Welcome to Unpacked Heart.
Over the past few years, there has been a stirring in me to write. I went through a time when I would sit down at the computer or with my journal and chirpety-chirp went the crickets. Was it writers block? Words have always come easy for me and for a span of several years, I would sit down to write and…chirp. My heart was clogged. It was packed to the brim with details, trying to keep up with the wild schedule we were keeping in an unusually busy season of transition.
When I think of something that is needing to be un-packed, I think of something full that needs to be emptied. In the medical world, a clog in the heart is not to be ignored. My heart was truly clogged, packed to the fullest capacity and deeply craving to find normalcy and rest in the middle of this zany season we were in. While in the middle of day to day life, I didn’t necessarily notice how stressed I had become, but when I would sit down to have quiet time with the Lord or attempted to write, I began to recognize that my time, my focus, my passion even seemed to be a little clogged. While I could always find some sense of deep peace and rest in time with Jesus, life was anything but restful! Activities that were once so exciting began to lose their zest. I have always been a walker and love to be on the move, but during this season of constantly being on the go, I had lost my motivation…most nights falling into bed and reaching for the snooze the next day. Life in the fast lane can do that to a person.
Life in the Faster-Than-a-Speeding-Bullet Lane
The past 5 years of my life and family’s life have not just been lived in the fast lane, but more like the faster-than-a-speeding-bullet lane. In that short amount of times my husband and I met and got married, moved 4 times. Between my husband and I, we had 11 jobs (at various times!), and our son went to 4 different schools. I resigned from my dream job where I worked for 10 years and had many close friends there. My grandfather passed away which was a very painful time to watch him decline so quickly and unexpectedly. Several of our family members have moved out of state, and we miss them deeply. We have also made many new friends–who have also moved away and we have had to start fresh making new friends and trying to maintain old relationships from a distance. Our son with special needs also had to have several new weekly services added to his plate, and he also began a series of 8 hard-plaster casts on both feet to help him walk better. And to top it all off, we started a new pastorate at a church in a brand new community 90 miles from our friends and loved ones. Yes…life was FAST during this time.
The dust is finally beginning to settle after all the changes. We are becoming familiar with our new community and moved into a new home (again!). There are many items yet in storage, but we are pretty much all settled in and loving this new season! There is a lot inside of me that still needs to be unpacked–memories, stories, life lessons, and even a deeper look at the emotions that may have been brushed aside during the chaotic time of transition.
I had the opportunity for a few weeks to fill in for another staff member at my former job. On my 95 minute drive home, tears were streaming down my cheeks and I was hit with a wave of emotion I didn’t even know was packed deep inside. I spent that time thanking God for the ways that that “job” not only paid the bills, but it shaped who I am today. There are thousands of memories that I will hold in my heart, and being back on the old stomping grounds helped me to realize that I had been so very thankful for my decade in that Christ-centered environment and the hundreds of people who had touched my life in deeply profound ways. It was a place where I knew I was loved and valued and could bring all that God set inside of me to do and was free to do it there. What a gift. Even now, as I am writing, the lump is visiting my throat and tears and welling up. Being confronted with this painful emotion reminds me that the soul must be unpacked on a regular basis. Over the years, I have been a pastoral counselor to many and a common responses are to self-medicate, to focus on the pain of others, to become bitter or angry, to minimize the pain or even to pretend the pain isn’t there. In the busy-ness of my recent life, it is so much easier to tell myself, “Its not that bad” or “I’m fine” when in reality, there may be deeper levels of grief to face that in the hustle and bustle of life, I told myself, “this doesn’t hurt. I need to move forward.” If someone had an arm chopped off, got hit by a car or punched in the gut, it would call for a response to the pain. But all too often, we tell ourselves that our pain doesn’t matter…not because we don’t feel it, but because we are too busy to deal with it. I hear quite often from others, and have said myself, “I don’t have the time to cry.” Tears are a gift from God! There is a science behind tears (google it!) that there are different types of tears. For example the tears we shed from cutting onions are just saline. But when we shed tears of sorrow or stress…there are toxins in the tears! God created us to detoxify our bodies and get the tears out!
