5 Reasons We Avoid Solitude–And Why We Should Embrace It

 

Psalm46-10

Voltaire wrote, “The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.” But how many of us really believe that?

In today’s chaotic, noisy world, it’s easy to avoid solitude. We don’t really have to be alone. Even when we aren’t scheduled to be engaged with people, we can avoid solitude by stopping in a coffee shop humming with espresso machines and conversations. We can video chat and Skype with people even when we can’t be with them in person.

So why do we avoid solitude and why should we embrace it instead?

First, 5 reasons we avoid solitude:

  1. We fear loneliness. It’s then we have to remember there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Natasha Dern wrote in the Huffington Post, “Loneliness is marked by feelings of isolation and persists even when one is with other people. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone, content with your own company.” Although loneliness can be depressing, solitude can lead to greater appreciation for who you are.
  2. We’re afraid we might miss something. If we’re not chatting with friends or plugged into social media we may fear failing to know or see something important.
  3. We’re too busy. Our schedule is filled with exercise classes, work obligations, driving kids to camps and classes. There simply isn’t time to be alone.
  4. We avoid a chaotic inner life by filling it with more noise. So much is going on inside our heads that we consciously or unconsciously don’t want to deal with it, so we keep running the treadmill of appointments and social engagements.
  5. We may be hiding from God. We know in our hearts something is wrong, but we don’t want God to confront us. We don’t want to deal with the guilt, the regret, or the doubt we are feeling.

Any of those reasons sound familiar? You may be thinking. Yep, all of those sound like me.

So why should we embrace solitude?

Consider the last and most important reason we avoid solitude–hiding from God. Two famous people hid from God in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve knew they had messed up. They were ashamed. Guilt-ridden. Afraid. So when they heard the sound of God’s voice in the garden they hid among the tress. I think they ultimately knew they couldn’t really hide from God, but they tried.

I’m like that too. I want to sweep all my guilt under the rug and hope God doesn’t notice. So I hide. I avoid being alone where God’s voice might break through in the quiet. I fill my life with activity and noise. But I know all along that I can’t really hide from God. He knows all my thoughts, so it is better to open up my heart to God and let Him deal with the mess.

The Genesis story tells us that the Lord God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Perhaps this was a regular occurrence. After Adam and Eve had worked among the flowers and trees of Paradise, God Himself came to spend some time with them every evening. But this time they were trying to avoid Him. 

God called out, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). He calls out to us. He wants us to know that He still loves us. An article on Crosswalk.com advises, “Rather than hiding from God, denying who you are, or trying to control what others think of you, allow the truth of who you are to surface during solitude and silence – and face the reality of the person you see, flaws and all.”

The purpose of solitude is to allow God to open up the hurts, the guilt, the doubts and heal them. In the silence, the Spirit reminds us of God’s words, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) and “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

God loves us with an unconditional love. And sometimes the only way we can hear His words of love is when we quiet all the other voices.

Next Step: What is your number one reason for avoiding solitude? Bring it to God and ask Him to help you find time to get alone with Him this week. Schedule the time alone now

 

AvoidSolitude

 

 

 

 

 

The Number One Thing to Learn in a Period of Waiting

 

Psalm 2714

Elizabeth had a long wait.

The Bible tells us that the mother of John the Baptist was “advanced in years” when she gave birth to him.

Elizabeth waited a long time to be a mother. She probably questioned her purpose in life from time to time. But when she received the mission of bringing the forerunner of the Savior into the world, she was also given the task to mentor and encourage the mother of the Messiah.

The angel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth was six months pregnant. Don’t you love it? God knew that Mary would need someone to encourage her and help her on this new journey. So He provided Elizabeth.

And if you think about it–Elizabeth was the perfect person to encourage Mary.

