EARLY MORNING THOUGHTS ON TIME MANAGEMENT

 

Happy Friday, friends! I woke up this morning to thunder and opened the door to feel the temperature drop of almost 30 degrees less than yesterday– happy Friday for sure!  It finally feels a little like fall today; I know it will probably heat back up again before it’s truly cooler here in Arkansas, but for now I’m going to enjoy it.

One of my favorite things about the weather getting cooler is spending some time out in the crisp air and then coming back inside with a fresh perspective and curling up in a chair with a good book.  I’m working on finishing up all my books I started over the summer so I can pick some new ones to read over the next couple months, but I also must confess, I am sometimes bad about beginning books and never finishing them.  I love getting new books at the library, and I sometimes get a little too ambitious about how many I choose to take home.

I have a few books right now I’m wanting to read–a few I’ve seen at the library, and a few sitting on my shelf at home.  It’s my turn to pick what we read next in a little book club I do with my sisters, and it’s such a fun decision to make.  I’ve been scanning my bookcase for either an old favorite or something I’ve been wanting to read for awhile;  I don’t want to let everyone down with something new that I’ve never read before just in case it’s not good, so I finally narrowed down my choices to a couple favorites I haven’t read in a long time, and a few I’ve been eyeing for awhile on the shelf.

Something I’ve been mulling over a lot lately is how I’m spending my time.  It’s so easy to label anything on the internet or social media as distracting, but I’m also considering other things that distract me from living in the moment each day.  There have always been distractions, even before we could go online; reading a book sounds healthy and wholesome compared to staring at a screen, but if it’s still keeping me from being present, is it really any better?  I tend to give my full attention to something when I am interested in it, which means once I start a book, I struggle with neglecting everything and everyone else until I finish it.  It’s not something I have an answer to, I’m just processing it and trying to put myself in the shoes of someone 30-40 years ago;  I wonder if there’s some wisdom in there we can glean from our parents and grandparents or anyone else from an older generation.  What did they do for enjoyment and distraction from day to day life, and how much of this “distraction” is okay?

Sometimes it’s a challenge for me to balance my time between what I want to do, what I need to do, and what I know I’ll be glad I did later on, and I’m learning to be content in an imperfect day.  There will always be days where I’m pleased with how I spent my time and other days where I disappoint myself, and that shouldn’t be the basis for happiness.  Top priority should always go to what we know we’ll be glad we did later on because these things are productive and satisfying.  Next, it’s important to grind out the things we need to do, and finally leave room for what we want to do.  I think that’s why wrapping up in a cozy blanket with a book is the most delightful after a hard day’s work or a run outside in the cold air; it feels well-deserved and like icing on a cake.  Icing is not completely necessary to make the cake, but actually pretty necessary to enjoy the cake.  Likewise, those well placed moments of doing something we enjoy aren’t completely necessary to live our life, but they’re actually pretty necessary to enjoy life.  It’s just learning to balance our icing to cake ratio: too much of the icing would make the cake inedible, and in the same way spending too much time on what we want to do makes us feel wasteful and regretful.

Now that these Friday morning thoughts have me wanting some delicious chocolate cake with perfectly whipped cream cheese icing, I’m going to go work on being present in my day! Have a good weekend!

LIVING A QUIET LIFE

 

“Make it your ambition to live a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands…”

1 Thessalonians 4:11

 

The afternoon rain is pattering on for the third day in a row, creating a hazy dome of wonder that makes the world feel smaller and the woods out our windows greener.  I have a beautiful image in my mind of the pattering of raindrops being heard through a screen door, the smell of earth and water wafting in with warm breezes.  A flickering candle glows brighter as the clouds grow thick, and the dark mood of the mid-day storm is lightened by the lilting jazz music coming from inside, meeting the summer rain at the screen door and creating a beautiful symphony to etch into the memory in my mind forever.

