How to Quiet Your Life in the Winter

 

January is one of my favorite months of the year. After all the Christmas decorations have been put away, my spaces feel lighter and calm. The trees outside are bare, the schedule is less busy, and it seems as if there is more room to breathe. All is pared down. This season affords the opportunity for clean slates in our homes, our priorities, and our schedules.

 

At the beginning of the year, the Nester wrote a wonderful post about quieting your home or “hushing the house”. The thought is that you remove everything from a room, allow it breathe for days and only add back in a few things that you love and that are necessary. You are making space for evaluation, change and prioritizing.

 

“Everything in your room has a voice. Some voices are louder than others–if you have a bright red mirror its voice is louder than the white candle that sits on your dresser, but both have a voice and take up visual, physical and even emotional space in your room. Kept unchecked, over time, most of us add things in but never take the time to purposely remove stuff from our house. Quieting your space removes all those voices in a room and the cute decorative stuff that you’ve become house-blind to will need to prove its worth its voice before it comes back in.”

 

Quieting your space is a fantastic concept, and I believe that we can translate this design principle to quieting our cluttered souls.

 

 

How do we hush our lives, both the internal landscape of the soul and external pressure of the schedule from the outside voices that are loud, demanding and taking up precious space in our lives?

 

Are we living unchecked, adding things to our souls + schedules but never taking the time to remove drama, burdens, and activities that drain us?

 

Quieting your soul means removing all of those “voices” and activities and evaluating each one before being they are allowed back in.

 

 

 

Here are some ways to quiet your life and make space for what you love and for what is important:

 

 

1.  Quiet Your Relationships.

 

 Do we say that our marriage and family relationships are the most important thing when in reality our time is being spent focused on others outside of our four walls? Are there other relationships that you give your emotional and creative best to instead of to them? Friends, ministry, co-workers, small group, extended family, online relationships? Do your phone, social media, and texting receive your relational energy, your humor, your wisdom more than the ones in your midst? Are you absorbing the negativity, complaining, discontent and issues of others and allowing it to rob you of your joy, your focus, and your God-given priorities? Are you following people on Instagram or blogs that stir up comparison, shame, impulsive shopping or spiritual performance?

 

Take a season (this can be as short as a day and as long as months) to “quiet your relationships” to make sure that you are putting the most important relationships first and then, allow back in social events, friendships, service in church/community, and your phone presence with clear and honest boundaries about your availability and energy. Spend time with those who are teachable, growing, and honor your energy and time, and make sure that you do the same for others. Follow others online who feed your soul and your growth in freedom, grace, rest, gratitude and joy. 

 

2.  Calm the Calendar.

 

The calendar is the greatest indicator of where we are giving our energy. Where are your time and energy flowing? Make a list of everything that your family does outside of the home. Which ones cause tension, stress and take more than they actually give? Are there some that were perfect for you for years but no longer fit this current stage of life? Taking a season to step back, say no, and evaluate extracurricular activities, service commitments, and standing social engagements is incredibly clarifying and eye-opening. You know that exhale you have the week after Christmas when you feel like you are living “outside of time” because the calendar is clear? It’s the feeling of margin, of long hours with no place to be, of lingering conversation.

 

You can calm your calendar for a weekend, a full week, a month, even a semester. Allow some space to see how you and your family feels without the demand of a full schedule and only allow back in the activities and spaces that are sustainable, meaningful, and nurture joy + growth.

 

3. Minimize your mornings.

 

I know, I know. Many time-management gurus say to maximize your mornings. Get up early, hit the plan hard, crank out the most that you can. When choosing a season of quieting your life, I think that minimizing your mornings is a key to finding rest, space, and clarity. I have been allowing myself more sleep. A slower start. A lingering in Scripture, in reading, in sipping a hot drink. I keep my calendar cleared of morning appointments as much as possible. I am dressing cute but comfortable. I am seeking to stay off social media and emails before noon. 

 

I am minimizing pushing hard, striving to get ahead, busyness, social media distractions and instead, maximizing presence, clear thinking, reflection. 

 

These choices are allowing my soul to declutter, to find room to repent, reorient and choose the better path for the rest of my day. Without distractions, our spirits can hear the whispers of the One who longs to be heard. The seasons for busier mornings and higher productivity will inevitably return, but it’s important to cultivate rhythms of quieting, of emotional space, of recalibrating the focus of our souls.

 

This is the perfect time of year for evaluation, prioritizing and healthy change. We have the opportunity in deep winter to make some space for our souls to quiet, to listen, to rest, and to heal. The productivity of Spring and Summer are right around the corner, seasons known for higher energy, output, and fruit. Tend and prune your life now in this bare winter space. Give yourself permission to pull back, discern, and then add back in the beautiful relationships, activities, and routines that make for a rich, meaningful life. A life lived on purpose and by grace, rest, and the Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On My Brother, Gold Confetti and Celebrations

 

My brother died in October. He wasn’t sick and he wasn’t old. He was 53 with the mind, spirit, and body of someone twenty years younger. He was a professor and a diver, a husband and a conservationist. A SCUBA instructor and kind guide for others in the world of learning and in the world of water. Respect followed him, and his legacy to his students and community was one of generous care, intellectual challenge, diving skills, and life mentoring.

 

A friend and he, both certified cave divers, lived for adventure and exploration, seeing and going places very few have and ever will. They explored the depths of Eagle’s Nest, the “Mount Everest of cave diving”, many times before, but this time, a Saturday in October, things went wrong and they breathed their last together, side by side, in the depths.

