Five Checkpoints for a Quality Day

5 Checkpoints for a Quality Day

I love resale shops. Some of my favorite clothes are from thrift-shops and resale boutiques. Often I find exactly the right color and fit in one of these stores, even when a hunt in typical retail shops turns up nothing.

However, resale shopping requires a keen eye for quality. Many of the clothes are wonderful buys, but there are also a lot of garments with stains, torn seams, and pilled fabrics. Sometimes I get so excited about a fashionable find that I forget to check all the details. Later, when I am about to wear the new sweater or skirt, I discover a flaw that makes it unusable. To help you avoid my mistakes, I offer this list.

Five Checkpoints of a Quality Garment

1. Is the garment clean, without stains?

2. Is the fabric in good shape? Or is faded, worn, or pilly?

3. Is the stitching tight and secure?

4. Are the buttons reinforced?

5. Does the garment have a wide, even hem?

The lessons from quality garments can apply to our lives as well. Often, I live life without paying attention to the details. I rush from appointment to appointment without the considering how to better spend my time.

The philosopher Plato wrote:

The unexamined life is not worth living.

So how should we examine our lives? What elements create a day well spent?

5 Checkpoints of a QualityDay

Drawing from the checkpoints of a quality garment, here are some features to look for in a day well spent:

Five Checkpoints of a Quality Day

1. Was the day cleaned? Did it include a time of confession and receiving God’s forgiveness?

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NIV).

2. Were joy and laughter included in the fabric of the day?

The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV)

3. Was the day stitched with love?

Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14 NIV)

4. Was the day reinforced with God’s Word?

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

5. Was the day hemmed in prayer and thankfulness?

“By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:8)
I pray that God will bless your days with love and laughter, with His grace and guidance. May you count your blessings and enjoy His fellowship!
Next step: Print up the checkpoints of a quality day and keep them by your bed. Do a quick check at the end of each day!

Feeling Overwhelmed? Embrace Boring

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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.

 

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Feeling Overwhelmed? Remember Busy Doesn’t Equal Important

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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?

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3 Scriptures for Fellow Adrenaline Junkies

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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.

 

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Three Steps to Come Out From Under the Pile of Shoulds

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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.

 

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7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest: One Thing

One Thing

I have long suffered from the syndrome of TTDIA–Trying To Do It All.

My calendar is filled with activities. My planner is stuffed with unmet goals. I try to pack more and more into each day only to realize when it’s time to go to bed that I haven’t accomplished even half of what I set out to do.

My frenetic pace reached a climax a little over a year ago. I knew things had to change, but I didn’t know how to make the shift. I could figure out what action to take.

Then my husband was diagnosed with a disease even more serious than TTDIA. The doctors told him he had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It was a shock for this usually healthy-as-a-horse man. Medical personnel assured us that his prognosis was good, but now our time was spent in doctor’s offices, medical test facilities, and chemotherapy labs.

Obviously, my priorities changed. Activities and goals that seemed so essential became unimportant.

But life went on (thankfully) and certain things still needed to be done. I felt restless and anxious over how I would accomplish everything.

In the midst of the chaos, God gave me a solution. Instead of Trying To Do It All, He invited me to ask Him what needed to be done.

7 HABITS #4So I began a new habit. Each day I would ask my wise Father, “What is the one thing You want me to accomplish?” I focused on completing this task as soon as possible. Then, even if nothing else got crossed off my to-do list, I had the confidence that I had finished what the Lord had asked of me.

Thankfully, my husband is now in remission. (Thank You, Lord!) But I have continued this habit. This simple morning exercise brings me daily soul rest.

TTDIA is exhausting. If you’ve ever suffered from this syndrome you know the symptoms: feelings of anxiety, fear, and dread crowd your heart.

But when we ask the Father what is truly important and fulfill His desire for our day we will find peace, sufficiency, and strength.

When we ask the Father what is truly important and fulfill His desire for our day we find soul rest. Click To Tweet

[By the way, the habit of One Thing is also one of the habits I teach in my eCourse Distracted: 12 Faith-Focus Habits for a Frenzied World. Find out more about this course by clicking here.]

Next step: Every morning this week, ask the Father, “What is the One Thing You want me to do today?” Then whether He points you to an item on your to-do list or asks you to accomplish something you didn’t even think of, focus on that task first. 

 

 

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

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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…

 

Grace for the Overwhelmed

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Are you feeling overwhelmed? Drowning in despair? Floundering in mountains of tasks, duties, and responsibilities?

Find grace for your life in Psalm 3.

This Lenten season I’m exploring the Psalms–reading a few psalms each day and recording what God is speaking to me. (You can join me if you want. Download a free Lenten reading guide here.)

Today I’m exploring Psalm 3–a psalm for the overwhelmed.

Just a little background about this psalm.

The book of Psalms is divided into five “books” or divisions. Psalm 3 is, of course, part of Book 1 (Psalms 1-41). This first book of Psalms is sometimes called the Yahweh Psalter because Yahweh is the name for God that is used most often in this section. Most of the psalms in the “Yahweh Psalter” were written by David.

Scholars have classified the psalms into several categories including: wisdom psalms, hymns, and laments. Psalm 3 is described at a psalm of individual lament. Characteristics of lament psalms are: they often begin with an invocation such as, “Oh, Lord” and they contain a plea for help.

But what I love about this psalm is that it gives hope to the overwhelmed.

David himself was overwhelmed by his enemies when he wrote the psalm. It was written when almost the whole nation of Israel rose up against him–including his own son Absalom.

grace for theIt’s no wonder he cries out in despair:

O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me, many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. (Psalm 3:1-2)

Don’t you love it that we can call out to God whenever we feel beaten down and crushed by life? Yes, the world may doubt that God can help, but we who know the Lord are confident of His help.