So distinct is this image, its like a memory I can’t remember until I experience it again and it all just seems so familiar, it must have happened before.  It must be a memory from my childhood; from a time when I was so young only the feelings and senses remain, because with every rain, I wish for a screen door, and at every chance I attempt to recreate it.  It’s so simple; so specific.  Yet, aren’t these the things that make us feel full?  These simple memories that draw upon our senses; the ones that create an entire portrait and experience that requires our full engagement and gives every part of our being something to dwell on?

“Make it your ambition to live a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands…” Oh, how I long to live a quiet life, and yet oh, how my mind wants to wander to places it has no business being.  In this moment I wonder, what can compare?  To the sound of the birds and the crickets timing their melodies between the light rolls of thunder.  To the thickness of the summer air being swept away with faint hints of an autumnal breeze.  To the single crow reminding us of the season to come.  To the beauty of the greens so variant, and the leaves holding on tightly as they softly rustle and sway from the weight of the raindrops, thankful to be taking in the warm water.  This is the place my mind will rest.  This is the moment I will seek to dwell on as the world fights and begs for my attention.  It is here that my energy is released into the freeing sway of the trees, and I am free to feel and smell and soak in the glorious creation surrounding me.  My God my creator has set before me the path I’m meant to live and to be; who am I to look to the left or to the right for more, for different, to compare, or to judge.  My health depends on this quieting of the stress and anxiety and need to control.  As the beauty of this moment in quiet solitude holds firmly in my mind, I will return to my daily business of working with my hands, and working to love those set before me on my path.

LIGHT

 

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

 

I regularly open my eyes in the middle of the night to a shadowy form hovering over the side of my bed.  I rarely bother checking to see who it is anymore, and simply direct whoever it is that wondered in towards the pre-made pallet on the floor beside me.  But that’s because it’s become a little bit of a routine; almost all of our children take a turn every few nights, needing help and reassurance in the middle of the night.  I used to be more jumpy, and I would startle awake, grabbing for a light to reassure myself it was only one of the kids.  I would keep my cell phone under my pillow, just in case I needed it.

I’ve been doing a little study on light in the bible, and these verses are full of comfort.  With the internet we have access to all the grief in the world, and it can seem like a dark place, and the darkness can be paralyzing.  It can keep us from enjoying our life in the present, and it can cause stress and anxiety that harms our health.  To be mentally well we need clarity; we need to see clearly, and we need to have peace instead of stress.  Light is important to see in the dark and to make sense out of life.  God is light, and when we look to Him we can see clearly the meaning of life and our purpose in it.  While everything else will change (the world, society, trends, our journey, feelings, ideas, and relationships) God never changes.  If we base our hope and peace on anything that can change, we will inevitably be let down.

Searching for hope and purpose is deeply rooted in our bones; we crave to have things explained and to understand everything around us.  There are so many answers that promise peace and a greater understanding of the world, and while many of these can bring partial peace, they can’t fully satisfy and fill our needs if we continue searching blindly.

1 Corinthians 4:4 says, “The god of this age [the devil] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The devil, mimicking the light as best as he can, tries to convince people that a light can be found somewhere besides God.  He is jealous of our love for God, and knowing his eventual defeat, he relishes in every soul who gets distracted by his false light.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 4:6)  We were made to worship and glorify the one who made us, and we should give Him credit for every good thing in our lives.  We should be in awe with how wonderful it is to be alive, and love Him for it.  Are we choosing to follow a false light by giving credit for our peace and our hope to another person, religion, church denomination, lifestyle, or even crediting ourselves?

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Jesus is the true light in the darkness of the world.  We can see clearly, without shadow or confusion, the direction we should go and the path we should follow.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)  We can enjoy knowing God and following Jesus the rest of our lives, but to ignore His direction to share that light with the world is like having a flashlight on a dark trail and not sharing it with others.  This responsibility isn’t meant to be a burden.  I think it often gets treated like an obligation or a responsibility for a select few.  However, it should actually be a relief; it answers the question of purpose.  We can be relieved and joyful knowing our purpose in this world is to shine the light of Jesus Christ to others who are searching for a light in the darkness.  There is no greater purpose, so be comforted and encouraged, friends!