  • Elizabeth lived away from Nazareth. Commentators speculate that Elizabeth lived in Hebron—which was about 80 miles from Nazareth—a four-day journey for Mary. It was a bit of a trek, but far enough away from the prying eyes of neighbors.
  • Elizabeth was pregnant. Elizabeth and Mary could commiserate over morning sickness and swollen ankles. Mary didn’t have “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” It was helpful to have someone share what was ahead in this exciting new experience.
  • Elizabeth was experiencing her own miracle. She wouldn’t laugh in disbelief at Mary’s preposterous story about an angel and a miracle birth because her husband had also had a visit with an angel. Elizabeth was pregnant even though humanly speaking it was impossible.
  • Elizabeth knew the sting of reproach even though she had done nothing wrong. She was upright in the sight of God, but the first thing she does when she finds out she is with child is thank God for taking away her disgrace among the people. She would be able to give Mary advice on how to deal with the gossip and criticism that were sure to come.

Think about it. If God had answered Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer for a baby sooner, she would not have fulfilled the role of Mary’s mentor so perfectly. Sure, she could have given birth to John the Baptist when she was twenty—but that would not have been as miraculous as having a baby at fifty or sixty. Perhaps she would have doubted Mary’s tale of an angel and a virgin pregnancy. She would not have had experience with the neighborhood gossip mill.

Our own experiences of waiting can connect us to other people going through similar situations. Just like Elizabeth and Mary, we can become connected in the waiting. We can use what we learned in our waiting times to encourage those who are traveling a similar path.

So what’s the number one thing to do when you are in a period of waiting?

Wherever you are in life, remember that everything you are going through right now matters. All the waiting that Elizabeth went through prepared her for her most important role. All the years of waiting for an answered prayer drew her closer to God.

While we may never grow to like it—waiting serves a purpose. We can grow closer to Him when we expect God to accomplish something bigger than we can imagine. And we can connect to others by using the wait as a course in encouragement.

Next step: What are you waiting for right now? A husband? A baby? A job? Reconciliation with a loved one? Take the bold step of thanking God for what you are learning in the time of waiting. Then reach out to someone who has experienced a similar wait. Give them the opportunity to encourage you with what they learned in their waiting period.

numberone waiting

 

Five Ways God’s Love Changes You Part 2

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5 more ways God's love seeps into our hearts and transforms us.

 

I struggle with many things:

caring too much about what people think of me

second-guessing my decisions

accepting God’s plan for my life

focusing too much on material things of life

spending way too much time at my computer

Maybe you can relate.

This world is full of conflicts between pleasing God and pleasing others. Our life is characterized by clashes between our spiritual side and the part that simply must type the memo, get dinner on the table, and generally survive in the world.

I have found one simple act that helps me win the battle:

Basking in God’s love.

As I said in a previous post, basking in God’s love during a particularly stressful season kept my heart at peace. Simply stopping for a few minutes to contemplate my Father’s unfailing love for me helped me win the battle against doubt and anxiety.

A look in God’s Word confirms: God’s love transforms me.

Here are 5 more ways God’s love changes you and me:

God’s love enables us to stay on His path. “For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness” (Psalm 26:3). When I am mindful of God’s never-ending love for me, I am much more confident that God’s path is the best one. I don’t walk in my qualifications or in my competence. I walk in His faithfulness.

God’s love gives us the confidence to pray. Psalm 69:13 says: “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.” Because we know God as a caring Father, we can come to Him as His much-loved children. His unfailing love gives us the courage to come with our debilitating failures, our overwhelming dilemmas, and even our pesky problems.

God’s love motivates us to obey. Psalm 106:7 tells us the reason for the Israelites’ rebellion: “Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.” After all God had done for them, how could they forget His love? Yet I often do the same. But when I do bask in the abundance of God’s love, my rebellious spirit is tamed. I’m drawn to follow Love.

God’s love in our hearts enables us to please God. “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Psalm 147:11). Just like any loving dad, what pleases our Abba Father most is for His children to curl up in His caring arms–to put their hope not in their own cleverness or ambition, but in His love for them.

