Entering the “Quiet Wilderness”

Have you ever searched for….. that still, quiet place of utter bliss? That place where you can gather your thoughts and  focus on what is most important, rather than all that is urgent?  That place where you can commune with your creator and leave refreshed and full of peace?  I needed to find this place, and was reminded (by a three year old) where to find it.

Life around here lately has been anything but quiet. (Thus, my hiatus from writing)  In February, our oldest daughter, son-in-law and their three children put their house on the market.  They need to move closer to the city in order to be closer to their ministry.  Their house sold immediately (good news) and the buyers wished to move in the following month (March.) Our kids had no place to live…so we invited them to move in with us while they searched for a house.

After a difficult search they found a place, however the sellers of their new place are not able to move out until the end of July.  Oh, did I mention our kids also have a dog named Reilley? (More to come on him in future posts.)  Seven humans, three dogs and one house make for a lively and loud place of abode.  One of the most “special” moments comes when one of the children cries.  Reilley, at the sound of a child in distress, howls at the top of his lungs.  This sparks our little dog to join in to make a duet…no, make that a trio (one crying child and two howling dogs.)  It is quite something to behold.  If I catch this moment on video it is sure to go viral.  I’ve never heard anything quite like it.  And Reilley barks… a lot.

Honestly, it has been fun and a true joy to spend this time together as extended family.  I love my family and am so grateful for all of them.   However, to be honest, I sometimes just long for quiet.

Now that it’s spring I can go outside.  But wait…. when I go outside things get even louder.  Our house is at the end of a dead end street, abutting a park.  Tennis courts and soccer fields are directly across the street from our front yard.   When we moved to this house years ago this was a quiet park.  Now, the whole town shows up here.  High school tennis matches (complete with big yellow busses parked in our front yard,) soccer meets, lacrosse games, softball games and accompanying practices happen here every day in the spring and fall. Sometimes, when I step outside, I feel like I’m arriving at a carnival.

I read (with new vigor) about a day in the life of Jesus as captured in the first few chapters of the gospel of Mark.  I stand in awe of Jesus’ compassionate, giving and selfless ways.  In this account, after being with people everywhere, he tried to get to a quiet place to pray only to be met with more people needing his healing touch.  He kept  his purpose in clear view…as he kept giving to people and preaching the good news.  I find his attitude and actions deeply convicting, yet utterly inspiring.  I long to react like him more often, and to be continually filled with his love ( which he promises to pour into my heart when I run out -thank you!)

    And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  Rom. 5:5

(read the verses before and after as well.  They are super helpful)

So, back to the lesson from a three year old.  Sunday afternoon my three year old grandson rode home with us from church.  While we were in traffic, he marveled at all of the “quiet wilderness” outside.  Amidst the traffic, he was looking at trees on the side of the rode.  This reminded me of a similar time I was with him last year.  We were amidst a group of people in someone’s yard and he stepped just a few steps away from the group, across the lawn into an adjacent vacant lot dotted with some trees. He called me over,  looked up at me and asked me to listen as he said, “Nana, sshhhhh….we are in the quiet wilderness.”  IMG_3838

I reflected on this lesson and how close the “quiet wilderness” can be to us even when we are in loud, crazy conditions. The “quiet wilderness” can be steps away and yet we can miss it.  (The “quiet wilderness” could have been a bathroom at work, a closet, the car…)  With that thought in mind, I went into my room closed my door to pray. Alas,  I came out to put barking Reilley in his crate….then went back to try to put into practice the scriptures:

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  Psalm 23:2

 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.   Psalm 46:10

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love….”  Zeph. 3:17

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Mark 6:31

    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Mt. 11:28-29

When I came out of my “quiet wilderness” I was finally able to quit feeling sorry for myself.  I was once again refreshed and at peace.   I’m thankful a little child reminded me to go to the “quiet wilderness” and that Jesus was waiting there for me.

Snippets of Love

The Christmas cards almost didn’t go out this year due to “communication stuckness”.  This is a ‘condition’ that sometimes affects me.  It happens when there is so much to say, or so many things to catch up on that I don’t know where to start.  Unfortunately, the result can mean that I “get stuck”.  

My husband tells me my brain seldom rests…I’m always thinking about something which can lead to “information overload”. Then, my communication can get out of sync with what goes on in my head and cause “communication stuckness”. For example, when my mom was still living I made it a goal to write her weekly. At first I used “snail mail” but later we communicated by e-mail.  Since she was deaf for many years she relied on written communication.  I thought about writing her nearly every day, however too often I would get “stuck” when actually trying to follow through on that intention. Often it seemed there was so much to say that I would not know where to start – so that I wrote less often than I wished.  My sister suggested that instead of trying to write “more” less often – I could write “less” more often….perhaps a few sentences several times a week.  She suggested that I could even forward an interesting or humorous article that I’d received from someone else.  It was more important that I say something to let her know I was thinking of her.

At times I can find the same challenge of “overload stuckness” in my communication with God.  I think about Him throughout the day, and communicate often in my head (and heart). However, I can get “stuck”  when I feel there is so much  to pray about that I can’t even remember it all – and feel  it would take hours each day just to mention everything I need and want to pray about.  I know that communication with God in prayer and in hearing him through the scriptures is the most important part of my life – so I want to overcome the “communication stuckness”  that sometimes occurs.

I am grateful for the instruction and challenges in the scriptures.  1 Thes. 5:16-18 states:

    Be joyful always; [17] pray continually; [18] give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I learn from this that throughout the day I can  give  “love snippets” of gratitude ….. shorter expressions of love to God throughout the day.  He wants to know I am thinking of him.

I also realize that communication  takes preparation, watchfulness and devotion.  It takes hard work and discipline as described by the term “wrestling” in the scriptures below.

Col. 4:2     Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Col. 4:12   Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

I’m going forward with a plan to help me overcome “communication stuckness”-  so that I can be a better “prayer wrestler”…. more devoted, watchful and thankful.  I crafted a little organizational tool to help me with this.  It’s a simple laminated bookmark with an “assigned by me” topic for prayer focus each day.  For me, when there is a lot of information to pray about and act upon I get lost and stuck without organization.  I’ve found it helpful to have specific days for specific focus.  I plan to use this to accompany the snippets of communication throughout the day.

I can also learn to be more effective in communicating my appreciation to others more often by using shorter snippets instead getting stuck in overload.  It is even “okay” to simply sign my Christmas cards with the short note  – “Love, the Shaws”. If I tried to write more I might still be stuck, pen in hand, with a pile of envelopes by my side.

This year, in thinking about communicating snippets of love more often, I tried something special while getting my cards out.  I highly recommend it if you choose to send cards (a personal preference thing).  As I quickly stamped each card, I thought of my favorite memory with the addressee and then thanked God for them. ( I didn’t take time to write those memories,…otherwise, I’d still be writing and no cards would have gone out.) After I had done this I felt very full and blessed to have such wonderful friends and family in my life