Monthly Archives: April 2014

words to LIVE by #9

quote

 

wise words. they have helped me keep my sanity since becoming a momma staying home with a baby everyday. in some ways, i’m more productive than ever because i feel the importance of every free ten minutes that i have the use of both my hands! but i’ve struggled with getting my “work work” done because i need more than ten minutes together to make progress on some projects. i have to remind myself that in this particular season of my life, i’m just going to have to accept this new disjointed schedule of ours. 

i’ve started breaking some big projects down into small 10-15 minutes bites. roo can usually entertain herself with a crinkle toy or looking at a ceiling fan for that long, so i can sprint my way through a simple task. and it doesn’t matter if i get it done. if i don’t, i leave it in progress & return to it the next 10-15 minute chunk i get. i repeat to myself often, “i can doing anything for 15 minutes.” and i can. i can waste it with tv or twitter. OR i can clear off one surface in my house or reply to a couple emails.

i’ve also started using donald miller’s storyline productivity schedule. [you can find it here.] only one week in, & i love it already. it’s working for me in ways nothing else has. storyline breaks up my day into projects that i need to prioritize with a secondary task list. it doesn’t have me put timeframes on my projects, which is important for me since i never know quite what each day, each hour, each minute[!], will hold with roo’s needs. it helps me create a structure that eliminates lots of unnecessary distractions but still allows important interruptions [like feeding the baby — ha!]. i absolutely recommend it to anyone who sets their own schedule each day. but i also always recommend that you find what works for you, & that may not be what works for me.

most importantly, today, i want to emphasize that you can’t do everything! so stop staring in despair at that impossibly long to do list. [i say to myself.] however, you can do something. maybe even lots of things. so do that. take baby steps. you’ll be surprised how much you will accomplish over time with this mindset & method. i am now a stay-at-home mom to a three-month-old [today!] sweet girl. and by just doing what i can when i can, i’m able to take care of roo AND: work on my book, work on this blog, coordinate a major ministry at my church, keep my house functionally & presentably clean, do 2 loads of laundry [cloth diapers is always one of those] including folding & putting it all away, cook dinner, go for a walk or run, read for pleasure, catch up on twitter, & usually watch an episode or two on netflix — every day. [disclaimers: i only cook dinner 3 times a week usually! i don’t go for a walk or run every day, but try for 3-5 times a week depending on the weather & roo. i might spend 15 minutes on ministry one day & 5 hours on it the next; same with writing — it depends on the priorities i set each morning. and it helps that shaun is the best dad to roo & hogs her to himself most evenings!] i should also mention that to do all this requires me to get up 2-3 hours before roo each day, which is around 6 a.m. [disclaimer: i usually snooze until 6:30 though.]

last thing i want to make sure we cover — ignore what you can’t do!!! focusing on what you can’t do is called worrying, & worrying is zero helpful. actually it’s in the negatives against helpfulness. it skews your priorities, it diminishes your productivity, & it cheats you of enjoying the current moment & season of your life. that’s another thing i appreciate about the storyline productivity schedule — it gives you a place to ponder “if i could live today over again, i’d…” which is a great place to write “worry less” & “focus only on what i can do today.” having this mindset from the beginning of the day makes a difference in how you live it. the schedule also has a section to record “things i get to enjoy today.” i love love love this part! mine for today is: seeing ness!!! [my sister flies in today], eating at pei wei, taking a run outside, & taking roo’s 3-month pictures. simple pleasures that are really the most important parts of my day & what i’ll remember about it in 5 or 50 years. i want to be intentionally present during these moments, these things that i can do, rather than missing out because i focused & worried about all the things i can’t get done. it’s making all the difference in my day, my attitude, & even my productivity.

what mantras & methods to you use to take baby steps & be productive?

how do you keep focused on what’s really important each day?

the importance of sacred times

watch on wrist by rambletamble

photo by rambletamble

i’d like to continue our conversation about being present. i shared two things i’ve learned that help me focus everyday all day on what is important to me — daily prayers & “quick pics.” i tend to view these as flexible touch points throughout my day. however, it is vital to my sanity & spiritual growth that i set aside sacred times each day. these are times for “meeting with Christ in your closet,” for quiet, solitude, & reflection. my daily prayers are part of this, but i usually need more than those few quiet minutes, especially in the morning & before i go to sleep. i need time to feast on God’s word, to jot down my thoughts & feelings in my journal, to read a book, to confess, to worship. i need time to soak up the presence of God. my presence throughout the day depends on being in His presence very deliberately, for an extended set-apart time in the morning & evening as well as throughout the day via various touch points.

