Slower. Simpler. More Soulful.
A few years ago, I was caught in a season of over-busyness. I was working full time in a marketing role, parenting a toddler, and juggling lots of other church and social commitments too.
I often found myself feeling stressed out, over-extended, and longing to slow down – yet struggling to make the changes I so desperately craved in my life.
But as I dug deep into God’s word, what I discovered is that you don’t have to completely rip up the script, quit your job, get ‘off the grid’, or vacate your normal life in order to experience a slower, simpler, more soulful way of life.
That deep soul rest we all crave isn’t just something we encounter lying on the beach or by the pool once a year! You can experience right where you are. It just takes a bit of intentionality about adopting rhythms of rest into your everyday life.
In my new book, Sand Between Your Toes: Inspirations for a Slower, Simpler, More Soulful Life I offer 100 different daily scriptures, hope-filled prayers, and simple practices to help you begin to do this.
And as a taster, I have selected a few of my very favourite practices to help get you started:
- Practice being still
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
This is a real challenge for activists and A-type personalities like me. To me, being still often sounds… well, a little bit boring!
Plus, we live in a culture which really over-values busyness too, don’t we? It’s like we’ve all been conditioned to believe that constant movement and motion is more desirable than pause- even if it doesn’t really take us anywhere useful.
But the truth I am coming to realises is this: busyness with clear purpose can be worse than standing still. Maybe sometimes we really do just need to hit pause, choose to be still, and let Him be God.
So if you’re lacking clarity or direction today, why not try it today? Press the pause button on activity for a moment. Try taking a few moments each day to be still in God’s presence. Turn off your phone and push aside all other distractions.
Simply focus on Him and let it begin to change your perspective.
- Turn down the noise
“Let all that I am wait quietly before God” (Psalm 62:5)
Do you ever feel stressed out or mentally harassed by the endless ‘to do’ list in your head? Or do you ever find yourself mentally overwhelmed and exhausted by the endless streams of information constantly vying for your attention?
The digital age has created a world where our minds are just constantly bombarded by noise, and where true silence is becoming harder and harder to find. Is it any wonder that sometimes it feels so difficult to tune into God?
Maybe there’s a direct correlation between the amount of noise we allow into our lives and our inability to hear God’s voice as clearly or as often as we would like to. And maybe we also need to be more deliberate and disciplined about turning it down at times.
Practising this might feel a bit unnatural at first – but why not just start small? Try spending just 10 minutes being completely silent before God today – no words, and no agenda. Just listen and hold space for his presence. Don’t worry if your mind drifts off; just gently keep bringing it back. And as you get more practiced, you could stretch yourself for longer periods too…
Who knows, but perhaps you might find the silence speaking to you loudly!
- Declutter your space
“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:21)
It’s no surprise that minimalism has made it’s mark in a world that’s become so obsessed with consumerism and the pursuit of ‘more’. There’s just something so satisfying about getting rid of unnecessary clutter and choosing to live more lightly and freely instead.
But for me, the idea of paring down on possessions goes far beyond the mere aesthetic of a tidy home, or even the practical benefits of simplifying or streamlining my life. It’s also a spiritual practice too, because the truth is that with having more things, only tends to come more stress and worry. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to become so weighed down, tied up, or distracted by material things that I risk missing anything that God has for me…
So nowadays, my basic rule is that if I haven’t used or worn something in the past 12 months, then chances are I probably never will. It’s time to clear it out and give it away to someone who needs it more – because an uncluttered home, really is an uncluttered heart.
How about you? Could you simplify your life by getting rid of what you don’t need? Have a clear out. Get some bin liners and bag up everything you don’t regularly use, and/or don’t really love. Give it away to someone who needs it more than you.
Try lightening the load by getting rid of excess stuff you don’t need.
- Take a digital detox
“You say, “I am allowed to do anything” but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)
Are you in control of your phone, or is your phone in control of you? According to the latest research, the average person checks their phone 33 times every day and spends at least 1 hour 40 minutes browsing on it. If that seems like a lot of time – that’s because it is!
But if we’re honest, most of the time we barely notice the amount of our time being continuously sucked away by distracting alerts that scatter your attention, because it happens in lots of tiny moments. Is it any wonder that we often feel mentally harassed and like there’s not enough hours in the day?
Well if like me, you often struggle to unplug, unwind and rest your mind, perhaps it’s time to consider doing a digital detox. I’m not anti-technology and I’m certainly not advocating a total boycott, but it’s really important not to let social media steal away your time and fragment your sense of peace.
So why not start by considering some personal boundaries or setting some simple household rules around mobile phone use? You could try a day or an evening a week where you go completely device free. Or if that sounds too much of a leap, decide a time that you will switch off your phone/laptop/tablet etc each evening and not look at it again. Or perhaps set a ‘no phones at the table’ rule during family meals.
Figure out what will work for you, agree it with those around you, and then just stick to it…
- Practice self-reflection
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Have you ever found yourself getting frustrated or wound up about something very trivial, and then thought to yourself afterwards, ‘What is wrong with me?!’ I do this all the time!
Maybe some of those emotional outbursts come from never really creating the time and space to process life as it happens, or to properly deal with its impact on our hearts. And although what’s inside of our heart can stay hidden for a time, sooner or later it will end up overflowing into our words and actions – and it will probably end up spilling out at the wrong time or at the wrong person.
