Pulse Check: How Have You Changed?

Come into focus.

Several times in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed changes in myself while in the midst of certain moments. 

It got me thinking — and thankful — about the ways we change over time.

For instance, recently I found myself walking along with a new friend without anything top of mind to say. My usual pattern would be to wrack my brain for something to talk about — and probably to berate myself in the process to hurry up and say something interesting, worthwhile, or funny.

But I chose not to do that. Since nothing came to mind to say, I just let the silence be what it was, and I felt really okay with that.

That was a pretty surprising — and amazement-inducing — moment. 

I saw that I’d changed. I wasn’t scared of the silence or of losing my new friend.

Another time I read a passage in a book that talked about the kind of character needed in a person for them to be ready to take up their calling. Normally, I would have analyzed the author’s words — along the way, analyzing myself — and clung to the book in an anxious attempt to find answers. I would have underlined and hemmed and hawed and wondered what it would take for me to measure up to my own calling. 

But that didn’t happen this time. Instead, I noticed what the author said, agreed with him, and trusted that God is making me into the person I need to be to do the work he has for me to do.

That was another revelatory moment. I’ve seen enough growth in myself to know God is growing and changing me, so I don’t have to be anxious about it. Nor do I have to try to change myself.

Isn’t it interesting how we form and change over time? 

Sometimes we don’t even notice it’s happening. We’re going along and slowly, almost imperceptibly, our values are changing. Our measures of ourself and others and God are changing. Our knee-jerk reactions are becoming less knee-jerk. We’re growing in our capacity for patience, generosity, and charity.

And then, one day, we notice it. We’ve changed.

I’m curious if you’ve noticed any changes in yourself lately.

When you look back over the last little while of life — it could be 3 months, the last year, the last 5 years, or even the last 10 years — in what ways do you notice you have changed? What is it like for you to notice those changes?

Pulse Check: What Do You Need?

Step through the doorway?

Needs and wants are funny things, especially when it comes to examining the heart.

I’ve noticed so many times over the last couple years that I’m surprised by my wants and needs — that what I think I want and need isn’t what I really want or need at all, once I really quiet myself to listen.

Has this ever happened to you?

My spiritual director, Elaine, is great at helping me clarify my needs and wants — and not just the difference between them but also what is real and what is superficial assumption. There have been several times in the last few years, for instance, that I’ve come into a session with her upset or confused or fidgety about something. We talk for a while about all the conflict of thoughts and emotions I’m carrying, and then she’ll often ask one of two questions: 

What do you need in this place? 


If you could ask God for anything in this place, what would it be?

These are such amazing questions. I’ve found they so often crystallize the difference between what I think I want or need and what I really want or need.

So often when I’m struggling with something, I think that I want God to fix it — to take it away, restore peace and serenity, and just overall to clean things up. But when I really get quiet and listen to my heart’s voice in that place, often the real need or desire is different from that. My heart instead says things like: 

  • I want to know God is here. 
  • I want to know he hears my heart. 
  • I want to remember how to trust him.
  • I just want to see his eyes looking at me.

It’s been interesting for me to notice that I don’t necessarily want or need God to fix everything, but rather that I simply want to know he is there, that he sees me, that he’s not going anywhere. 

That kind of distinction just blows my mind. 

For today’s Pulse Check, I’d like to invite you to consider your own wants and needs.

Consider what’s right on the surface — if you had to answer in a quick heartbeat right now, what would you say you want or need in this very moment?

Then take a moment to go deeper. Allow yourself to ask the question again, with more intentionality: What do I really need right here in this place? 

Pulse Check: What Is Bringing You Joy?

Berries, leaves, and light.

Earlier this month, I announced the start of a periodic new series here called Pulse Check. Every once in a while, these posts will crop up and invite you to take a look around and assess a particular aspect of your life. The first installment of the series asked the question, “How is your relationship with God?”

Today, I’d like to invite you to consider the presence of joy in your world right now. 

Stop for a moment and consider: 

What is bringing you life? What’s bringing a smile to your face? What’s making time stand still? What’s making you laugh from that really good, full-of-hope-and-life place within you? 

Here’s my answer to the question: 

  • A continued sense of connection and deepening love for Kirk
  • A chance to immerse myself again in the autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. 
  • My little girl kitty, Diva, who always loves to sit with me at my desk in the morning
  • The birth of a beautiful baby girl to one of my dearest friends on the planet
  • Participation in the life of our church
  • Jesus
  • The anticipation of a very full + vibrant year ahead

What about you?

Pulse Check: Your Relationship with God?

Come. Sit.

Hello there, friends. 

Today is the first official day of the new year for me, as we traveled for three weeks and just got stationed back inside our home and normal routine this past weekend. I’ve stocked the refrigerator, paid the bills, run some errands, and am sitting back at my favorite place in our home: my desk. 

All feels right with the world again, and I’m ready to start afresh. How about you?

At the start of this new year, I thought I would institute a new occasional feature here on Still Forming, called pulse check. This will be an opportunity for us to stop and take a look around at our personal worlds and consider some things: how are we doing in certain areas of life? what do we need? what are we noticing?

Every once in a while, it’s helpful to stop and look around. Don’t you agree? 

So today, let’s take a pulse check concerning our relationship with God.

What is that relationship like for you these days? Is God present? Absent? Talkative? Silent? Are you finding yourself connected in new ways to God right now? Is something different, puzzling, exciting, or particularly hard? How would you describe that relationship right now?

Here’s my answer to the question, and feel free to share yours in the comments.

Although I absolutely love to travel, I am pretty much a homebody and incredible creature of habit. I need my quiet, my familiar environs, and the sacredness of my morning routine. These are things that help me connect to God, to find a still point and center from which to live out my days, and to sit in the stillness before Jesus and learn what he wants to offer to you here in this space.

So traveling, as much as I adore it, always takes a bit of a toll on me, and these last three weeks away are no exception.

Today was the first day in quite some time that I opened my Bible and spent time reading and reflecting on its pages. It was the first time in quite a while that I closed my eyes, met with Jesus, and asked him what he wanted to say. It was the first time I’d opened my mouth to sing a few hymns out loud in the silence and solitude of my little corner of our home. It was the first time in ages that I pulled out my prayer mat and knelt and then lay face-down on it to pray. 

Since I’ve been out of practice at taking this extended time of quiet with Jesus, it was a bit harder than usual or expected to quiet my brain and really focus on him. The ticking of the new clock on my desk distracted me to no end, and my mind kept flitting to to-do-list tasks and what to make for dinner, among other things.

But eventually — through a line of the psalms that jumped off the page and landed in my heart, echoing my own prayer; through the incredible stories of Peter and John in the early chapters of Acts; through the story of Elijah throwing his cloak over the unsuspecting Elisha; and through the glorious imagery and victory of the last chapters of Revelation — my focus began to return. 

I’ve missed my connection to Jesus these last few weeks. Even though we’ve been connected in more everyday ways these last few weeks — in conversations I carried with him in my heart on our car rides and plane trips, in conversations I carried with Kirk and with others about spiritual matters, in prayers offered from the bathroom tile floor when I was sicker than a dog, and in a regular sense of his presence carried with me as I drove around town or walked the aisles of a grocery store — it is really the quiet, extended routine at my desk each day that keeps me connected in meaningful ways to Jesus right now in my life.

I’ve missed him, and I’ve missed this routine, and I need it. I’m so glad to be back at home.

What about you? If you take a pulse check of your relationship with God right now, what do you find? Feel free to share your reponse in the comments. xo