it took me a long time to understand the importance of what most christians call daily “quiet time.” i call it sacred time because i’m rarely quiet during it! sometimes i may be cast into silence before God, but usually i’m praying aloud & singing, sometimes even crying or shouting [in joy or in anger, depends on the moment]. when i did discover the value of this time with God everyday [in my mid-twenties], it took me much longer to understand the need for consistency, having this time on a daily basis. now, i can’t help it. i feel naked as a jay bird without this time. that doesn’t mean i don’t still skip it now & then because i slept in too late & am in a rush to get wherever i’m going. but those days are always off. and i crave getting back into my “closet” to be with God. i need Him like i need air, water, & food. the more time i spend with Him, the more i realize my need for Him. conversely, the less time i spend with Him, the less cognizant i am of my need. my heart & mind become hardened.

having spent years on a roller coaster in my practice of daily sacred time with God, i know how hard it is to “get back on the wagon” once you’ve fallen off. and i know how much it changes me when i finally do return to Him. it reminds me of heart patients who talk after surgery about how they didn’t realize how badly they felt before with blocked arteries until they could now feel the sensation of better health. they say the difference is huge! so it is too with the spirit. what a difference time with my God makes in my day, in my mind, my heart, my actions, my words, my priorities, my productivity, in everything!

now having a little one to look after each day, i have to be even more convicted about setting aside sacred times. and i’ve struggled doing it! but it’s been worth the difficult adjustments i’ve had to make to ensure i still sit in God’s presence. if you’re not already convinced that you too would be blessed beyond belief by establishing & protecting sacred times, too, here are a few reasons for you to ponder over:

1. our faith will be increased. “so then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (romans 10:17, kjv). while this may directly apply to the written word, i don’t believe that it excludes the other various ways that we can hear God. but listening doesn’t happen accidentally. we must take time to sit before Him, to open our ears & hearts to Him.

2. we will receive guidance from Him. “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. then you will be able to test & approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, & perfect will” (romans 12:2). “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (psalm 25:9). time with God’s word [reading it, memorizing it, meditating on it] renews our minds most effectively, & worship brings us into proper posture before the Creator & King. it is through these characteristics that we will be able to receive His guidance, to know His will, His calling.

3. we will be “successful.” “keep this book of the law always on your lips; meditate on it day & night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. then you will be prosperous & successful” (joshua 1:8). countless references in the bible tell us that success — however it be defined — is from the help of the Lord & is often linked to our obedience. how can we receive His help if we don’t spend time with Him in prayer, in His word, in worship to Him? how can we be obedient to Him without a daily refocusing on His ways?

4. we will please God. in case we thought this was all about us & how we’re benefitted, let’s remember that our purpose in life is not to seek our own happiness but to please God & to bring Him glory. He desires relationship with us, & that requires time together. don’t let your christianity be reduced to a religion. allow Him to elevate it to relationship. as He often does, God takes that which is intended to bless Him & blesses us right back. having an intimate relationship with God will be the most rewarding thing into which we can ever invest our time. sacred time.

if you don’t already have sacred time set apart, spend time in prayer today with your day planner in front of you, & block it out. it is a most holy sacrifice, pleasing to the Lord.

 

you might be a protestant if… [top 10]

the past two years, i have deeply enjoyed participating in the Church calendar, especially through the lenten & easter season. since i attend a congregation that is very low church in worship style & that doesn’t traditionally celebrate holy days at all, i decided last year to attend the catholic church down the street from our house. i loved it. i had never been to a catholic mass before, & it revolutionized my approach to worship & God. the reverence & the ritual awakened a part of my heart i hadn’t know existed. in part, the experience contributed to my recent obsession with season & rhythm.

still, however much i loved mass & continue to enjoy being semi-catholic during the spring, i cannot escape how very protestant i am. being a lover of top ten lists, i couldn’t resist writing one on all the ways you can tell a person is protestant at catholic mass. i hope you get a good laugh from it & don’t mistake anything i write for disrespect. i dearly love my catholic brethren & their traditions!

you might be a protestant if…

10. …you have trouble kneeling for more than a minute & a half.

9. …incense gives you a headache.

8. …you’ve never heard of the prophet baruch.

7. …your glutes hurt the day after prayers of intercession.

6. …you realize only after sitting down that you were supposed to kneel in the aisle first.

