Seven R’s of Restful Living: Rejoice with Your Friends

Sisters can be good friends

In a few days, we will be celebrating a national holiday—the 4th of July. Although there are many problems in this country, we have many freedoms and an abundance of resources. I’m thankful for all of them.

I’m in favor of celebrations! The ability and the decision to rejoice (be glad) in times of trouble and difficulty is essential for spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health.

Perhaps you’ve never thought of joy as a decision—something you could control. For years, I thought that joy was something I did or did not feel, and that there was nothing I could do about it. I’ve learned that joy is not as much of a feeling as it is a choice. Better said, the choice comes before the feeling. Rejoice is a “take-action” word.

I’ve discovered that there is much that I can do to increase my level of joy. The biggest thing that I must do is to be willing to change. For me, that meant giving up the belief that depression was part of my personality—my identity! After living for years with depression, it seemed abnormal to think of myself as a joyful person.

Celebrating—rejoicing with our friends when they are blessed and allowing them to rejoice with us when we are blessed—increases our joy level. It also energizes us, promotes confidence, and increases our productivity.  

There are two ways of looking at what it means to rejoice with your friends: 1) Rejoice with your friends when they have received a blessing or accomplished something worthwhile. 2) Rejoice with your friends when you have received a blessing or accomplished something worthwhile.

Which is easier for you to do? To celebrate with others when they are blessed or to allow yourself to celebrate with others when you are blessed?

Both choices can be challenging. We love celebrating with others when they are blessed. Unless, we feel envious; we want or think we deserve something that our friend has, such as a gift or ability, a promotion, a bigger house, newer car, financial success, marriage, children, or a slim figure. The list of possibilities for envy is endless.  

When I was a teenager, I envied my sister. I wanted the favor that she had with certain Christian leaders. Envy made it impossible for me to wholeheartedly rejoice in who my sister is. Being so focused on what I didn’t have, also, blocked me from seeing, accepting, and developing the person that I am. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize the envy in my heart at that time. Thankfully, God revealed it to me and showed me that it contributed to my depression.

My sister and I are twins; we have much in common; both of us write poetry, sing, and play the piano. Yet, we have quite different styles, as well as personalities. Her ability to sing alto and mine to sing soprano is one way in which the difference between us brings joy. Hanging on to envy would have destroyed the “harmony” that in so many ways we enjoy. Though we live miles apart, we are Scrabble buddies and prayer partners.

My envy makes it impossible for me to truly rejoice with my friends or family members in their times of blessing and accomplishments. Their envy makes it difficult for me to share the joy of my blessings and accomplishments.

It saddens my spirit when friends say things like: “Oh, I wish I could be that lucky! I wish I could afford (the whatever) you have. It must be nice to be talented.” It’s very disheartening to receive that kind of a response. At times, I’ve reacted to such expressions of envy and resentment from others by feeling guilty, closing down, and telling myself that my gifts and talents had no value. Those have been sad choices.

Envy makes it impossible for us to rejoice with our friends.  In addition, the writer of Proverbs tells us that it’s detrimental to our physical health. “Envy makes the bones rot.” (Proverbs 14:30 ESV) Does this mean that envy is the cause of osteoporosis? Of course not, what a humorous conclusion that would be! This proverb, like so many others, is a principle from which we can make many applications. It means this: envy is destructive to our inner self.

Envy is vicious. I hope that you will join with me in determining to reject that destructive joy-killer and embrace joy. I hope that you will, also, go back and re-read the first post in this series— remain with Jesus. He is the greatest of all joy-givers.

To conclude this seven week series, I’m sharing the lyrics of a favorite hymn

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.

1907 Henry J. van Dyke


Seven R’s of Restful Living: Rid Yourself of Clutter

This is the sixth post in my seven week series on restful living; and, for me, it’s a challenging task. Getting rid of clutter is harder than I expected it would be. I’m beginning to understand why it’s not the first step toward restful living.  

