Christian Living

Too Busy to Change

Hey folks! Sorry I missed last week. I spent most of the past week and a half in bed sick. Ridiculous how a cold can just lay me low at this point in my life/where my immune system is at.

Do you ever feel like the week just sped by? I frequently do! I can’t believe that it’s OCTOBER–OCTOBER! My oldest daughter just turned ten–also a shock to my system 🙂 Time flies, doesn’t it?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how being busy makes the time speed by like nobody’s business. When you’re busy, you just go through one day and the next and the next. There’s no time for extra things in your life (at least that’s how my life goes!).

This week my kids and I were talking about how people learn. Brain science is fascinating to me. Did you know that you can’t learn new skills if you’re in fight or flight mode? We’re hardwired to be unable to learn when we’re in survival mode. What puts a person in survival mode? Lots of things–anything that stresses them emotionally or physically. We need safe space in order to learn.

What does that have to do with being busy? Everything. If we’re busy, we don’t have that space unless we intentionally schedule it into our days. I don’t know about you, but some days I feel too busy to even catch my breath, as though if I slow down for a second, the rest of my day will collapse in a pile of unaccomplished tasks. My husband and I were recently talking about some changes we want to implement and trying to figure out when we have time to actually implement them.

I’ve recently become convicted that that level of busy-ness means that I don’t have space in my life for growing. Since becoming stagnant is my worst fear, this is a big deal to me. The sad thing is that, in our go-go-go society, being busy is almost unavoidable. So what can we do? How do we keep from waking up one day and realizing years have gone by without us growing?

I think one major thing is to create space in our days and weeks. My husband and I try to fit in a Sabbath every week. I personally love this practice. I was just reading a couple of entrepreneur books and listening to them talk about how key it is to work EVERY single day made me sad for the authors. I actually grew up with that work 7 days a week mentality but have since been convinced of the benefit of taking a Sabbath. It’s one of the things I do that remind me who is really in charge of making my life work–like going to bed at a reasonable time (Ps. 127:2) or tithing.

I also have a daily quiet time–something I think I would go insane without. I do prayer and Bible study and read back through my journal to remind myself of the things God’s been teaching me lately, but I also have time to just think and listen.

The other thing I’ve been working on is making sure I’m busy with the right things. James Clear describes the difference between motion and action: “Motion is when you’re busy doing something, but that task will never produce an outcome by itself… Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will get you a result.” It’s kind of the difference between getting caught up in doilies and dishes and being intentional about the things God has called us to do. There’s a kind of space that comes just from being who God designed us to be, a freedom that’s found in doing the things He’s called us to do.


So how about you? Do you have space in your life for growth or are you too busy to change? How do you keep space in your life (or put it back in)?


Decoy Levels

Have you ever been playing a game, getting all excited that you’re about to win when all of a sudden you realize that you misunderstood what it took to win the game? It’s not a very good feeling, is it? I recently realized that one of the Freefall games I play on my phone has quite a few what I call “decoy levels.” Basically, you’ll have the same objective (e.g., light all the fires) for ten levels in a row and then on the eleventh row, there will be a bunch of fires, but the objective is to get rid of a hundred blues, or something of that nature. Maybe it’s because I don’t play often enough, but I get into a rut where my brain just looks at the level, sees the unlit fires and goes, “oh, right, need to light the fires.”

I’ve been thinking about how life is like that. As Tolkien put it, we can get distracted with “dishes and doilies.” For instance, I find myself focused on how much physical pain I’m in sometimes, just so I don’t have to think about my stress level. Or I obsess over something that doesn’t matter–e.g., how clean the house is–because I don’t want to deal with the fact that I’m not succeeding in an area that does matter. I firmly believe that’s exactly why some people become workaholics. They want success and can find success in work and it becomes addicting.

Anyway, I’m in the middle of reading a book about figuring out what really matters based on what’s important to you/who God made you to be. Someone who isn’t made to be a writer isn’t going to put writing high on their to-do list. It’s been really good! I’ve found myself thinking that knowing those things is the way to combat getting distracted by dishes and doilies.

As my daughter said when I was explaining to her why I have a Freefall example written in my Bible study journal, “I just read the goal first.” You had to have been there to find the humor–she’s almost ten, very sweet, and she looked at me like I was nuts.