5. …you’re the only one singing along with the hymns within a 10 foot radius.

4. …you cheat during the kneeling parts by keeping your rear on the pew.

3. …an hour & fifteen minutes into mass you start getting antsy.

2. …you have to suppress saying “amen” during a rousing homily.

1. …you mumble along to the various responses as if you’re “in the know” while looking furtively around you trying to figure out what everyone else is saying & trying to commit it to memory for the next time you’re at mass.

 

a dream for holy thursday

wash basin

photo by jay w2011

this morning, i awoke from a dream in which we were at war, my church against another, over some desperate disagreement on doctrine. we were armed & ready for first light, waiting for attack. swords, guns, bows & arrows, knives… the battle began with a runner from the enemy charging with a long sword. one person from our lines ran straight for him yelling something about love. she impaled herself on his sword & in her last efforts of life embraced him. he just froze in shock. another broke out in a sprint from our side & skewered herself behind the first, arms stretched out. as the second warrior was dying she looked around for another to follow their example of love instead of war. there was confusion, a pause in the hostilities, as if what happened next would determine the outcome. finally, a nearby man — on their side or ours, i don’t know — took the remaining few exposed inches of the sword into his own stomach as he gathered the bloody group hug into his arms & proclaimed, “choose love!” it ended the war before it really began. only three fatalities. and not from being cut down but from self-sacrifice. instead of killing, they chose to be killed, in hopes of showing the rest of us the Way of Christ.

it made me think of a book edited & contributed to by my dear friend justin barringer — a faith not worth fighting for. the various authors defend that our faith is worth dying for, but not killing for. such a crucial distinction.

i remember speeches & conversations from my dream that followed the failed battle. i recall us talking about what we were willing to do for one another in sacrifice to preserve unity. we also talked about those things we would not do, things in which the restraint was sacrificial.

i think these are timely dreams & thoughts for holy thursday as we remember Jesus wrapped in a towel & on His knees. what was He willing to do? in what ways did He choose love? we might first reflect on His crucifixion, innocent but dying for our guilt. He lowered Himself to the death of a slave. but before that, He lowered Himself to the station of a slave in life. He loved in a way that was humiliating, especially considering His position among them, not to mention His position in the heavenlies. He even washed the feet of the youngest james who, in the absence of a servant to perform the task, should have taken up the towel himself. He even washed the feet of peter who argued with Him in his usual naive hot-headed manner. He even washed the feet of judas. the one who had already traded Him for a handful of silver. the one who would hand Him over to that death of a slave.

some versions of scripture say He did this foot washing to “show them the fullest extent of His love.” from my research, i don’t think it a very accurate translation [the new niv changed it], but i enjoy pondering over the phrase anyway. because you would think it would be attributed to His crucifixion! not mundane foot washing. but i think when we consider how He asked us to follow His example, maybe the towel is an even greater test of our devotion & love than the cross. for us, in the after-Christ era, literally dying for someone else can offer air of grandeur. it begs that our name live on in glorious story, in awe of our sacrifice, in praise of our character. but to take up the towel & quietly wash dirty feet offers no marquees of acclamation, no reward of being cast the hero, no honor of others wishing they might do the same if in your shoes. the towel is ironically the height of humility. and to follow Jesus to the cross, we must first don the towel.

so who are the least in your community? who are the dirty in your family? who are the frustrating ones in your work? who are the enemies in your life? and what will you do to choose love? how will you pick up a towel & quietly, humbly wash their feet?

 

You donned the towel of the slave

while they argued who was greatest.

You washed their feet of the dirt

From which they were created.

 

You then commissioned them & us

to do as You had done:

to serve the least in ways beneath us,

even the undeserving one.

 

in an act of basest service You showed

the way of those most blessed.

in following You & Your ways,

we become first by being last.

