It was an especially chaotic day.
“Don’t forget to do the laundry tonight.”
“What am I going to make for dinner?”
“Our small group is happening tonight, I have to clean the house!”
“I am overdue on the issues with my car. That should have been done by now”
“I forgot to respond to Rebecca! I have to do that ASAP”
“You got to get to the gym, Jen, to finish your miles for this week.”
“Set a reminder to take the paperwork to the payroll office tomorrow morning before the 9am meeting”
All these thoughts were whizzing around my head while I was searching for my apartment key. I was standing outside my front door surrounded with several grocery bags at my feet.
I miraculously and tenaciously carried all 6 bags full of produce and protein to the front door of my house only to realize I didn’t have a free hand to unlock the door. I’m one of those people who tries to grab everything from the car in one trip to avoid the dreaded second trip back. Because HELLO…I DON’T HAVE TIME!
What I remember in this moment is that I was exhausted. I was also quite annoyed that I couldn’t find my key and that I had to set the groceries down in the first place, because I had some serious momentum and muscle toning going on with all those bags.
Finally, as I fumbled onto my key in the dark abyss that is my purse, I turned toward the door to see the tiniest bit of wonder and whimsy that I could find. It was a lady bug.
As I starred at that lady bug for no more than ten seconds, I realized that I just wanted my life to be simpler, not so full of “to do” and “need to”. I wanted to appreciate the beauty of that tiny creature because, somehow, I knew that lady bug was there on purpose. I took a moment to try and capture this simple wonder, but I still felt like I had too much to get done. I did my best to notice what I was feeling and remember that tiny little lady bug because I knew this moment would come up later.
The next morning when I sat down to do my devotions, I started with looking up facts about lady bugs.
There was TONS of information about such a tiny creature, but one fact stood out among the rest: lady bugs are extremely helpful to farmers because they eat all the pesky insects that destroy their crops.
Seems simple enough. Though, I’m not a farmer so I didn’t know this prior to this particular fact checking experience. In fact, I didn’t ever stop to think that their might be insects, smaller than a lady bug, that could destroy a harvest. As I scrolled on to read more information about lady bugs, I felt the Lord whisper to my spirit, “Jen, I’m sending the lady bugs into the garden of your heart. There are some things that seem small but they need to go, or else they’ll destroy the harvest that is coming your way ”.
It was a simple whisper, not an earth-shattering moment. But I wrote it down. Again, I knew that I this moment would come up later.
Shortly after, I opened my devotional book. It’s called 40 Days to Decrease and each day it highlights something to fast for 24 hours. Some of the to fast include: avoidance, complaining, stinginess, spectatorship, fear and 35 other things.
As I worked through the first couple days of my devotional, it dawned on me. THESE are the pesky insects in my garden. Fear has got to go. Avoidance needs to be gutted out of my life. For too long these things have been preventing a harvest in my heart. They’ve kept me from enjoying the fullness of life and the simple wonders God has waiting for me in my day to day.
Ridding your heart of all of the little life draining pesks, that’s a deep work. It’s time consuming, and it's a painful process. But it’s one I’m willing to show up for, because with the help of a little spotted insect, I know that God is showing up for me in this process.
I could have missed what the Lord was trying to say to me. I could have rushed inside and assumed that my noticing a little red dot on my door was insignificant. But noticing is a wonderful and life-giving discipline. When we slow down and look around, there’s no telling what we’ll find. And I must say, that I don’t want to miss even the smallest of wonders that the Lord has for me, especially when they’re right outside my front door.
ARTWORK BY: MARISSA DERAYA
Yesterday, my coworkers and I played a round of basketball on our afternoon break. Actually, the four of us just took turns chucking the basketball from half court until we made it. So, it wasn’t the “traditional” way to play basketball, but sometimes I prefer the unconventional.
It was as silly fifteen-minute break from a day full of deadlines and “to do” lists. But dribbling that basketball reconnected me with my twelve-year-old self, the one that couldn’t breathe.
About fifteen years ago, I was one of the point guards on my junior high basketball team. We were pretty good, and I dare say I was one of the top players on that team. However, one factor continually slowed down my progress on the court. About halfway through the game, I would start to hyperventilate. My coach would pull me out, against my die-hard basketball will, and tell me to take a break. Honestly, it was kind of scary. I mean, I couldn’t breathe! And it didn’t make sense. We would run laps for hours in practice and my lungs never felt better. But as soon as I was 15 minutes into a game, I was gasping for air and useless on the court.
