Details… Details… Details

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What do you think of my word choice for 2014?
What should a focus on “Details” include?

What about you? What goals are you setting for 2014?
What focus do you have for the coming year?

2013 One Word 365

amplifyYear in Review

In 2013, I attempted a One Word 365 approach to goal setting. In previous years of traditional SMART goal setting, I achieved more than I would had I not written anything down, sure, but my goal reaching felt disconnected and unbalanced, kind of like having only part of my house clean.

So in 2013, my goal to amplify my life as a whole focused on taking what’s working well and making it better. (You can read more about it in Amplify, How to… Amplify and Vacation Reflections: Resolutions.) Not only did this change my approach in every area, amplifying became a part of what I do as daily habit.

Specifically, amplifying changed…

  • My writing life by increasing daily word count, focusing more in application and doing the actions on a consistent basis that make me a writer.
  • The way I teach. Instead of getting as much in as possible into a certain amount of time, I focus on a few important points and drive those home. We go deeper with a few rather than stay on the surface with many.
  • How I parent. I nag less & listen more. I pray for my kids as much or more than I talk to them about how and what (I think) they should be doing.
  • How I read. Instead of just getting from cover to cover, I reader slower and allow for healthy digestion of the material rather than wolfing down words and finding myself with nothing but indigestion.
  • My exercise routine. Instead of feeling like I need to be like others around me when it comes to exercise (especially biking & running), I focus on what works best for me, which means lots of variety and the goals of healthy and strong instead of skinny and competitive.

More progress than just that listed above existed in 2013, but these stand out as ones most linked to obedience to calling. These amplified areas of my life now fuel all the other areas, thus amplifying them as well.

What about you? Do you take a traditional approach to goal setting? If so, how do you feel about your success with that approach? Or, do you take a non-traditional approach such as One Word 365? If you do, what kind of success are you having? Please share successes, failures, wishes & dreams with regard to goal setting!

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

dead fishCulture simultaneously challenges us to break free from comfort zones while also providing for their longevity. With the constant offering of pleasures anew, along with the comfort found in instant gratification, we live in a confusing and uncomfortable culture.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

Does it really? This quote by Neale Donald Walsch made me question whether or not I needed to totally discard comfort in order to truly live life. Or maybe, I wonder, does comfort allow for the uncomfortable to flourish?

Perhaps living too much in one or the other – comfort or discomfort – actually stifles real living. Maybe having the structure created by some level of safe, secure and familiar provides much-needed security. Then, that security allows for the regular experience of discomfort in a successful way.

Comfort that Supports Discomfort

An organized, comfortable home gives my kids the security they need to go on adventures and meet new people. It gives them promise of a comfortable sanctuary for rest and recuperation waiting for them when they get at home.

Knowing I can produce a lot of volume pretty quickly as a writer gives me the confidence to venture into the scary and challenging world of book writing. I find comfort knowing that the act of writing (specifically, quantity) comes easily. This inspires me to try new styles and genres that might not come naturally.

Dressing comfortably helps me be more social, which is uncomfortable for my shy and introverted self, I’m just braver mentally when I’m comfortable physically.

The God of Comfort

Being comfortable with God, knowing He goes before me and with me (Deuteronomy 31:8) creates an deep comfort. That comfort makes me want to be brave and to tell others about Him. Having this comfort zone with God compels me to make my life a transparent example of His grace and mercy.

So yes, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” But, your comfort zone can also provide a structure for bravely venturing into the uncomfortable areas of life.

Devoted Conversations – Peace In the Chaos

copy-DCLogo (2)Today you’ll find me guest posting at Devoted Conversations. The post fits well into the themes of brokenness and peace in the chaos and taking the path created by God that seems to be interlaced through every area of my life recently.

Here’s an excerpt:

Right and Wrong

My longest stay with an employer. A growing department with a solidly positive reputation. Offered full time. Favor with leadership. Everything appeared right.

The problem? I felt all wrong. Unhealthy. No energy. Depressed. Anxious. Frustrated. Unsettled. Displaced. Overlooked.

Life and career appeared to be blossoming. But inside, only chaos.

How could my life be both right and wrong at the same time? This conflict between the atmosphere of my inner self and my outer life chipped away at me leaving only a shell going through the motions of life.

To read the rest of this post and to comment,
please go to Devoted Conversations.

3 Ways to Reduce Busyness & Discover Simplicity

busyToo busy?

Recently, I overheard a friend say, “I am done with holidays.” She explained that holidays were just too stressful and gave her too much to do along with having to deal with the drama that often accompanies family gatherings.

Since I know this person well, I also know that these words really characterize her whole life. She always has too much to do, and she’s always stressed. Which basically means that the holiday (Thanksgiving in this case) undeservedly received the blame for her stress.

