Observations for October

Since Friday, I have had the pleasure of gathering two separate times with two different groups of women. Both groups come together regularly to share about life, to pray, and to reflect on what God is doing in our midst. I always enjoy the fellowship and the opportunity to hear from others… to get support from outside of myself. Community is important.

Sometimes it’s easier for me to veer away from others and groups. To step back from excessive community. I think this is the result of working in two vocations that require a lot of person-to-person connection, heartfelt listening, empathy, encouragement, discipleship, passion, and energy. Counseling and church ministry. Both roles are abundant blessings, but it is true that there are times of feeling drained…poured out…empty…dry. There is a certain sense of fulfillment in this, as odd as that may sound. But I know that the empty, dry, poured-out feeling is the result of having given a lot for the betterment and support of others. It is an indication that I have done my jobs well, but I also stay aware that it is no permanent state to remain in.

Being filled back up is crucially important, because running on empty for a prolonged amount of time is the recipe for burnout. A word I have heard all too much in relation to both counseling and church ministry work. And so, I have to keep a hold of things that fill me back up in life. These “things” have changed with certain seasons, but right now I am trying to keep a healthy balance through implementing rest, prayer, fun, nutrition, time with my husband, family and friends, time for creativity and randomness, and time with others who are like-minded in their relationships with God and can support me as I support them. Sometimes it is harder to do. Harder to implement these things because life is whirling by so quickly. The entire month of October has felt that way. But nevertheless, I remind myself that it is not only good to implement practices that bring balance, but it is a necessity. I have stopped to picture what I might be like even 15 years down the road if I never learn to stop. drop. and enjoy my life. As I touched on in my last post…everything can be put off to a later date, including health, joy, and fulfillment. I, like many, am skilled in the excuse making business. But I guess I’m just realizing that if I don’t learn to be mindful of what I can do and what I can’t do (to emphasize good boundary talk) at the age of 28, then perhaps I may never learn. My boundaries to protect balance and wholeness will remain diffused and unclear, and I will ultimately suffer more than anyone else.

So this brings me back to my initial point in this post about meeting with my two small groups of women. Even on the weeks when it takes everything within me to simply attend these groups, I never fail to get poured into through them. Sometimes the refueling comes simply by prayer together. Other times it’s the conversations about each other’s lives, and getting to share about what I’ve been up to, what I see the Lord doing, or what has been weighing heavily upon me. Other times it’s in the shared reflections of the group.

I witnessed this on Saturday morning when I sat in a room of women sharing their lessons-learned from a book we’re working through together. Almost every woman in the room shared about how they have recently experienced a season of change or transition…how it leaves us all feeling a bit “funky” when we are in those seasons with God. It can leave us feeling unsure of what to stand on, what to rely on, and what to think. But each of us agreed that in those moments of our faith journeys, God continues to show the way…even in the desert places. He is the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. And most often, we come through to the other side feeling more empowered, more refined, more at peace in various life circumstances, and overall more reliant upon our One True Source.

So tonight I sit here reminded again of the importance of the balance between pouring out and being poured into. And I sign off with gratitude for the people in my life who pour back into me and relieve the parched places of my soul, so that I don’t attempt to trudge through daily life on shallowness and fumes.

And all praise be to the Lord who gives me my daily bread, provides me with a place to rest,

and fills me with the sustenance needed to move forward.

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Randomness and all its glory

It has been many days since my last post, and I am finally sitting down to relax…think…type…and share, whilst sitting in my sweats, surrounded by candlelight and 90’s alternative music playing in the background.  It’s nice to wind down.

With no premeditated plans in mind, I took some time this week to do “the random.” With a busy schedule, spontaneity can be quite sparse. It is only by telling myself to “give in” to the urges that I then find unexpected enjoyment. Dropping by that random store; walking down that trail I’ve seen; picking up that book I’ve been eyeing, or trying one of the zillion recipes I’ve pinned on Pinterest when I have the urge to,  instead of letting it all settle back down to the depths of my mind…like books stuck on the top  shelf of the last row of the library archives. Unseen, forgotten, and gathering dust until something comes and jogs my memory even days, weeks, or months later, reminding me that I’ve been saying “Ooo! I’ve wanted to try this” or “Oh! I’ve been meaning to do that”  It’s much too easy to pass all these things up and to say “another day,” “another time.” How many times will I say those things to myself until I actually do something?

