For the past two weeks, I have been an unashamed homebody. Even though I've spent time with friends, I have spent an irregular amount of time just being at home. In fact, I don't think I've spent this much time at home by myself since I was in eighth grade, and that was the summer I started going crazy from staying up until 7 am every morning.
Since that summer, I've rarely stayed at home for long periods of time. I usually have a job that keeps me out of the house all day or I have an internship where I'm not at home at all.
But this summer, I'm going to Poland. So I took these two weeks before I go just to rest, help my mom around the house, and mentally prepare before I leave on my first international adventure with the Lord. Sounds pretty restful, right?
While these past two weeks have been really lovely, they have also been pretty challenging as well as enlightening.
You see, I don't do well when I'm not around people. As an extrovert, I gain energy from social interactions. When I'm NOT around people for extended periods of time, I'm usually pretty lethargic, in that I don't want to do anything but read a good book or watch a movie.
While being home for two weeks sounded lovely theoretically, it also sounded sad and lonely to me. Being home isn't like college where I'm surrounded by people 24/7, an extrovert's dream. I have friends at home, but they have jobs. They can't hang out with me 24/7, which means that for a large portion of the day, I am by myself... well technically I'm with my dog, but I can't exactly have a conversation with him, can I?
So... being at home for two weeks has given me a lot of time in solitude.
At first, it felt very lonely and boring. In a pervious post, I talked about living life in the "mundane" but I think that what I was really grasping for was the word solitude. Because solitude daunts me more than normalcy does.
But after a lot of time to think, pray, and reflect, I've realized that solitude is such a needed part of the human experience. And these two weeks, while they may have been hard, have been such a gift.
You see, the Creator made human beings to be in relationship. In fact, we NEED relationships. But we also need solitude: we need time by ourselves to think and reflect and to pray.
In his book, Life Together, German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
"Only in fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to be rightly in fellowship."
I really like how Bonhoeffer shows the need for times of relationship and times of solitude, and how each affects the other.
After another year of college, surrounded by constant fellowship, the Lord knew that I needed time in solitude. This time in solitude has not only helped me appreciate and grow in my understanding of the purpose of fellowship, it's also given me ample time to do nothing, to think, pray, and spend time with the Lover of my soul.
Even Jesus experienced times of solitude, and he used them to rest, to communicate with his Father, and to prepare for his ministry.
"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed."
He even tells the disciples to go and rest:
"And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat."
Solitude is a good thing.
But our culture can give us mixed messages about our need for solitude. American culture tells us that if we're not having fun with a lot of people, if we're not doing something exciting, if we're not productive, if we're not doing, doing, and doing, then we're not living life to its fullest potential.
Moreover, if we do experience times when we're by ourselves, culture tells us to fill that time with distractions: watching eight seasons of a show on Netflix, and then watching six seasons of another television show. Look at the amount of time the average American spends on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media sites. I'm just as big of a culprit in these distractions as everyone else. But I'm asking you to think about how we fill our time.
Do we leave any time to breathe?
Now, I'm not saying that we should all take two weeks of solitude. Even my solitude time is broken up by my family coming home at night. But we should give more value to times of solitude, which will then give more value to times of fellowship. It's a delicate balance.
If there's one thing I've learned from being home for two weeks it's this: we need solitude, and by solitude I don't mean lots of time by yourself to watch Netflix, scroll Facebook, or pin on Pinterest. Because let's be honest, those are things we use to distract ourselves during times when we are alone. By solitude, I mean proverbial "white space" in our lives: time to just be, to just think, reflect, meditate, pray, and do nothing.
So I'm challenging you, like the Lord challenged me, take some time to be by yourself. Pray, think, reflect, journal, read a good book, or just do nothing. Leave some white space in your life. You need it, and it's good for the soul.
What my "white space" looks like today.
In sixteen days, I will be in Poland. But currently, I am at home. After the end of a long semester and a week at a conference on holiness, two weeks remain until I will be on my first international adventure with the Lord.
At first, these two weeks sounded daunting. In previous posts, I've shared about my struggles with busyness and a general restlessness. That being said, being home for extended periods of time can sometimes be a struggle.
I enjoy being home and being able to spend time with my family, but my flesh very much feels restless for an adventure or busyness. I have a hard time being okay with periods of rest as well as not being surrounded by a lot of people.
But the Lord has given me two weeks of rest to prepare for another season of busyness.
So I have two weeks. But what do I do with two weeks? I can spend my two weeks helping my mom around the house, hanging out with friends from home, spending ample time in prayer, reading scripture, reading fiction, getting extra sleep, preparing for Poland... there are so many options.
I can finally do things that I wouldn't normally get to do due to a busy schedule, yet there is this nagging feeling of discontent that keeps creeping up despite all of these awesome opportunities.
Why? Because everything feels mundane.
1. Dull and ordinary
2. Relating to ordinary life on earth rather than to spiritual things
When I'm home for extended periods of time, it can feel like I'm a rock, stuck at the side of a stream. It can feel like life really isn't happening. It can feel like life is moving on without me. It can feel like I'm not being productive.
But these are all lies.
I think that American culture tries to feed us these lies: that the good life is one that is filled with exciting opportunities and never-ending adventures. That the good life is a busy life, with non-stop action. But those are all lies.
If there's one thing that the Lord has taught me from my time at home, it's that abundant life can be found in the everyday and ordinary.
