Stop to Smell the Roses

In John 10:10, Jesus says that He came so that we may have life, and have it abundantly. It is time that we start living from a place of authentic joy and purpose.

Spring is undoubtably my favorite season. As a lifelong Iowan, I feel like we spend five months of the year complaining it’s too cold and five months complaining about the heat. In between those weather extremes, we have a month with temperatures in the 60s and 70s with a slight breeze, sunshine, and little humidity. Now, I love fall too, watching the leaves turn into a cascade of beautiful colors. But, spring has always been my very favorite.

There is just something about the first bit of warmth that my body especially appreciates after a season of cocooning indoors. The smell of the fresh air and glimpses of sunlight coming through my open windows. Seeing those green blades of grass push through the earth, along with tulips and daffodils blooming, refreshes my soul. My very favorite thing to watch blossom are the magnolia, crabapple and redbud trees. I love to watch the pink blooms erupt on the branches, declaring the end of winter and arrival of spring.

The Birth of a Plant Lady

I developed a love for plants about five years ago. Walmart had a display of succulents right by the checkout. I am not usually one for impulse buys, but that day, I put three succulent pots in my cart. When I got home I put them in my windowsill where I saw them every day while washing dishes. Pretty soon, I realized how much I enjoyed them.

From that time on, I was hooked. My husband went with me spring plant shopping for the first time this past weekend. He said, “You in a garden nursery is like a kid in a candy store.” There is just something about plants that brings me joy!

Stopping to Smell the Roses

I recently attended a day-long training for individuals in the social service and school sector. There was a theme throughout the day of wellbeing. I heard individuals speak of burnout and exhaustion, trying to help everyone at home and at work in this hurried paced life. We were encouraged to find ways to bring refreshment to our lives. Since that training, I have been focusing on what it means to slow down. Some may equate it to the adage “stopping to smell the roses.”

Being Productive vs Overwhelm

While I want to be a productive member of society, there is a difference between being productive and being overworked and overwhelmed. John Eldredge shares in his book Get Your Life Back,

“We live in a world that triggers our souls into vigilance far too often. The complexity of modern life is mind-boggling; the constantly changing social terrain of what’s appropriate, the level of trauma we navigate in peoples’ lives…Thanks to the smartphone and the web, you are confronted daily with more information than any previous generation had to deal with!”

At the risk of stepping on toes, sometimes we are so consumed with what is happening on social media, we forget to stop and connect with the people living under our very own roof. God did not create us to run on fumes. A yearly vacation can do wonders for refreshment, but we need more than just a once a year break. Here are some ideas for incorporating a slower pace of life:

Don’t forget to breathe.

A slow, deep breath to calm and regulate our bodies. I practice box breathing with our patients sometimes. It is a simple exercise: slow breath in for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, hold for four counts, and start again with another slow breath.

When our bodies get stressed or unregulated, we take quick shallow breaths. This sends less oxygen to our brains. So, the simple act of breathing and focusing on counting can slow down our whole body. The best part is, you can do it anywhere, anytime.

Notice the beauty.

When life gets stressful and busy, it is easy to rush around and focus on the to-do list and the negatives. Take moments each day to look around at nature and notice its beautiful design. Hold your child on your lap and sit in awe of the beauty of little hands and feet. What do you find beautiful? Look beneath the surface and notice the little details.

I once heard a woman say each night she complained about doing the dishes until one night the sunlight streaming in her window created a beautiful rainbow color on the soap bubbles. If soap bubbles can be beautiful, I am sure that there are so many more things we rush past daily we can find beauty in as well.


What areas can you simplify or declutter in your life? Perhaps your closets are overflowing and stress you out. Take a day to declutter and bless a charity with your donations. I work two evenings a week here at the clinic, so recently I started cooking two meals on Monday and Wednesday nights. Then I have lunch and dinner for my 11-hour workdays and do not have to cook every night. Also, my husband takes us out to dinner every Friday night. It may seem like a small thing, but I get excited on Fridays when I remember I do not have to cook that night!