God’s love helps us to love others. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). We are to love others as Christ loved us. That little word as can have a couple of different meanings. It can mean, “Just like I have loved you, I want you to love other people” or “Since I have loved you, you are to love one another.” Loving others in the same way Jesus loved us is a difficult task. It’s made a little easier because God has filled our hearts with His love.

So take a minute right now and bask in God’s love. Meditate on Christ’s sacrifice. Repeat the words of God’s affection from Scripture.

Allow His words of love to seep into your heart and change you.

(Find the first 5 ways God love changes us here)

My Word For 2015: Focus

FindingFocus2015

For the past few years, I have chosen a word for each new year. A word to guide my soul through the next twelve months. A word to challenge and stretch me.

Last year my word was give. I wanted to become a more giving person. During 2014, I found a new place to give–Lifespring Ministries. This ministry in my hometown is a Christ-centered transitional living program for homeless women who want to get their lives back on track. I gave time by answering phones, tutoring, and just hanging out with these amazing women. And honestly, I received much more than I gave.

But looking back over the past year, I don’t think I gave more of my time or money than in other years. Rather, I learned how to be a more cheerful giver. When others asked me to give and I could give, I said “yes” with joy. I gave without resentment or regret.

Unfortunately, all of that saying “yes” led to another problem–feeling overwhelmed and burned out.

So when deciding my word for 2015, I thought about the words “no” and “never” and “no way” (oops that’s two words).

But that isn’t what I want either. I don’t want to say “no” to everything. I want to say “no” to what is superfluous. I want to say “no” to those things that are life-draining. I want to say “no” to whatever is not in God’s plan for my life.

So my word for 2015 is:

focus

I want to learn to focus on what is important–what God thinks is essential–and let everything else fall away.

I know this isn’t going to be easy. I have a hundred projects I’d like to complete. I tend to make impossibly long to-do lists. I can easily be swayed by the “experts” that say I must do this and I need to complete that.

I can easily lose my focus.

The first Bible verse that came to mind when I decided on the word “focus” was Luke 10:41-42.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

one thing

I know–it’s the passage we’ve heard a thousand times. Most of us feel guilty that we are not more like Mary–sitting at the Master’s feet. But let’s “focus” on two words in the passage.

One. Thing.

I am going to start each day of 2015 asking the Great Teacher a question: “What is the one thing you want me to accomplish today?”

There may be other things on my to-do list, but I will feel I have done what is important if I have accomplished that one thing.

Question: What is your word for 2015?

 

A Personal Post: My Son’s Getting Married!

This week my baby is getting married.

It’s hard to believe that 25 years have gone by since he was this cute, chubby-cheeked baby.

Nathaniel 6months003

That adorable little boy is now a charming six-foot-three-inch man.

I am so grateful for the privilege to raise two amazing children. I thank God that He entrusted me with these two little lives and that, by His grace, they have become caring responsible adults who love the Lord. I am so thankful to have traveled an amazing parenting journey.

This Saturday my son Nathaniel will marry a beautiful Christian girl named Mary. They will begin a new journey of their own.

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In honor of their marriage, I wrote a song based on Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Here are the words to “A Strand of Three”

A Strand of Three

Verse 1

When we were alone    Wanting to be known

You could see that we were meant to be

But on our own we’re weak    So it’s You we seek

God we come before You, come to plea

Chorus

Thank You for putting us together

With You,    be with us forever

One plus one is two, but two is just too few

With Christ we’ll be a strand  of three

Verse 2

Each of us has dreams    But alone they seem

Impossible to conquer, hard to reach

Together we can start     Better than apart

To help each other reach them, to succeed

Verse 3

One of us may fall    Need to just reach out

Grasping out for help, for help to stand

And we know that You    Will be with us too

Thank You for Your ever-present hand

Chorus

Bridge

When You, O Father, write our verse

Together we can face the worst

Weave Your strength into our life

Holy Spirit, husband, wife

Chorus

 I would greatly appreciate your prayers for the wedding and for Nathaniel and Mary’s marriage!