Why are you so busy?busyness

Our culture is one of busyness, and I truly feel burdened for those I know and love who are simply too busy. This burden comes from living in that reality, being broken by it, and rebuilding a simple life without the weight of busyness. In other words, I’ve been there and know the way out. More importantly, I know that there IS a way out.

Much of this busyness comes from the seasons of life. Kids need attention, loved ones are sick, work is overloaded and ministry calls. This busyness, to a large extent, is simply the inevitable busyness of life itself.

But busyness reaches toxic levels when we, by deliberate choice, choose to do more than we are capable of doing. These are the things we say “yes” to because we “should” or because “someone has to do it.” They are the things born out of perfectionism and long-standing habits. This toxic level reaches epic proportions when we pile on “things to do” as a way to avoid doing the hard work of creating a balanced life focused on true priorities. Instead, we get lost in the multitude of activities, obligations and commitments.

When we’re too busy, we don’t have time for deepening relationships. We don’t have time to work through issues that created rifts. We don’t have time to read that which would deepen our character. We don’t have time to get the rest we need. We don’t have time to make healthy choices. And, worst of all, we don’t have time to spend one-on-one with God.

But my friend who said, “I am done with holidays” actually got at a very important point. Busyness and overload seem amplified during the holidays. We may casually notice at other times, but busyness suddenly jumps out as out of control during the holidays. The time between Thanksgiving and New Years seems to magnify the need to slow down and enjoy friends and family. It emphasizes the crucial need to worship God made flesh, which has a way of making us realize our desperate need for a simpler life.

Trapped in busyness?

Many people feel trapped in busyness. They realize that busyness creates an inner conflict that seems impossible to reconcile. This becomes amplified during the holidays and is really why my friend meant when she said, “I am done with holidays.” With that in mind, let’s explore three ways to reduce busyness and discover simplicity no matter the time of year.

busy 2Reduce Busyness and Discover Simplicity

1.) Make small changes. Small changes done consistently over time add up to make a huge difference. Becoming instantly un-busy won’t happen, but making small adjustments will slowly reduce busyness. Taking your time with this process rather than trying to “quit cold turkey” increases its staying power.

2.) Accept the painful truth. You will have to say “no” to some good things. You will have to let things you really want to do go in order to do the things that are truly important.

3.) Commit busyness to prayer. Ask God to show you how to become less busy. Ask Him to show you how to simplify. And most importantly, ask Him to change your heart towards busyness and to help you realize that obedience to Him does not mean saying “yes” to every opportunity that passes through your awareness.

Transforming a busy life is really hard. It requires brokenness. It requires letting go of attachment to accomplishments. It means admitting that under our own strength, we try to do too much. And it means admitting that without some help and without deliberate choice, we will continue feeling the increasing weight of busyness.

Weak is the New Strong

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Be Strong

Strength comes from the individual and is what you make it. Strong exists as the current beauty ideal. After all, “Strong is the new skinny,” and I need to let everyone to know that I am “Pretty Strong. Pretty Fast.” (I’m not, by the way, strong or fast but especially not fast.) Strong is how you want to be viewed; it’s your reputation’s goal.

Every corner of culture – television, magazines, fitness and even education – touts the necessity to “Be Strong.” In fact, being strong exists as the best path to success for self and to elimination of the competition.

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Strength through Weakness

God’s view of being strong means bringing Him joy, depending on Him for strength and realizing that He IS strength. Strength comes through weaknesses as we allow His power to flow, not by focusing on destroying weaknesses through our own creation of inner strength.

In “Created to be God’s Friend,” Henry Blackaby says, “The provision for our obedience is always provided for us by God. Ours is to obey; it is for God to provide! What we in our weakness and limitations cannot provide, God in His infinite grace does provide.”

Even though we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we DO have limitations. We ARE weak. No matter how much strength we manage to muster, our weaknesses eventually show themselves and leave us naked and spent for all to see. And that’s the place where we realize that weak really is the new strong.

In “The Fire of Delayed Answers,” Bob Sorge says, “We don’t really know what it’s like for God to be the strength of our heart until our heart and flesh have failed.”

Have you reached that point? Do you know what having your heart and flesh fail feels like? Because if you do, then you know the life-changing impact of God’s power flowing fully through you. You know that as your own strength flows out through your weaknesses, God’s strength flows in through that same portal.

The only way to truly reach the point of God’s strength flowing through our weaknesses is through brokenness and through trusting God in that brokenness to give us strength for the day. It is at that point that weakness actually becomes the new strong.

Welcome to the book club discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge. Each blogger in the group is reading and then sharing on what inspires, encourages, or challenges them. We are taking 2 weeks per chapter and are currently on Chapter 8. Our co-facilitators are Jason and Sarah – other participants include DustyGlynn, Joell, Rick, and TC.