It’s OK to say no.

You do not have to do everything and be everything for everyone. Read that again. Give yourself permission to take time to think before committing to a new activity or obligation. If you do so and want to participate, do. If you see it more as a burden than a joy, then say no.

It is ok to set boundaries on our time and in our relationships. Church activities, school extracurriculars, and volunteering are all positive things, but when they become an overwhelming obligation, it is time to re-evaluate.

I have been talking with my son recently about priorities next year when he enters high school. He wants to take advanced classes, be in a lot of school activities, and be active in church youth group. While I appreciate his enthusiasm and goals, I also want him to know it is ok to have time for rest and unstructured activity. In 9th grade he should not be so busy that he cannot find time to throw around the football with our neighbor boys.

Everything may seem essential at first, but if we each give it some serious thought, there are probably at least one or two things we can eliminate or scale back on to clear time in our schedules.

Don’t compare.

Just because a certain pace of life or accomplishment is right for one person, it does not mean that you must live that way as well. We are all different. Spend your time and energy thinking about what is right and beneficial for you and your family instead of comparing yourself to those around you.

Put down your phone.

The other day I watched a young boy walking home from school paying no attention to anything around him. His eyes were glued to his phone. The other day I was in a doctor’s office for an appointment. Everyone in the waiting room was on their phones. It is ok to set them down.

A cell phone company is even running a marketing ad right now with the challenge to put the phone down for 5 minutes, 5 hours, or 5 days, whatever works into a person’s lifestyle. There are many benefits of having a cell phone, but the device does not need to dictate our lives.

I think it is ironic that we are all talking about how busy we are, and yet, when I look at my weekly screen time report, I am surprised at the amount of time I find each day to be on my phone. In the last month I have been working diligently to use social media less, keep my phone out of reach in the evenings, and focus on my family.

Build in margin.

I am guilty of using time management to optimize every minute of the day. The other day I had five minutes. My husband suggested we leave for where we were going. I was shocked. We have 5 minutes. His thought process was that we could leave a bit early and avoid any stress or rush. My thought process was solely, what tasks can I cram into 5 minutes?

Now, I am not typically late, but I have settled into sailing in “right on time.” Sometimes it is stressful cutting it so closely. When we build margin of a few extra minutes here or there for a break or not to rush, we can feel more at peace.

Another example of building margin occurred to me in the pickup line at school. When I picked up my kids pre-smart phone days, it would be a few minutes to rest and decompress. Now, I find myself checking emails, making to-do lists in my notes app, and scrolling social media. There, in a school parking lot, are moments to gain margin in my day. John Eldredge created an app called Pause specifically to give 1 minute, 5 minute or 15-minute rests mid-day. You can even set the app to ding as a reminder to take a minute to pause!

Discover what brings you joy.

How long has it been since you looked at your to-do list and considered, what on this list actually brings me joy? It is a balance, because we cannot forgo all responsibility and only do the things that bring us joy. Dishes must be cleaned. Laundry must be folded. The timeclock at work must be punched.

However, when we get intentional to know what brings us joy, then we can work to incorporate those things into our days and weeks. Like I said before, I find joy in plants. So, I have them in my living room and find that they bring me feelings of joy and peace as I move about my house. I also enjoy playing games and making art with my family. These are not activities I can do daily, but I am intentional about making time several times per month to play or create. Boosting our joy can help keep us motivated and hopeful when challenges come our way.

Start Living From Joy and Purpose

In John 10:10, Jesus says that He came so that we may have life, and have it abundantly. It is time that we start living from a place of authentic joy and purpose. So, I invite you to join me in slowing down. It will not always be an easy practice, but I do feel it will be worthwhile. These are just a few practices I am implementing in my life. If you have other ideas about how to “stop and smell the roses,” please share it with others!

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