In order to accomplish this task, I’ve discovered that I must remain with Jesus, schedule time for it,  listen to others who know more about decluttering than I do, and take time to rest and relax ; if I neglect these things, I will exhaust myself and become resentful.

To rid myself of clutter seemed like such an easy task—until I started doing it. When I looked at the clothes in my closet and counted everything hanging there, I was shocked to discover how many articles of clothing I owned.

I wanted to shut the closet door and forget about the clutter. Why didn’t I? One reason is that the Holy Spirit (my GPS), kept reminding me of Jesus’ words. Words such as these, “If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” (Luke16:11 NLT)

What does trustworthiness with worldly possessions look like? For me, it means making these kinds of choices:

  • removing stains from my clothing rather than throwing them away, so they will last as long as possible,
  • limiting the amount of clothing that I have to what I actually need and use,
  • giving away the pair of only-worn-once new pants that don’t fit me, 
  • reminding myself, when I go shopping, to pay more attention to how my clothing feels 

Giving new clothing away not only blesses others but also benefits me. Deciding what I’m going to wear for the day is much easier when I don’t have so many choices.  

Still, this task is difficult. Why? Many emotions are tied to the “stuff” that I’ve collected over the years. Without God’s wisdom, encouragement, and love, I would be overwhelmed by what I’m discovering about myself as I purge my closets, cupboards, and dresser drawers.

For a few days last week, I did feel overwhelmed  Thankfully, my husband noticed my increased stress level; with patience and some kindly-spoken words, he pointed it out to me. The Holy Spirit, also, notices my stress, and he brings me back into peace and balanced living.

One cause of my stress, while decluttering on my clothes closet, was legalistic thinking. Legalistic thinking means that I make  a rule for myself and demand that I follow it with perfection.  Making an unbreakable rule out of a principle in Scripture (such as, it’s more blessed to give than to receive) increases my stress.

I tend to go on a “give everything away” binge and then, feel sorry about it. While I was reading, meditating on Scriptures and praying, the Holy Spirit gave me the perspective and peace that I needed to understand in order to restore balance to my life.

These are the two Scripture verses, which the Holy Spirit spoke to me through: “Valuables are safe in a wise person’s home; fools put it all out for yard sales” (Proverbs 21:20 MSG), and “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15 NIV).

These Scriptures represent two extremes in life:
1) without thinking about the consequences, we indiscriminately and impulsively give everything away.
2) expecting that this will bring us joy and fulfillment, we accumulate more and more “stuff.”

If we gave away everything, then we’d be dependent on others to take care of us. God may call some people (including me) to give everything away, but this is not for everyone, and it’s seldom for anyone–all of the time. 

I’ve finished decluttering my closet; In front of it, I have two large bags of clothing, which I will give away. My closet contains some empty space, but my heart contains more peace. 

Although, I still have clutter in my house, I can look beyond it and focus on the sunshine-sparkled, lake. As usual, my rationale for doing this is best expressed in the words of a poem.

Contentment or Clutter

Contentment or clutter—
Is it one or the other?

Or can I have both of these—
In the midst of clutter, peace?

I’ve made some progress;
Now, I have a larger mess!

I emptied too many drawers;
I opened too many doors.

Shame and guilt jumped out at me.
I want to hide; I want to flee.

I need to go for a walk,
Or find a good friend and talk—

I need to give myself some time—
Compose a song or a rhyme.

Then, with a peaceful heart and mind,
Face the clutter I left behind.

Contentment in clutter,
Not one or the other;

That’s my solution for now,
Because I am just learning how—

(After years of collecting
I’m engaged in reflecting)

In one way or another,
I’ll get rid of my clutter.

But this job can’t be done
In a day, week, or month—

Without health and friendship damage;
Is that how I want to manage?

I could tell my friends they can’t come
Because I have a messy home;

I could forfeit sleep and exercise;
Would that be smart? Would that be wise?

Although, I’m not yet clutter-free,
Content is something I can be.