 

6 Time Management Lies Christian Women Believe

6 Time Management LiesToday’s post is by Melanie Wilson, a Christian psychologist turned homeschooling mother of six! Find out more about her at the end of the post.

#1  I’ll remember that

I have a really good short-term memory. I can memorize information for a test and do well, for example. But if my son asks me to buy deodorant, my friend asks if I want to do lunch, and my husband tells me I’m in charge of taking the kids to tennis, I won’t remember. I have to write it down and set up reminders as well.

I know I’m not the only one who forgets. The Israelites constantly forgot what God said and got into trouble. The truth is, we not only need task reminders, but the reminders that come from regularly reading God’s Word.

#2  I don’t have enough hours in the day

I have often been guilty of saying I don’t have enough time. The cleaning, cooking, and other tasks seem overwhelming. Yet God has blessed all of us with 24 hours of time each day.  Would He give us more to do than could be accomplished with the time we have? I don’t think so.

God doesn’t overload my to-do list; I do. To make sure we’re doing His work, we have to go to Him every day in prayer. He promises to give us the wisdom we seek. When we’re done trimming the list, we’ll find we have all the time we need to do all He has called us to do.

#3 I’ll get caught up later

One of the things I learned from trying to lose weight for many years is that there will always be a reason to overeat today. We’re very creative at making holidays! The same is true of getting things done. I can come up with myriad reasons why I shouldn’t work on something today.

My favorite reason is because I’ll have more time later. We’ve already established that we’ll always have the same amount of time each day. What we will have more of, if we wait, is work. We should start today, even if we can only spend a few minutes working.

#4 I just need to find the right planner or application

Planners and apps for your phone can definitely help us remember our to-do’s. But they won’t add hours to our day or help us get caught up. If they did, we wouldn’t keep looking for a new one.

The most powerful time management tools are those you already own: paper, a pen, a timer, and willingness to work. Write down what you’d like to accomplish today, set a timer for a reasonable work period before taking a break (5-50 minutes) and get busy!

#5 I’m a procrastinator

As Christians, we would never repeatedly label ourselves a gossip, a liar, or a jealous person. We know that in Christ, we are new creations. The old is gone! But for some reason when it comes to putting things off (which the Bible calls laziness), we are comfortable retaining the label.

Research has demonstrated the power of labels on our beliefs and then our behavior. The more we tell ourselves we are procrastinators, the more we will exhibit lazy behavior. Try on the diligent woman label for a change.

#6 If it is to be, it’s up to me

This has been my lifelong motto and it’s a foolish one. This past year I’ve learned that I am running myself ragged for nothing. My family and friends want to help me; I just rarely let them.

God doesn’t expect us to do what He’s called us to do alone. Moses did this and his father-in-law pointed out that it wasn’t good! When we try to do it alone, we deprive others of the joy of serving alongside us. Today, kindly delegate some of your tasks that don’t have to be done by you.

Reading the Word, praying over our task list, starting today, using simple tools, wearing the right label, and asking for help can combat the lies we’ve believed about time management.

Which of these lies has been the most destructive in your life?

Dr. Melanie Wilson is a Christian psychologist turned homeschooling mother of six. She blogs about faith, time management, and homeschooling at Psychowith6.com.

Joy Stealers: Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a joy-stealer because it is unachievable. Learn a better way.

My friend Nina changed my life.

Nina is the mother of six beautiful children. Back when we were both homeschooling our kids, we sometimes got our families together at field trips, at picnics, or at play dates at the park. Nina is a wonderfully creative woman and an amazing mother.

There was just one problem. Sometimes she couldn’t remember her kid’s names when she wanted to call them. Often when she was trying to call one, she went through all six names before she hit upon the name of the child she actually wanted to call.

But Nina would just laugh at herself and go on. Nina also freely admitted when she had messed up. She didn’t even try to cover up or make excuses when she made a mistake.

And I liked her anyway.

