Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stress Less for the Kingdom

We have been talking much in our Sunday services and adult classes about our influence for the good of the Kingdom. We are talking about it in context of prayer, and how that can affect the outcomes of those being brought to the Lord.

Also, based on recent conversations with friends, this idea of bringing people to know Christ is one that has been on my mind a lot. I know that I have long thought about what it is that makes people find Christianity appealing from an example perspective. In other words, what do people of "the world" see about Christians that would make them want what we have?

Watching others and how they relate, listening to how they talk not only about Christians but about people in general ..I realize that one thing that people seem to be attracted to is peace. Its joy amidst the struggles, and peace within the chaos that is life. They may not even realize what it is about someone, but that they "handle everything so well" or that "never complain".

I think that our stress levels can really work against our witness when we are in the world, and when we allow them to get to the point that we are not letting that peace shine through.

Thinking about Christians who have influenced you the most in your own life, are they people who seem frazzled, stressed out, constantly worried or anxious? Are they people who are always fretting, or seem on the verge of being out of control? I would guess not.

Peace, as a fruit of the Spirit (the effects of the Holy Spirit being in us, and God working through us) is one that is hard to hide. You cant fake peace (even with a smile on your face, most people can see through it) and true peace is something that is obvious to christians and non-christians alike.

I am not the best a sitting down with someone and reading scripture to them. But, I would hope that God in my life is expressed through the ability to remain peaceful even when things seem out of control. Afterall, its not me but the Spirit in me.

If however, I let myself be stressed to the max all the time, and that becomes what people see instead of the peace that underlies it ..what is that saying about God in my own life?

Why would they want that? How is that any different from any other person in the world today? ..from their perspective, there isnt much of one.

I think that peace speaks to those around us, and by decreasing the amount of stress we have in our lives and really seeking that peacefulness in our spirits we are making powerful our effectiveness as Christians for the Kingdom.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Setting up for Success

I have a friend who lives her life essentially as a single mother. Daddy pops in and out, when he is not protecting our freedom somewhere, but is often gone months at a time to return for a week or so then leaves again on another mission.

Such is the life of a military wife.

One thing that I have gleaned from watching her (besides learning that she is better at the alone thing than I am), is her concept of her husband setting her up "for success" before he leaves for weeks or months at a time.

For her, that entails a "Honey Please Do" list of stuff that needs doing that she would prefer him do before he leaves - these things are things she does not have to do while he is gone, with small children in tow :)

I have been pondering this concept and have used it myself related to my own routines and the need to adjust some of my own habits.

When I think of whether to put certain things off or go ahead and get them done, I think about it in terms of "setting myself up for sucess". It has been a motivating factor for many an evening when I would like to pass up the supper dishes for a tivo'd Lost episode :)

Flylady talks extensively about creating routines that work well for your family that allow things to run on "autopilot" ..once things are routine they kinna run themselves.

Her plan takes you through a series of routines, the most important being the "Before Bed" routine. This one is all about setting yourself up for success ..its about doing what needs to be done the night before so that everything is already on its way in the morning.

She suggests setting yours and the kids' clothes out, packing lunches, leaving the kitchen clean, diaper bags packed, etc. These are all great ways to get your self set up so that you are on your way to an organized day from the beginning.

Setting ourselves up for success requires some preplanning and some thinking ahead of the game. Knowing your problem times of day, your areas of weakness and your potential avoidable stessors helps alot.

I know that if I wake up to a messy kitchen then I am already off on the wrong foot. I feel awful about myself, we are out of spoons for breakfast, we dont have clean dishes for the day..etc. I am off kilter before I get started. I know that I am doing myself a favor to finish it up the night before, even though I am tired. That way, we have a successful start to the day. Same with laundry. I know that for me to be successful in this area I need to do it every day, and put away at hte same time as I am doing the rest of it. If not, then I am behind from the beginning.

So, look for ways that you can do yourself a favor and set your self up for success in the areas that are necessary but cause you stress. You may be surprised at how much tension you can ease just doing that!

What ways do you set yourself for success? Share with us..I need all the help I can get! :)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Destress: An Eternal Perspective

Oh, how much less we would stress if we really were able to see where all this work got us. How much more at peace would we be if we were able to see beyond these crazy moments, or know how fast these times to fly. What a sense of calm we would get if we knew what all this was achieving for us in the long term...if only.

