Distracted No More

Welcome to the season of distraction! Hectic schedules may make you feel overwhelmed. Pulled in too many directions. Unfocused.

I have something that may help. Recently, I was a guest on Marnie’s Friends–a podcast that consistently gives inspiration to Christian women. I shared some of my methods for staying focused. In this episode of the podcast, you’ll discover:

  • The most important step to living with focus
  • The secret of finding true priorities
  • How to align your to-do list with true priorities
  • 3 strategies to know your why
  • Why it’s important to kill multi-tasking3 simple but important routines that will improve your focus
  • The importance of periodically unplugging
  • How focus and Sabbath connect
  • 5 ways to craft your own personal spiritual retreat

Just click on the image below to access the audio recording.

If you like what you hear, remember that you can also find out more about living a focused life with my eCourse–Distracted: 12 Faith-Focus Habits for a Frenzied World. I shared 4 of the Faith-Focus habits in the podcast, but there are 8 more in the eCourse! Click the image below for more info.

distracted blog header

Next step: Write down three current activities that are making you feel overwhelmed or distracted. Is there something you can do to change that? Abandon the activity? Change the time? Enlist some help?

Distracted No More

4 Ways to Have a More Productive (and Meaningful!) 2017

4 Ways to Have a More Productive2017

At the end of each year, I often make New Year’s resolutions.  As I put up a new calendar on my fridge I make lists of goals and plans. (I love lists!)

But most of the time what happens is that I make a beautiful plan for the new year–and then promptly forget about it.

So this year I am trying something different. To help me actually accomplish my goals (and have a meaningful life–not just a productive one) I’m making these 4 things my 2017 priorities.

A Daily Routine

I learned about daily routines from Crystal Paine. A routine is simply a set of things that you do in the same order every day. Choosing to do what is important or useful and then developing the habit of doing those things every day helps me actually do what I intend. I already had a morning routine that consisted of exercise, breakfast, getting dressed, and a quiet time with God. But Crystal suggests also using afternoon and evening routines.  So now I have developed a routine for the end of my workday. When I am ready to quit for the day, I:

  • save the day’s work
  • do a final check of email
  • check my calendar for upcoming commitments
  • neaten my desk
  • shut down my computer
  • say a prayer of thanks for work accomplished

My evening routine is:

  • clean kitchen counters after dinner
  • have time for reading
  • lay out clothes for next day
  • practice examen before I go to sleep

These simple routines help me end my day peacefully and start the day with a clean slate.

Weekly Review Time

The idea of a weekly review came from leadership expert Michael Hyatt. A weekly review is a specific time slot in your schedule set aside for evaluating the past week and setting up the next. During this time you will review:

  • your goals
  • the calendar for the next week
  • your to-do lists (What did you accomplish? What do you plan to do next week?)

I love the concept of a weekly review. For two years I have tried (unsuccessfully) to incorporate them into my schedule. But this year I am making this a priority because I think it will help me stay focused on my goals. It will help me concentrate on what is important and not just what is urgent.

Monthly Personal Retreat

The daily routines and weekly reviews help me be productive and goal-oriented. But checking things off on a to-do list doesn’t guarantee a meaningful life. Planning and goal-setting don’t get me anywhere but lost and frustrated if I’m not following God’s plan for my life.

I am convinced that I need extended quiet time to connect with God to hear His voice and seek His will for my life. So I try to take one day (or one morning) out of each month for a personal spiritual retreat. But again, I have not been consistent in this practice. So I am determined to make 2017 the year I make time to get away each month to read my Bible, journal my concerns and questions, and wait for God’s answers. You can read more about a personal retreat here. You can also get my Soul Spa Kit with 59 ideas for a personal retreat by entering your name and email address in the upper right-hand corner of this blog.

Live Like I’m Loved

My type-A personality loves goals and plans. but lately, God has been teaching me that these can get in the way of my relationship with Him. I tend to base my self-worth in my accomplishments. When I check off everything on my to-do list, I feel good about myself. When I don’t, I feel like a failure.

But God is teaching me that my self-worth is not based in how many goals I can accomplish. My value comes from being a daughter of the Most High King. I’m finding that a meaningful life does not come from to-do lists, daily routines, weekly reviews, and monthly retreats–but from abiding in Christ’s love.