So it’s really worth taking some time out for regular self-reflection and proactively processing our emotions. Learning to ‘guard your heart’, as the Bible puts it, means being brave enough to deal with any hurts, disappointments or offences day by day as they happen, instead of just shelving things until a later date, which often never comes.
So why not take a quick emotional pulse-check at the end of your day? Ask God to show you any emotional baggage you might need to deal with. This could be through prayer, meditation or journaling. Whatever works for you, try to mentally unload the emotions from the day so that you don’t carry them into the next.
Discover how to live lightly by not continually dragging that stuff around!
- Lean into joy
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
Life can offer us the most incredible highs, yet at other times can be tinged with so much pain. But more often than not, it’s just somewhere in the middle, between the mediocre and mundane. I think that’s why the Bible reminds us to lean into joy…
I have to admit that it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do in life is to just lighten up a bit. Sometimes pursuing joy can seem a little bit self-indulgent, when we could be doing something more ‘spiritual’ or ‘useful’ instead.
But the truth is that not everything in life needs to be serious; there is purpose in having fun too. It’s not pointless, frivolous, or a waste of time, because it feeds our souls, it blesses others around us too, and it brings joy to our Maker’s heart.
So why not grab every opportunity to celebrate goodness, to embrace silliness, and to enjoy the fun side of life? Choose to do something that has absolutely no purpose, other than just being fun. Think of it as a celebration of life, and an act of worship to God.
Learn to feel God’s delight in you, as you delight in his world!
- Prioritise connection
“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.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
We’re the most technologically connected generation ever, but also the most relationally disconnected too. In fact, 72% of us report regularly feeling alone (and this was pre-pandemic!).
Perhaps we have settled for the illusion of connectedness over genuine community, for breadth of reach over depth of intimacy, and just being known about over really being known?
But the truth is that we are relational beings, created in the image of a relational God, each designed to thrive best together rather than alone. So choose to prioritize people wherever you find yourself, and decide to intentionally invest in community – even when it feels hard.
Don’t have one yet? Then seek one out. Join a class, or take up a new hobby. Or better still, why not build one yourself? Take a risk and make yourself vulnerable. Initiate some coffee dates, or play dates if you have kids. Open up your home and your heart.
Prioritising people is an investment into the eternal – and one you will never, ever regret!
- Schedule rest
“God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because he rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:3)
It strikes me that a lot of the tiredness we feel isn’t just physical, but its emotional and mental exhaustion too.
Too often we can find ourselves exhausted at the end of the day, crashing out in front of Netflix, aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, or mindlessly googling about stuff we don’t need. And although that might be physical rest, it might be relaxing on the sofa instead of rushing around like we do all day; the truth is that it’s rarely mental downtime or that deep soul rest that we rarely crave.
Maybe true rest is less about physically stopping, and more about resting the mind; maybe it’s less about doing nothing, and more about doing ‘something different’ instead.
Of course, our need to regularly rest from work is not a newsflash for our Creator! The concept of ‘Sabbath’ – taking one day in seven to step away from the schedule, the to-do list and the routine – was his idea after all.
Not sure where to begin in developing regular rhythms of rest in your life? Why not start by taking a short, honest rest inventory of your week: Are you resting enough? And is it ‘quality’ rest? Do you regularly practice switching off and stepping away from everything? Or do you need to schedule some real rest in?
Think about what feels truly restful for you – then get intentional and plan to do it regularly.
- Try saying ‘no’
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” (Psalm 62:5)
Our culture is obsessed with more: more work, more money, more achievements, more success, more influence, more stuff.
Often ‘more’ can sound like the most spiritual or selfless option, can’t it? More commitment, more activity, more self-sacrifice, more service. But sometimes less is more. Less rushing around, less cramming things in, less spreading yourself too thin, and less pushing yourself so hard can be much more beneficial.
In fact, sometimes saying no is the single most spiritual thing we can do. Too often when we take on more, we are actually just people-pleasing—trying to please others rather than accomplishing what God wants us to do.
It can be so easy to slip into believing that saying yes is always the better option, because yes is the word that makes things happen. If we don’t do it, who will? And so often we end up putting the needs of everyone else before our own.
But saying no when you already feel overstretched and overloaded in order to prioritize the health of your own soul is not selfish; it’s necessary. And it’s also the right thing to do, both for you and for those around you – because you simply can’t give what you don’t have.
So if you find regularly over-extended and spread too thinly, try using this magic little two letter word ‘no’. Turn down a project. Drop some commitments. Choose to let some of the unimportant things slide.
Put your hope in God, not in how much you can do, and discover deeper rest for your soul.
- Ask for help!
“He gives grace generously” (James 4:6)
Do you frequently find yourself struggling to slow down for fear of dropping the ball? Me too. And yet if I’m honest, more often than not I choose to keep relying on my own strength rather than asking for the help that I need. Does that sound familiar?
The truth is that we don’t need to run ourselves ragged and work ourselves to the bone, because God freely and generously offers us his grace.
Grace means not having to do all things and know all things and be all things, all the time, and yet still knowing that you are held in his love. And all you need to do to receive this grace is humbly ask for it.
Grace doesn’t run out – it isn’t rationed, is never in short supply, and you can’t use your quota up for the day. There is always more available! And even when God gives an outrageously generous amount to someone else, it doesn’t hamper his ability to extend that same grace to you. There is more than enough to go around!
So if you’re struggling on in your own strength today, why not consider admitting your weakness and asking him for his grace? Take as much as you need. And then take some extra, just in case!
If you liked these tips, you can find out more about Sand Between Your Toes HERE!
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