 

 

His courage and his insatiable taste for living life on the edge of beauty and adventure both inspire me and frighten me. He saw and lived and influenced his world in ways that very few people do in 80+ years but that he did in 50. I have been asking myself:

 

“Do I want to live a long life but in a scared, guarded, anxious, measured, controlled way? Always worried, always saying no, always sitting at home? Do I want to live well, open and seeing and drinking in all that life has for me, trusting that the day I leave in spirit is the day planned for me all along?”

 

It’s challenging to ask these questions, especially as a mother of six children. We mothers look into the eyes of our children and want to protect them from all harm, grief, and hardship. We want to live wisely. But what does that really mean? I know that I don’t know. I thought I knew and now I wonder. I am getting curious again. 

 

The week leading up to New Year’s Eve I went to Target and bought canisters of confetti. Six of them. I didn’t recognize myself. I thought, “Confetti, Aimee?! Have you lost your mind?!”  Confetti shines and sticks and it finds its way into couches, rug piles, fuzzy socks and tucked-away corners. I hate messes, I hate glitter, I hate seeing how that kind of stuff seems to stay around for months and makes babies somehow.

 

 

Grief and loss opened my eyes again to the gift of celebration. The deep losses and guttural tears also give me the ability to appreciate heights of joy and the sweetest connections. I am not guaranteed another year, and my brother didn’t get one. Experiencing loss can transform celebrations to be richer, more gracious and more tolerant if we allow them to.  My brother loved New Year’s Eve, and I wanted to enter into that joy too.

 

 

For me, confetti represented a choice to lay aside my “need” to control and instead, to embrace silly and shiny connection and the celebration of something new.

 

My purchasing confetti is not cave diving or exploring the depths like my brother did, but it was a small, tangible step towards a life that lives open, celebratory, and unafraid. Who cares if I vacuum it up for a month? With every gold shimmer that I spy, I smile. Confetti is not a roadblock to order and beauty, but a reminder of all the beauty and connection in my life.

 

Confetti makes me happy because it whispers to my controlling spirit, “Life is too short to clean and organize tthe holidays away! Live on the domestic edge and allow joy and art and laughter and feasting have its glorious, seasonal way!”

 

And so in 2017, I plan to celebrate more. #habitsofcelebration. I won’t take myself or my role so stifling seriously and will take my own set of risks that are small and meaningful. I will seek to dive to the depths of laughter and joy, beauty and connection, within my own lifestyle, home, and community. My path won’t ever look like my brother’s journey did, nor should it. But the themes of our lives will intersect and his will inspire my own to be more authentic, curious, adventurous and filled with the beauty of the world.

Tending, Pruning and Waiting: The Unsexy Spiritual Life

 

My word for 2016 was TEND. I remember sitting around a table with other women in January and sharing my word through tears, fatigue, sadness and fear. I knew in my spirit that 2016 was going to be a year of pulling back, saying no, reprioritizing my life. My goal was to “quiet my life and my relationships” as written in my Powersheets. I had no idea what that would entail.

 

It turns out that tending looked a lot like pruning. I had envisioned tending as a gentle watering of my life, adding the fertilizer of good things, and nurturing growth. God had a different plan in mind for me. He began a work in me to prune my life of priorities, habits, beliefs, and patterns that were unhealthy, not producing fruit, and hindering growth in myself and my family.

 

Pruning hurts.

 

My faith felt quiet and dark, silent and confused. Ways that I had viewed God, ministry and relationships were exposed and crumbled without the clarity to quickly move to health and wholeness. I had to surrender. Surrender to the dark, to not being able to save myself, to trust His work, to receive my worth and identity based on Christ and not on my strengths, my service to others, my availability, generosity or thoughtfulness. When all of the good in you feels gone and you wonder if you are loved, stripped and without performance, you find that God does love you.

 

I felt the quiet of the Holy Spirit nudge me in November that my word for the New Year would be WAIT. I thought, “that’s about as non-productive and unsexy as it gets.”  I am by nature impatient and often impulsive. My motivations are often driven by fear or anxiety so I move fast. I demand closure, answers, and clarity, but God asks me to live open-handed, to trust, to be free in Him. I live much of my spiritual life in the land of the “will”, doing and doing for God. This year is an invitation to learn to wait and to be with. Presence.

 

After so much tending and pruning, it is now a season of waiting. Wait for His presence. Wait for the growth. Wait for the fruit. I am a producer, and He is showing me again that I cannot produce connection, fruit, maturity. That is His work and His timing and I wait. I Corinthians 3:6 says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God gave the growth.”

 

A few days ago I looked up synonyms for the word “wait”:

linger, abide, pausing, rest, on hold, halt, interim

 

It’s a state of expectancy, of hope, of readiness, availability. And of course, the Scriptures, especially the Psalms, are filled with the word “wait”, and my goal is to write down one verse a day that includes “wait”. Nothing fancy, only copying it down.

 

Henri Nouwen says, “To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is trusting that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, expecting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.”

 

Live content in the now. That’s where I am, and although a challenging journey, there is no other place I would rather be or any other lesson I would love to embody.

 

How about you? What is your word for 2017? I love hearing the intimate places where God leads His children. Our journeys are each unique and yet we walk together. A divine and beautiful mystery.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive my free guide: Creating An Emotional Budget to help you live within your priorities, energy, and limits.

Thank you for subscribing. Check your inbox for an email from me.