Permission to Breathe

It’s already happening.

Before the Thanksgiving fixings were in the oven, I started falling into Harried Holiday mode. I felt like l was frantically trying to juggle all the balls others (and my own ego) threw at me, and life was inching into a bad place.

This morning, as I went to my first exercise class in months, the reality of my harriedness (is that a word?) smacked me in the face again. As we relaxed at the end of class, the instructor told us to lay back and to simply breathe in and out.

Abdome_superiorIt was so relaxing. Exactly what I needed. But then I thought—“Wow! How sad is it that I need someone to give me permission to breathe!”

So today, I’m giving myself—and all of you—permission to breathe. As soon as I’m done this e-blast, I’ve blocked time to look at my month, consider what I want it to look like, and do some damage control:

  • I don’t want my time with God to turn into devotions on the toilet and study prep time for Bible Study. I refuse to multitask God!
  • I don’t want to get so caught up planning our women’s ministry Christmas dinner that my loved ones find me too busy to interrupt. I don’t want friends and family to lose out because I have holiday chores to do. Relationships are eternal. But gifts wear out and cookies get stale. The decorations we put up today just have to get boxed up again in January!

 

There are things I love about the holiday season. I love baking cookies for my guys. I do like gift giving (within limits). I love how our Christmas tree brightens up the house.

And I do believe God loves a good party and celebrates Christ’s birth along with us.

But there are ways to push back against the crazy expectations. Little ways, and big ways:

  • Maybe I’ll skip make up, hair, and fussing about what I wear, so I can relax in my quiet time. Everyone’s too busy to notice my yoga pants anyway!
  • Maybe we’ll eat a few more meals out of the freezer, so I can sit at the table with my family instead of running around the kitchen.
  • Maybe I can skip hearing that Christmas performance and get to bed early.
  • Maybe I can give fewer gifts, knowing that those who truly love me love me, not what I give them.
  • Maybe I can schedule my time so that I know I have permission to breathe!

What does permission to breathe look like for you? My prayer is that you will rest with God and He will show you how to breathe your way through the
Christmas season immersed in His love, which will overflow into the lives of His Beloved all around us!

Merry Christmas from the Take Heart team!

–Sandy MacMillan, Take Heart Director

P.S. Please check out our Ministry Leaders Breakfast on December 12th and our Leaders Retreat at the end of January (see the Take Heart website, www.TakeHeartTogether.com for details). We don’t want to add more busyness to your schedule, but both will be great opportunities to breathe.

Feel free to come in your yoga pants!

Photo by André R. Maciel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

I Really Want to be Like Jesus…

I really want to be like Jesus…

Instead, I disappoint my friends, speak harsh words, and let the dumbest things get me off track.

It was one of those days. By lunchtime I was in tears over the ways I had failed. I flopped on the couch at our Take Heart office, totally discouraged.

Then my eyes drifted up to a picture on our wall, one of the framed pieces we’d used in our prayer chapel:

enterhisrest Enter His rest. Be still in His silence. Be renewed in His quiet.

As I read these calming words, I began to feel the peace of Christ wash over me, reminding me of the forgiveness that is available to all who ask.

I was reminded that God called us to Himself “while we were yet sinners.”(Romans 5:8) When Jesus said “come to me all you who are weary and burdened,” he didn’t say we had to get it right before we came.

In fact, he was calling to the discouraged. To people like me who start the day by the Spirit and too easily slip into the habits of the flesh.

I closed the office door, eased back down into the couch, and the tears that fell became tears of gratitude for the love of a Good Father. One whose arms are always open. One who calls us to be renewed in His Presence. One who readies us to go out again, to work out our salvation, learning to be like Jesus one moment at a time.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt:11:28-30

If Jesus Needed a Nap…

At last weekend’s Take Heart conference, God showed up in amazing ways. It was an incredible privilege to be a part of what God did. We shared a much-needed laugh with speaker Liz Curtis Higgs, and we shared our burdens through prayer. Then we received encouragement and practical tools for growth from a talented group of breakout speakers.

My favorite part was the ministries expo, where I learned, among other things, about local organizations that

• help women through grief,

• counsel women with eating disorders,

• connect women to resources for special needs children or aging loved ones,

and even

• rescue women from sex trafficking.

It was exciting to learn ways that the Body of Christ is shining Light in a dark world.

It was a wonderful weekend. But the next few days….I was tired. Utterly couldn’t-keep-my-eyes-open exhausted. Which made me crazy. There were things to do—like the laundry that piled up on the busy pre-conference days. Like getting groceries so I could remind my husband what a home cooked meal looks like.

I felt like I needed to keep going, but I just couldn’t move!

As I tried to marshal energy that just isn’t there, I remembered a familiar story from Luke 8 (and also Matthew 8 and Mark 4)—the account of Jesus calming the storm.

You may remember how Jesus spoke a few words and calmed a raging storm for his freaked-out disciples. But what spoke to my heart in my weariness were the words just before the storm-calming part:

As they sailed, [Jesus] fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

The disciples went and woke him… (Luke 8:23-24a)

In other words, Jesus was so tired that he fell asleep and slept right through a huge storm. Tossed and drenched, he stayed asleep until his disciples shook him firmly.

After faithfully serving His Father by teaching and healing, Jesus—the Son of God— couldn’t keep His eyes open.

Sounds a little bit like my post-conference exhaustion. Not that anything I do can be compared to Jesus’s earthly ministry. But it made me wonder.

If Jesus needed a nap, perhaps it’s ok for me—for us—to rest too.

Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” But perhaps, when we’re done working, we need to follow Jesus’ example and rest.

photo courtesy of graur codrin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

photo courtesy of graur codrin/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Perhaps we need to give ourselves into the care of our great Shepherd, the one David wrote about, saying “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3a)

So if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go take a nap!

Sandy MacMillan

Director, Take Heart