Jesus said,

As the Father loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:9

Living in Jesus’ love is the best way to have a productive and meaningful 2017.

Next step: Start by posting John 15:9 somewhere you will see it every day to remind yourself to live loved. Then consider if a daily routine, weekly review, or monthly retreat might be useful for you.

4 Ways to Have a More Productive2017 2




Feeling Overwhelmed? Build in Whitespace


The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. I attended a writers’ retreat in Door County, WI where I walked in the woods, typed on my computer, and laughed and talked with writer friends. Then I visited my mother for a few days, came home, did some laundry and repacked my suitcase. I left the next morning for Indianapolis where I attended a conference and a board meeting.

Those nine days were jam-packed. Filled with learning and working. Crammed with laughter and conversation. But there was very little whitespace.

What is whitespace?

In her book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, author Bonnie Gray defines whitespace like this:

In art, whitespace is often referred to as “negative space.” It’s the space on the page absent of marks or images. We might consider the space as “blank,” but to the artist, whitespace holds beauty. It is the key element of design that gives balance to a composition, transforming a cluttered collection of objects into an aesthetic expression of what we do see.

She goes on to say:

My soul isn’t designed to be cluttered. It longs for space to taste beauty. To breathe. It’s always wanted what God intended for me.

My soul was designed for spiritual rest: spiritual whitespace.

We all need whitespace in our lives. Space for the soul to breathe. Time to connect with God and enjoy the gifts He’s given.

You might wonder, but how can I find this whitespace? My life is exactly as you described. It’s jam-packed with work, volunteer responsibilities, and family obligations. There simply is no whitespace!

I understand. And my words are not meant to drive you to book a guilt trip on the next train out.

Whitespace is a place of grace, not duty.

Start by remembering that Jesus longs to spend time with you. He desires to give you the peace and strength you need in your overwhelmed life. Come to Him to receive His grace, and not to check off one more thing on your overfilled to-do list.

Here are a few practical ideas to find whitespace, even in a busy season:

  • Get up fifteen minutes early to read Scripture and a devotion. Pray over your schedule for the day and ask Christ to be with you in every moment.
  • Or go to bed fifteen minutes early. Before going to sleep, review your day and thank God for His help and presence. Read a psalm and rest in God’s love and protection.
  • Set a timer to go off every hour. When you hear the buzz or the beep, pause for a few moments. Listen to a Christian song. Meditate on a Scripture that reminds you of Christ’s unfailing love.
  • Schedule some downtime. Because I knew my schedule was going to be overwhelmed for those nine days, I purposely created some whitespace before and after the hectic time. I set aside an afternoon on both ends to rest and read.

Jesus invited His disciples to experience whitespace when He said:

Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31)

He invites you to do the same.

Create whitespace for your soul to connect with Jesus. Even if it is only for a few minutes in a busy day, come away and rest awhile.

Next step: Choose one of the four ideas above to create a little whitespace in your life this week. Which one works best for you?


distracted blog headerCheck out my eCourse!  If you want more answers for your overwhelmed life, check out my Distracted eCourse.

Click here for more information.




Feeling Overwhelmed? Embrace Boring


The other day I sat outside and read a book. I stared out at my garden and let my mind wander. I sat so still that a robin landed about twenty-four inches from my feet and a bunny scampered right past me.

In short, I let myself be bored.

Our culture shuns boredom. Watch a group of people waiting in a doctor’s office or even in the grocery check out line and you will see most of them checking out their phones–catching up on email or playing Candy Crush. It seems we need constant stimulation.

But what if this constant stimulation is one of the causes of the constant, incessant, unrelenting sense of being overwhelmed?

What if our brains need some downtime? What if we need quiet to balance out the noise? What if we need to embrace boredom–at least sometimes?

The afternoon I took the time to sit in my yard came in the middle of a hectic season. In the past two months, I have been working on an online class, finishing a new book, and completing projects for an organization I work with. In the next few weeks, I am attending a writers retreat, speaking at a conference, and attending an out-of-town board meeting. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed. So I purposely took some time to be a little bored.

Research shows that embracing times of boredom will help you focus better when it’s time to work. Cal Newport writes in his book, Deep Work,

Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.

In other words, embrace times of boredom if you want times of sharp focus.