5 Skills Everyone Should Have

Red and Gold Treble Clef Email ImageThink back over your life and the skills that proved especially helpful. Which ones rise to the top as musts? (Hint: These skills are ones you may be insisting that your kids get early in life.)

Now think back over your life and the skills you wish you would have had. What skills rise to the top? (Hint: These likely now exist as regrets.)

Sure, our individual lives and personalities impact the skills we need, but many skills remain universal too. Regardless, we certainly gain wisdom from learning about the skills others view as important. We can gain insight by going through the act of listing these skills, of taking the time to process the regrets and the successes both of ourselves and others

These are skills I think would benefit everyone.

  1. Fun Colorful NumbersHow to read and play music. I gave up learning music too early in life and have missed out on opportunities to serve through music because of my lack of skill. For this reason, I mightily encourage this skill in my son, who has an aptitude for and interest in music.
  2. How to outline thoughts & ideas. The ability to organize thoughts helps in seemingly unending ways. From giving a presentation to coworkers to discussing a problem with your spouse to giving your testimony, the ability to outline is invaluable. I’m so thankful this skill exists naturally in my repertoire.
  3. How to do math. Math does not come easily for me. I wish I would have pushed more in this area and further developed these skills. Maybe I wouldn’t need my fingers to add and multiply. Because of this gap in my life, I encourage my youngest all the more with his similar struggles.
  4. How to play sports. I would like to have developed this earlier in life. I see the confidence it gives both my boys (one naturally athletic, the other not), and I realize the benefit it could have also given me at their ages.
  5. How to be healthy. I call this an ability because it’s something everyone can develop. An ability to understand and apply health and wellness knowledge allows us to be our best physically, so we can be our best mentally and spiritually too.

Volleyball in Red and WhiteI realize these skills may not interest everyone, but being interested isn’t always that important. In fact, I wish someone would have pushed me as a kid to develop skills I wasn’t interested in at the time. Doing so helps develop us in ways that make our natural abilities stronger and amplify what we do enjoy.

For another point of view, the November 2013 issue of Real Simple lists the following 5 skills as ones everyone should have: (1.) How to be alone. (2.) How to take a compliment. (3.) How to keep a conversation going. (4.) How to ask for feedback. (5.) How to remember names.

All good skills to have! In fact, when I read the Real Simple list, I want to throw out my list and take theirs as my own. This shows the value of sharing these ideas. So, let’s do just that!

DISCUSSION: What 5 skills do you think everyone should have?

One more thing… As I over-analyze, which I can’t always stop from happening, I see how un-spiritual I am with my list and the ones I desire from the Real Simple list. Then I realize these skills – all our skills, really – exist for us to use as tools, tools to communicate and to connect with others. Aha! There’s the connection!

Perfect Peace

peaceMy circumstances all to often shadow my peace. One kid gets in trouble at school while the other won’t admit a mistake. My husband seems overloaded with work, leaving little time for family, and friends come to me with their problems but refuse to hear solutions. Hard to know peace, let alone “perfect peace” (Isaiah 26:3) when struggle flourishes around you.

Knowing peace is not easy. Actually, I’m not sure how it’s even supposed to happen. Jesus says He gives peace not as the world gives it (John 14:27). The world’s peace depends on circumstances, which always change. Jesus’ peace depends on Him, and He’s consistent. He never changes.

I know others have more serious situations than me, but comparisons don’t create peace either. They give perspective that can help tremendously, sure, but they don’t remove the existence of that which challenges my peace.

The peace we so often pursue remains ever elusive under the shadow of life’s everyday struggles. Maybe we’re chasing after the wrong peace. Maybe we don’t need to chase peace at all.

So what about Jesus’ peace has staying power? His peace is freely given and exists independent of circumstances. He doesn’t expect anything in return for the peace He gives. And because of His peace, I can choose to not allow trouble and fear to create my heart’s condition (John 14:27).

Living in the Peace Jesus gives means to…

  1. Believe (John 14:1). Faith keeps trouble from taking root.
  2. Take heart (John 16:33). The world can’t beat you because it’s already been beaten.
  3. Go about your work (John 20:21). God’s sending means success is sure.
  4. Not force understanding (Philippians 4:7). His peace doesn’t make sense because we think in terms of temporal instead of eternal.
  5. Let peace rule (Colossians 3:15). In other words, focus on Him, and allow His peace to consume you. Don’t fight it.

Turns out, there’s no “how to” with regard to peace. Peace just “is” because it’s a gift. When we fully focus on Christ, we have peace because our focus determines our reality.

DISCUSSION: How does the peace of God exist in your life today?