Frustrated that I couldn’t make it through a full four quarters, my coaches asked my parents to take me to a doctor. We wondered if I had respiratory issues and about a dozen other things than what the doctors told us. After examining me for a half hour, my doctor looked at me and said, “I think you get so focused that you forget to breathe. Let’s practice some breathing techniques”.
Forget to breathe? Is that even humanly possible? I didn’t think so either. But then I started to notice it ALL THE TIME. When I was taking a test, when I was up at bat in softball, when I tried to tell a story to my friends, when I couldn’t figure out the math problem, and on and on. I would be so concentrated that I would simply stop breathing.
I still forget to breathe sometimes. But instead of it being a physical breath, I forget to breathe in my calendar, in my emotions, in my relationships, and in my spiritual growth. I am always trying to achieve and make sure everything is perfect on the inside and the outside. Though this is a different form of holding my breath, the goal is still the same: “I have to win”.
What I didn’t realize fifteen years ago, is that the focus and pressure to win was actually crippling me. And the same is true today. I could start the first quarter; but could I finish the fourth quarter? I can start emotional and spiritual progress with such tenacity; but can I finish?
I am finding that in order to finish what I start, I have to have fun along the way. I have to be ruthless against my own perfectionism by celebrating when I make the shot, not just winning the game. I have to be creative in my ways to have fun. I have to be disciplined in the art of the unintentional. These are the things that keep me in the game in the long haul.
So, I am trying to embrace the breaths, the slow moving, playful, unintentional, and even wasteful moments to keep me fresh and in the game. That 15 minutes of basketball nonsense yesterday, you may call it silly; but I call it progress.
Every once in a blue moon we have profound moments where the scattered pieces of our lives finally join to form the hidden picture, the one we've been so anxious to see. The stars align, the fog lifts, the missing piece of the puzzle is found and it all comes together. These moments almost always catch me by surprise, just as it did earlier this week.
On Monday, I stumbled upon some neglected podcasts that had been trapped in my iTunes downloads for months, just begging to be heard. One of these podcasts simply entitled "Six" quickly caught my eye and was about to muse my soul. On this podcast, Ryan O'Neal of the band "Sleeping At Last" uncovers the type 6 on the enneagram, and reveals the song he has written for that personality type.
Many of my friends have been OBSESSED with the enneagram for the past year. They have swooned over their self-discovery attached to one of these nine numbers and all the unique facets of themselves that their number represents. I must admit, I’ve been a bit jealous of their new-found clarity, understanding, and acceptance of themselves. And I’ve been envious of the confidence that they know without a doubt what their number is. I, on the other hand, have been trying to figure out my number for months to no avail. So, I had given up on this number quest until this typical Monday morning.
I cranked up that podcast on my drive to work but briefly put it on pause when I rolled up to a Starbucks for much needed caffeinated pick me up. I sat at a table inside the coffee shop waiting for my tall cafe latte when my ears suddenly perked up. "Nat King Cole is playing? This is my favorite Starbucks ever!" I whispered to myself. A seemingly insignificant moment until I hopped back into my car, with the podcast once again blaring. As Ryan described his process for his "Six" song style choosing, he reflected on his own musical inspirations for this specific song. And who does he mention within 2 minutes of my Starbucks experience?
Nat King Cole.
I instantly I had tears well up. Because while this may seem like a small coincidence to you, I've learned to find God in the small coincidences. I've listened to Nat King Cole for years. In fact, his records line the walls of my room. This was no coincidence. This was a nod from God himself; a sign on the road that read “keep going this way”. And that little nod from the Lord pointed me to a bigger picture, one of identity. It made me feel seen, understood and known by Him but also by my own self.
Just like that, I listened with more intent as Ryan described all the quirks and joys of the type 6. Each new sentence he spoke pulled at my heart strings as I resonated with the little nuances he described.
I thought it would be a normal morning, but this one held great significance. As I listened to "Six", I felt like God was finally letting me in on some of the "secrets" of His design process in the secret place. The puzzle pieces were coming together.
Not only was Nat King Cole an obvious and unique sign that I knew was JUST for me that morning, there were about a dozen others during that drive. But I love that God used something as random as a Nat King Cole song to let me feel seen and to help piece together who I am.
Jen is a pastor, worship leader, writer, and songwriter living in Napa, California.