Doing Ok? Reflect, and You May Find Out

Are you doing ok? Is this season – summer – going the way you’d hoped it would (so far)?

It’s taken me until mid-life to admit this, but I like my routines and have a difficult time when they’re changed. I become irritable. Sullen. Angry. And eventually, I’m sort of numb to those around me. Even I don’t want to spend time with me.

This came to my attention last week when I was snapping at my kids and husband hourly, and I finally realized that my days were looking dramatically different than they did just weeks ago. I needed to make a few changes to give myself some self-care over the summer months.

Renewing my commitments to daily prayer and Scripture time, talking through my feelings with my husband, doing a bit of exercise, and making an effort to see my friends went a long ways toward improving my mood. But so did one other thing I’d like to recommend: a gentle period of reflection.

Let me admit up front that I am not an expert in reflection. I’ve contemplated various periods of my life and written about many experiences, but I’m not someone who sits down every few months or even once a year and asks, “What is the overarching message of my current life? What do I need to learn?”

But now that I’ve done this, I can see its value. Annie Dillard famously said in The Writing Life, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”

So, what are we doing with our time? Periodically asking seems sage. Maybe even necessary.

In Episode 84 of her podcast, The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman gives a great overview of how to do a reflection, and she encourages her listeners to start with the last 3 months. Using her questions as a guide, I recently reviewed April, May, and June. To trigger my memory, I reviewed the photos in my phone, my calendar, and a few of my to-do lists. You might try doing the same.

In the honesty of your own heart, ask yourself the following:

1) Which events were the happiest, most joyful, and life-giving for me?
2) Where did I experience disappointment, sadness, and fear?
3) What are my unresolved questions, both big and small, that bother me consistently?
4) Where do I use my time well? Where could I make better choices?
5) When I review my to-do lists, which things are consistently undone? Why are they undone?
6) What tasks make me feel most alive when I do them?
7) What small changes could I make that would imbue my life with more energy?
8) Can I ask God for the willingness to trust Him more in the areas where I need direction and help? How can I invite Him into my days?

If this exercise intrigues you, visit Emily’s site and dig deeper. My questions are very similar to Emily’s (because hers were great!) and in the same order, but they are far less comprehensive. She covers more topics.

We are here to live full, purposeful lives, but it’s difficult to do that when we’re rushing from one place to the next, meeting the demands of our days without drawing meaningful connections from our experiences. Take a little time to unwrap the gifts of the last three months; uncover the graces God has laid there for you.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I love the reminder To invite God in. It’s silly how often I forget to do that first but rather muddle along until the light goes on. Recently a quote keeps coming to mind “The Days are long, The year’s are short.”. It’s so true and to make each day count, and to be present for those near us has value.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Renee. You are so wise when you say you “muddle along until the light goes on.” Don’t we all? I know I do. I act as if I can do it all by myself. Even when I know (intellectually) that He’s fully ready and willing to step in to my life in way that’s best for me, I will plow forward, bent on living as if I’m all alone. And the result? I miss the joy and wonder His presence brings. I act as if I’m not wired for Him – not meant to really be in a relationship with God, though I know that’s totally at odds with the truth of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

      But when I stop and ask where God is in a situation, when I expect to be given the eyes to see His grace at work, it will eventually become evident – because He wants to make His love for us manifest. He seeks a connection with us. He knocks at the door (Revelation 3:20) and our hearts – in the deep, hardened recesses – want to allow Him to come in. Then, His presence changes everything.

      But we do need to take that step to open the places in our lives that we have decided are impenetrable. We need to let Him come in.

      Thank you so much for writing! Blessings always.

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