 

Lord, thou hast given us thy Word for a light to shine upon our path;
grant us so to meditate on that Word, and to follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Jerome, c 342 – 420)

THOUGHTS ON REGRET

Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.”  Lucy M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea 

Regret feels like such a negative word, implying we’ve made bad decisions.  It’s easy to take that negativity into the future with us, causing us to feel hopeless or depressed because we cannot change the past.  However, acknowledging regret and choosing to learn from it can turn any negative situation into a positive.  Begin by writing down any big regrets you have that you feel are keeping you from moving forward in life.  Then, any time you come to the end of a day and feel like you have any new regrets, write them down, no matter how small or simple: things like not spending enough time with people you love, being unkind to someone, spending too much time watching television or too much time on social media, eating too much of an unhealthy food, or not working out.  Whatever it is that you regret, write it down.  Now, without dwelling on the negativity of these lists, choose to do something about them by turning your regret lists into to-do lists for tomorrow or the next week.  Maybe you see the same thing on your regret list three times in one week.  Instead of feeling guilty about it, you can now feel hopeful because it’s on your to-do list the next week.  When you slow down and focus on the things that matter, and make yourself do the things you wish you had done yesterday, you will feel the success lifting those burdens of regret away.  As for the things you absolutely cannot better, ask for forgiveness from anyone you have hurt, forgive yourself, and let yourself leave those mistakes in the past.  Whatever has happened in the past, whether by your choice or somebody else’s, has you on a path that you cannot change.  The sooner you find purpose in the place you are, the sooner you will be at peace with where you are.

Taking the mistakes and the regrets that you have from yesterday and turning them into an active list for tomorrow, you can change the person you are into the person you want to be.  You don’t have to settle for unhealthy, and you don’t have to settle for unhappy.  Happiness isn’t one single choice, but comes after a series of good choices have been made, and at the very least, you can look at yourself and be proud of your small accomplishments, proud of your small results, and proud of the self-discipline it took to get you there.  

HEALTHY & WHOLE

 

When attempting to overhaul our personal health, it’s tempting to focus on our looks. However, focusing on how we feel will lead to more success and long-lasting interest in a journey towards health. We have to show ourselves respect and gently make suggestions of change to ourselves. Harsh judgments are not taken well, whether it is our own voice in our heads or the voice of another speaking judgments on us.  Sometimes the most painful part of these judgments are the fact that they are partially true.  However, while it may be true that we have x number of pounds to lose to reach a healthy weight, we are not defined by that number.  That number does not make us good or bad, smart or ignorant, kind or unkind, attractive or unattractive.  It is simply a fact that we have the choice to either accept or choose to change.

When we ask the questions, do I feel healthy? Do I feel under control? Do I feel well? Am I happy? we give ourselves positive goals to reach for that can keep us motivated.  Reaching these goals aren’t part of a multi-step process because you can’t ever fully reach them and be done. They are a continual part of each and every day we are alive. Every day we have to wake up and make the choice to be healthy or not, to be happy or not, and to be under control or not.

If the answer is no to these questions, try making a list of the things that are keeping you from feeling under control, healthy, happy, or well. This new list can become a to-do list. These are the tangible things that you can work towards changing so that you can be the person you want to be and feel the way you want to feel.

Imagine the person you have always wanted to be: the best version of you. Purposeful, self-disciplined, loving, gracious, peak physical condition, etc. (fill in whatever you think should be on this list.)  Now imagine all the external things in your life that are keeping you from being that perfect version of you.  Many of these external things can actually be controlled: spending too much time with people who have a negative influence on your life, not spending enough time and energy on the people and things that truly matter to us, eating out too often, or even not getting enough sleep. If any of these controllable things are keeping you from being the healthiest version of you, taking care of these issues within your control are the first steps to becoming healthier and happier.  Begin small, focusing on one day at a time, and remember, perfection is not the goal.  Being aware of the things that are keeping us from feeling well can help us take control of our lives if we are willing to make changes.