Thursday, November 30, 2017

You Don't Have To Do It All



The holidays are here! (That either excited you or made you cringe, right?) I love this time of year, but honestly, it can stress me out sometimes.

Last night my husband and I discussed the upcoming weekend and all that we have going on. We both left the conversation overwhelmed because within a three-day period, we had about eight events/activities on the calendar. It was just too much!  

Although we’d like to do them all, reality is that we shouldn’t. We’ve learned that we need margin in our lives and a weekend full of crazy running around isn’t best for our family, especially because we had a similar schedule over Thanksgiving weekend.

It’s not always easy for me to say no to doing it all, I always worry about who I’m disappointing or what I’m missing out on. But guess what? It’s all going to be okay! We all have a limited amount of time we can dedicate to certain activities. When that time is full, it’s okay and necessary to forgo an activity you planned or decline an invitation.

If you don’t, some other area of your life will suffer.

You’ll likely feel rushed, stressed or depressed. You’ll feel like your schedule is out of control and that other people are dictating how you spend your time.

But here’s something I’ve been reminded of lately: We get to choose our schedules. We get to choose the amount of crazy and running around we allow into our life. We’re to blame, not “life” or the other people who make requests of us.

Ouch. I guess I have some changes to make. You too?

Since it’s the holiday season, here are some practical examples of how we can simplify our holiday schedule and to-do list: (I will likely be doing all of these!)
  • Instead of running around trying to find the perfect gift for each person on your list, buy gift cards to their favorite store or restaurant.
  • If you’re stressed because you haven’t ordered your Christmas cards yet, what if you sent Happy New Year’s cards or forgo sending cards altogether this year?
  • Mark off an entire day (or two) on your calendar for no commitments. Allow for some down time and spontaneity. (Hallmark movies and hot cocoa anyone?)
  • If you have too many commitments in a week or weekend, politely decline but set something up for January to spend time with the people you’d still like to see.
  • If you want to bake cookies with the kids so they can decorate them, buy ready-made dough.
  • If you’re on the hook to bring a baked good or appetizer to a party, go store bought!

Friend, you don’t have to do it all. You get to choose how to spend your time this holiday season. Figure out what’s most important to you and your family and do those things.

I’ve always loved this quote by Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, life the life you have imagined!”

Did you ever dream of a life where you were constantly tired, stressed and running yourself ragged? Me either.

Jesus tells us in John 10:10 NIV, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Jesus isn’t talking about us having a full life in terms of our schedule, but rather the condition of our life. Is our life full of the things that matter most to us, things that fulfill us? Or is our life full of demands, obligations and commitments that steal our joy and time, leaving us depleted? Are we distracted from what matters most? Especially during the holidays?

Remember, we get to choose. We don’t have to do it all this holiday season. Let’s make the choices that fulfill us most and allow us to experience the full life Jesus came to give us! Isn't that what Christmas is really all about? 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Beautiful Trade




This week I felt a little overwhelmed. 

Last week we were in New Mexico to visit family and friends for the kids’ fall break. It was wonderful and I even had a birthday while we were there.  

But coming home from a trip and getting back into routine can often overwhelm me. The laundry. The anticipation of the busy week ahead. It seems like there’s barely a moment to breathe before it’s off to the races again.  

When I look at my calendar, I see that it isn’t just a trip that makes me feel like this. It’s the hustle and bustle of everyday needs, activities and chores. My to-do list runneth over and I see messes and projects in every room demanding my attention.  

Do you ever feel:

Like it all depends on you?

That if you were more focused, more productive or more together, you’d have it all together?

That there’s not enough of you to go around?  

Me too.  

This year one of the passages of Scripture I’ve focused on personally and taught about quite a bit is Isaiah 61. I’ve read it so many times I’ve almost memorized it. 

But on Wednesday afternoon as I felt overwhelmed, I remembered part of this passage and realized its truth in a new way. Verse 3 of tells us the many things Jesus provides for us: beauty, gladness and praise. But He doesn’t only provide these blessings, but He trades them for the things that weigh us down. 

The part that spoke to my heart this week says the Lord will provide for us “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (NIV). Or the NKJV says, “a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.” 

Oh, isn’t that what we need? Isn’t that what we long for—for someone to come in and remove the heaviness we feel? Jesus offers this to us!  

A garment gives us warmth and comfort, it covers us and makes us feel secure. I didn’t realize until having kids and watching them with their blankies, but I too love the comfort of a blanket. Even when it’s 110 degrees in the middle of summer, you’ll find me snuggled under a blanket when we’re watching TV or sitting on the couch. I always sleep covered with at least a sheet. Being covered gives me comfort. 

Jesus offers to cover and comfort us with an attitude of praise—praise not based upon circumstances, but upon His love and goodness that withstands all circumstances.  

So if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed today, remember that Jesus wants to take your heaviness and make it light. He wants to turn your despair into praise. In Matthew 11:28-29, He tells us,   

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  

Your hard is no match for Jesus. Let Him exchange your heaviness for praise today. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Your Fall Checklist for Less Stressful Holidays




It’s officially fall, which means shorter days and cooler temperatures. Yay! October 1st begins the last quarter of the year, can you believe it? We’re just over a month away from Halloween and then it’s full swing into the holidays.