God tells us something similar in Isaiah:

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15a)

And then He adds:

But you would have none of it. (Isaiah 30:15b)

God sees me rushing around tries to tell me that rest is my salvation. Quietness is my strength. 

When I’m overwhelmed, I’m weak. I’m trying to do it all on my own, instead of trusting God to accomplish His will in my life.

To live an “underwhelmed” life, I have to embrace times of rest and quiet and…boredom. 

God tells me that rest is my salvation. Quietness is my strength. Click To Tweet

Because it is in those times that I am trusting God to work everything out.

Next step: Take five minutes today to embrace boredom and quiet. Look out a window and appreciate God’s creation. Or quietly meditate on a Scripture, Or sit with your eyes closed, contemplating God’s love for you.



Feeling Overwhelmed? Remember Busy Doesn’t Equal Important


What is the most common answer you hear when you ask, “How are you?”

Chances are it is, “Busy!”

And usually whoever you ask will follow up that one-word answer with a long recitation of all the work projects, Little League games, dance recitals, church activities, and volunteer responsibilities that fill up her week.

I know–because I’ve been there. Why did I fill up my schedule to overflowing?

Because somehow I believed this equation:

More activity + more tasks + more hustle and hurry = more importance.

But really that equation is only a lie. This is the true equation:

More activity + more tasks + more hustle and hurry = one overwhelmed woman.

And another equation that was also true in my life was:

Overwhelmed woman = anxiety + stress – peace – patience.

Packing more activity and tasks into my life often meant that I was checking off a lot of items from my to-do list, but I wasn’t being the wife I wanted to be. I wasn’t acting like the friend I wanted to be. My busyness made me feel more significant. But I probably made those closest to me feel less important.

Lately, I’ve been meditating on this verse from the Gospel of John:

I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave me to do. (John 17:4)

Jesus said that.

And I notice two things in His statement: 

First, Jesus says, “I have brought You glory.” He wasn’t trying to make Himself look important. He was working to give His Father praise and honor.

Second, He doesn’t brag about all He was doing. Yes, Jesus accomplished a lot while He was on earth, but He didn’t take on any extra jobs. He simply did the work the Father gave Him.

It makes me realize that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I need to ask myself: 

  • Why am I doing this? Is it to bring glory to God? Or is to make me feel important?
  • Who is telling me I should do this? Is God instructing me that this is part of the work He wants me to do? Or is it simply my own ego that is pushing me toward this activity?

We all need to remind ourselves that we are not important because of what we do. We are important because of who we are–daughters of the King!

We are not important because of what we do--but because of who we are--daughters of the King! Click To Tweet

Next step: Make a list of activities that are making you feel overwhelmed. For each one, ask the two questions: Why I am I doing this? Who is telling me to do this?


3 Scriptures for Fellow Adrenaline Junkies


Are you an adrenaline junkie?

Take this short quiz to find out. True or false:

  • you often go without sleep to accomplish tasks
  • when you stop the whirlwind of activity you feel restless
  • you only feel “up” when you’re active and busy
  • when you start to feel depressed, you turn to activity to feel better

If you answered true to any of those statements, you might be an adrenaline junkie. The more times you said “true,” the greater the likelihood you are “hooked” on the high that activity brings.

Although I hate to admit it, there have been times that I’ve been an adrenaline junkie. This important hormone is designed to increase our strength and performance during emergencies. But it also kicks in when we’re hurrying to an appointment or making a speech or meeting a work deadline. And it’s easy to get hooked on that extra sharpness and pumped up feeling that adrenaline gives.

But our bodies aren’t designed to run on adrenaline long term. If we keep pushing ourselves to do more and continue to draw on adrenaline to get it done our bodies begin to wear out. We have trouble sleeping, our immune system is compromised, and our cardiovascular system works overtime. It doesn’t take long before we feel stressed and overwhelmed.

In his book Adrenaline and Stress, Dr. Archibald Hart writes,

Many of us live our whole lives in what is essentially a constant state of emergency and hurry. We become dependent on the overproduction of adrenaline, not simply for our accomplishments, but just to survive each day.”

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be that you’ve pushed yourself too far. You’ve hurried too much. You’ve depended on the energy of adrenaline too long.

So what can you do?

