Breathe in deeply. Let the air gently fill your lungs. Pause. Then release. Feel the tension in your shoulders drift away. Inhale again. Then exhale.
This is the give and take of breath. This is a deliberate slowing of the cadence of our breath. This is discovering a new, unforced rhythm.
Breathe was the theme of the retreat I attended in June for the writers of (in)courage. After a wildly busy Maycember, this was exactly what we all needed. Thirty-one writers and staff traveled to Estes Park, Colorado for three days at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park to just breathe.
The goal: to exhale the rush of responsibilities and inhale the presence of God through fellowship with sisters.
Although we spent some time in meetings and creating new content, the leaders carved out lots of space for us to breathe. We were encouraged to take a nap, go shopping or hiking, participate in rooftop yoga, or spend time with God in the mountains. To just breathe.
The Hebrew name for God is Yahweh. It is said when the Hebrew letters YHWH are pronounced, they sound like a deep breath. This connection is no coincidence in my mind for God Himself fashioned Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed life into his lungs.
Here’s one thing I learned about breathing that weekend in Colorado: Sometimes the air feels thin at higher altitudes.
One morning I went for a 5-mile run on a path not far from our cabin. My chest pulled tight as I tried to fill my lungs. I slowed down and took shorter breaths. I had to give myself grace that my pace was not as fast as it might be at home, where I live in a valley.
In life, sometimes the same is true. We find ourselves at an unfamiliar altitude, and we need to take shorter breaths. We need to slow our rhythm to breathe deeply.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’ve experienced some trauma in your past or you are presently walking through a crisis, and it feels hard to breathe.
These are the times when it is a gift to sit shoulder to shoulder with others. It’s so easy to default into isolation when we feel overwhelmed. When we share our stories, when we bear witness to truth and pain, we offer each other breath.
Breathing then comes a little easier. Inhale long. Breathe out.
I experienced this in Colorado with my (in)courage sisters. Writing and speaking can be lonely work. I don’t have many people in my everyday life who understand what I do and its challenges. These women, who live all over the country and minister in many different ways through words, are my colleagues, my co-laborers.
As I listened to the stories and experiences of other writer-mama-sisters from diverse backgrounds, I felt breath fill my lungs. I was bolstered for the task ahead – to continue to share the Gospel message and to help people discover God’s glory through my words.
In Ezekiel 37, the prophet talks about a valley of dry bones – a symbol of lifelessness. God says to these bones:
I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
Then He breathes into them, and the dry bones miraculously rattle and snap to life. These bones were once dry and dead, but now they are alive and moving.
God breathes – sometimes through the stories and encouragement of others – and we come to life.
May we also look for opportunities daily to breathe new life into each other. As a mama, I want to consider ways I can breathe life into my children. This may mean softening my tone when I’m irritated. This may mean encouraging my daughters to try new things or persevere through challenges.
I desire for my words to be life-giving to my friends. This may mean calling out talents my friends have or speaking truth to them when they are struggling with self-doubt.
One of my favorite songs is “Great are you, Lord” by All Sons & Daughters. This song became especially meaningful to me in 2014 when my beloved husband was battling cancer. A couple of friends from the worship band at our church visited our home to sing with my husband. He was too weak at that point to go to church.
As they sang and played guitar, my husband sat on our big red couch and listened with a look of heavenly contentment on his face. Our three daughters danced as these worshipful words filled our home:
“It’s your breath in our lungs so we pour out our praise…”
Ironically, the cancer was spreading during that time to my husband’s lungs. His breathing was labored. Little did we know that soon he would soar to meet the One who first breathed life into him. He would exhale this earth and breathe in Yahweh face-to-face.
Whenever I hear this song, I can’t help but think of that moment. I reach for gratitude even when breathing feels hard like on my run or when I’m working. I thank God for my lungs, for this daily cadence of borrowed breaths, and for the privilege of living one more day to reflect His glory.
My new husband Shawn and I love connecting with Christian runners. Check out our Glory Chasers running group on Facebook where we offer up courage, community and coaching for runners at all levels.