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Christian Living

Climbing Last Year’s Mountain

Sorry guys! I know it’s been a couple of weeks. We’ve been sick again. It’s hard to get back into a routine after such a long time of being out of it.

I love New Year’s! I love feeling like I can let go of the failures of the previous year and start over with a fresh slate. No mistakes in it. I find, however, that I can get discouraged when I make my goals because I want to be further along than I am. It’s a time to look at the mountain and re-realize I haven’t climbed it. That’s not always true, and often, I forget to congratulate myself for the mountains I have climbed. But sometimes, it feels overwhelming just looking at the next year’s goals and seeing how similar they are to the previous year’s goals.

I’m learning two strategies to manage this type of stress. The first is to ask myself why I didn’t climb my mountain. I have to admit this type of introspection isn’t always that much fun. Sometimes it’s because I’m afraid to fail or I’m paralyzed by indecision over the best way up. Sometimes it’s because circumstances outside of my control kept me from climbing it. For example, several years ago my doctor told me I had to start sleeping 12 hours/night or I’d end up with an auto-immune disease. I tried doing a sleep study and following their recommendations but because the sleep doctor didn’t address my nutrition or my PTSD around sleep, I didn’t make any progress. I didn’t know what I didn’t know (and probably neither did the doctor).

In 2017, I learned about sleep on a cellular level and what I needed to do nutritionally to set myself up for good sleep. I also worked on my PTSD around sleep. Lo and behold, I’ve been sleeping through the night consistently for the past few months. For the first time in my whole life, I fall asleep quickly and easily, sleep until morning, and then wake up. I used to have sleep days like that two or three times per year and now they’re the norm. I love that kind of progress! But it didn’t come until I started dealing with the root problems instead of trying to treat symptoms.

The second is to give myself some grace. We can get so focused on accomplishing our goals–especially us people who are into personal development–that we forget to give ourselves grace. Success isn’t about perfection–it’s about getting back up when we fail, working on our projects when we can even if it’s not as much as we would prefer. It’s about doing our best with the circumstances we’ve got. Maybe I don’t have brain power to write one day–I don’t need to cudgel my brain into submission. Really, I probably just need a break and that’s okay. If I do force myself to write, it’s not going to be good quality and it’ll just reinforce a belief that writing is hard and not fun–work. That’s not the kind of writing I want to do! I love authors who obviously have fun with their stories–it makes the story fun to read. No one needs to read work that makes them feel bleh.

So, as we all start to execute our New Year’s goals, I challenge you (and myself) to implement these two strategies. Let’s ask ourselves why the goal hasn’t already happened and then address the issues that come up. And let’s give ourselves grace.

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Christian Living

Peace Is Here

I find it ironic that Christmas is simultaneously one of the busiest seasons of the year and the time when we celebrate peace. I’m not sure if we can celebrate peace when we’re running from one thing to the next.

Merriam-Webster defines peace as 1) “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions” and 2) “harmony in personal relations.” A lack of hostility between governments or freedom from civil disturbance are other definitions in their list. Those first two though–those are the ones we’re all looking for.

Can you imagine what that’s like? Take a minute and imagine you were sprinkled with fairy dust and from this moment forward you don’t have fear or anxiety or stress. Imagine what your life would be like. You have harmony in your relationships. What would change? What would be the same?

Peace in the middle of a world gone crazy is a gift beyond measure. On our podcast, we often talk about how stress shuts off our reasoning brain and creative problem solving selves. Stress begets stress–the more stressed you are, the less well your circumstances go and then more stressed you get.

It’s easy to think that peace will come when we get our circumstances right. If we just had more time, less things on our to-do lists, fewer activities on our schedule, it would translate into less stress, right? I know I lived in that place for a long time. I was so convinced that peace would follow if I could just get ahead. I worked harder and harder, trying to attain peace. Like a donkey chasing a carrot, I really thought I could get peace if I worked more.

However, that’s not how peace comes. At Christmas, we celebrate the fact the Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6-7), came down to earth and became a human man so that He could bring peace between us and God. His blood is what allows us to move from being God’s enemy to His beloved child. Peace came because God injected peace into a broken world.

In Gal. 5:22-23, Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit and peace is in that list. In other words, peace is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit. We can run on our hamster wheels until the cows come home but we’re never going to get anywhere.

