Today, I Started Swimming

Not literally.

I didn’t go do a polar plunge or swim laps in a pool.

I started swimming towards the shore of a vision I’ve had for a few years.

I just did a quick search for the meaning of vision, in hopes to put a put a bit of context to my swimming adventure. A vision can be a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination. It can also be something sensed, that’s immaterial or intangible. Super clear, right? Follow along here for a minute…

So I’ve had this vision for a few years that there is a dark sky and deep waters in front of me. I know I have to go into the water that’s choppy, like a storm is close. I can’t see an end. It feels like an endless ocean with a strong undercurrent swirling just below me. I have this deep knowing that the waters won’t overcome me; I won’t be lost in them and the undercurrent won’t consume me. Yet when it’s dark, kind of scary, an undercurrent tugging at me and there’s no end in sight, well, why would I want to go in?

For a couple years now I’ve seen it. I’ve resisted it. It just feels yucky. But I’ve known I needed to understand it. And I’ve known I needed to go in the water.

Last spring I met with a Spiritual Director. That’s a person that can help you listen deeper and discern answers as you seek to grow in your spiritual life. It was pretty amazing. I told her about the dark ocean-like vision I’ve had. I also told her about other visions I’ve had about my path. That’s a long story in itself, but God revealed a wide path that continued on for my life. He showed me a winding path that was entering some mountains. There would be hard moments, but I also had a deep reassurance that my path continued for a long journey.

As I shared this, she asked a few simple questions of the ocean vision. “Is there a boat around? Or a life jacket? Maybe a dock to rest on? I would like to see a place for you to find rest.” Things changed dramatically after she asked this.

There wasn’t a dock, but there was another side. Some of the darkness began to clear up. This was a lake. A big one, but it was still a lake. There was another side! I could still feel the undercurrent yet felt that same sensation of knowing the undercurrent wouldn’t consume me.

We began to explore the undercurrent a bit more. It was kind of like leaning into fears that aren’t so scary when you turn on the light. I realized the undercurrent was the regular demands on my life that will always be there. Being a mom to teenagers and doing it alone; routines of laundry and dishes and housework that must be done; paying bills and balancing a budget; finding places to fit in running and fitness; making time for friends and crazy adventures. The list, the undercurrent, could go on. Those things are in my life and will be, but God is calling me to more.

Let’s explore that then. What is the more? Why am I being called into the water?

Oh.

An answer came that quick. And the skies got a bit brighter.

It’s the writing, speaking, encouraging, equipping, motivating, pastoring others. It’s the blog and books and conferences. It’s pointing others to know Him. He’s calling me to do His work. And some of this work is life-long for me, but there is some hard work that must be done now. It has to be done in the deep. With Him.

I visualized myself standing on the shore. I looked at Father God. I could sense what was waiting for me on the other side of the shore. Something I’ve been praying about for a long time. I didn’t really want to get in the water though. I told him I could swim, but I’m not that great. I kinda wanted to take the path that I could see going around the lake.

“Stop dancing on the shore. I have called you. I have equipped you. I am the one growing you. I am the one perfecting you. I have not called you to walk on the path around the lake like I have others, so stop going that way. Quite dancing on the shore and get in the water. Let’s go.”

Yep. Pretty clear words.

Recently I realized I’ve been dipping my toes in the water. I’ve waded in a bit. I was sort of treading water part way in. Getting comfortable with that undercurrent tickling my toes. Seeing what was on the other side of the shore.

Today, something in the sermon at church changed my focus. Sharpened it a bit. And the reminder came to me. I’m called. I’m equipped. It’s all here, with His help. I can do the hard work. Now. Now is the time to do the hard work.

So I started swimming.

swimming

I stopped treading water in place and started swimming.

The more you practice at anything, the better you get. While I feel like I’m not a great swimmer now, I know I’m capable of the hard work and will improve. I’m reminding myself I can do hard things. I can survive the undercurrent. Maybe I can even create my own current. With His help.

Today, I started swimming.

Not just to swim or avoid the undercurrent or even just to say I got off the shore. I started swimming to be obedient to Him, to follow Him, to get to the other side and continue on the path ahead of me.

I’m sure there will be hard days ahead. I know it’s just for a season, until I reach the other side of the shore. I know I’ll get there. And I already know I won’t be worn out like a sea tossed castaway. No, I’ll get out of the water, get that hug, and start down the next part of the path.

I can do hard things. And so can you. Where has He called you to go? Are you dancing on the shore too? Or today, are you ready to start swimming?! Let’s go!

 

 

Advertisements

Remember To Look Up

I wrote a while back about the busy culture in life (see Busy Is Not An Honor Badge) Since then, life has continued to be full. Full of teenage milestones like driving, sweet sixteen parties, and high school graduation. Full of ministry opportunities including another class, new events, running a half marathon to raise money for clean water, and reaching children and families in new ways. It’s also been a season of deep hurt and new beginnings.

I have been intentional about looking up from the busy to make sure I’m present in the moments.

Over the past few months I’ve also been out on the trails hiking and running. It’s sort of my therapy time. Time to process all the junk in my head. Time to talk with God. Time to empty out my hurts and disappointments so He can fill me with His joy.

