I’m sitting on a lovely little patio with an iced coffee and quinoa salad. Butterflies are dancing around the flower boxes and friends chat across plates of panini’s and homemade cookies. Henri Nouwen’s beautiful book, The Way of the Heart, is sitting open on my lap. It’s just what I need after this month and a half of full-time mommy-ing.
It’s been a nice summer. I’ve had fun watching my two boys grow and learn and enjoy themselves. They’ve been brave and done scary things (from a 3 and 6 year old’s perspective). When my son swam for the very first time unassisted just a couple of weeks ago, he popped his head up from the water and looked straight at me with a huge grin of pride and surprise. I wanted to jump up and down on the spot but chose a more appropriate double thumbs up instead.
Though the days have been good there hasn’t been a lot of time for quiet and stillness which I’m finding myself craving more and more.
I haven’t felt distant from God. I know that the joy and love and laughter that encircle us everyday are gifts straight from Him. He’s there on the soccer field and at the playground, at the dinner table and as I kiss my boys goodnight.
As Ephesians 4:6 reminds me,
There is One God and Father of all. He is over everything. He is through everything. He is in everything. – Ephesians 4:6
There is so much to be thankful for.
What I do want, though, is so much more of Him. Which is why Henri Nouwen’s book is open on my lap. I’m reaching, looking for ways to invite more of Him into my life.
With September around the corner, I know many of us get inspired to add new routines and habits into our lives. Gym memberships, yoga challenges, reading goals, running schedules. These things are all great, but what I really sense God inviting me into as the season begins to change is a daily practice of solitude. Whether it be 10 minutes or an hour, it is time that I intentionally set aside everyday to turn my gaze to Him.
Today after the kids left the house with their Nanny I spent a few minutes on the couch with my eyes closed. It had been a little while since I had taken this posture of stillness, and I could sense the restlessness creeping in immediately. What do you want from me in this solitude, God? Was it a verse I should have on my mind, a prayer, or just silence?
His answer? To know that I am first.
There are so many things vying for my attention. It’s easy to let other goals and priorities take the space where God wants to reside. For me, a practice of solitude is a concrete way of reorienting my soul towards Him. It provides the space to let God do what only He can do inside of me. It helps to loosen the grip I have on my life and surrender to Him. To worship Him.
We enter into solitude first of all to meet our Lord and to be with him and him alone. – Henri Nouwen
Nouwen has some helpful things to teach us about this practice of solitude. He writes that we often think of solitude as “a place where we gather new strength to continue the ongoing competition in life” or “a private therapeutic place”, but this is not the way to understand it as a follower of Christ.
Instead, he says that “solitude is the furnace of transformation”, the “place of conversion where the old self dies and the new self is born”. This can be painful. It’s not easy letting go of our selfishness, our pride and greed. It’s not easy when we see these things fully alive within us. But I ask myself this: What is better for me, more of myself, or more of God?
Nouwen writes that “Solitude is not simply a means to an end. Solitude is its end. It is the place where Christ remodels us in his own image.”
It is the place where I remember that He is first. And He is God. (And I am not).
And that is a very very VERY good thing.