“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:9)
Recently, I had the blessed pleasure of attending a Women’s Retreat with my church family. We left behind our “to do” lists, loved ones, undone dishes and laundry, and all things that distract us (including cell phone coverage!) to commune in the majestic mountains of West Virginia, to contemplate “Our Daily Bread.” The view from our balcony was breath-taking, and for miles in every direction you looked, you could see nothing but “God’s Country” and it was marvelous. Creation is such a living reflection of God’s ever-present love and care for us, that it refreshes me to the core to be out in nature. And I don’t do nearly enough of it.
I had been waiting for this retreat for literally MONTHS. Having returned to the professional workforce right after the New Year, I was spiritually dry and desperate for some space alone with God. I needed a place to pour myself out entirely, and to be utterly still and to hear His voice. In hindsight, I had been juggling part-time career, motherhood, family life, ministry, and everything else entirely on my own. I needed help.
I went to this retreat with one resounding question in my heart — one desperate plea of the Spirit. “Lord, please show me how to live each and every day of my life with more peace and joy!”
I didn’t laugh enough. In fact, I laughed for 3 hours in the car with a dear friend as we drove to the retreat, and we were in tears and stitches and our faces hurt by the time we arrived. I hadn’t laughed that much in…I honestly don’t know how long, and that’s just a sad shame.
I was always grumpy with my family because I felt they didn’t pitch in enough and I was crumbling under the burden of caring for all of us. My “to do” list never ended and it seemed the demands of my life upon me were more than I could carry.
I wanted God to show me how to be “lighter” — how to really be present with the people around me and to stop missing out on my own life because of my circumstances.
Faithfully, God met me where I needed Him! He is so good!
After a few days of prayer, communion, love, fellowship, contemplation, hiking in the pouring down rain and being warmed to the core by the genuine love of my sisters in Christ, I was healing. I was beginning to feel again — really, deeply feel everything and it was good!
I remember telling a dear friend that, in those moments of being so “one” with God and everyone and surrounded by such love, I almost felt as if my soul was just right under the surface of my skin. And that if anything sad or happy or spiritually moving “pricked” me, I would cry. I felt incredibly alive and at peace.
Upon returning home, I begged God to help me stay “present” and “abiding” in Him. He faithfully met me once more.
After the “welcome home party” my daughter and husband threw for me (you’d think I had been gone for months, not days!) complete with cupcakes and balloons, I felt as though it was time to settle in once more and to start preparing for the week ahead — a week of work and school and many obligations. As I walked into my bedroom to begin unpacking, the Lord nudged me with great counsel.
He said, “Touch everything only once.”
When I went to unpack my toiletry bag, He told me to leave it until the morning when I was showering for work. I would need my shampoo and toothbrush and everything then, and I could retrieve it, use it and then put it away when I was done. Touch it only once!
I was stunned by the simplicity of this advice! How many times have I utterly wasted time and energy doing and redoing a chore when it could have been handled in a fraction of the time??
He met me at the kitchen sink the next day.
As I stared into a messy sink full of dirty dishes, and the dishwasher which was clean and needed to be emptied, God once again nudged me and said, “Touch everything only once.”
I didn’t understand. I had intended to empty the dishwasher and put everything away, and then move the dirty dishes from the sink to the dishwasher. It was then that God showed me how I could actually pick up the sponge and dishwashing liquid and wash the dirty dishes in the sink by hand in a fraction of the time it would take me to do things my way. Everything would be clean in the end, all the same, and with far less time and effort.
Maybe to you this is elementary, but to me, this was life-changing, peace-giving advice!
Since then, God has nudged me about things to let go of — I had no idea how many jobs and chores and tasks I had imposed upon myself because I thought they needed to get done, and yet no one in my home cared about these things but me! There are things that I have actually let completely go of doing altogether, and it is good!
There are things God has nudged to do far less often than I had. One of them is the habitual, nearly obsessive, cleaning of my home. My family genuinely has not noticed nor commented on the fact that I have cut the number of times I clean our home in HALF in a month, and I have infinitely more energy and free time!
Free time to sit and play and laugh with my daughter. Time to really hug my husband and look him in the eye when I am saying Hello or Goodbye at the start of end of his work day. Time to really talk with loved ones on the phone who are far away and really listen to where they are at in this life.
Time to pursue the things God Himself has actually called me to do! To write notes of encouragement to people who need lifting up, to take a moment to call someone who needs to be listened to, to bake a cake that someone’s favorite for a memorial service to share, to hug a hurting friend… to pray continually and regularly for the people in my life who desperately need to be lifted up to God each and every day because of what is happening in their lives and hearts.
To abide in His love every moment of every day for as long as I can humanly manage it, and in His strength and grace when I cannot.
Ask yourself today, what do you do regularly that God may be asking you to “touch only once” or to give up altogether? The answer lies not in what you are losing, but in the peace and serenity and abiding in Him that you will gain.
Peace to you, this day and always!