Seven R’s of Restful Living: Reduce Commitments

To celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, John and I took four days off and traveled to Pennsylvania. We spent a  day at  Longwood Gardens (the largest botanical gardens in the United States, enjoying the immense variety of trees and flowers. Our spirits were inspired by the beauty of creation. 

We made new friends at a fantastic B & B . Our bodies found comfort and strength through the generous and cordial hospitality of our host and her husband.  We visited friends whom we hadn’t seen for over three decades. It was a very special time, and our hearts were greatly encouraged. Our entire frame –body, soul, and spirit, was refreshed.

Nevertheless, when we arrived home, we realized that we were tired and that it was not time to “gear up” but to “gear down.” That’s not something I’ve ever wanted to do. My motto for years has been: “naps are for children and old people and I’m not old, yet; so I don’t need one.” When I’m told by my physician that my vital signs are wonderful, it”s hard for me to accept the fact that I can’t do as much as I could when I was 30 years younger.

Even when I’m tired, I resist gearing down. Why? Because it includes reducing commitments–cutting out things that I enjoy doing. And I enjoy many things. It would be great if I did not have to sleep. Yet, if I want to live a restful instead of a stressful life, getting enough sleep and maintaining a schedule that fits the reality of my age and abilities is essential. This is true for all of us, no matter what age we are at. 

I haven’t met very many infants, children, teenagers, or adults (of any age) who like to cut enjoyable activities out of their schedules. In fact, I can’t think of anyone. If we must cut some activities from our schedule, why can’t we simply cut out the things that we don’t enjoy and prefer not to do? That of course, would be easy. Easy, but deceitful. 

We would not only become badly-spoiled narcissists, we would also end up addicted to our desires, We would exhaust ourselves pursuing brightly colored, soap-bubbles that contain nothing but air. I know, in my head, that this is true. Living it out is still difficult.

For example, at the beginning of this week I made a “Not-right-now” list. Items on this list included things that I enjoy doing, things not “bad” in themselves, just things that distract me from my main focus–which is reducing my commitments, in order to recover energy and lead a more restful life.

These are some of the things that I included in my “Not-right-now” list.

  • Make  a booklet with my blog posts on restful living
  • Do extensive research on the DNA result that I got back from
  • Arrange my song lyrics into a format such as youtube
  • Get involved in another mental task before I go for my daily walk
  • Take another interesting on-line quiz regarding some health issue
  • Check Facebook for the umpteenth time each day and spend unlimited time there.

On the first after making my list, I was successful in following it.  On the second day, I gave in to  one of these distractions before breakfast. 

Why did I give in to a distraction so quickly? I asked God. The answer he gave to me was that until our desires are in line with his purposes, we will not be able to reduce our commitments. That’s because pursuing desire, apart from God, is never satisfying to our souls.  If we succeed in removing something from our schedule, we will replace it with something else. (But the word “reduce” does not mean “replace.” Reduce means ” doing less” not “doing more.”)

Success in reducing commitments boils down to doing only those things which our Abba-Father calls us to do. ONLY those things. NOTHING else. That’s the way Jesus lived. He delighted to do the Father’s will (Hebrews 10:7). That was his one desire.

This means he lived according to the wisdom of  the psalmist, who said: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”(Psalm 37: 4 ESV). 

I’ve often misinterpreted this verse to mean that God will give me everything that I desire if I delight in him. That is a misunderstanding of what it means to delight in God. To delight in God means that having a relationship with him is our sole desire. It means that we realize, like Jesus did, that any desire that’s incompatible with our Abba-Father’s will is a distraction and pursuing this distraction will leave us empty and unfulfilled. 

To remain in a fulfilling relationship with Jesus, we must learn to recognize and manage our distracting desires. This is what it takes to effectively reduce our commitments  and, consequently, lead restful instead of stressful lives. 

As my following poem indicates, doing this involves conflict.

The Conflict

The world is full of many things that sound so good to me.
Like music of a carnival it cries, “Indulge yourself—break free!”
I spend my money and my time—how fast it disappears!
My head is tricked and I’m confused—like in a house of mirrors.

