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:

[box] “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.”[/box]

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:

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

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.


  1. This is honestly what each of us needs to hear and put into practice today. There is always room for improvement. Slowing down and breathing deeply is the opposite of the message we hear in our heads, on the tv, or the unsaid message we get from everyone around us. So thank you friend for sharing from your heart and speaking these words. Pastor Buddy had it right and so today I too will stop, listen and remind myself by saying “Good job God”. Thank you Cathee and Kathy for sharing.

  2. So interesting that you write about this. Our friend and former pastor, Buddy Hoffman passed away Sunday and in reading the countless tributes, a common thread wove through each. Gratitude and contentment in their relationship with Him.

    Buddy told his church that when he saw a beautiful sunset, smelled a fragrant flower or observed a bird in flight, he would stop, drink it in and then, while clapping his hands, say, “Good job God.” Now all his church folks do it and I’ve found myself doing it as well.

    On his deathbed, someone brought him the first daffodils of Spring and showed him a phone image of the previous night’s sunset. He was videoed clapping his hands and whispering, “Good job God!”

    Two days later he was gone. Praising till the end. May we all adopt that attitude.

    • When we lived in the Branson area, the Ozarks were beautiful in the fall. I was coming home from work one day and there was this one little spot in the road when I crested the hill and for just a second could see Table Rock Lake. I always looked for it and it made me smile. But one particular day I happened to catch it just as the sun was setting and when I got to the top of the hill, the sunlight radiated like a star right over the water in the that little crack in the landscape. It was a magical moment and with no forethought at all, I said, “Nice job, God” and promptly burst into tears.

      I’ve never forgotten that moment and, like Buddy, I’ve repeated the “Nice job, God” for lots of other things I feel blessed to witness. So I loved your story about Buddy.

  3. Oh you make me wish I lived in Lake Placid so I could join your group. Truth is, I’m hearing the same message. Stop striving and listen. I can never be reminded too often of this call in our crazy get-busy-and-miss-the-days world.

  4. How wonderful Cathee ? The Lord knew i needed to hear that and how soothing to take time to recognize the small things that God has made…the beautiful lake and the birds and the beautiful sun just is completely amazing!! ?

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