If we have a clear objective, it’s much easier not to get taken in by decoys. I absolutely adore that God gives us a clear objective, and that it’s written over and over throughout Scripture. For example, in John 15 Jesus talks about how it’s our job to abide in Him and let Him bear fruit through us. In Phil. 3:11-13, Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s another great example of growing in our relationship with God while letting Him bear fruit in us. It doesn’t take a lot of Bible reading to find that goal written down.

We don’t have to wonder what the goal is. I keep reminding myself to start with the first things first: work on abiding; ask God to show me where I’m not abiding and why that is (which in my life is typically because I’m believing a lie of some sort) and then work to align with His truth.

So, how are you doing? It’s halfway through 2016. Do you gut-level know the goal, and are you working towards it? Or are you distracted by decoy levels?


Multiplying Time

So…. *twiddles thumbs* How was your week? Mine’s been good–very, very busy, but good.

A while ago I read this blog post (and I just finally got around to watching the TED talk she references this week–it was really good!) about multiplying time. It’s been a really helpful way to think about resource management. Basically, you start by asking if whatever you’re spending time/energy/money on is actually necessary. If it’s not, you get rid of the thing. If it is, then you ask yourself if there’s a way to invest the resource in such a way as to get more back later in that particular area. In the TED talk, Rory Vaden talks about the two options for this–automating or delegating. So I can spend extra time setting up automatic bill pay and it’ll save me time later. Or I can teach my daughters to load their own dishes into the dishwasher and it’ll save me time every day thereafter. Or I can take extra time to organize my stuff drawer and save time when I’m trying to find something in it and money when I don’t buy an eighth container of super glue (can you tell I organized my stuff drawer this week? :)). Vaden calls it three dimensional time management, where you take into account the significance equation.

One way I’ve been trying to apply this principle is to have a routine for my morning and evening. I’ve had routines before, but the past several years my routine has consisted of things like trying to drag myself out of bed even on the mornings when I feel awful or deciding if I can put my clothes on while I’m standing up or if I need to be sitting down to do it. Real exciting 🙂 Anyway! I realized when I was making a list of the things I would actually want to get done in a perfect morning  (and the most efficient order to do them in ;)) that the things I don’t usually get done are all the things that would either give me more time/energy the next day or that are significant to me. It definitely gave me the permission I needed to concentrate on actually implementing my routine.

So all this stuff has been rattling around in my head for a month or two and then yesterday this verse jumped out at me: Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” [Col 4:17 NIV]

Bam! There’s that significance equation. I realized that this past week I’ve been so busy trying to somehow shove 18 months (yes, that’s really how long I’ve been sick!) worth of neglected house cleaning into a month that I’ve been neglecting my ministry. Yes, I’ve still been putting time and energy into my mothering. But mothering is only one of the ministries God has given me. Granted, I’d consider it the more important one, which is why it’s still getting done. However, I haven’t written a lick all week, which makes me feel cranky and drained.

My husband and I were talking last night about how we probably won’t look back on our lives and think, “Man, wasn’t it great that the house was clean?” Note: I am totally not advocating messy houses here–that’s a whole different issue. I love having the house clean. I’m a type four–I have trouble thinking when the house is a disaster. But we’ve addressed our house cleaning issues. We automated it by creating a specific times for cleaning different things. Despite that fact, I was getting sucked into cleaning/organizing way more than the time we’d already set aside.

I’m pretty sure that I will look back and be more concerned about the ministry I left undone than the house I left uncleaned.

I love this quote from The Hobbit (the movie). Gandalf has already told Bilbo that he’s looking for someone to share in an adventure and Bilbo replies that he’s not surprised Gandalf has been having a hard time finding someone since they’re “uncomfortable” and “make you late for dinner.” Gandalf says, “You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. Tell me: when did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? I remember a young hobbit who always was running off in search of elves and the woods, who would stay out late, and come home after dark, trailing mud and twigs and fireflies. A young hobbit who would have liked nothing better than to find out what was beyond the borders of the Shire. The world is not in your books and maps; it’s out there.”

So, since January is a big tweak-your-time-management-strategies month, I will leave us with this question: Are we making time for the things that are significant or are we getting sidetracked with doilies and dishes?