My first “give in” moment this week happened when I took an aimless stroll around my public library. The same library my grandmother took me to so many times as a child. I sat on the floor pretzel-legged, flipped through a dozen or so books, thumbed through the DVD collection, and left with some fun finds, including a MASSIVE paper crafts book full of gorgeous pictures. As I walked casually out to my car, with treasures in hand, I decided to delay my departure a bit longer…to enjoy time meandering through a nearby garden full of herbs, fallen leaves, and a small pond. I rubbed my fingers along the leaves of fresh thyme, rosemary, and mint. The sunlight and trees were nearly perfect on that warm October afternoon.

Leaves

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trees

Spontaneity came again when I decided to take a walk down a particular stretch of the Highline Canal in Littleton. It starts right off the road my grandmother’s house sits on, and I’ve driven by it too many times to count. Before that day swarmed with to-do’s, I went and took a walk that has been years in the making. It was beautiful. Cool out, quiet, and peaceful.  The perfect start to my day.

canal

It was as if those moments set the stage for the rest of my week. They gave me the motivation to be more open, more willing, more creative, more flexible. If you know me well, you know that I can enjoy life but I am no poster child for spontaneity! I like schedules, I like structure, and I like predictability. But as I’ve grown older and experienced the “daily grind,” as it is put, I have discovered the necessity of random moments, unplanned excursions, and the occasional disregard of responsibilities and tasks that truly CAN wait, so that I can enjoy some things that have waited long enough.

I found that the spontaneity invigorated me and gave me that extra burst of energy needed to distinguish this week from all the rest. Instead of staying within the dotted lines of a typical week in the life of Haley French, I followed a few urges to switch it up, add some zest, and LIVE a bit more fully than usual. And so it was that I finally cooked a Pinterest meal that has awaited me for 2 years. And so it was that Nathan and I compiled an October movie lineup of our favorite Halloween flicks, including an impulse trip to find the one and only Casper of the 90’s. And so it was that I gathered some lovely supplies for an upcoming craft project. And so it was that I got those extra special moments in prayer.

And so it is that I am thankful for the randomness and all its glory.

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Soup & Psalm 23

The first day of October is here. It is a beautiful fall day, and I am surrounded by quiet and time to type. As I thought about posting, and what I might share today, I randomly recalled the title of that classic book that dates back to the mid 90’s…”Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Now there are MANY additional Chicken Soup books…on marriage, on faith, for children, for teens. Out of curiosity I visited their website and read the history about the books, wondering how the title came to be in the first place. One of the founders pictured his grandmother’s chicken soup, and how she claimed it would cure anything. Like that, the founders believed their compilation of 101 inspirational stories would offer a healing touch to those who would read them. Not for physical ailments, but for their souls.

This came to mind after I made homemade chicken noodle soup last night. After not feeling exceptionally well in recent days, I couldn’t get the idea of chicken noodle soup off the brain. A steaming bowl would hit the spot, bring warmth, comfort, and nutrients my body could use.

Interestingly, the same thought came to mind again today…but not about soup this time, but about scripture, prayer, and my relationship with the Shepherd, who brings true and lasting restoration to my soul.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

~PSALM 23

Part of soul restoration is submission. I have to submit to the leading of my Shepherd and trust that HE will guide me to green pastures, to still waters, and through the dark places. He calls for me to come back to him, in whom I find restoration, redemption, and peace that I can’t know otherwise. It’s not a self-taught or self-led peace. It is a peace found when I lie down beside the still waters that only the Shepherd knows of.

I saw a phrase once that I liked. “Practice peace.” I even jotted it down on a sticky note at my counseling office. How many times do we easily practice fear, practice anxiety, practice anger, practice violence, practice doubt. I have realized, however, that I can’t even practice peace unless I follow and yield to the Good Shepherd’s guidance. He is no ordinary shepherd. He is THE Shepherd, and the only one under whom the sheep are safe. He is the cure to all our ailments of the soul.

So today I welcome the restoring embrace of my Shepherd. As I slurp on the steaming goodness of my chicken noodle soup in days to come, I will think about the One who brings true revitalization to my life.

Soupboil