Then again, dont we have that to a point? I think we may know at least enough to be able to rest peacefully in the moment ..just enough to be able to trust that there IS a point to all this and that we ARE working towards something greater.

God knew from our beginning that we would want to know more than we needed to. He also knew that we would want to be assured that we arent doing all this for no reason.

Check out some of these verses that remind us ...

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." 2 Corinthians 4:17

I Peter 1:6-7 ..In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

I Peter 4: 12-13 keeps it going ..Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

All of this is not for nothing ..thank goodness!

When we allow ourselves to get really caught up in the stresses that are every day, and those that are more than every day we can get off sync with the whole point. That being that we are here to glorify and praise Him.

Getting caught up in stress that is so small in the scheme of things takes us away from the really important reasons that we are here honor Him by loving others and especially those he has given us to love.

We need to keep an eternal perspective to be able to handle our lives when they get to be too much for us. That could be laundry and dishes, as well as losing loved ones or struggling with an addiction or someone elses mistakes.

Seeing all this for what it is, a light and momentary struggle that is achieving for us WAY better than this. One the short side, we have strong and loving families. On the long side, we have (very hopefully) children and husbands nurtured to meet their potential in Christ so they are able to do great work..and on the really long side, we are heading to a place that has no laundry or dishes :)

Keep it in perspective girls ..this is nothing compared to what we are working toward! :)

My version of order

Here is what I have done with my board ..its been great to have all of my stuff in one place.

One thing I have found helpful is that I have put a sticky note on my board ..its for those grocery or household items that I think of we need next grocery trip. I write on there, and then just grab that note off the board when its time to go to the store.

I had that in my SLJ but it was getting lost, and I found it a pain to have to get the book out to write it down in there. Then, I didnt remember to grab it when I went shopping. I like this better.

Also, I have written down a verse of the week. We are working on "Do everything without complaining or arguing." Philippians 2:14 ..its nice to have it right there to remind me of the truth, as well as to review it with the kids.

The headings I have on my note side are: Daily (drink water, one load of laundry, Bible study, etc.), Weekly (scour bathrooms, elliptical x3, catch up budget), Honey Please Do, Memory Verse, Prayers, and To Do.

Some of things I have on my calendar are meals planned for each day, birthdays/anniversaries, playgroup activities, school activities, daily prayer focus (each day of the week has a different family member), and deadlines.

I use different colors because I am very visual, so having it designated that way is very helpful. It helps remember things, and I find it less cluttered.

Everyone would not find this helpful, but I do. Whatever works for you, that is what you should do!

Any ideas you have seen or use yourself that would help us order our crazy worlds?

Order Challenge #3: Get it together

We have so many aspects of our lives that need ordered. Its the home, which involves different categories of care from meal planning, deep cleaning, decluttering, chores, maintenance, etc. Its coordinating all the activities of each family member, with school, church activities, hobbies, friends...etc. Its the things we have to do, errands to run, bills to pay ..its alot of stuff to organize and get in order on a daily basis.

We all have different needs to meet in this area, as well as different ways to handle it. We all have our own methods of keeping it all together and while one thing works great for one gal it may be a cause of stress for another.

The important thing to is to figure out what helps you the most it a calendar on the fridge with different colors representing each family member? Is it full of cute stickers to remind of you of certain things?

Is it a DayTimer full of tabs and color coded markings, or a pocket book planner with one think it in because you bought it with the best of intentions? :)

We all need different degrees of order, but I think of all of us need a way to see all our responsibilities in one place.

I have talked about using a Home Management Binder, or a Stress Less Journal. These are great tools for keeping different aspects of your responsibilities in order. I have added to my tabs to include updated info on character training tips for my kids, ideas for projects, ideas of decorating my new home, etc. One thing I have changed is that my calendar is no longer in my SLJ.

I found that I needed that more in front of me. I have moved my calender to both the wall and the fridge. I use the one on the fridge as basic month-at-a- glance organization, and the dry erase one on the wall for my daily prayers, to do lists, reminders, etc. I have one that has an area to the side for notes, and I use it for my weekly prayer focus, my "honey please do" list, my weekly deep cleaning focus, my daily reminders (drink water, bible study, etc.) is all right there out in the open.

I use the calendar portion and different colors to mark birthdays, daily prayer focus (that is where I note who I am praying for at the red lights :), meals planned, our Mommy and Me playgroup activities, etc. I can change it easily, and its all right there together.

