We Are Oceans
Lillie Duncan

The more I evolve in the knowledge of self, others, God, and wisdom the more I realize the possibility of mystery outweighs the possibility of certainty. To delight in the unknown bares more joy than to hold life and others tightly bound by lines and expectations.
There are moments where the finality of a moment, that fleeting breath of my body, invites me to confess I have no clue what the day really holds. Today, tomorrow, or the next. Perhaps, the true key to fullness is fluidity. To hold everything so loosely, whether it is happiness, pain, beauty, or trials. It is life, not passing me by but yet, passing through me, evolving me.
Who I am, who you are... we really are not that different in this manner. Who you are now isn’t who you used to be. Who you are now will not be the same person that wakes tomorrow, the next, or even a year from now.
We are oceans. Tides constantly returning to the depth and mystery of life that beckons for our surrender. Internal growth riding on the waves of uncertainty.

Lillie DuncanComment
In Pursuit of Rest
Lillie Duncan- David Whyte Ireland Tour-8.jpg

[Originally published in the Simple Parenting Column by The Dispatch]

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” ~ Gandhi

Recently, I dedicated 20 hours of travel, a few thousand dollars, and over six thousand miles of distance to ensure some rest for my soul. After recovering from a full day of travel and jet lag, I took an old-fashioned paper map, my little French car, and drove myself to the west coast of Ireland. I had no signal, no internet, no connection to anyone, and no one was with me.

I could barely remember the last time I spent more than 24 hours alone. Hell, I could barely remember the last time I spent more than 12 hours alone. Being a mother of two small children, ages two and four, as well as an entrepreneur, means I’m always on: on it, on call, on top of things, there to help, there to clean up, there to pick up, there to give, but hardly am I there for myself in the way that I need.

I let myself get lost walking around a beautiful coastal village. Everything came to life: the movement of the grass, the sound of cows in the background, the sway of a horse’s tail, the buzz of mayflies, the scent of wildflowers, the sensation of the sea in the air, my own thoughts—nature’s fine details seemed so much brighter once my phone was put away and dimmed from my mind. I even took a film camera so I wouldn’t get distracted by the small convenience of a digital camera or my phone.

For a time I forgot that I was a mother, an artist, a business owner. For a moment in time, I just existed. Time went along slowly, matching the sunset that tends to last for hours during early summer in Ireland. As I found my way to some hidden coastal walk along part of the cliffs of Moher, I felt rested and full—honestly, two things that the rhythm of my life back home had not given me. I was exhausted in ways I couldn’t even express until I had experienced the rest I needed, in comparison.

Our culture likes to impress upon us that happiness is the ultimate pursuit, but it sure as hell doesn’t come free—so what is the cost?

Wayne Muller, author of Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives writes,

“When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest—we are on wartime, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: no living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms.”

I laid upon the highest point of this cliff, reading those words and thinking to myself. As I rested there longer I realized, perhaps for the first time, just how tired I was. Not just physically tired but soul-tired. Tired of being on war-time, tired of the over-stimulation in life, tired of the endless pursuit, tired of the lie in our culture, tired of hiding grief, just tired. I need rest—and not just once a year. I need it daily. I don’t need to spend a ton of money or travel the world to find it. It is offered to me every day: a gift, seldom taken.

It was the time I took in nature to rest that made me see how full I already was, that just maybe what I really needed was time to sit in gratitude. There is nothing more in my life that I truly need except for rest and the time to say thank you.

It doesn’t have to take a trip across the world or thousands of dollars to accept the gift of rest that nature continuously has to offer. It is offered to us for free, every day. I think it is a matter beginning a conversation, first with ourselves, then with those around us, including our children. What if our pursuit in life was fullness and rest? What would that look like? What things would change? What type of rhythms do we need to be the best versions of ourselves? What type of rhythm do our children need to keep the balance of rest and play?

