5 Questions to Ask When You’re “CRAZY Busy”

“We’ve just been so CRAZY busy!”

I have a friend whose emails contain this phrase along with profuse apologies about her perpetual stress level almost every single time she writes me.

Sometimes I want to shout at the computer “Well STOP DOING so much!”

Brene Brown says exhaustion is the new status symbol. If we don’t feel overwhelmed we must not be doing something important.  Are you buying into that?

I want to tell my crazy busy friend about my sister-in-law who realized that they had had so many people visiting their lake cabin over the past few years that none of their family was actually able to enjoy it.  They were always hosting someone else, so she called a moratorium for this one summer.  A time out.  To that I say “Bravo!”  It can be done.

But I also realize how hard it must be to think of disappointing friends who don’t have lake homes and who look forward to visiting every year.  Boundaries are not without their downside.  They take courage and resolve.

As I’ve been thinking about my friend and my sister-in-law, 5 Questions have come to mind that might be helpful to ask ourselves when we’re “CRAZY Busy”:

1.  How does this level of busyness affect the state of my soul? Really.  Am I at my best at these rpm’s?  How much does my busyness feed my false self – the part of me that needs to be validated by my achievements?

2.  Is this just a season (temporary), or is it an on-going pattern of over-extending myself?

3.  Why have I said “yes” to each of these commitments?  Which have I said “yes” to out of fear or a need to prove something?  Examine your commitments one by one.

4.  Do I have choices where I may have been making excuses? (Ex.: I have to work on the sr. high school party because I did it when our other child was a sr.)

5.  Who are the right people to disappoint?

I’d really love to just sit down and have a conversation with you about this over a DQ Blizzard because I’d like to hear your thoughts too.

What do you think?  Is there one person you feel like you need to be willing to disappoint in order to have a healthier rhythm of life?

Need a little more encouragement?  You are not a victim.  You own your choices. Learn from Bob Goff who tries to quit something every Thursday.photo-157

 

 

Two Questions When You’re “Off”

Last week is was sunny and cool with big, fluffy white clouds pushing each other around in the blue sky where we were staying near Windsor in Great Britain.  (The weather was a tad different the day I took this picture).

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I had just gotten back from a run during which I asked for directions about 492 times in tiny boroughs, at pubs, hoping to find a park. I kept getting pointed different directions.  I felt a little like I was on a perpetual rural British roundabout.

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Finally a woman said, “Well, there’s a moor down that way, but I’m afraid you’d get lost on it.”  Good bet.

I turned around and shuffle/jogged back to the hotel where I jumped into the shower and realized I’d been using body lotion instead of conditioner on my hair for the past few days. That could explain a lot.  (Don’t laugh – it could happen to you.)

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All that to say, I’ve been a little …“off”.

Eating too much, sleeping too little, not paying attention, and getting lost.  A little out of my regular rhythm, both physically and spiritually.

When you travel (or when you have anything “extra”going on, or a sick kid, or out-of-town guests, or a project due…) it’s so easy to get knocked off-stride and out of your spiritual rhythm.

In these times I tend to get to the end of the day and think,

“Where am I?  Who am I?  And how did I get to the end of this day totally missing God?”

Two questions can make all the difference as to whether my day is purposeful and life-giving, or a blur of empty activity.

1.  Have I filled my mind with anything of the Spirit?  Have I sought the mind of God to orient myself?  Especially when I’m busy or in a new environment.

Ok, let’s be honest here.  I don’t mean reading and taking notes on a chapter of Ezekiel every day.  I mean anything.  Truly, I’ve found God can use even the tiniest morsel to feed me if I give Him a chance.  If I’m clueless, any part of Psalm 25 is a great “go to” at the beginning of the day.  Anything is something.

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If I listen to God in the morning, there’s a much better chance my ear will be attuned to Him during the ordinary stuff and relationships of my day.  I also have a different grid through which I experience life.

2.  Have I made Space to process with God what He’s been showing me about Himself and myself throughout the day?  Where have I seen God and where have I missed Him?

