I have a confession. I jumped the gun a teensy eensy bit. My friend Amy was having this online bookclub, discussing Jen Hatmaker’s crazy book 7, and before I’d even read it, I agreed to write about the final chapter and the conclusion.
I’d heard good things about the book, so what could it hurt?
The final chapter is on STRESS. Not my forte.
But before I got to this chapter, I became so enamored of Jen (BFF in my heart), that I had wrangled a group of bloggers into blogging about each of the challenges, a week at a time. We are calling this The Summer of 7, and one week in, I have to say this is the most blogging fun I’ve ever had—if you like having your heart and conscience daily served up to you on an Internet platter. We have a blog hop on each challenge and a luv-er-ly Facebook page, so do join in, even if only to spy on our craziness.
But back to the chapter on Stress. In order to reduce stress, Hatmaker (aka: my unknown to even herself BFF Jen) talks about participating in the Seven Sacred Pauses and the rituals of Shabbat. I found this very interesting because, though previously I had known very little about monastic living, I recently read a novel called The Hawk and the Dove, about monastic life. Throughout the novel, these times of prayer are mentioned. Despite thinking I had NOTHING in common with monks, I found this book beautiful and lifestyle of the monastery compelling, so Jen’s suggestion about the Sacred Pauses was intriguing.
But truthfully, the idea of trying to implement the seven pauses into my days with ALL my kids and my husband home from school is a bit overwhelming and, frankly, depressing. I just don’t see it happening. Even though I love the idea of what she did, I cannot envision it working in my home. (Though I thought she was very honest about the realities of what is looked like in her home.)
- I don’t see myself regularly doing anything every three hours. I think nursing a newborn might be the only thing I did with that regularity and that was unarguably one of the most stressful periods of my life.
- My kids and husband are not of the age or inclination (respectively) to do anything with me every three hours, much less read Psalms and prayers meditatively. Lately I have just been trying to get my kids NOT TO SING the blessing (God our Father) as loudly and quickly as possibly before eating commences. Reverence is an acquired skill, apparently.
- Efforts that I might make toward encouraging “rest” or Shabbat would definitely come off as dictatorial limitations of fun and freedom. (WHAT!!?? No TV. Why do we have to have dinner at the table!?!)
- By this point in the list, I’m just discouraged.
Then she said several things in the Conclusion that reinvigorated me. (Read: THEY de-stressed me.)
- Hear this: I don’t think God wants you at war with yourself.
- Self-deprication is a cruel response to Jesus, who died and made us righteous.
- Just do the next right thing.
To that end, I’ve decided what I’m going to do for The Summer of 7 Stress Challenge which will begin for me next Monday, June 11th and continue through our week of vacation at the beach, ending June 30th. (Some of you may recall, I’m very easy going at the beach.) Even though I had initially planned for the challenges to be one week, I’m going to try to extend a few of them out for 21 days where possible, the time Jen suggested was necessary for making a new habit.
To cut out stress, I’m going to focus on the following aspects of my heart.
- No disclaimers. I already have some practice on this from Lent, and it DOES reduce stress. I need to revisit this.
- No false guilt. In the midst of much of the conviction that I’m experiencing from Summer of 7, I want to remember that conviction motivates and shame or false guilt debilitates.
- Shabbat rest. Hear this one. I am NOT going to touch the computer from sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday. I know that sounds like media, but I think that might be the first step in getting a more restful Sunday. This is going to be REALLY REALLY hard for me. (Does the iPhone count?)
- Resume Scripture memory. My kids and I have fallen behind on our Letter Verses. Knowing God’s word is transformative and gives us the “peace which passes all understanding,” so to that end, I think it destresses us. I’d like to resume this project.
- Outside prayers. Daily. We have a gorgeous screened in porch and now a tree fort. While I don’t think I can or should commit to seven pauses, I’m going to attempt to have a daily outside prayer time.
- Scheduled one on one time. Daily. I am going to try to spend at least ONE hour of undivided time per week with each member of my family. I know that sounds lame and not enough, but I know that I’m not deliberate about this. Now that summer is upon us, we have the flexibility to make this happen. We will all be less demanding of one another if we are secure in the amount of time we are getting together.
- Reading and Puzzles. These are two activities that I LOVE that have gotten squeezed about by life. They de-stress me and I really enjoy them. Since, as I’ve mentioned, I have more flexibility in my schedule in summer, I am going to try to have a daily novel or puzzle time.
That’s it! Stress-less summer is just around the corner, right?
(Oh, PS, if you are a new reader, may I recommend you read some of the links that I referenced in this post; they are some of my best and I think you’ll enjoy them.
Don’t forget to link up your stories of UNSTRESS, using the blog hop.