As we become brave by asking the hard questions, we invite awareness into our lives, and ultimately into the lives of our children. We model how to live and how to rest. At some level, what is important to us becomes what is important to them. As you explore what it is you need to be the best you in this world, I implore you to look to nature, where rest and solitude wait for you.

Lillie DuncanComment
You are not your weaknesses

We were intricately created with great strengths and intentional purpose. It is easy to forget this and hard to really identify those giftings or strengths at times. In my own journey of self growth, my mind would basically collect all of the feedback the world gave me to identify what my weaknesses were. My philosophy was… identify weakness, eliminate the weakness, then I would be able to continue my personal growth. The huge problem with this is that I was letting other people balance my strengths and weaknesses for me. In all honesty, it left me feeling defeated at times, until I gained the understanding I needed.

We all hear it to some degree...you think too much, feel too much, too motivated, too laid back,  not enough of this, or not enough of that. Just fill in the blank. Perhaps those things that are intricately unique to you are your best giftings to this world.

As a culture, I firmly believe we don’t spend enough time celebrating the strengths and giftings of those around us. We don’t speak life into people nearly enough. We don’t look at people and appreciate how they are different from us, instead we set expectations that everyone (to some degree, whether conscious or subconscious) should think and act like ourselves. And when they don’t, the words we use can break others.

A few weeks ago I was part of a intellectual conversation about this...one that created a paradigm shift for me. This individual introduced me to Clifton Strengthsfinder. Maybe you have heard of it, I know it is used a lot in corporate and business settings but it is profoundly beneficial in all areas of life. He told me a fascinating story… during the 1950’s there was a study done using 6,000 students. These students were given a speed reading test with no prior teaching. They took the data for comparison, taught these students how to speed read, then tested them again...the results were fascinating! For the students that were not naturally good at speed reading...their results went up minimal BUT for the few students that naturally read around 300 words per minute, after they were taught skills on how to speed read, their results went up to almost 2,900 words per minute. The greatest gains in human development are based on investment in what people do naturally...areas or talent, strengths, gifts.

I thought about this study for a long time. It puzzled me and went against every notion I have worked towards...my mindset has always been focus on the weakness. Fix it and you will grow but in reality, when we identify our natural, God given strengths and invest in maturing them and using them, we grow exponentially. We are then in the best place for God to use us as He created. We have the ability for true success and accomplishment.

It’s beautiful and freeing.

I loved this quote from the StrengthsFinder page:
All people have a unique combination of talents, knowledge, and skills -- strengths -- that they use in their daily lives to do their work, achieve their goals, and interact with others. Gallup has found that when people understand and apply their strengths, the effect on their lives and work is transformational. People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their work and three times more likely to say they have an excellent quality of life.”

After I took the test I was a little surprised to see certain items show up as my strengths. I actually had to wrestle through the majority of my top strengths. I will explain why in a moment…

When Gallup was doing all of this research all of the strengths were narrowed down to 34 strengths, and from there are four main domains in which these strengths fit under:  
Relationship Building
and Strategic Thinking.

When you get your results back, the focus is typically on the top 5. People can have a a few strengths from each domain, it varies for most people...except me. Mine was extremely heavy on the Strategic Thinking!

This is the part that stumped me...I had come to view my intense thinking as a weakness. I have been told over and over that I was too intense, too deep, too complex, think too much, it is something that always hurt me because I felt that this is how I was created. I saw it as my greatest weakness, the more I tried to suppress these things the more it burdened me. I had no idea that within this domain of thinking holds my greatest gift to the people and world around me. And more than that, this is how the Lord of All creation designed me.

I have been passionate about sharing this with people because it offers a level of freedom and grace within relationships and connections. I love that these are used in a corporate setting, I hope that more and more people will invest into this test for their own personal growth. It offers such a grace and appreciation to look at someone and say, I see that this is what you are gifted in, I may not be gifted the same, but I can appreciate your gift and praise your gift.

It gives an opportunity to speak life into others.


Lillie DuncanComment