Begin by asking yourself “Why? Why are you pushing yourself? Why are you hooked on activity?”

When I dug down deep to find my answer to that question, I discovered a surprising answer:

I found my worth in accomplishment.

And the more I accomplished, the better I felt about myself. So I pushed myself a little harder. I got a little more done.

Until God called me on it.

He reminded me that activity isn’t necessarily the key to strength and success:

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14

He reassured me that my worth is not based on my accomplishments–only on His love:

You are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you. (Isaiah 43:4)

He pointed out the importance of rest:

This is what theLord says:
“Stop at the crossroads and look around.
    Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.
Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself if you’re addicted to activity and adrenaline. If the answer is yes, ask yourself why. Like me, are you basing your worth on your busyness, your performance, your accomplishments?

Remember that God loves you for who you are–His precious child–and not for what you do.

Remember that God loves you for who you are--His precious child--and not for what you do. Click To Tweet

Next step: If you are finding yourself hooked on activity and adrenaline, choose one of the Scriptures above. Write it on a sticky note and put it where you will see it often this week.


distracted blog headerCheck out my eCourse!  If you want more answers for your overwhelmed life, check out my Distracted eCourse.

Click here for more information.



Three Steps to Come Out From Under the Pile of Shoulds


The pile of the things I “should” do is daunting.

Today I should finish writing a chapter for my new book, finish a project for an organization I’m a part of, clean my disaster of a basement, harvest beans in my garden, and finish this blog post.

In addition, experts tell me that every day I should exercise for thirty minutes, eat at least five fruits and vegetables, avoid saturated fat, consume 25 grams of fiber. To be prepared for emergencies I should have an emergency kit in my basement, store gallons of water, and have a crank radio. In order to get ahead,I really should make thousands of connections on social media, pay attention to my stock portfolio, hire style experts, improve my public speaking…

It’s overwhelming just to list all the things I should do.

The other day I was reading the story in the Bible where Jesus comes to Martha’s house for dinner. I know. You’ve heard this story before. We are all supposed to be more like Mary and less like Martha. Yada. Yada. 

But read the story again and notice the highlighted word.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

(Luke 10:38-42 NIV 1984)

When I noticed that little word, I had a lightbulb moment: Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.

Martha felt she should make a big dinner for Jesus. She thought she should be in the kitchen.

But who told her she should be doing these things?

It wasn’t Jesus.

Jesus obviously didn’t order Martha to prepare a meal–He commends the sister who is not in the kitchen. Did someone else tell her she had to take responsibility for the meal? Martha probably had servants to whom she could have delegated the work.

Yet she felt she should prepare the meal.

Often when I’m feeling overwhelmed it’s because of the many “shoulds” in my life. I should keep my home in perfect order. I should have an impressive job. I should be helping more people. I start to feel buried under the piles of things I should be doing.

Who told me I should do all those things? Perhaps God commanded some of the things I need to do. But it just might be that I am the one who placed too many shoulds on my plate. I said yes to too many responsibilities. I took on too many tasks.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I have to take a good look at the nitwit who said “yes” too often. I have to accept the responsibility for being overcommitted.

When you’re overwhelmed and overcommitted try doing these three things to get out from under that pile of “shoulds”:

  1. Ask yourself, “Who is telling me I should do this?’ God didn’t tell Martha she had to make a meal for Him. He wanted her to spend some time with Him instead. Too many times I am doing what I think I need to do or what some expert thinks I need to do and neglecting what God wants me to do.
  2. Sit at Jesus feet. This is what Jesus desired for Martha. It’s what He desires for us. Take time to listen to Him. Don’t jump into tasks that were not meant for you.
  3. Ask Jesus, “What do you want me to do?” Ignore the nagging voice in your head. Ignore the experts. Find out what God wants you to do.

Come out from under the pile of “shoulds.”

Next step: Make a list of all the things that you feel you should do today. For each item, ask yourself, “Who is telling me I should do this?” Then prayerfully take them to Christ and ask Him, “What do You want me to do?” In this process, you may discover that some things need to be removed from your list.

distracted blog headerCheck out my eCourse!  If you want more answers for your overwhelmed life, check out my Distracted eCourse.

Click here for more information.



When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed: Do This One Thing



This post is a part of a new six-part series: 6 Answers When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed.