I also love Col. 3:15 which says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” We see there and in Is. 9:6-7 that peace is connected to submission to God’s rule. This is why we’re passionate about reminding people (including ourselves) that we need to align with the way God’s designed us to live. There is so much peace in just doing what God calls us to do when He tells us to do it. My life used to be full of chaos. Chaos in my relationships. Chaos in my living space. Chaos in my schedule. Stress was my middle name for a long time 🙂 But as I’ve learned the CSC’s (being calm, surrendered, centered, connected, and complete), I’ve been able to align with God’s design, to surrender and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Obviously, I need reminded daily that that’s the road to success (and that’s a huge part of why we do our podcast!), but there is so much more peace in my life than there used to be.

So as we’re celebrating holidays, rather than getting swept away into the busy-ness, let’s hang onto God’s rule. Peace is possible even in the middle of crazy circumstances. We don’t have to wait to find it–peace is now.

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Christian Living

Abundance in the Now

How’re you guys doing? The holidays working out okay so far? We’ve had a full schedule this week–although my body rebelled so I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in bed. I’m so thankful though for our regular schedule!! We’ve organized it so that we’re consistently moving towards our goals rather than treading water. Something that makes me feel better than I can express 🙂

As I shared last week, our podcast, Epic Every Day, is all about aligning with God’s reality so we can find freedom, abundance, and peace. I ran out of space to talk about abundance and peace so I thought I’d tackle abundance this week and peace next week.

Abundance means having enough or more than enough. For instance, I’ve shared on this blog before how my life pre-Sacred Six meant I never completed my to-do list. I never had enough time to consistently do the things that are important to me. I skimped on self-care. I felt like I was always on the verge of drowning. Now, I actually complete my to-do list regularly. My schedule is set up to push me towards my goals.

Our society is so busy that we tend to live in overwhelm–we don’t have enough time/energy/resources to even try to change that reality. We’re just focused on trying to get through each day.

But what if we could have enough? What if we had enough time to do what really matters to us? To do all the good works God’s prepared in advance for us? What if we consistently had time to breathe? Time to just sit and marvel at God’s character? Time to sleep for 8 hours/night?

Or what about emotional resources–what if we had joy that circumstances couldn’t mute? What if we could persevere through difficult circumstances with peace?

Or what if we had enough finances? An emergency fund that could cushion the loss of a job or a sudden expense? A budget that kept us within our financial means? What if we were out of debt?

I’m not talking about a health and wealth gospel–Jesus said we’d have trouble in this world. Suffering is part of living in a broken world. However, by its very nature, aligning with the way God designed life to work pushes us in the direction of growing freedom, abundance, and peace.

For example, Proverbs speaks over and over about money. Proverbs 22:7 says that the borrower is slave to the lender–not a place we want to be if we’re supposed to be slaves only to God. Not having debts gets rid of a huge stressor and frees us up to do other things in God’s kingdom (e.g., giving to the poor). It’s part of freedom, abundance, and peace. God doesn’t keep us from getting into debt. But I believe He does help us get out of debt once we start being faithful with our finances and aligning with His heart towards money.

Abundance is one of my favorite things about the Christian life. I love that God is a God who gives good gifts (Jas 1:17), that He lavished the riches of His grace on us (Eph 1:8), that He gives abundant redemption (Ps. 130:7). He’s not a stingy God. Yes, living in a broken world means our not-yet abundance is paltry compared to the abundance we’ll have when Jesus returns. Having a healthy earthly body can’t really compare to having a healthy heavenly body. But there’s still abundance in the here and now. Like David says, “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13, NIV).

We also see this when we look at Jesus’ ministry. The wine He made at Cana was both the highest quality and there was more than they needed. When He healed people, He did it to the point that they were fully functional–not just half-healed.

And that’s why we’re passionate about aligning with God’s design in the here and now. It’s the pathway to true abundance–both now and eternally.

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Christian Living

Free to Fly

How was everybody’s Thanksgiving? I really love the idea that we can set ourselves up for success! Like I talked about last week with using Thanksgiving to set up our holidays. I guess it’s because my schedule tends toward the packed side and my health tends towards exhaustion and my stress level tends towards more than I want it to be. There’s so much I can’t control. The idea that I can hook myself into a railroad track that will carry me the direction I want to head is music to my soul.

On our podcast, Epic Every Day, we introduce it by saying it’s designed for busy, overwhelmed Christians who want to move towards freedom, abundance, and peace. Those concepts have been my goals for the past several years.

