Christmas · inner child · Spirituality

How is your inner child?

I settled myself on on my mat as the yoga class began at our local arts center. Laura, the cute young instructor, began leading us in some easy stretches and encouraged us to center our spirits. “If you are having trouble getting your mind to quiet down,” she said, “put your inner child over to the side and give her something to do.”

This idea immediately grabbed my imagination. I frequently struggle to get my ‘monkey brain’ to focus. Thoughts tend to randomly pop into my head, often causing me to get mixed up mid-sentence. It doesn’t take much to distract me — just ask my family.

So as I stretched my tight muscles on that cold morning, I could feel my six-year-old self pulling at me for attention. She was wearing a wrinkled shirt with a Peter Pan collar, a short skirt and knee socks that were falling down around her ankles. She was bouncing up and down and definitely needed something to occupy her.

I gave her a coloring book and a new box of Crayola crayons and sent her over to the side of the room. She scrunched down on the floor and was soon happily coloring away. I let out a sigh, knowing she was being taken care of, and turned my mind back to the yoga class.

Do you ever need to put your inner child over to the side in order to concentrate? Author and speaker Bob Goff said on a recent podcast that when he needs to sit down to write, he pulls up the movie Shrek on his computer and minimizes it to the corner of his screen. Then his inner child watches the movie, and he can focus on his manuscript.

For the same reason, I usually pull up music while I’m writing. Lately, my inner child has been listening to Christmas music while I’m at the keyboard. Sometimes she will interrupt me when one of our favorites comes on, but I can usually pacify her with a few minutes of attention and get back to work.

But I don’t want to always push her to the side. I love the familiar story in Mark 10 of Jesus telling the disciples to let the children come to him. In the verses right before this story, some Pharisees had come to try to trick Jesus up by asking his opinion on divorce and adultery. Don’t you know he got tired of people constantly trying to catch him contradicting the very Scriptures he came to fulfill?

I imagine Jesus, tired and frustrated, finally sitting down, when the children come barreling in to jump in his lap. His mood instantly lightens. The ever-vigilant disciples try to run the children off, but Jesus shows a rare temper and tells them to let the children come to him. Then we are told that he “hugged the children and blessed them.” (Mark 10:16)

Does your inner child need a hug occasionally? I know mine does. Sometimes she gets overly tired, and her emotions get touchy. She feels scared, sad, and mad. I’m learning that there are times when I need to take a break and love on her a little.

Other times, she needs to come out and play, especially at this time of year. She oohs and ahs over the pretty colored lights on the Christmas tree, binges on coconut pie and laughs at all the one-liners from Christmas Vacation (many which are not appropriate for a six-year-old however). I find my deep-down joy coming from her.

As we come up to the last frantic days before Christmas, I hope that you take some time with your inner child to sing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ at the top of your lungs, shake the packages under the tree, and play with your nativity set.  And if she gets cranky, I hope you will wrap your arms around her, make some hot chocolate, and settle down to watch It’s a Wonderful Life.

comfort zones · Prayer of Jabez · Spirituality

Stretching Out Our Roots

It’s the time of year when I go a little crazy at the garden centers. I drool over all the beautiful flowers and buy too many. I spent all last week planting and now I love the color that is popping up in my yard!

I have two Christmas Cacti that I bring outside when the weather turns warm and this year I finally got around to repotting them. They belonged to my Great-aunt Frances and I brought them home from a family reunion more than twelve years ago, not long after she died. They bloom every year around November, and I feel like a part of her is with me during the Christmas season. But in the last few years they have been looking scrawny. I decided they needed an upgrade.

A few Christmases ago.

I dumped them out of their old pots and was shocked at how little dirt they had been living on! These are some hardy plants! Their roots were pressed up against the sides of the pot as if they were fighting to get out.

I know that I’m a weird plant lady, but when I settled them into fresh potting soil and new larger pots, I swear I heard them say, “Aww, that feels so good!” They immediately looked better. I moved them to the back porch where they get lots of afternoon sun and they are thriving.

Aunt Frances’ cacti had become rootbound, which means that their roots had nowhere to go and were circling back on themselves. According to a gardening website, they were choking themselves to death. No wonder they were looking puny.

Those dried up roots remind me of the way I feel at times. I think and act in the same old ways for so long that I get rolled up in a tight little ball. If I don’t give myself a way to stretch and grow, I will start to wither just like the plants.

I was reminded of the little devotional book that was popular twenty years ago, The Prayer of Jabez, by Bruce Wilkinson. The book is based on this short prayer inserted in the middle of a long, boring section of I Chronicles 4:

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel,

“Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!

Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”

And God granted his request.

(I Chronicles 4:10)

This book was impactful in its simplicity — we ask God to bless us, give us a wider group to influence and keep us from harm. But Wilkinson raises the question: Do we want God to bless us and enlarge our territory?

Most of the time we feel like we have enough to handle with what is currently on our plate, without God adding more. Yet Jabez asks God to literally enlarge his tent. He says, “Give me more opportunities to work for you, Lord.”

Isn’t this another way of asking God to get us out of our comfort zones? Maybe we need to ask him to give us a little more room to stretch out our roots, to let go of whatever is holding us in and explore new paths.

As I have been pushing myself to move past some harmful attitudes and actions, I feel like my roots are no longer hitting the side of the pot. Growth can be painful, but it can also be liberating. When I tentatively stretch out my roots I may find myself moving into more fertile soil.

Do you feel God pushing you to expand today? Start by asking for his blessing and you may be surprised at how good it feels to stretch.