You can have abundant life in any circumstance: whether you're living an exciting and adventurous life or a quiet life filled with daily routines.
And this abundant and satisfying life doesn't come from your circumstances. It comes from one person: Jesus Christ.
"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
"Jesus said to them, 'I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.' "
I think it's very easy for us to be dissatisfied with our lives. When we're busy, we want rest. When we have rest, we want busyness. We are always craving, always desiring, always wanting more, and always discontent.
This life and this world will never satisfy us, but that's because we're not made for this world. We're made for heaven, and one day we will have eternity if and only if we put our faith in Jesus Christ and draw our true satisfaction and joy from Him, the Bread of Life.
He wants to give us abundant life, and life to the full. But only He can give this to us, and it's not dependent on our circumstances.
A few days ago, I thought that I would be immensely bored while I was at home. I thought I would be discontent for these two weeks, because I wouldn't have much to do or enjoy. But the Lord showed me differently. He showed me that there is a lot to enjoy in the mundane and the everyday, and that He wants to give me abundant life. No matter how "exciting" my life appears to be, truly abundant and joyful living only comes from Jesus, who is the Bread of Life.
There will be days when I'm bored. There will be days when I'm restless. There will also be days that are so packed with things to do that I don't know what to do with myself.
But Jesus is the one who makes everyday a great day for me, despite the circumstances of that day.
So if you might be thinking, "That's great, Madi, that Jesus is the source of your joy despite your circumstances, but how do I practically make Jesus the source of my joy?"
To that, all I can say is read God's Word, specifically the Gospel of John. I mean, I just gave you two golden verses from that book! The person of Jesus is revealed on every page of the Bible, and it's the only book that I go to when I need to be reminded of the truth, that Jesus is the only thing that satisfies.
So check out John, and I hope that like me, you're encouraged. I hope that you find abundant life during seasons of rest and the "mundane" also. Because even on the most eventless day, Jesus makes it a great day!
Below are some photos of my dog-days (pun intended) or "mundane" days. I took these photos to remind myself that each day is a day that the Lord has made, no matter how ordinary the day, and that I can rejoice because Jesus has blessed me with an abundant life.
My puppy Spice decided to join me while spending time in God's Word.
Spice has been my little shadow for the past few days and decided to help me put away laundry.
During a walk through the woods with a dear friend, we visited the Lake Redman sign, and we took pictures in front of it.
Visited a new church that a friend from school attends. This church building use to be a K-Mart. How cool is that???
Whoever decided that dark chocolate, pretzels, and salt go together... pure genius!!
With Much Love,
I don't know how you feel, but when finals or a big project come around for me, it feels like I'm in the middle of an epic battle.
All projects are different, but projects usually start out promising for me, like a well prepared army. But as the battle ensues, I realize just how much I've underestimated my opponent or the amount of work that goes into the assignment.
But I press on.
At times I think that I see a looming defeat, but then that bright and shining moment occurs that helps me push on and make it to the end. The assignment is complete and the battle is won. Then there is a short-lived peace and satisfaction, but only until the next project or battle looms on the horizon.
I may be a little dramatic, but this is usually how projects and finals weeks feels to me. Emphasis on the word "usually."
This year for some reason, my finals week isn't just a battle. It's an all out raging war. And I'm not saying that lightly.
This semester's finals week is probably one of the most difficult seasons I have ever experienced. Mainly because my finals week includes three papers (two of them being anywhere between 6 to 12 pages each) and working on two films while working on support raising for Poland, paper work for my trip, trying to prepare for the trip spiritually, taking care of my responsibilities in my Christian fellowship, making time to hang out with the friends that I won't see for four months, working at my job, and more things that my brain can't think of.
It feels like I barely have enough time to sleep, let alone breathe.
Needless to say, it feels like I'm in the middle of a war (even though I've never really been in a war, and I've only seen what a war is like via movies or through reading books). But I'm guessing that this is what a war feels like internally.
Meaning, there is no certainty. Or solid ground. There isn't a victory in sight yet. The beat goes on.
Honestly, my little "war" is nothing in comparison to what other people face daily. But in the moment it feels worse, and I'm guessing that some of you can probably relate.
So what is one to do when she (or he) feels like she's in the middle of a mental war? When everything seems hopeless, and the end isn't in sight? When the battlefield is sometimes your own mind?
I think what helped me was reading through Ecclesiastes 3. I stumbled upon it while working on a paper for one of my religious studies classes.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart.
There is a time for everything and everything is beautiful in its time. Right now, I'm in the middle of a mental war as I scramble to complete projects on time, but that is the season I am in right now. This season isn't going to last forever. It's just going to last a few more days. Then there will be a season of peace, but there will always be more seasons of war in the future.
Everything in its time.
I can take heart that God is in control. He has made this war beautiful in its time, and when I'm finished, the short-lived victory will be sweet.
However, God has also set eternity on my heart like it says in verse 11, and what I really want and yearn for is eternal peace. But that is still a long ways away, but I've been promised it. So I know that it's there, and really that's the thing that is getting me through this week. Not that I can rest in a few days, because something else is bound to come up that will feel like another battle. No, what's getting me through this week is that one day I will get to rest eternally in heaven because Jesus won the real battle. And even though my work is far from finished, his work is complete, and that's the only work that really matters.
So I decided to take a much needed study break and right this post to remind myself that while finals week is hard, it's not the real war.
The real war has already been won, and I am a victor thanks to Jesus.
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She Laughs Without Fear