I’m pulled in all directions, consumed by passion’s fire,
Content with nothing that I find—enslaved by my desire.
Like cotton candy full of air is everything I buy;
At first it tastes so sweet; yet, soon, I find I’m dry—

Unsatisfied, yet turning not to water that would fill
My parched and aching soul. Can there be pleasure in God’s will?
I laugh just like a funny clown. Inside I’m full of tears.
Why do I cling to worthless things that bring me only fear?

I laugh and play but Jesus weeps. Life’s not a carnival.
He died to set his people free—to follow Him; He calls
Me to turn aside—desire him above my pleasure
And promises, within his will, a far exceeding treasure—

Thirst-quenching water, bread of substance (not frosted fable),
And a permanent invitation to dine at his table.
“Delight in me, my child,” he says. “Come see what I have planned.
I’ll satisfy your highest dreams with good things from my hand.”

  @ 1997 Jane Ault

(from journal reflections on Isaiah 55: 1-3 and I John 2:15-17)

Seven R’s of Restful Living: Resist Resentment

I procrastinated writing this post. I did not want to admit, after writing two chapters in  Emotional Freedom on how to identify resentment and replace it with joy, that I still struggle with it. This means that now I know how to identify resentment and how to resist it. I don’t feel helpless and remain stuck in it. As my husband would say, “you might not be able to keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest there.” 

After a very enjoyable few days in which John and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, I walked into my office, saw the clutter that I’d left there, and wanted to go on another trip. I felt resentful about my messy office. Until I realized I had a choice. Several choices. 

I could ignore the clutter, or I could pick it up.
I could blame someone else for the mess (maybe God), or I could admit that I was responsible.
I could forgive myself, or I could hold a grudge against myself.
I could feel overwhelmed and do nothing, or I could brainstorm–think about possible solutions.
I could procrastinate, or I could make one small step to change my situation.

I started picking up the clutter in my office. At first, I felt frustrated–angry at myself for the lack of order there. I began to feel overwhelmed. Then, I made one change that gave me a completely new perspective. I took the recliner that sat in the corner of the room facing all the clutter and turned it around so that it was facing a large window.

I sat down in my recliner, looked out at the graceful birch tree and beyond it to my flower garden, felt the cool breeze, and relaxed. It was refreshing to my frame–body, soul, and spirit. Having the  recliner turned toward the window will make it convenient for me to take the necessary breaks that I need to take from my computer. 

By periodically sitting there, I’ll be able to escape the clutter and confines of my office, focus on the bigger world of nature, feel the cool breeze, and meditate on the goodness and grace of God. This will help me reconnect and (remain) with Jesus throughout the day. But, again, I have a choice. When I am feeling stressed, I could choose to sit in that chair and relax, or I could choose to stay at my computer and push myself into mental exhaustion. 

It’s when  I feel as if I have no choice (or when I’m forced into a choice that I don’t want to make) that resentment can gain a stronghold in my life. Even then, there is one choice that I can always make. Just like I can turn my recliner 180 º, so I can turn my attitude 180 º.    

 I Can Choose My Attitude

Discontent or gratitude,
I can choose my attitude—
Select just what I want every day.

Impatience when my friend is late
Is a choice that I could make,
But it will effect the actions I display.

If I stamp my foot and curse,
Throw a fit or something worse,
Will it really help our friendship grow?

Let me stop and think awhile.
Perhaps that’s not the best of style.
Is there another way I could go?

I could choose my attitude,
Give my friend some latitude,
Refuse to take offense when he is rude.

I could hold my temper back.
I could decide to not keep track—
Do my part to stop this silly feud.

If I pause before I act,
Discover what is truly fact,
I won’t become a victim of my rage.

Just like I choose my food and drink,
I determine what I think.
And I could leave the past, turn the page.

I can decide just to cope,
With my moods simply float,
Or I can learn to swim and progress make.

I can grow a bitter root,
Or I can choose a Spirit fruit,
It depends upon the attitude I take.

Jane Ault