Space, margin, silence…whatever you want to call it, it’s become rare in our 24/7 world of more news, more activity, more noise (especially for extroverts like me who can easily be sucked into the “more”.

Like Mary, I need to say “no” to the good in order to  choose “what is better”.  Whether it’s journalling or taking a prayer walk, I may need to limit accessibility to the world in order to be accessible to Jesus, prioritizing time to reflect on His activity.

What about you?  What helps you to reorient and pay attention when you’re “off”?

Invitations and the Three Things You Need

I’m not that person.  I’m not the sell-everything-move-to-the-slums-of-Calcutta-like-Mother-Theresa person.  That’s not the invitation I’ve sensed from God.  Yet.

I’m an ordinary girl trying to follow Jesus where He’s put me and getting it wrong a lot.

But if there’s one passion I have, it’s responding to the invitations God extends, as crazy as they might seem in my ordinary world.

The thing is these invitations rarely arrive in a giant Oscar-like envelope with a red seal screaming “THIS IS IMPORTANT!  PAY ATTENTION!”

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We long for invitation, but sometimes we have to lean close because the invitation is a whisper not a shout.

Recently, Bob Goff wrote,

“Jesus won’t try to speak over the noise in our lives; love whispers so we won’t be confused about who’s doing the talking.”

Sometimes it’s a whispered invitation to stop.  And do something you’ve never done before.  Something a tiny bit scary, or uncomfortable, or potentially embarrassing.

The whispered invitation may come right in your cramped apartment, or in your dysfunctional family, or on the road to work.

The invitation might look like a Jamaican cleaning woman stranded on the side of the road needing a ride,

or an injustice that begs for a note to your congressperson,

or a kid who could use a mentor or a meal.

The other day I saw a friend of mine who responded to the quiet invitation from God to take her aging parent for a delightful afternoon tea out, giving her mom loving attention and a listening ear no matter how confused she got.

Here’s the thing though.  I believe three ingredients are needed if you’re going to respond to these gentle, holy invitations.

An eye, an ear, an hour.

An eye for those in need, an ear attuned to the whispered prompts of God, and the time to respond.

I guess maybe the fourth thing that is needed is a willingness to actually do the work of responding, but the element that I think is most often missing in our lives, the thing that prevents us from responding to God’s invitations, is lack of margin.

A mentor of mine always said, “If you’re too busy to take a pot of soup to someone in need, you’re too busy.”

I know, I know…in some seasons margin is beyond our control.  And maybe the person in need is you.  You’re the perpetual care-giver who, like Elijah after an intense season, needs to respond to the whispered invitation for a snack and a nap.*

Then do that.  Pray. Rest.  Replenish.

But whether God whispers an invitation to be part of some kingdom work, or kingdom rest today, which element is most likely to get in the way of you responding?  An eye to see the needs, an ear to heaven, the guts to respond, or the time to do it?

God, show me where You want to work today, and invite me to be a part of it.  I’m trying to pay attention.

*1st Kings 19

Pregnant, part 2

This week I’m thinking about Mary and three spiritual practices that may help us prepare for Christmas.  You can read the first in the series here if you want.

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As I write this I’m in a lovely setting, looking out over our snowy Minnesota – an outward picture of peace and calm that is definitely not what I’m feeling inside.  In my fingers and toes and stomach is… fear – that indefinable tingly, insufficient, I can’t get it done emotion.  I need to do, to create, to produce and I don’t have it in me.  I’m not enough.

Is that feeling more common at Christmas than at other times of the year?

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On Being Full and Being Empty

I feel full.  Stuffed, in fact.

As I write this it’s the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. and I’m in a Starbucks in a suburb of Chicago where all my extended family live.  Christmas music is on in the background and Katy and John are heading over to join me so all is right in my world.

I am full of of turkey and laughter, and hugs and stories retold again and again around the long dinner table.  And prayers.

In our family we are blessed.