As I’ve been looking at my calendar and thinking over my own holiday plans, I thought I’d share with you a checklist of things to help you prepare for all of the fun of fall and the holidays. A little preparation and planning can help your family to really enjoy these last months of the year.

Talk It Out Together: The most important item is discussing the items below with your family. Talk about what’s really important to each member of the family. Sometimes we think we know what’s important to someone, but tastes and opinions change, so it’s important to seek input regularly.

Figure Out Halloween Costumes: Give your kids a deadline to decide what they’d like to dress up as, the earlier the better! If you decide during the first week or two of October, you’ll be able to shop and price compare their costumes. If you have to order online, you’ll have enough time to pay for standard shipping instead of expedited. If you’ll be making costumes, starting early will give you a chance to find supplies and have ample time to complete the project. Nothing takes the joy out of something like feeling frustrated under a time crunch.

Plan Your Fall Activities: There are so many family-friendly events that go on during the fall: football games, apple-picking, pumpkin patches, fall festivals, Halloween parties and trick-or-treating, to name a few. What would your family most like to attend? Look at your calendar and decide on the events that work best with your family’s taste, schedule and budget in mind. If events require tickets, get them early; sometimes the price is less and you have less risk of it selling out.

Start Packing Operation Christmas Child Boxes: This is such an awesome holiday service project to do with your family! For less than a family dinner out, you can give a gift-filled shoe box (or two) to an impoverished child. You can even track the country your box is delivered to when you print an online label. Visit Operation Christmas Child for more details. Collection week begins November 13th.

Figure Out Where You’ll Spend Thanksgiving: Again, the earlier the better on this, especially if you’re buying airline tickets or booking a hotel, as the prices increase the closer it is to Thanksgiving.

Start Your Christmas Gift List and Shop: As of today, we’re 87 days away from Christmas! It’s going to sneak up quickly. If you start your gift list, you can find items on sale and purchase them ahead of time, which will give you more free time come December. If you plan to make or buy customized gifts online, you can beat the holiday rush. If you haven’t yet budgeted for Christmas gifts, start doing so now so that you can pay cash for gifts instead of charging them. (Don’t forget your kids’ friends and teachers on your gift list.) Decide as a family who you can buy gifts for and for whom you’ll make homemade treats.

Take Your Christmas Photo: Fall is a great time for outdoor photo sessions. Research photographers and get a session booked. You’ll have ample time for ordering prints or Christmas cards.

Figure Out Where You’ll Spend Christmas: At least start the discussion, so that you can get the best deals by booking travel early.

Plan Your December Activities: The month of December can get filled up really fast, so make sure to update your family calendar regularly. If you do an Advent calendar with your kids, start planning activities or buying treats when they’re on sale. Again, talk about the activities that are important to your family: putting up the Christmas tree and lights, Christmas parties, baking, skiing, snowboarding, concerts, the Nutcracker Ballet or theater, etc., and find a healthy balance of doing what you love and leaving white space for spontaneity and relaxed family time.

I hope you found this little checklist helpful! Planning ahead of time can truly help us enjoy, not just survive, the busy holiday season to come. Having extra margin can help us stay focused on what matters most: faith, family and friends.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Voices



 Have you ever had a divine appointment—a time when God planned for you to meet up someone you needed in that moment or season of your life? Maybe it was someone who stopped to help you when your car broke down. Or maybe it was someone who had expertise or encouragement to help you in an area of struggle.

This has happened to me several times over the past month or so: God allowed me to cross paths with someone I needed to connect with in this season.

We had a wonderful conversation last week and I can already see how she is helping to challenge me and grow me. One of the things we talked about were some of my fears and doubts and how they hold me back from fully living out God’s calling upon my life.

Later, as I drove to meet my husband for lunch—it hit me: these voices of fear and doubt are the wrong voices to listen to! I give them entirely too much time and attention. I also realized that these voices are tools Satan uses to distract and limit me from being who God designed me to be. I don’t know why I hadn’t ever connected that before!

Do you struggle with these voices too? Voices that tell you thoughts like these:  You’re not enough. What will people think of you? Who do you think you are, trying to achieve _____________? You’re too much, people think you’re too needy. Since no one is responding, it must mean they don’t like you. You’re not meant to do this. Did God really call you to do _______?

I hear them too. And often.

But the more we focus on these voices, the more they’re going to limit us from being the women God created us to be! So instead, let’s focus on the voice that matters—God’s!

I speak to a lot of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups and this year their theme is “Free Indeed.” Love this! One of the three principles they’re focusing on is “Let Love be the Loudest Voice.” This week, I keep repeating that phrase over and over in my mind and here’s why: God is love.

When we let Love be the loudest voice, it’s God’s voice we’re hearing. That’s the voice that deserves our utmost time and attention.

So when we hear those negative voices, let’s silence them with God’s truths about us and the plans He has for us! Let’s pay attention to His voice above all others.

P.S.
The day after I realized I had been allowing the wrong voices to influence me, I had a circumstance arise when I listened to the wrong voices yet again. It resulted in a very epic mom fail. Head over to my FB page today where I’ll share the story with you.