Something changed in me last year. I had started doing the She Reads Truth Bible Reading Plan – reading the entire Bible in a year – and the more I read God’s word the more I wanted to know God. The more I wanted God to know me. That sound ridiculous because of course, God already knows me, all of me, but I wanted a real relationship with God, one where I was really hearing God. Not just saying thank you and asking for things -:“Hi God, how are you? I’m doing okay, Thank you so much for my wonderful boyfriend, friends and family I am so lucky. I know that. Please keep them safe. Sorry about that thing I messed up, I’ll do better next time, I’m trying, sorry, Oh and by the way, can you send your peace to X because they are really struggling, I’m fine. I’m lucky, my life is really easy in comparison, I know that”.
I’ve given that up now. Now I come to find Jesus. I come when I am joyful, when I am weary, when I am thankful, sad or anxious. I don’t try and qualify my feelings now. Everything is relative. It’s not a competition where only the worst cases are deserving of God’s attention.
Since summer 2015 I’ve been working on saying no, making time for me, making time for God, exercising, writing and reading. Doing all the things that make me “me” and make me feel present. Saying “no” is really hard for me, I am by nature a bit of a people pleaser and I find it hard if I feel like I am letting others down.
In September, I went on a mindfulness retreat at Burrswood which is a fantastic place, it has a hospital part offering hydrotherapy and respite care, there is onsite counselling and retreats and has weekly healing services. I’ve wanted to go on a retreat for ages, and this came up at the right time earlier this year. I now know how important it is for me to stop, to relax and to accept help. I spent four days at Burrswood and I have never felt so relaxed in my adult life, honestly, I can’t remember a time that I have felt so relaxed and content like that, I think it might be before I started university, the summer after A Levels and before starting my degree.
I find practicing mindfulness hard. I have kept it up (and I’m quite proud of myself for doing so) since the Retreat. I find it hard to focus on my breath though, I get thoughts all the time – you are taught to try and acknowledge the thoughts and let them pass. I have trouble with the last bit, I tend to wander away with the thoughts, so it’s a good job I am using this book and CD guide so that I can be led back to the present:
Being in the present is what mindfulness is all about. Acknowledging your thoughts and feelings, noticing your surroundings. Paying attention. Peace. Not rushing through life at 100mph trying to tick everything off of your endless mental to do list.
This is the theme of “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist. I’ve read it twice. I think this book might have been written just for me. Shauna talks about laying things down, learning how to say no, living simpler. The tagline for the book is “Leaving Behind frantic, for a simpler, more soulful way of living”. Yes, I thought, that is definitely what I need.
Shauna says about saying no:
“It was very difficult for me to learn to say no. I did it badly, awkwardly, sometimes too forcefully, and sometimes with so many disclaimers and weird ancillary statements that people actually had no idea what I was saying. I hovered endlessly after I said it – was that okay? Are we okay? Because I love you – you know I love you right? We’re okay?”
I know this feeling well. I have always been the girl who said “yes”. Yes I’ll come and visit you on that weekend and yes I’ll see my family the weekend after and Yes I’ll do that with you the following Saturday and Yes to after work drinks and yes to staying late, yes to volunteering and yes to serving coffee at church and yes to being on that committee.
The thing is saying all those yeses meant that I was also saying no. No to rest, no to time to myself, no to time to write, no to time to read, no to time with God, no to time with Carl, just us two. That’s a dangerous pattern to fall in to.
There’s nothing wrong with yes. Yes is fun and leads to wonderful memories, laughter and time with family and friends, opportunities and adventure. It has to be balanced with a bit of no though…or perhaps more yesses but yesses to things like rest and quiet time.
I hope I am more balanced now. I am trying. I still fall into the yes trap, sometimes I do it because I am worried about disappointing someone. Now however, I respect my nos and I respect other people’s nos.
There is nothing wrong with setting boundaries. As hard as that is to do sometimes.
Here’s to embracing the pausing.