That might sound a little odd, but you see, I thought that I had to be perfect for people to like me. I was trying very hard to hide my mistakes. I might tell you about my successes, but my failures? No way.

I was struggling with perfectionism. And perfectionism was stealing my joy.

The realization that I liked Nina even with her honesty about her faults was a revelation to me.

The fact that I actually liked her more because of her transparency, was life-changing. It was like someone had just given me permission to take off the control-top pantyhose I had been wearing for years. With Nina, I could relax and be myself, because she was so authentically… Nina.

Gradually I learned to laugh at my mistakes like Nina. I admitted when I was struggling with my parenting and asked others for advice. When I messed up, I apologized and moved on, instead of silently berating myself and making excuses to others.

In my spiritual life, I have also at times felt like I had to be perfect to come to God. That He wouldn’t like me if He knew who I really was. Intellectually, I knew this wasn’t the case. But whenever I made a mistake, slipped up, said something I could take back, I didn’t really imagine God forgiving me. I felt He was disappointed in me.

It has taken me a long time to really appreciate the fact that God loves me even though I’m messed up.

Romans 5: 8 says;

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

In other words:

Even though I’m not perfect God loves me. Even though I hurt Him and the people around me, He sent Jesus to die for me. Even though I’m a mess, He continues to call out to me, to draw me closer to Him.

God is continually working to make me more like Jesus, but I don’t have to be perfect before He loves me.

Perfectionism is a joy stealer because it is unachievable.

Perfect is an impossible standard, but forgiven is a mind-blowing fact.

Live joyfully forgiven.

Question: In what area of life do you sometimes struggle with perfectionism?

 

 

 

When Unspoken Words Are Valued

I love the thought of this quote I found today:

Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken. 

Orson Scott Card

When I started a Mouth Makeover back in 2011, it was because I wanted to change. I knew that I kept blurting out things that I should have kept inside. I sometimes spoke without thinking. I often engaged my mouth before initiating my brain.

The words of Proverbs 17:27-28 pointed a finger at me:

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
    and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
    when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

Too often I did not keep silent. I did not close my lips. And I looked, well…foolish.

But during the course of 2011, I continually focused on the words that came out of my mouth. I asked God to help me change the color of my speech. I began to pause before I spoke.

I learned one of the keys to godly speech is learning when not to speak.

Sometimes this is hard. I have juicy news that I have promised not to share. I am angry and I want to let stinging words fly. I feel the need to tell my story and interrupt someone else to make sure that I am heard.

That’s why this quote by Orson Scott Card struck me. What if I changed my perception of keeping my mouth shut from a negative action to a positive one? What if I viewed my unspoken words as my most prized possessions?

In weighing my words, I am holding onto my honor, I am cherishing friendship, I am valuing the other person more than myself. And in the process, according to Proverbs 27, I might even be considered wise.

There are three questions I try to ask myself before I speak:

  • Is what I am about to say necessary?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it something I would say if Jesus were sitting next to me?

Now I might add one more:

  • Would there be more value in speaking these words or in leaving them unsaid?

 

Father, give me wisdom to know when I should stay silent. Let me know when it is more valuable to leave something unspoken. Give me Your grace to weigh my words before I speak. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions: What methods do you use to control what comes out of your mouth?

A Slave’s Story. Part Three. Rescue.

For the past two months I have been telling the story of a modern-day slave. It’s hard to believe that slavery still exists, but experts estimate that there are 27 million people caught in the web of modern-day slavery. This story of Alina is based on real-life stories.

The first two parts of the story tell about Alina, a fifteen-year-old Russian girl, who answers an ad to be a nanny in America only to find herself trapped on a bus that is not heading for the airport, but for China. The bus travels through China and finally stops in Laos where she is sold to a wealthy family to work as a maid. Only she is really a household slave, for she is never allowed out of the house. She wouldn’t know what to do if she were out anyway, for she doesn’t know the language or anyone who could help her. Click to read all of Part One. Or Part Two.

