Solitude as a Spiritual Discipline

A quick check of the Cambridge Dictionary online for the definition of the word solitude shows that it is a word that means “the situation of being alone without other people.” Synonyms and related words according to the Cambridge Dictionary online are often negative in connotation and meaning, such as abandoned, castaway, deserted, lonesome, outsider, and recluse. However, one related word for solitude from Dictionary.com is withdrawal. I believe that solitude and withdrawal can have a bad reputation, however it can be a spiritual discipline when we focus on lessons we learn from our Savior Jesus.

According to Mark 1:35 (NIV), “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Sometimes in the past when I would read this Bible verse, I would feel condemnation. I am NOT a morning person. I struggle to get out of bed without hitting my snooze alarm many times.  I will eat a quick breakfast bar and then I am often late heading out the door to work, typically with partially wet hair and no make-up. The thought of having to do morning devotions or else I will be a “bad Christian” makes me feel inferior and like I do not measure up to the ideal Christian standard. Typically I do my spiritual devotions at night, and that is what works for me. I believe that one key point gleamed from Mark 1:35 is that we need to take time to recharge amidst the craziness of our lives. That cannot be done around other people; instead it is a spiritual and emotional recharging that comes from spending time in solitude with our Heavenly Father like Jesus did.

In our modern day era and the world of smartphones, social media, and constant digital connections, we need time to unplug. One practical tip that I have used to try to silence the noise and distraction of everyday life is to simplify my e-mail. I decided upon a total number of e-mail lists that I wanted to unsubscribe from in order to accomplish this goal. Then I unsubscribed to a small number of e-mail mailing lists every day in order to make my goal more doable and less overwhelming. I honestly was feeling overwhelmed with keeping up with all the e-mail mailing lists and numerous devotional blogs that I subscribed to. Checking my e-mail had become a tedious and time-consuming chore. However, while it initially felt hard to unsubscribe from some mailing lists that I really liked (such as Kohls and Bath & Bodyworks), it was ultimately freeing and a time-saver in the end. That is one tip that worked for me, but in a diverse world we all have different practical steps that we may take to find a slice of solitude amidst the busyness of everyday life.

Another thing that I have done to unplug and free up my time is to drastically cut back on my time on Facebook. Sometimes previously I planned to wish a friend happy birthday, and I only wanted to spend a quick 5 minutes or so on Facebook. However, before I knew it, an hour or more would have gone by without me really paying attention, especially scrolling through family and friend’s news feeds.  So I decided to get rid of my Facebook notifications re: e-mail  updates of the birthdays of all my Facebook friends. Now I try to go on Facebook when I know it is a close friend or family member’s birthday, but I try not to sweat it if I miss wishing lots of acquaintance friends happy birthday on Facebook. This change has resulted in more free time for me to read Christian and leisure books, as well as have more rest and downtime in my day. The decision to cut back on Facebook was a personal decision that has helped with my time management, however I believe that Facebook has lots of positives like sharing prayer requests and edifying posts and pictures. Right now I have cut back on Facebook for a season, but I know that I am missing out on life posts of friends and family so there is a drawback.  However, it seemed like perhaps God was leading me in this personal choice, and I had peace with that decision so that was important to me.

Solitude is a discipline that can be helpful for emotional and spiritual well-being through time to relax and recharge. It also can help us connect more with God. As we approach this holiday season, may we all find some time for solitude to recharge our souls, as well as have a refreshing time with the Lord.

Biography of Julie A. Smith:

Julie A. Smith has an academic background in Sociology and counseling. She loves to see people have their daily needs met physically, spiritually, and emotionally. In her free time she enjoys reading, hanging out with her adopted rescue kitty Colby, and spending time with family and friends.