 

words to LIVE by #8

mountains quote[source]

last may, shaun & i traveled to greece for our tenth anniversary, & while we were there, we climbed mount olympus. all 2,913 meters of it. i’ve wanted to see greece since i was a kid, & climbing mount olympus has been on my “bucket list” ever since i’ve known shaun. he lived in greece for a summer in 2001 & climbed it then. we spent two days scaling its heights, & it is without a doubt the hardest thing physically that i’ve ever done except giving birth. granted, i was pregnant at the time [& didn’t know it] which may have affected my breathing capacity! there were so many times i was sure i wouldn’t make it any further. i had a walking stick i picked up at the front end of the climb. it became my bestest friend, & i would not have made it without it. nor would i have made it without shaun’s companionship & encouragement. i kept reciting verses about perseverance to myself, which marginally helped, too. i focused on the end goal — being able to tell the story, making it to the summit & being able to say i did it. when we made it to the refuge on day one after a grueling seven hours, it was the most beautiful sight — the promise of food & REST. i slept 12 hours that night. the second part of the climb is much more rugged & steep than the first half, plus it’s colder & very windy. it’s no hike; it’s a climb. and the term “trail” should be understood as loosely applied here. i was skeptical even getting started on day two, but one step at a time & 3 hours later, we made it to the top.

at the summit of mount olympus

at the summit of mount olympus

there’s more to the story of our adventure than i have time to tell right now, but it was full of jokes [some that weren’t funny at the time!], making friends from faraway places, & seeing amazing sights that are only enjoyed by those who take the climb & make it to the top.

there are lots of proverbial mountains in this life we can climb — the career ladder, various summits seeking happiness or the meaning of life, even many “hills to die on.” so many of life’s experiences can be related to the perseverance needed when mountain climbing & the rewards found at the peak.

but no matter what situation we’re talking about, there are some lessons i learned on mount olympus that i want to share.

1. you’re going to need support. something or someone to lean on. i had my walking stick. i even named it “phil” [derivative from the greek word for friend]. having that “third leg” made all the different in my being able to go as far as we did. i used it like an extension of my body, & several times it kept me from falling. in any mountain climb, we risk falling & failure. this can cause us to give up before we reach our goal. but if we have some support, even if we still fall a few times, we are able to get back up & keep going.

2. you’re going to need encouragement. this can come from the same source as your support, or it might come from something or someone else. regardless, you need to hear “just keep swimming” regularly, no matter how annoying it may get! you need to hear “you can do it” & “you’re doing great.” even if you firmly believe otherwise, encouragement can keep you going despite your inner thoughts. [word of advice: if/when that encourager gets annoying, let them keep saying/doing their thing. you need it whether you want it in the moment or not.]

3. focus on the end goal. when you want to give up in the moment, perseverance is often achieved by remembering why you’re climbing this mountain in the first place. i had wanted to climb mount olympus for over ten years. and greece isn’t just around the corner for me, so this might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me. i may not get another go at it. i wanted to get that picture on the peak, to be able to say i did it, to have a good story, to know the thrill of adventure. sometimes i had to focus on this so intently that i missed the scenery where i was. but i wouldn’t have seen most of it anyway had i given up & turned back.

4. take time to rest. climbing a mountain is not a quick walk in the park. you’re going to need to take breaks along the way. there were times the climb was so arduous, i sat down every five minutes to catch my breath. when we neared the summit, we would pick a point of rocks a couple dozen yards in front of us to reach before our next break. and the most anticipated respite was at the refuge after climbing more than half the height on day one. there are no words for the relief & excitement that flooded my body & soul when we finally glimpsed it. i even gained a small burst of energy as we climbed the steps up to the lodge. at the end of day one, i was sore all over & exhausted. surprisingly, i felt completely revived the next morning, not sore at all! [i cannot say the same after day two. i didn’t walk right for two days after mount olympus! but it was completely worth it.]

5. enjoy the top. we reached the top around 10:00 a.m. the second day. we had a flight to athens back in thessaloniki to catch. a two & a half hour drive, plus time to return the rental car & get through security. the climbed down took us five hours. we gulped down our lunch at the refuge halfway. we sped down the curvy roads back to thessaloniki [which caused me to get carsick]. we repacked our suitcases in the parking lot of the airport. we had only time to change t-shirts in the bathrooms to feel semi-human again. but i wouldn’t change any of that because we enjoyed the top. we took our time to feel the wind whipping around us [so strong we didn’t get our good camera out] & to soak up the view, all 360 degrees of it. we relished the triumphant feeling of “making it.” we took pictures. we just sat & were. so take time to enjoy it when you reach your goal, too. relish the achievement, feel the gratitude in your heart, make mental pictures & imprints to carry with your forever.

i say all this as advice for all the mountains in life that we climb. but here’s my parting advice: going back up to the quote up top — choose the mountains you want to climb wisely. make sure you have support & encouragement along the way. make sure rest is available. and make sure the end goal is something really worth it, something you want, something good. there are hills worth “dying on” & there are plenty that are merely mountains-in-the-making molehills. make sure you know the difference. before you start climbing.