ridding our lives of the unnecessary and making room to breathe is incredibly freeing.
In deliberately resting and making space to abide and contemplate, I allow myself to recenter and therefore am able to move forward from a place of strength.
In early mornings, my lifeblood is found.
A life of true simplicity will flow out a heart that is deeply content, trusting, and grateful.
You’ve probably heard it said: You have enough. You are enough. You know enough.
But I’m suggesting this:
You have enough because God is enough and that is all you need to know.
Situations where we feel inadequate are what teach us to “let go and let God.”
The Father invites us into waters beyond our reach so that we may learn the depth of His grace. Embracing rest allows us to stop treading water and simply trust being buoyed by His empowerment.
Whenever I think of rest, Isaiah 30:15 is the first verse that comes to mind.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.’”
I did a little research on the Hebrew word that translates to rest in this verse. It is only used a handful of times in the Old Testament but two of the passages in particular containing this word stood out to me.
“He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.” Job 36:16
That imagery is so stunning. I keep reading and rereading it.
Space. Freedom. Comfort. Good food. Abundance.
What a beautiful invitation to rest.
“Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6
This passage is basically the essence of living simply and within your means, because it gives a perfect example of incorporating the profound concept of rest into our lives – learning to be content with less so we can stop striving after the things we don’t need.
When I have less to take care of, I spend less time maintaining it all and am able to pursue the things that really matter to me. When I spend less time on unnecessary obligations, I have more time to give to the people I love.
“Most of what we do and say is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’” –Marcus Aurelius
I’ve been asking that question a lot lately. When it comes down to it, what really matters?
Who doesn’t want to rid their days of unnecessary clutter and have more space to be and know and learn?
I certainly do.
Ultimately it comes down to defining what is most important to you. What are your values? Your dreams? What would you strive to do if you could not fail? If time and money were not factors, what would you do?
How to begin cultivating a life of Simplicity:
- Learn what rest means for you and make it a habit – early morning solitude, reading, prayer, yoga, a quietly enjoyed meal, unobtrusive music, anything that leaves you refreshed and calm. Think of it as investing in yourself so you have more to give to the people around you.
- Define what truly matters to you – your most important values, your specific goals, your dreams, ect. Narrow it down to no more than the essential 4-5. This will become your manifesto.
- Let go of everything else – this is a process, and one that I am still very much in the middle of. Don’t expect to wake up with a simple life tomorrow morning. It takes time and work and willingness to make hard choices but nothing worth doing ever comes easy. Remember that.
I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on the idea of habitual rest and how it relates to living simply. Leave a comment below and we can chat. 🙂