Part Three

Alina works long hours cleaning, scrubbing, cooking. She has long stopped trying to fight against her captors. Refusing to work only results in deprivation of food, or worse, beatings.

But one day someone comes to the home who has kind eyes. When she looks at the fifteen-year-old, Alina feels that this woman understands what is happening. When the woman returns, Alina slips her a small sheet of paper that simply says, “Save me.”

Nothing happens for weeks and Alina once again loses hope.

But one day, there is loud knocking at the door. Men rush in and come toward Alina. She shrinks back thinking that these are more men who have come to take her away. Perhaps somewhere even worse than this house.

Then she notices the men are wearing uniforms–they look like police uniforms. They arrest the man who has been ordering her around, beating her, starving her. With his hands in cuffs, she breathes a sigh of relief. Maybe now she can get out of here and go back home.

The police try to explain something to Alina. She doesn’t understand, but follows them out of the house and into a police car. She is taken to a new place–a place of safety. She doesn’t know it yet, but this a safe house. An after-care facility where women like Alina can rebuild their lives.

 Read Part Four of Alina’s story next month.

To find out more about this issue visit Exodus Road–and organization the works specifically in the rescues like this one.

Question: What do you know about modern-day slavery?

 

Speak Grace

Today’s post is an excerpt from my e-book: Lip Service. If you would like to see more, sign up for my monthly e-newsletter in the space on the right. (If you are getting this in your email go to www.sharlafritz.com) After you sign up, I will send you a copy of the e-book!

“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt,

 so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

Colossian 4:6 NASB

A few years ago my husband John and I were flying home from a trip to Seattle. I started a conversation with the man seated next to me and discovered that he was on the way to a funeral of a close friend. He told us how this friend had been a college buddy and that they had kept in touch in spite of the distance between them. He wanted to be there for his friend’s widow.

During the flight my husband took the opportunity to speak some encouraging words to this grieving man. John said, “Saying good-bye to a friend is never easy. People always say the departed is going to a better place. For those who believe in Jesus as their Savior that’s really true. And let me tell you that you don’t have to worry about what to say to your friend’s family. The fact that you showed up will be a comfort to them.”

John spoke grace to our fellow passenger. He took the opportunity to tell the man about the hope we have in Jesus. He encouraged this traveler on a sad journey.

When I began my mouth makeover at the beginning of 2011, I pursued it like a research project. I read through God’s Word and wrote down every reference that talked about our lips, mouths, and tongues. I read books like Word’s That Hurt, Words that Heal and 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue. I developed a set of guidelines for my mouth makeover. Don’t complain. Be polite. Don’t swear. Say one nice thing to my hubby today. (That’s it—just one—he better not expect any more!)

About half-way through the year I realized that although my mouth had improved, my words were not always full of love. I recognized the fact that a true mouth makeover is not simply following a list of rules—it is a way to dispense God’s grace.

I began to look around for opportunities to share God’s grace. I asked God to give me eyes to see who needed an infusion of His love.  Like my husband who took the time to encourage a fellow passenger, I wanted to use my words to offer healing to the hurting people God put in my path. Now when I go to a meeting I ask God to show me who needs a word of support or praise. When I meet a friend for lunch I ask Him to give me the words of mercy and love that she needs to hear.

Start to cultivate the habit of noticing the people who pass through your life. Observe the tired cashier in the grocery store. Detect a hurting friend. Perceive your husband’s disappointment. Look for opportunities to build them up.

Develop the skill of seeing inner brokenness. Begin to observe which people may need a refreshing word or appreciative comment. Then ask God, “What do they need to hear?” We must be willing to play the part of Jesus by recklessly distributing God’s grace to those who are crushed and broken.

Speak grace.

 

Take Action

Ask God to give you eyes to see who is in need of His grace today. Pray that He would give you just the right words of appreciation, support, or comfort that each person needs.

Links for helpful books on using our words wisely: