by Cathee Poulsen

It’s spring and this girl’s heart turns to redecorating. If you live in Wisconsin, you’re still in the deep throes of winter, but here in Florida, the Pinterest Boards are all focused on rabbits, bird nests and tulips in galvanized containers. And I want to change everything.

Alas, just like most of you, I don’t have an unlimited budget for decorating. And even if I did, I live in a cottage, which is by definition “a small, simple house by a lake or beach.” There’s very little room for stores of seasonal decor like pillows, table top decor, throws and vases. It’s a challenge finding a way to use the same things for four seasons worth of style.

But Is That Really What I Want?

I’m partway into a study group with 10 women. We started in January as a way to redirect our focus for the new year. We’re doing the book Brazen by Leeana Tankersley. “The courage to find the you that’s been hiding.” Part of our weekly assignment is to spend 20 minutes of “Soul Time” alone with our thoughts and bring them into the presence of the Lord. Leeana says this is how she practices the first part of her Soul Time:

“I set my phone timer for twenty minutes and listen with deep compassion to myself instead of jumping right to judging, overriding, denying. Instead of assuming the longing is coming from an untrustworthy source, I simply give myself permission to listen.”

As the urge to redecorate and rearrange everything presses hard by February 1st, I practice some Soul Time to see what this is all about. Is it really about losing myself in Pinterest ideas or yearning for a Pottery Barn living room, or at least buying new pillows to spruce things up a bit? Is that really what I want?

What I Need Most

I open my green leather-covered journal with the tree embossed in the leather and the silver Celtic knot for closure–the one that’s been waiting quietly on the shelf for three years–and I just list them all. The worries, where my body hurts, my concerns for others, my disappointments in myself. I don’t judge or analyze. And then I wait.

Leeana suggests we do this next:

After about ten to fifteen minutes of soul-recording, I write, “God, what do you want to say to me about all this?”

This is where we invite God right into the chaos of our lives. We pour out our bewilderment, our sadness over unnamed questions, and then we ask Him to speak.

Quite frankly, I’ve been faithfully practicing “Quiet Time” or “Morning Devotions” forever. Over the years I’ve alternately read books of the Bible, Streams in the Desert, My Utmost, and Jesus Calling. All of them have played key roles in my spiritual growth. But I’ve been hungry for something more for a very long time.

Practicing Soul Time requires a bit more than reading through the portion allotted for each particular day. And truthfully, I don’t get to do it every day so these other beloved texts still minister to me. But what I’m discovering is that this time of me telling God what’s on my heart and then listening to what He might want to say or show me about those things, feels so much more like a real relationship that I return to it as often as I can.

What I Found Out

Stopping is difficult for me. My monkey brain speeds along the track of What next? with the thrust of a rocket. Daily, before my feet hit the brown carpet, I’m already racing towards the day’s To Do List, irritated at those who interrupt me. No way to start the day. As an anecdote I choose to breathe out the words of the Psalmist David “I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child…” First thing. Before my head leaves the pillow. I found out that if I open my computer or look at my phone, I’m hijacked.

Instead, it’s grab-a-cup-of-coffee and head to my reading chair or outside on the dock if the weather’s nice. I notice things, like the limkin foraging for lake snails or the grey-green moss swinging from the oaks overhead. The caladiums grown in fields nearby by the thousands but planted around me. I can breathe deeply here and still myself again. I can call out the me that’s been hiding.

As February has unfolded, I’ve found out it isn’t the new pillows or Mason jars with ferns that I’m after. It’s that I want to know I can find truth, goodness and beauty in the life I live everyday. In the folding of clothes with their lavender scent, the conversation over steaming coffee with a dear friend, the Kingdom Around the Table when our small group shares a meal and we talk about our lives. I feel like I’m more present and it’s because I’ve let Him be present. The things He tells me in those moments when I listen is that life is good. But that there is also sadness. It’s part of a broken world and it will haunt me at times. That I’m loved and highly favored and that if I will stay close to Him, He’ll walk me through every fear and anxiety and overwhelming situation I encounter.

And I think that’s just so much better than new pillows.

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