In Gal. 5:1 Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” It’s easy to forget how amazing that is in the daily grind of life. Unless I’m reminded, I don’t think about freedom when I’m in the middle of school or housekeeping or even writing and podcasting. But we can’t take it for granted. Paul continues by saying, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (NIV). We’re designed to fly, but so often we hang around on the ground.

I’m reminded of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. They were so used to working 7 days a week that they went out to gather manna, even though God (via Moses) told them not to. He reinstated the Sabbath but their train tracks were to work 7 days.

Our natural tendency is to live in bondage. It might be the bondage of fear/worry. Or maybe it’s bondage to an addiction. Or bondage to stress. Or bondage to jealousy or envy. Or maybe it’s bondage to the past–carrying regret or being unable to forgive yourself. Maybe it’s bondage to people-pleasing or trying to control things in your life. Or, like Paul talks about, maybe it’s bondage to rules–trying to earn salvation. We all lived in bondage before Jesus saved us. For me, I had so much fear wrapped up in my PTSD. Years of therapy and personal work, by God’s grace, have brought freedom that I never thought possible. Sometimes I notice it in little things, like being able to watch my kids chew gum without having a panic attack. Or sometimes it’s in big things like sleeping through the night consistently for the first time in my life.

We all have some kind of bondage. The question is what we’re going to do about it. We can stay trapped. One of the most insidious traps is to be stuck in “someday”–“Someday I’ll address that bondage.” “Someday my life circumstances will be different and my heart issues will go away by themselves.” “Someday I’ll have time to inventory where I’m in bondage.”

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts…” (Heb. 3:7-8)

There’s no time to wait for someday. And, as I’ve talked about before, we can’t apply a circumstance solution to a heart problem. The heart problem will be there until we fix the heart problem. Freedom is internal before it shows up externally. We’re so blessed because we don’t have to earn our salvation! We have a loving heavenly Father who gives us good gifts that are perfectly individualized for each of us (James 1:17). We have the Holy Spirit to work the fruit of the Spirit in us when we surrender–so many of which are the antidote to bondage. We don’t have to live in bondage–we choose to live in it.

So where don’t you have freedom? And what’s stopping you from getting it?

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Christian Living

Using Thanksgiving as a Springboard

The holidays are here! Did anybody have a moment of panic when they realized Thanksgiving is this week? Much as I love Thanksgiving, it feels like the gateway to a month of trying to cram holiday traditions in. I had to remind myself that we’ve done the pre-work: 90% of our shopping and wrapping is done, and we made a family list of activities we want to get in before now and Christmas (different lights displays, making cookies, doing the tree, etc.). Most of those activities even got written on the calendar.

I’ve been thinking about how Thanksgiving sets us up for the holiday season much the way that Sabbath sets us up for a good week. Or at least that it can set us up for a good holiday season.

JB Glossinger talks about how most of us see things as 51% negative and 49% positive, but if we can flip those numbers, we can change our entire lives. A changed perspective can be the difference between worry and trust, between the hope that drags a person forward and despair that leaves us exhausted.

Gratitude is one way we can have a more positive outlook. I’m always amazed by how differently I can feel about my life from day to day. Tuesday last week I was excited about the projects I had going on and ready to take on the week. Wednesday, I was convinced we haven’t made any progress in the past year and that we weren’t going to make any. There were no major changes that happened Tuesday night or on Wednesday. I was a little sleep deprived so that was part of it. But mostly, it was just a perspective shift. The same events that seemed so hopeful and exciting on Tuesday were lackluster and a waste of time on Wednesday.

I have found, however, that if I catch myself when I start sliding into negativity and add gratitude to the mix, I can keep from having that negative perspective shift. A gratitude list is one way to do that–although I can make a list without actually feeling gratitude; it turns into a list of things I should be grateful for. Another way is to pick one or two things you’re grateful for (or know you should be grateful for) and to dwell on them until your heart swells and you see God’s grace at work.

Thanksgiving can be a day of frantic cooking and stressful interactions. It can also be a day to reflect on the amazing things God has done in our lives. It just depends on what we choose to do with the day.

Gratitude can be a solid foundation to springboard into the holidays with a heart that is looking for God’s hand, for the good gifts that He wants to give us this December.

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Christian Living

Taking Breaks Isn’t For Wusses

I love when something happens that highlights how far I’ve come. It doesn’t happen super often, but every once in a while, I’ll realize what a 180 I’ve done. Every time I watch the Descendants movies, it reminds me how hard it is to move from one world into another.