“A hurried soul is not a deep soul.”
A wise pastor friend of ours said, “A hurried soul is not a deep soul.” While life in the faster-than-a-speeding-bullet lane can be adventurous, fun and exciting, it can also be stressful and if we are not careful that stress can take a toll on our soul! There is always something to think about, something to plan, something to do. Scientists have proven that the negative stress that comes in response to turbulent times (distress) and positive stress that comes along with circumstances one is excited about (eustress) have a very similar effect on the body. That being said, soul care is of utmost importance. Whether it is a challenging time of a funeral or a loss of a job or a joyful time of planning a wedding or a vacation, the soul needs to find a place of rest.
When I was single, date nights with Jesus were frequent. I loved to call these nights “soul spas!” A time when my soul would be refreshed. Whether it was a time to go and get my nails done, go for a walk or to lock myself in the bedroom with my journal and Bible, it was a discipline I really began to enjoy and have adapted into my life on a regular basis now. When we first got married, I told my husband that these “soul spa” times were a must! I’m so thankful for a husband who sees the importance of caring for his own soul and encourages me to do the same for mine. One winter night, I came home from work and was ready to get busy packing for a move (again!) and was also getting prepared to resign from my beloved job. He handed me an envelope when I got home and told me to go right back to my car. He kissed me goodbye and sent me on my way! The envelope had several other smaller envelopes inside of it and on each one was a designated time when I could open it. The first one read, “Go here first.” I opened it up and there was a gift card to Starbucks! He encouraged me to spend some time with Jesus while I enjoyed a delish drink! I spent time there for a little bit and when the time came to open the second envelope I found a slip waiting for me that he had made an appointment for me to get a massage! And after my massage, he blessed me with some cash to go and purchase a new outfit. What a guy! As wonderful as that night was, what stands out is not the massage, the coffee or the new outfit, but rather the love my husband has for me and the way he encourages my relationship with God to be nourished. Even more, the desire that Jesus has for me to come and find rest for my weary soul. Matthew 11:28-30 says,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Time to Unpack.
I’m speaking to myself here, because I’m in a different season now. Life is still full and there are many things going on, but it is slower. I’m learning to unwind and take time for myself. I am taking time to write and to plan for things that are important to me. I am taking time to sit for as long as it takes so that all that has been packed inside can be pulled out.
There is a process that goes into packing. Depending on how organized a person is, the process can be quite tedious! It seems that no matter how much I prepare for a big move, there are always a few last minute items that are shoved into the box right before it is sealed and ready to put into the U-Haul. In a similar way, no matter how much I address my emotions as I’m going through life, there are often feelings that just get shoved inside my heart in the hustle and bustle of life to be unpacked later. As I sit in God’s presence, there are often hurts and feelings that come to the surface that I’ve either packed away or was just too busy to want to face them. Just like taking the time to unpack after a vacation or a big move, sometimes we have to take time to let God show us what is in our hearts so that we can be free to live the life that God has called each of us to live. We are called to be the light in this dark, stressful, adventurous, wonderful world that He created. There are stories and memories that are yet to be unpacked, burdens that I might not even realize I need to give to Jesus and light that He wants to shine through me. As I unpack my heart, my prayer is that you’ll find a lightened load for your own soul. That you’ll find peace in the midst of your busiest moments where you can sit at the feet of Jesus, unpacked heart wide open and ready to receive all He has for you.
Prayer for An Unpacked Heart
Heavenly Father, my soul’s delight,
help me sit still with you and help me travel light.
Lift the burdens from my soul,
Free me God and make me whole.
Unpack my heart from worry, shame and fear.
In this place of stillness, I know that you are near.
Unpack my heart from burdens, the shame that lies inside.
Free my from my sorrows, from the pain I try to hide.
Unpack my heart and fill me with strength from above
As together we unpack my heart and you fill me with your love.