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Redbox 12 Days of Deals!!! (Day 9) and Redbox 411

I am a definite fan of Redbox.  I love the concept of being able to rent movies on the cheap at locations that are essentially like movie vending machines all over town.  Redbox has a plethora of locations in my city and surrounding area, and you can find Redbox locations at places like Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, and Ruler Foods.  All you need is a credit card to rent a regular DVD, Blue Ray DVD, or game.  They typically send receipts via e-mail, and if you rent regularly, then they often send you promo codes (that you use before putting in your payment information) to get a free rental on a particular day or rent 1, get 1 free.  I signed up to get notices by text to be in the loop, and they are doing a fun 12 days of deals promotion currently that I want to give a shout-out to.

It is now Day 9 of the 12 Days of Deals (I am slightly behind promoting it, but I still want to get the word out).  All you have to do is reply NICE for a promo code rental discount to 727272.  You can text DAILY thru 12/10/14.  Since I have done it, I have gotten promo codes for 75 cents off, 50 cents off, and rent one & get one free.  While Redbox did raise their prices recently from $1.20 to $1.50 for regular DVD’s (and I believe Blu-Ray movies are now $2 and games are slightly higher, too), however, this Christmas deal promotion is pretty sweet.

“Don’t let your friends & family miss out on the 12 Days of Deals fun! Click to share via Facebook or email: http://m.rbx.me/12dd” (promo quoted from Redbox).

I Bought a Goat!!! (World Vision Gifts that Make a Difference)

World Vision logo (www.worldvision.org)

World Vision logo (www.worldvision.org)

Traditions are cool.  They are something you look forward to experiencing every year.  They make life more interesting and exciting.

For many years I was blessed to be able to sponsor a little boy, Hussen, in Ethiopia with two of my friends through World Vision.  It was one of the best things that I have ever done in my life.  One tradition that I have also done for several years at Christmas time is to pick out a gift through the World Vision Gift catalog to help those in need.  I’ve given to the clean water fund, given emergency food and aid to children in Africa, and given seeds for a family.  However, the one gift that I have longed to purchase for several years is a goat, which I planned to buy once I got married and had children.  I desire to show my (future) children the importance of giving and helping those in need.  My heart especially goes out to people and children in third world countries, especially after my mission trip to Haiti.  This year I decided instead of waiting for the future (i.e. marriage and children), I want to make a difference as a single woman and buy a goat now.  While not prosperous by any stretch of the imagination by American standards, I would rather stretch my income and bless a family in another country with a goat for $75 than use that money in a more self-centered way.

If you would also like to help people in need through Word Vision but you are looking for more affordable gift options, several affordable options are 3 ducks for $21, art and music instruction for $20, and a share of a donkey to take produce, firewood, and goods to market for $25.  You can also help children specifically in America by feeding a family of 5 for a day for $18 or buying $250 worth of necessities for urgently needed clothes and shoes for kids in America for only $25.

You can go online 24 hours a day to check out +/or purchase a gift for someone in need.  Go to www.worldvisiongifts.org.  They also have a mailing option to send checks, or you can call 1-888-511-6511 (Monday-Friday 6 AM- 9 PM and Saturday 6 AM- 6 PM PST).

Facts about World Vision: “World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.”  They serve nearly 100 countries and “provide emergency assistance to children and families affected by natural disasters and civil conflict, work with communities to develop long-term solutions to alleviate poverty, and advocate for justice on behalf of the poor.” (http://www.worldvision.org/about-us/who-we-are).

Here is a video link about how goats helped one poor woman with AIDS and her three children:

The Positivity of Pooh and a Personality Profile

Have you ever wanted to write, various ideas would pop into your head, but then your motivation would lag?  Has your real life ever encroached on your creative side, stifling it with endless “to do” lists and practical matters so your writer’s inspirations get the boot?  Yeah, me too.  In the last 6 weeks, I have had many blog ideas excite me: a post about my enthusiasm for a class that I am taking online in March, a post exploring my musical side by writing a cd review for my favorite new cd, and a blog post about my recent birthday this past Monday.  However, my inspiration did not transfer from pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.  My rough working title for my birthday reflections post (“Another one bites the dust and Valentine’s Day looms on the horizon”) seemed too negative about my getting another year older (a.k.a. another year bit the dust) and about  facing another Valentine’s Day as a single in a couple’s world.