And that is what David says next:

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. (Psalm 3:3-4)

David doesn’t stay in lament mode for long. He quickly acknowledges God’s protection and blessing. He reminds himself that Yahweh hears his prayers.

David is so confident of the Lord’s help, that he goes to sleep:

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. (Psalm 3:5-6)

God wants us to be so sure of His strength and love that we can rest in Him. Even though thousands of people (or dozens of problems) are against us, we don’t have to be afraid if God is on our side.

Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! (Psalm 3:7-8)

In the end, David call out to God again. He reminds himself that God is the one who saves.

I have to admit that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I don’t always turn to God first.

I often try to fix things myself. I read more self-help books about time management. I look up information on getting organized–thinking that will help overcome my problems.

Psalm 3 reminds me that God is the “lifter of my head”–the one who gives victory. He is my shield–a Protector against my troubles. He is my Savior.

Yahweh is always available to listen. He longs for me to come to Him for help. Click To TweetWhen I turn to Him the Lord gives rest even in the midst of the chaos.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Turn to the Lord for help.

Next step: David laments about his many enemies. What or who are the enemies in your life? Difficult people? A multitude of bills? Overwhelming schedule? Write a list and then take it to God. Ask Him for wisdom and power to conquer the foes. Find rest in Him.

Join me in reading through the psalms this Lent. Click here for a free reading guide.

 

 
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The Trouble With Living For Applause

 

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I recently finished a slow tour through the book of Mark. I read and reflected, slowly contemplating God’s message to me in these words.

I noticed an amazing truth in the stories of the week leading up to Jesus’ death.

We cannot live for applause.

I came to this conclusion because of the 180-turn the crowds made that week.

On Palm Sunday, the crowd gathered around Jesus, laying their garments at His feet, and shouting praises:

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)

But just six short days later, the crowds changed their tune. Now they were shouting,

“Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13)

Astounding. How could the people change their minds, their words, their opinion of Jesus so dramatically? How could they want Him to be their king at the beginning of the week and want Him dead by the end?

Of course, all of this had to happen for Christ to fulfill His mission to rescue us. But it also shows the fickleness of people.

One day you are invited to all the popular parties, the next you are excluded. One week the boss likes everything you do and the next someone else in the office is her favorite. One year you have great success, the next you are scrounging for business.

So if we are only living for the approval of people, we are in big trouble. People’s opinions change daily. What they like and don’t like is influenced by the media, the latest styles, and even by how much sleep they got the night before.

Jesus knew this so He wasn’t rocked by the applause OR the condemnations of the people. He simply focused on living to please His Father. He told His disciples,

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:35)

and even said,

“I do not accept praise from men.” (John 5:41)

The trouble with living for applause of people is people are fickle. Their opinions are often inconsistent. If we keep living to please other humans we will find ourselves with a million different game plans. We will bounce from one goal to another because the world keeps changing. People’s opinions constantly fluctuate.

Instead we need to live to please the One who never changes. Our focus will be clearer if we let praise from men roll off our backs. Our lives will be richer and less chaotic if we live to do the will of the Father who loves us no matter what.

Next Step: Look at your schedule or to-do list for tomorrow. Choose one item and ask yourself: Am I doing this to please other people? What difference would it make if I worked at this task simply to please my Savior?

 

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original photo credit

 

Five Ways God’s Love Changes You Part 2

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5 more ways God's love seeps into our hearts and transforms us.

 

I struggle with many things:

caring too much about what people think of me

second-guessing my decisions

accepting God’s plan for my life

focusing too much on material things of life

spending way too much time at my computer

Maybe you can relate.

This world is full of conflicts between pleasing God and pleasing others. Our life is characterized by clashes between our spiritual side and the part that simply must type the memo, get dinner on the table, and generally survive in the world.

I have found one simple act that helps me win the battle:

Basking in God’s love.

As I said in a previous post, basking in God’s love during a particularly stressful season kept my heart at peace. Simply stopping for a few minutes to contemplate my Father’s unfailing love for me helped me win the battle against doubt and anxiety.

A look in God’s Word confirms: God’s love transforms me.

Here are 5 more ways God’s love changes you and me:

God’s love enables us to stay on His path. “For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness” (Psalm 26:3). When I am mindful of God’s never-ending love for me, I am much more confident that God’s path is the best one. I don’t walk in my qualifications or in my competence. I walk in His faithfulness.

God’s love gives us the confidence to pray. Psalm 69:13 says: “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.” Because we know God as a caring Father, we can come to Him as His much-loved children. His unfailing love gives us the courage to come with our debilitating failures, our overwhelming dilemmas, and even our pesky problems.

God’s love motivates us to obey. Psalm 106:7 tells us the reason for the Israelites’ rebellion: “Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.” After all God had done for them, how could they forget His love? Yet I often do the same. But when I do bask in the abundance of God’s love, my rebellious spirit is tamed. I’m drawn to follow Love.

God’s love in our hearts enables us to please God. “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Psalm 147:11). Just like any loving dad, what pleases our Abba Father most is for His children to curl up in His caring arms–to put their hope not in their own cleverness or ambition, but in His love for them.

God’s love helps us to love others. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). We are to love others as Christ loved us. That little word as can have a couple of different meanings. It can mean, “Just like I have loved you, I want you to love other people” or “Since I have loved you, you are to love one another.” Loving others in the same way Jesus loved us is a difficult task. It’s made a little easier because God has filled our hearts with His love.

So take a minute right now and bask in God’s love. Meditate on Christ’s sacrifice. Repeat the words of God’s affection from Scripture.

Allow His words of love to seep into your heart and change you.

(Find the first 5 ways God love changes us here)