Growing up, I learned that taking breaks is for wusses. Successful people push themselves until they’re running on empty, and if you can’t handle the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Think that’s enough metaphors? But seriously, until I got sick seven and a half years ago, I lived that. And it meant I had loads of shame once I got sick and couldn’t be a “contributing member of society.” To me, contributing meant giving 110% to every task in front of me.

This week we did a podcast on how taking breaks isn’t for wusses. Taking breaks is a tangible way to surrender to God. He’s the one who proscribed weekly Sabbaths and daily sleeping enough (Ps. 127:2) and yearly festivals. It’s not easy to stop doing–it forces us to trust instead, to believe that God can pick up the slack in our families, our jobs, our goals, etc., etc. I’m far more likely to want to keep at it day and night. As I said on our show, I have to re-surrender about every 20 minutes on my Sabbath because I keep thinking of things that need done.

Taking breaks gives us mental and emotional room to be more effective the rest of the time. For example, sleep-deprivation acts like alcohol–it slows our reflexes, lowers our critical thinking, and impairs judgment. As a society, we often tout our lack of sleep as some kind of badge of honor, but all we’re really saying is that we’re careless with our lives. We’re trading staying up late for being effective and efficient for the next day.

We’re also giving up change in our lives for the pleasure of having a wall-to-wall schedule. I think that fact more than any other has prompted me to prioritize margin in my schedule. It’s like with plants–if you don’t give them enough room to grow, they don’t thrive. We need room in our schedules in order to thrive. Without it, we’ll be miserable and we’ll stay the same miserable people as long as our schedule continues. Without room to process what we’ve learned, to learn new things, to have conversations and relationships, to sit with Jesus, to read, and to think, we can’t grow. One of my worst fears is that I will be the same person 20 years from now as I am today. I can’t imagine carrying the same amount of baggage for decades. It makes me tired just thinking about it!

So! Challenge: Surrendering your time takes actually doing something. It’s not a faith without works deal. For me, surrendering my time means kneeling in the morning and praying over my schedule, taking a Sabbath, and I’m working on going to bed on time. If you already do all those, way to go! If not, pick one and start adding it to your schedule. If you’d like a little public accountability, write which one you’re going to do in a comment.

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Christian Living

Putting Out Fires… Before They Grow

Crazy fact: I didn’t even realize I hadn’t posted a blog last week until now. That’s how sick we’ve been. It’s amazing how everything falls to the wayside in the midst of illness. Both my husband and I are more than ready to return to our regular schedule.

I can’t tell you how happy that makes me 🙂 It means that our regular schedule is one that pushes us towards our goals, rather than our goals getting lost among the day-in, day-out reality of school, housekeeping, etc., etc.

How do we do that? Planning ahead and prioritizing the important–that’s the short answer. I really love the concept of risk management over crisis management. Risk management is when you take time to look at your schedule (or finances) and list out potential issues before they become issues. It allows you to take the stitch in time approach (you know, “a stitch in time saves nine”) where you solve the problem before it can get started. Crisis management, on the other hand, is when you live like a fire fighter, constantly putting out one fire after another. Problems are already full blown fires when they come to your attention.

For us, risk management means we sit down every Friday and talk about what expenses are coming up and how we want to budget for them. We also talk about our schedule for the upcoming week and what things need to get done–as well as what might potentially turn into a crisis. For instance, we make our own liver pills. It’s time-consuming, but it’s the only way I’ve gotten my kids to take liver 😉 So, I added making new liver pills onto our list before we ran out of the old ones. I didn’t want us to be out and then suddenly have something new added to the list (especially not something that takes extra time). We didn’t actually finish the new pills before we ran out, but the running out wasn’t a surprise. New pills were already on our radar.

Last week, on our podcast, Epic Every Day, Evan and I talked about how the holidays are coming. Thanksgiving is two weeks away!! TWO! I still can’t wrap my brain around that. Probably because we’ve been sick and out of our routine for the past two and a half weeks. My brain thinks it’s still October. But we’re preparing. We sat down with our kids last week to make a family holiday must-do list (stuff like making cookies and going to our favorite lights displays). Today we did more Christmas shopping and are having a gift wrapping party tonight.

A pinch of prevention is worth an ounce of cure. I’ve been wondering lately where else we can apply a pinch of prevention. I’m sure there are places I’m not seeing–time to ask God to show us where those places are! So how about you guys: any great ways you’ve found to consistently nip problems in the bud?

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