Which leads me to today.  Some of the blog ideas mentioned above I may write in the future, but for now I am glad to at least be writing something.  Sickness and personal discouragement, as well as an onslaught of problems and financial issues have been my reality these last few months.  Actually, a surprising topic fueled my desire to write and inspired this blog post:  Winnie the Pooh, the classic children’s book and show.  While I am a kid at heart, this inspiration is likely tied to the time that I perused my local library at Christmas time searching for all my favorite Christmas movies.  My favorites were all checked out : “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (animated version), “Rudolph” (I love the island of misfit toys, Rudolph is cute, and it’s important to find your identity and to not be afraid to be different), and “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”.  So, my confession is that I ended up renting “Winnie the Pooh: a Very Merry Pooh Year.”  Please don’t judge me.  Yes, I realize that I may secretly be five-years-old.  Sometimes that idea seems far better than being an adult, in my opinion (re: kids get to play and adults pay bills and deal with car repairs).

A Very Merry Pooh Year

A Very Merry Pooh Year (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why am I writing about Christmas movies in February, you ask?  The peak time for  Christmas related blog posts are over, you say?  Perhaps, but I am leading up to my inspiration.  There is no time limit on inspiration.  My inspiration is the positivity of Pooh.   My mind keeps wandering to three of the primary characters in the Winnie the Pooh books and movies:  Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, and Tigger.  I think most people fall into the personality types that these three main characters represent.

1. Pooh– He is very loyal and stable.  He is the glue that holds things together, a leader, and he has many friends.  Sometimes he can have laser sharp focus (a.k.a. “where is my honey”?), but he is one of the best friends that you can ask for.  His disposition is sunny and positive.  Pooh is who I want to be and who I am most of the time, (although I also have a fondness for Tigger), but sometimes life’s hardships and disappointments can bring out my Eeyore side.

2. Eeyore- He is sad and discouraged.  He sees life in black or shades of gray.  The glass is ALWAYS half-empty for Eeyore.  “Woe is me” could be his motto.  This type of person can take a toll on others that they are around because they are constantly being negative and wallowing in the mud, so to speak. This can be emotonally tiring for their friends and family, and may feeling draining and like a deficit in the relationship. Often Eeyore people are creative souls who are talented with art, theatre, or writing. They can struggle with depression or discouragement, and the darkness and pain of life can be challenging for them to deal with in a positive way.

3. Tigger– He is bouncy and fun!  Tigger loves life and life is full of possibility.  He is the epitome of sunshine and joy.  He is so full of energy that he bounces literally.  People like Tigger are full of vigor, but at times can seem easily distracted or intensely focused.  A Tigger person is very fun to be around.  However, Tigger people can move fast literally, but others who want to walk beside them may find themselves being left behind. Tigger people can also have ideas that are progressive and forward-thnking. While I have elements of Tigger in my personality, and certain friends and activities bring out Tigger’s vitality and the Tigger side of me, I am more like Winnie the Pooh overall.

Which Pooh character are you most like?  Feel free to add your thoughts!  Feedback is appreciated with my unofficial Pooh personality profile.

Also, if you like personality profiles, here is a really FUN synopsis of Dr. Gary Smalley’s and Dr. John Trent’s animal personality profile (Lion-Otter-Golden Retriever-Beaver). My friend Melissa who is in the counseling and ministry field first told me about this personality profile assessment last fall, and it has been enlightening for me personally and with my friendships. Check it out!
http://weirdblog.wordpress.com/2007/02/22/personality-types-lion-beaver-otter-and-golden-retriever/

Here is a second link that is a great in-depth blog about the golden retriever personality type:
http://charactertherapist.blogspot.com/2010/01/t3-golden-retrieverphlegmatic.html

The Tigger Movie, a film based on the Disney a...

The Tigger Movie, a film based on the Disney adaptation of Tigger. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Disney's adaptation of Stephen Slesinger, Inc....

Cover of Winnie the Pooh and Friends