I have found that having all those little things that need doing in one place where I can see it all at once is a great help.

So, for this challenge ...

Find a method that works for you that helps you get an idea of everything that needs doing at it a dry erase board, the fridge calendar, a paper list or some effective system that uses all of them!

Being able to see all of it in one place helps us to order and prioritize more effectively. Seeing what can be put the side, what HAS been put the side, what needs doing now and what areas we need to work on.

What do you do that has helped you keep all of it together?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Finding Peace in Every Day

Its true that stress is just part of life to a certain degree. If we have a rich full life then we have stress. If our life involved other people at all, it involves stress. If you participate in school, church, extracurricular, or any other kind of outside activity will have stress.

If you drive a car, go grocery shopping, pay the bills, have things, have to dust, have any laundry will have some degree of stress. Its part of life, and while we should focus on limiting those things that we have control of there is plenty left over to still learn how to manage.

Our church is focusing on prayer the past couple of months. Our Sunday morning services, classes and lessons are all focused on this topic. Our Wednesday night Ladies Class is also focusing on this aspect of Christian-living. So, much of my thoughts have been geared in this direction.

I have found prayer to be a great stress reducer!

Not just because I can pray my stresses away by giving them to my Father, and trusting that He is in control. But also because I can use those little moments of tension as cues to remember to pray for other things.

I find myself most frustrated at red lights. They slow my progress, the stop my move forward, they make me late ..all of which causes some stress for me. I have been working on using those little stressful moments as cues to pray ..not for the traffic (though I wont lie and say that I havent prayed for that one time or more:) but for a set list of things that I have designated that days prayers for.

It has not only helped my stress during those moments, but it has created some great discussion time with God on others' behalf.

I have chosen red lights as my cue, because I am in the car just about every day for one reason or another. You can chose other things, like washing dishes, standing in line, doing laundry, picking up toys for the 100th time today as cues. Instead of letting yourself get frustrated in those moments, use them to your benefit!

I have started including my prayer-focus each day on my calendar. I have designated each day of the week to a family member (some have to share :) and when I get in those stressful moments that I have no control over I pray for that person.

Monday may be one sister and her family, Tuesday my parents, Wednesday another sister or a close friend. I dont need that list in front of me, but know generally who I have assigned for each day. I have prayed more for them the past several weeks then I have ever before ..and seemed to sit through more red lights too!

I also have a list on my "To Do" list ..a side list of focuses for my prayers this day or week. Every time I look at that list, I have a chance to remember those people in my prayers.

It kinda puts everything in perspective when I am looking at a TD list and then am reminded that a friend is struggling with the loss of her dad this week, or a baby is born who is not expected to live.

So, I hope today you find peace in the every day stresses that come with the abundantly blessed life we all lead!

Ready, Get Set....Peace

After taking a bit of a break of necessity from discussing a less stressful lifestyle..I am now living it.

I have moved to a new place and I am being able to create a new environment from "ground" up. From the first box to the 100 still in the garage, I am thinking simple, peaceful, decluttered.

I am also being able to structure my days better ..something about having the house broken up into smaller sections helps me feel more in control of my home. I can have one part straight and enjoy its order, then move onto the next one which is also small enough to get picked up quickly and see a result as fast. Its really great.

All that to say, I am finding it most wonderful to work toward a life of simplicity..filling my days with only things that I love when I have the choice, and being able to get rid of as much as I can that I dont love.

Being able to limit the stuff that really is stress inducing but not necessary, has enabled me to handle the stress inducing stuff that is necessary much better. I dont mind nearly as much doing the laundry, when my schedule is more in order. I can handle the occasional sick or lazy day, without feeling like I have failed at all of it.

To be sure, one does not need a large house or a perfect floor plan to find peace in their home ..but it has sure helped me lately. I think the most difference is my perspective from the beginning ..this new home was going to be a peaceful one, so I needed to plan it appropriately.

I am all about new beginnings ...I love new years, blank journals, the beginning of the week or month, a fresh notepad, an dry erase boards. I love how God reminds us that His mercies are new every morning ...because new is clean and fresh. :)

So, on that note I begin again this journey toward a calm home and peaceful daily existence. Certainly my relationship with God is the first, most important foundation ..on that I want to build this place of calm for all of those God puts in my life.
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