Last week it was disgusting outside. Endless ninety degree days and dirty, smoke-filled skies made it nearly impossible to breathe. For a person who relies on taking full deep breaths to find peace in the midst of a noisy life, it was hard. For thirty-six hours we were confined to the house and I couldn’t get a full breath.
My husband is a lung doctor and he could hear the change in my voice due to the inflammation in my throat. He brought home an inhaler to help me breathe. It helped a little, but it wasn’t the same. I wore a particulate respirator outdoors in an attempt to filter out the ash, taking half breaths and praying for rain. Lets be clear: I don’t have asthma, lung disease or any other increased susceptibility to smoke. It was just that bad. My lungs craved the feel of fresh air filling them up. For an entire summer, there has been no rain and literally a million miles of fire. My body was desperate to breathe.
What I didn’t realize: so too was my heart. This summer has been full and good and so much of what we needed in so many ways. We haven’t adhered to a single schedule, and days have been wide open for fun. We packed in as much sunshine and days on the dock as possible, with very little room for rest. But you know what I learned this summer? My soul craves rest. It needs quiet spaces and empty crannies and room to breathe. Room to study and learn, to pray and be still, to remember what matters most.
A week ago I found myself on my knees praying for rain. In the middle of a list of cares and concerns I heard myself saying: Jesus, please send the rain. It took only a moment for the irony to strike and realize it was my soul that needed it too. How often does our soul feel parched and weary from the scorching sun and the daily fires that blaze in our lives?
It was in that moment I knew I needed rest. My fun had gone too far and had become fun for the sake of it, instead of because it was actually fun.
This weekend, the rain came.
Pouring, drenching rain unleashed from the heavens and in twenty-four hours, everything changed. It literally happened in one day. And then I realize many miracles do. Of course the fires aren’t over and the sun still shines on, but the rain did come. And with it, cooler nights and bright blue skies, and gratitude for a deep clean breath of air.
We’re on our last official countdown to school. One week before the schedule begins in our house and I’m already enjoying the anticipation of schedule and rare, but quiet, moments in my house alone. The freedom to take a shower without one or two or three little boys running in crying or fighting or asking for something, yet again. The ability to study. To think. To be. And to breathe.
Here’s how I’m taking my life back to make room for my soul:
- Acknowledge: The first step of changing anything is acknowledging it’s happening. Denial is not bliss. Take the first (and most important) step to determine and admit that something needs to change.
- Analyze: Take out a notebook and write down how you spend your day. You don’t need anything fancy or high tech – and you certainly don’t need an app for it. The old paper and pencil job will do the trick. See if you can easily determine some areas that are sucking your time and highlight them.
- Subtract: Go through your day and see which activities bring joy and which ones only carry a burden. Granted not everything we have to do in a day or a week will be joyful, but you know what I mean. It’s the extra things that you’ve added into the margins. If they’re draining or wearing you: they go.
- Add: It might sound counter-intuitive but if you don’t add in space for margin, it won’t happen. Schedule in a few blocks of time that you want to commit to soul care. This could include quiet time, meditation, yoga, reading or Bible study. This is dedicated time that you want to commit to taking care of you. It’s not negotiable.
- Implement: Give yourself room to ease into your new schedule. Habits are hard to break and while some can be overcome in a matter of days or weeks, others take a lifetime. Give yourself a break. What we’re looking for here is progress. Your goal is to give yourself room, and freedom to breathe, not to burden yourself with disappointment if you don’t do it perfectly.
Dr. Suess said: “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Perhaps creating space for our soul might just be one of those things. In a busy, fast-paced, do-everything life, sometimes it’s hard to find room for all the things. But we can make sure the things we’re allowing in our schedule actually add to our lives, not take from them. How do you make space to breathe?