A few weeks ago I was hiking up a mountain trail with a friend. Conversations had lead my head to recall a frustrating situation. I was lost in my thoughts and could feel my anger rising. I kept my head down on the steep section of trail, deep in thought, one foot in front of the other, focused on the step right in front of me. I stepped over the logs that went across the trail just as I had done earlier in the path. I trudged forward, completely in my own angry little world.

Then my friend’s voice behind me gently said, “Hey. Where ya goin’?”  I looked up from my tormented path to realize I wasn’t on the path at all. I was so frustrated and wrapped up in my own thoughts I didn’t even realize I was off the trail. I looked back, completely bewildered, to very clearly see the switchback to the left. Clearly. The path was clearly there. In my oblivion I had clearly missed it. Clearly.

How many times in life do we keep our heads down, focused on our own private world, and fail to recognize what is happening around us? The trail was clearly there and I so clearly missed it. How many times have I tried to do things my own way and completely missed the path that was marked out for me from the beginning??

My other recent trail experience had me on a wide path I run on along the lake. All. The. Time. The past few months I’ve been running on it at least three times a week. On this day it was rainy and miserable out but I was getting in my 9 miles with my team. Again, my head was full, I was in my own space, in my own world. But something caught my eye.

I thought I saw some animals by the waterfront. The closer I got I realized they were coyotes. I stopped above them on the trail. Maybe they were dogs. Nope. Coyotes. Another runner was coming up the wet trail and I motioned to him to see the coyotes too. Coyotes shouldn’t be on our trail! He pulled out his earbuds as he sort of kept running and said, “Oh no, they’re fake. They’re out there to scare the birds away. They’ve been there a long time.”

..

What?

..

I can’t even begin to describe how that one moment made my head spin. It was like I caught my breath and had a huge chiropractic adjustment on my soul. In that one moment things I knew no longer made sense and things I didn’t know just did.

How could I have been running this trail and missed this? They were so clearly right there. And now that I see them, how did I not recognize them as fake. Not real. False. How have I been moving through life so focused on things that don’t have value, that aren’t real, that have been false?

How many times have I missed the true work of God around me? 

I may not ever know the answer to that question. Maybe He was giving me blinders at times to keep me focused on the path He had ahead of me. Maybe not.

I know that right now He’s reminding me to look up. Look up to Him and trust Him. Look forward on the path and see Him looking back at me. Look up and see all that He’s placing around me. Look up and keep moving forward in the direction He’s leading me. Look up and appreciate that one moment on the trail and how it’s continuing to change my path forward. Look up and appreciate the laughter, smiles, joy, and adventure of this life.

IMG_0121

“For I know the plans I have for you…when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

Busy Is Not An Honor Badge

My week has been busy. This year has been busy. My family has been busy. Ministry has been busy.

Life is just busy.

Do you feel it too?

When asked, “how are you?” do you say “Busy!”?

I can match your busy. Any day.

Do you ever find yourself listing out the to-do list for people to justify how busy you are. Or to one-up their busy? And do they reply with how busy they are too?

Are our kids seeing and feeling the hurried busy schedule at home? On the go? At school? At church? What are we telling them is important? To work harder, do more, be more, achieve more? Is that what we want for them?

In a conversation a few months back someone said, “I try not to use the words busy or tired”. Hmmm. She indicated that using those words gave the idea that she didn’t have time to be present in the moment with whomever she was with. She was too busy. Or too tired.

How many times have I said this?

How many times has that caused me to miss out on what’s around me?

How many times has that caused me to not show up mentally and be fully present in the moment?

With my own kids.

With the families I am a pastor for.

With the volunteers I lead.

How can I be fully present and fully engaged with any of them if I am too busy thinking of the to-do list or too tired from being too busy?

That’s a bad, vicious cycle.

Don’t get me wrong. It is good to work hard. It is good to plan, be intentional, follow through. He will equip us for every good work under the sun. But I find a caution with this:

It’s not about us doing more for God,

it’s about us being more with God.

If we are so busy running from activity to activity, trying to fit all of the busy into the finite hours we have, and dragging our children along the whole time, what are we really pointing them towards? What are we telling them is the most important? What are we modeling for them? That it’s good to be busy and fill our days to the point of exhaustion, leaving little or no time to just rest in God. To notice Him around us? To notice the blessings He is showering on us. Are we missing them simply because we’ve kept our head down in the busy?

Sometimes it’s even our old ideas or thought patterns that can still keep us in the busy. Or they can wear us down, leaving us feeling tired and worn out. We can do no more for God and don’t have the focus to actually spend time with God.

In another recent conversation I was asked to list out my busy, so they could know what I was doing and make sure I was taking time for myself. After hearing the long list they said, “Well, maybe you can rest on 4th of July”.

No.

I don’t want to just survive these days. I don’t want to stay so busy, head down, completely task driven that I miss the moments. The moments of laughter with my children. The moments of wonder with the littles I get to teach. The moments of joy with friends. I want to show up and be so incredibly present with them. I want to invest in people. I want to be intentional. I want to bring joy.

For me, it’s time to clean out some old thought patterns again. Things that don’t serve me. That are consuming too much of my time. It’s time to lighten the calendar.

It’s time to pause and create more space in my life to just be.

At the end of the day, the end of the year, or the end of a life, busy is not an honor badge I want. I want the moments. I want the laughter ringing in my ears. I want the joy of life. I want the blessings He brings. And I want to be with Him more.

Are you wearing the busy honor badge? Are you ready to set it down? Are you ready to pause?

pexels-photo-26930-medium