The plane landed in Quito, Ecuador. I had packed excitement and anticipation in the suitcase of my heart. What joy it is to have the opportunity to address hundreds of women in this beautiful city.
And, as usual, I prepared my trip by calling the airline ahead of time. “I’m blind and I’ll be traveling alone. Can you provide an escort for me to navigate through the airport?”
They did. And once in Quito’s airport, the friendly escort led me through immigration, luggage claim and to the exit door. “My friend should be here any minute to pick me up,” I said.
We waited, and waited. No one came to pick me up. What would I do in a new city, with nowhere to go, no cell phone service and unable to see my surroundings?
But peace remained because that morning I had prepared my heart before leaving the house. I put on headphones, heard Bible verses and pondered in their meaning. God was in my heart, filling me with peace, with reassurance and confidence.
I carried all that as I waited for someone to pick me up. Two hours later they did. It had become a habit for me. As I travel alone across the U.S. or abroad, these are the ways I manage to keep that calmness only God can provide.
1. Make God a priority.
“How do you do it?” my friend said to me when she called to ask for prayer. “I try to make time for God, but life is so hectic.” I smiled. I’ve been there. Kids demand the moment they open their eyes. Schedules need to be followed. Chores to do, places to go, husbands to please. When do we find time for God?
“It’s a decision,” I said, “it begins with the mind, the thoughts and the resolve.”
When you set time for Him first, God will give you all you need. He will give time. He will give peace. He will give wisdom. That’s why the Bible says: “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
2. Set a time and place for you and Him alone.
I was a bit envious when my friend described the special place in her home for her quiet time with the Lord. She set a table by the window, placed a beautiful lavender candle, her Bible, a pad of paper, pen, and a group of cards with her favorite verses. She sat on a comfortable chair, making that spot the silent, quiet place to spend with the Lord.
Not me. Our home was so small that the place for me when my kids were little was the bathroom. With the door closed, it was only I and God.
God doesn’t look at the physical surroundings as long as our heart can be still enough to allow His precepts to penetrate our heart and His Word to seep into our soul. That’s when peace washes over us knowing that He not only sustains us but He’s the one who fights our battles. “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
3. Consider the rewards.
“I’m addicted,” my friend said, “sometimes I even take my phone to the bathroom, I got to check what’s going on, what my friends are up to. And post stuff myself.”
She tried to go into a Facebook fast. But it didn’t last. She tried to put her phone away; that lasted half an hour. She tried to find a friend to make her accountable, but the friend also struggled with the same social media madness.
That’s when she chose to exchange. She put aside the small rewards that social media brought. And, instead, she relished in the sweet joy that moments in the presence of the Lord gave her. “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11
4. Choose, not the good, but the best.
Guilt, guilt bombards the heart when we fail to follow through with our commitments to be still in His presence. And other times, a different guilt pops up when we leave certain household chores undone. What is the answer? Two sisters give us a hint and set the example. Martha chose to get busy, Mary chose to be calm. Martha chose what was good. Mary chose what was better.
“Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40-42
5. Plan ahead when you’re away from home. Hubby always likes to plan. And his detailed schedule becomes more intricate when our family goes on vacation.
I don’t mind. And although I relished on the time away during those vacations, restlessness nagged. Our boys misbehaved and impatience won, even frustration visited from time to time. That’s when I learned that taking vacation from the daily routine can’t mean taking vacation from those rich moments in the Lord’s presence.
Instead of neglecting this special time, I made my own plan to find my own moments of spiritual delight. “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” Psalm 119:16
6. Stop to listen. Sometimes as Moms, we have a sixth sense. We can feel when our kids are up to something. When they’re hiding something. Or upset. They don’t have to say a word. We know, we just do.
But even when we know, life happens. It’s way too busy, so we forget the vital part and that is to listen. Oh yes, we listen, but often it’s with cell in hand, checking posts, lured by social media, or texting messages. Our minds are on the task, our heart is partly with our kids, and our attentiveness to what they’re saying is reduced to nearly zero.
The task is challenging because in order to listen, really listen, we need to sacrifice–stop the activity. Put away the phone. Make eye contact. And lean toward the person. This is the best way to convey they’re important. And when it comes to listening to God, the same approach is needed. To put all else aside, turn all our heart toward Him and listen—to His whisper, to His guidance, to His instruction.
“I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.:” Psalm 119:58-59
7. Find His presence in hectic moments. She gritted her teeth. “I’m so stupid! I left my cell at home. Now my son can’t call me to pick him up.” Those words echoed the same self-deprecating phrases I used when things suddenly went wrong.
Who can blame us? We’re conditioned to put the focus on the part we messed up and lament the consequences. But it’s in those moments that God’s voice calls us to take a deep breath. And even for a minute or two, ponder on His goodness, reflect on His solutions and declare our trust in Him.
That’s because when frustration happens, a minute in His presence keeps us from being shaken. “I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:7-8
8. Practice silent prayer before making all decisions. It’s been said that we became addicted to the “hurry habit.” I’m waving my hand in the air because that was me. When my boys were all in elementary school, those words were repeated more often than others, “C’mon guys, hurry up. We’re already late.” “Hurry up and eat, we need to go.” “Hurry, your brother is already in the car.”
It’s in that hurried kind of life that I made my dumbest mistakes. “Mommy, can Danny and Mike spend the night?” Of course I was probably in a hurry when he asked that question and in my rush, I said yes. UGH! What a mistake. That was the night before a baby shower at my house.
So, from then on, the answer was, “You need to give Mommy a few minutes to think about that and then I’ll give you an answer.” When we take a minute aside to look to God and ask for wisdom, we avoid regrets and we rejoice instead. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
9. Evaluate activities. “I think the world is crumbling on top of me,” my friend said on the phone. How often I’ve felt that same way. And when I sought prayer, a friend gave the best suggestion ever. “Check all the activities you’re involved in,” she said, “is all that busyness pleasing the Lord?”
I swallowed hard. Of course it wasn’t. In an effort to do good things, to be involved, I took on responsibilities at my kids’ school, church, the neighborhood and even my book club. But when I reviewed the list, one by one, I scratched off what infringed in my priorities: My time with God and my time with my family.
In order to take the right path, in silent prayer I asked God to replace busy with blessings. And rather than choosing my own ‘good works’ to do, I asked for him to reveal to me the works He planned and prepared for me. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
10. End your day with a heart of gratitude When my three sons were small, exhaustion followed me to bed every night. And when morning came, the race started all over again.
And adding to my chaos, stress would chase me mercilessly. It did because I focused on the chores to be done and on the responsibilities as a Mom and wife.
But when my Pastor challenged us to embrace an attitude of gratitude, the stress disappeared.
I chose to take moments to stop my day and give thanks for whatever came to mind. When my sons began to quarrel, I thanked God because they were healthy. When I wiped the kitchen counter top for the umpteenth time, I thanked God we had food to prepare on it.
When dishes piled up, I thanked God I had hands and energy to get them done.
And before closing my eyes at night, a few moments of gratitude for all the good in my life filled my thoughts. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
God’s blessings come in health, opportunities, provision and the fullness of life. But we empty that fullness when, in the busyness , we neglect quiet moments before Him.