I remember walking around my condo in Nashville, dressed in multiple layers, and constantly checking every to-do list around the house. There was a lot of them. I was getting ready to head home for Christmas while simultaneously trying to prepare to move my life to California. Lots of to-do lists.
Part of my life was going to stay in a storage unit in Nashville and while I signed the papers for someone to get paid a lot of money to babysit my bedroom furniture, I started to wonder when I would actually see my favorite red bookshelf again. Would it sit here til summer or would I send for it later in the year (as if someone would magically deliver it to me while I sit on the beach)?
Me and my to-do lists could see all the steps ahead to get me from point A to point B, but we couldn't see the condition of my heart when my feet finally hit the sand.
It's been 2 months since I moved to California, but you could tell me it's been 2 years and I'd believe you. Life's funny that way, isn't it? We pack new beginnings and new friends and lots of learning experiences into a tiny calendar and time feels like it just keeps going at a speed you can't possibly keep up with.
If I could have written one word at the bottom of every to-do list I wrote last year, I would have written, "EXHALE." I'm just thankful that God knew what was waiting for me when I arrived in California since I was so consumed with all the steps to actually getting here.
You can attribute it to the salty air or the California sunshine or the place where the ocean meets the mountains, but everything about these past 2 months have been a giant exhale and the number of times I've referred to this season as "a gift" is well... a lot. I've always heard pastors or professors talk about taking a sabbatical and wondered what that must actually be like. But I feel like I'm getting just a glimpse.
Sure, I'm in California for a job--and it's a job I cherish--but teaching teenagers each week and playing crazy games and going to their lacrosse games hardly feels like work to me. It's a joy. And because the to-do lists and overflowing schedules were left behind in Nashville, my heart is functioning out of rest rather than reach. My head is clear and my God is so very present. He always has been. I just finally cut out some of the noise, so I can see and hear Him more clearly.
I'm in a season of exhaling and while it's really easy to already start flipping the calendar to look ahead to what the next seasons may hold, I'm working hard to keep my feet in the sand (literally) and enjoy the fresh air.
Here are a few of the things I've learned in this season of exhaling:
- I've learned what it's like to live without my phone in my hand at all times.
This was a big problem for me. Part of it was my fear of missing something. If I wasn't the first to read the group text or first to see your news on Instagram, I may miss it completely. The other part was my people-pleasing self. I had to answer that email or message as quickly as possible to keep your trust. But the other night I ate dinner with a new friend and we chatted through every topic under the sun. Three hours later I realized I hadn't even gotten my phone out of my purse since I arrived and that felt like a deep breath and a big accomplishment all at the same time.
- I've learned what it's like to read for fun again.
When you work in the publishing industry, every book in your hand somehow feels like work. It's been really refreshing to pick up books that I want to read JUST BECAUSE I WANT TO READ THEM. No one's paying me to read it, expecting me to give feedback or asking me to promote it. Just reading because I can. Amen.
- I've been reminded of one of my favorite things about discipling teenagers: teaching.
I'm highly aware that I need accountability when it comes to studying God's Word. I've always loved the cycle that happens when I'm consistently teaching: I can't teach what I don't know, so I'm held accountable to study. The more I study God's Word, the more I crave it. The more I crave, the more excited I get to teach. Teaching 2-3 times a week means lots of time in the Word and for that, I'm really, really grateful.
- I walk on the beach almost everyday.
This involves 3 of my absolute favorite things: the BEACH, long walks, and music. Yesterday I busted up my foot while attempting to ride a unicycle (student ministry problems) and I've been so sad that I can't get my tennis shoe on today to go for a walk. Don't worry, I just napped in my car by the beach today instead.
I've been reminded how often God took people away to places of solitude to teach them something or prepare them for what's next. I told my friends before I left Nashville that I wanted this season to be about me and Jesus and ministry and, boy, has God met me right there. The alone time. The slower pace. The ability to be present with people. The way God reveals Himself when I actually take time to look and listen.
I exhale so that I can take in another breath and every bit of the air is filled with Him.