Thanksgiving is about fullness…reflecting on the fullness of the past year and filling up with more of God’s goodness echoing from the voices and reflected in the eyes of ones who love us and love Jesus.

But life seems to be a process of both filling and emptying.

We are emptied.

Depleted from discouragement, draining relationships, and days that seem to require the patience and strength of a super-hero.  Fatigued with fear of failure or future or just busyness.

And we are filled.

With whispers of His Word, and glimpses of His beauty and love and faithfulness in the ordinary moments of life.

The “Jesusy answer” may seem pat and tired, and hard to understand…mysterious in a way that makes us resist it.  And incomplete this side of heaven.  Our cups get bumped and jostled and tipped over and the only One who can do a real filling is Jesus.

This year, there was a change in our Thanksgiving traditions.  We needed a time of filling.  For the first time ever, there were no games on “the” day.  Instead of Charades or Pictionary or Nertz, there was a time of anointing and prayer and scripture shower for our dear friend Lee who is fighting for her life with Pancreatic cancer.

I heard someone this week use the phrase

the place where our theology intersects with our biography.”

And I thought, “That’s it!  That’s what we’re experiencing.”

And it is really hard.

As this disease depletes her body, God provides His Body to refill.

The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. Eph. 1:23

We don’t understand, and we’d much rather “do” something that feels more problem-solving, but God says anoint.  God says pray.  Wait.  Trust.  Bow.

He emptied Himself to that we might be filled.  Again and again.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people,  to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph. 3:16-21

What about you?  Are you full or empty today?

What relationships, experiences, or practices does God use to fill you?

The Rest of God…Oxymoron at Christmas?

Years ago we lent my mom a book entitled, “When I Relax I Feel Guilty” by Tim Hansel.  She returned it a year later saying she was sorry she just hadn’t found time to read it.  Love that woman!  But why do I tell you this?

Well at the end of each year, my husband, John and I spend some time looking back, re-reading our journals.  In addition to helping us notice the faithfulness of God, and helping us pay attention to the stuff He’s been trying to teach us, we are also reminded of good books we’ve read.

One of the best books we read was called The Rest of God about Sabbath by Mark Buchanan.  I thought during this busy, stressful season it might be helpful to rememeber what impacted me almost a year ago.  Here’s some of what I wrote…(can you relate?)

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The Question to ask this Christmas Season

Most of us, full of Thanksgiving turkey, football, family fun (if you have a healthy family) or family angst (if yours is more dysfunctional) are ready to glide into the Christmas season like Santa on a sleigh filled with toys.

We’re also ready to ask the crucial questions of the season:

  • Is it really “Christian” to say “Happy Holidays”?  Is “Merry Christmas” in the Bible?
  • Is Santa a bad idea and what about that pesky new interloper, “Elf on the Shelf”? What’s a parent to do?
  • What’s the best way to manage the animals in a live nativity? (wrangling a camel is no small feat)
  • And along those same lines, is it appropriate to approach a pregnant woman in October or November and call dibs on her baby for the creche?
  • What’s the proper etiquette for Christmas Eve candle lighting?  Who tips and who holds their candle upright so there is no wax leakage or hair flameouts?
  • Is it legal to roll out ready-made Pilsbury sugar cookie dough for cutouts and pass them off as homemade?

I was thinking about this this morning as I was making my 18-foot long “to do” list.  I love to do lists!  I love EVERYTHING about Christmas!  But, like I wrote last week, I think that the activity of Christmas can hinder the activity of God in my life.  So while the questions above may be critical for some, the one question I want to ask myself daily this Advent season is,

“Will Christmas still come if I don’t do this one thing?”

If I say “no” to this invitation?

If I don’t make this gift?

If I don’t have this new decoration?

If I’m not the one to host?

What’s the one thing it would be a good idea to put on your “don’t do” list this season?  Really.  I’d love to hear.

I woke up this morning thinking of something John Ortberg once said, “Sometimes sleep is the most spiritual thing you can do.”