Come back next week for the next post.

Fall schedules are in full swing. You are back in the carpooling, homework helping, dash-out-the door mode.

Maybe you never left it.

These days most of us have our schedules so packed full that we feel overwhelmed, stressed, and burdened.

That’s when Jesus’ words in Matthew almost make us laugh:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30.

We think: But Jesus, You don’t know my schedule. Don’t you see that my calendar has no slots for rest? My burden does not feel light.

At the beginning of this summer I was feeling overwhelmed. I had so many responsibilities and so many things that I wanted to do that there simply wasn’t enough time in the day to do it all. I was trying to pack 36 hours of activities into a 24-hour day and it wasn’t working. Every day I wrote down a long, detailed to-do list. But every day I felt defeated because I was never able to check off everything on my list.

One morning in June I took spent some time with Jesus at a park. I took a lawn chair, my Bible, a few good books, and my journal. As I journaled about my sense of drowning in my to-do list I felt God ask me to write down everything I felt I needed to do. The list was long. There were writing responsibilities, church duties, family needs.

As I looked at the list, I realized that many of the things on the list were things that I felt a responsibility to do, but no one had given me that duty. I was taking on a burden that God had not really intended me to carry. Jesus’ burden is light, but Sharla’s backpack of chores is a bag of bricks.

As I prayed over this list, God seemed to whisper a solution.

What if every day you asked Me the one thing I wanted you to do? What if you joyfully and wholeheartedly worked on that task that day in My power? If there is more time available you could work on other items on your list, but if I directed You to rest or concentrate on relationships you would follow My lead. Then your burden would be light. Your work load easy.

I have to admit that I am still struggling to put this into practice. My days are still too full. But step by step I am learning the power of one thing.

Following Christ.

Next step: Take a moment right now and ask Jesus, “What is the one thing You want me to do today?” Make a plan to accomplish that one thing as soon as possible, asking Him for the strength to complete that task.


How a NOT-To-Do List Can Help You Succeed


Today I’m posting over at my friend Melanie’s site. Read this preview and click to read the rest!

Last year started out with grim news.

My husband was diagnosed with lymphoma.

It was a shock for this guy who never takes a sick day. He never had any symptoms. He didn’t feel ill.

not-to-do-listSoon all of our to-do lists were relegated to the garbage can. Instead of our usual work and social activities, our schedules were crammed with doctor visits, tests, and treatments. Our over-packed lives had to make room for more important things. I personally needed to weed out the frivolous to find time for what was necessary—being available for my husband….

Read more…


Make 2016 the Year You Ditch Distraction!

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2015 was NOT the best year of my life. 

When I rewind 365 days, I see the day my husband heard that the lump on his neck might be lymphoma. I can remember the day he received the conclusive diagnosis. I recall the time spent in doctors’ offices and chemo treatment centers.

It was a hard year.

But God was faithful even in the pain and worry. He was true to His promise:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

God did bring good even out of that year of worry for my husband. 

He taught me how to let go of the trivial and focus on what is truly important.

Make 2016The YearYou DitchIn the years before, I had tried to live with focus, but was failing miserably. I guess it took a life-crisis to make me pay attention to what God was trying to teach me. During 2015 I asked God to show me how to ditch the distractions of this life and focus on what was essential.

Throughout the year I discovered a few habits that helped me maintain that focus. I learned how to focus on God, how to defeat distractions of technology, and how to find rest in the midst of the chaos.

Thankfully my husband is now doing well. The chemotherapy worked and he is in remission. But I still use the important lessons I learned during that hard year. One of the habits I still use helps me to prioritize my day. I find that if I can do that, I am less likely to follow all the rabbit trails of the trivial and to let God guide me to what is truly important.

I would like to share this important Faith-Focus Habit with you, so I wrote a FREE lesson that describes the habit and how to use it in your life. You don’t have experience your own life-crisis to learn it. You can start 2016 living a more focused life.

To get this free lesson, simply click here!

May I pray for you?

Dear Father,

May 2016 be the year we truly learn to set our eyes upon You. Teach us to ignore the trivial. Give us Your perspective so that we see the unseen and eternal and turn away from what is seen and fleeting. Bless the women who read this with a reminder of Your ever-present love and grace.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.