Monthly Archives: May 2013

To Do Lists

to do

I have always loved ‘to-do’ lists!    They keep me focus and at the end of the day I can look at it and see all that I have accomplished.   There are times that I would have several ‘to-do’ lists — there would be today’s, this week’s, this month and then the dream ‘to-do’ list.   It was great.   I was so in control.   I was able to

That was the old me.

The new me only has two things on my ‘to-do’ list each and every day.

1.     Put God First

2.    Let God take Control

Okay, to be completed honest this does not happen every day.   Maybe I can call this my new wish ‘to-do’ list! But this is my goal.

I am in the midst of a wonderful online Bible study by Tracie Miles called ‘Stressed Less Living’.      This week is chapter 8:  Addicted to Adrenaline.    I was told after a friend read it that she thought of me, so I was a little nervous in starting to read this chapter.    And she was right.   This is so me.

I have come to the realization that there was two major problems with the way that I handled things for most of my life.   First of all, I never asked God for what he wanted me to do each day.   This never came into the thought process that I went through as I decided what I would do each day.    (notice that there is a lot of ‘I’s in that sentence).   It was all about me.   What did I want to accomplish?   What did I think was important?    I have realized that I was completely wrong!!   And the second major problem or misconception that I had was that I was in control.   Somehow, I came to the conclusion that I was in control by making these lists and organizing my time.

As this realization came to me, I had to laugh.   I can so picture God sitting there, looking at me and saying ‘Finally!!  She gets it!!  It has only taken her over 40 years to finally get it.’     I am very thankful that my God is so very patient with this slow learner.

During the previous seven chapters, I have had to admit to my involvement in creating my stress, what was within my control and what was not.   The hardest thing was facing my giants last week.    I have been taking this study very serious and making changes in my life as I have went along.   I have not completely faced all my giants, but will to soon.

This week is another week of coming to the realization that I am an addict.    Addicted to the adrenaline of getting things accomplished.   Of looking at my beautiful and detailed ‘to-do’ lists and being able to check or cross things off.    For those who have been in my office, there is often a huge ‘to-do’ list posted on the wall.   (I absolutely love the Post-it poster size pages!)    I can clearly see what needs to be done.   It has always made stressing over what has to be done and not being able to do it today easier when I could sit there and look at it all day.    But I have removed the last one from my office.   There is no more lists on my desk!   Still lots of things to respond to and projects to work on, but they are in managable piles that I will get to as I can.

The main thing that stuck out to me in this chapter was the four types of adrenaline junkies.   The four are:  the accomplisher, the personal deflector, the organizational deflector and the dramatist.    I clearly fall in to the first category — the accomplisher!

“The accomplisher- this is the classic type of adrenaline addict, the one who has an almost innate need to stay busy and cross things off a list in order to feel productive.  They like to be able to measure daily process in terms of what they have completed, even at the expense of the bigger, longer-term view.   Accomplishers are most susceptible to developing an adrenaline addiction because they are prone to take on more and more work.”  (page 163)

Wow!   This is definately me!   As I read this over a few times, I kept asking myself.   How do I change?   I have been like this for my whole life, so how do I break the habit?      Step one was to continue reading the chapter.

Tracie made the comment that the devil wants us to be busy because that will take us away from spending time with God.   This is so true.   Why haven’t I realized this sooner?    Since starting this study, I have been spending more time in the Word of God and less time worrying about what has to be done.    I am trying to delegate more, but still having a hard time in saying ‘no’ to new tasks and projects.

“What is keeping me most busy?  Where do I devote the majority of my time?” (page 165)

I have realized over the last eight weeks, that I have been devoting too much of my time to my ministry and not enough to my family or to myself.   This is not a news flash to those who know me.   I have made a concentrated effort to spend less time working in the evenings, but instead spending time with my family and with God.    This Bible study has given me the focus I have needed to start making important changes in my life.    While I still have a ways to go, I feel that I am on the right path.

John 9:4 states, “All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, because there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end.” 

I have always been quick to do what was assigned to me, but my downfall was doing what everyone else assigned to me and not doing just what God has assigned to me.   This is a huge step in realizing that most of what I do is not what is on God’s priority list.   Yes, there is little time left before all work comes to an end, but one must figure out what work is God’s work and what is not.

Figuring out what is on God’s list for me to do each day is my new challenge.   In order to do this I must be in conversation with him first thing in the morning and throughout the day.   This enables me to keep my focus where it should be and not where the world wants it to be.    By being surrounded by God’s Word as I go about my day has enabled me to have less moments of stress and less meltdowns.   And I feel great!

Tracie reminds us near the end of this chapter that we have a choice to make each day.  “Each day when we get out of bed, we have a choice to make about where our strength will come from to face the day ahead.  Will we rely on ourselves or will we rely on God?  Will we try to rely on our human strength to persevere, or will we seek the strength that God provides to our spirits, enabling us to get through even the most painful of days?  Will we continue to assume that if we try hard enough we will have the power to change or make changes happend, or will we realize that God, and God alone, possessess the power to do so?” (page 172)

So each day, I am making the choice to rely solely on God for strength to face whatever comes my way in the day ahead.   I am relying solely on him to give me my daily bread.   Not worrying about others demands.   Not worrying about what tomorrow will hold.   Not worrying about ‘to-do’ lists.     And trying my very best not to worry about what is not being done today.

oswald chambers

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Facing my Giants

how to kill a giant

Sometimes even our greatest efforts to manage our stress can seem futile

when our giants seem too huge to ever overcome.”    

(Page 139, Stressed-Less Living)

In Chapter 7 of Stressed Less Living, Tracie Miles challenges us to overcome our giants.   By the use of the familiar story of David and Goliath, she illustrates the need to have our focus and faith on God when we are facing our Goliaths.   And the biggest giant in my life right now is the amount of stress that I let take control of my daily actions and emotions.

The good news is that God never intended for us to live lives of despair, stress and dread.    God never intended for us to fight God is bigger than the boogie manour giants alone and on our own strength.    That’s his job.   Yes, God is bigger than any giant that I am dealing with.     As I read that, the song from Veggies Tales kept going through my head,  God is bigger than the boogie man!       A simple child’s song, yet so full of truth.

“As we become more mature in faith, learning to trust that God is capable of all things, we will see God is bigger and bigger everytime we encounter him.   God is and was and always will be the same, but, as we give him sovereignty over our hearts, our awe of him increases.”  (Page 141)

I had to re-read these sentences a few times as the meaning behind the words penetrated my brain.  Learning to trust that God is capable of all things.    Easy to say that this has been a belief of mine for a long time, but have I truly believed it if I continually take control away from God and try to do it myself?   Once again I realize that giving control to God would make things so much less stressful.

Over the last several months I have been learning what it means to delegate my work load and to also have employees take responsibility and ownership for their own jobs.   Just because someone does not do it the way I want or when I want, is not a good reason to just do it myself.   Handing over the work is easy.  Not worrying about whether it will get done correctly, is a completely different matter.

The challenge of this chapter is to actually name my giants.   At the start of the chapter. Tracie names a few common giants that we may be facing – financial issues, marriage or relationship problems, work problems, parenting issues.     And it was so easy to just pick a few and say, ‘yeah, these are my giants’.   But that was not good enough for God and he has been nudging me for days on pin-pointing my giants.   And I did not like what came to the surface.    I would say that the two biggest giants are work issues and relationship issues.    Both deal with a few people that are in my life that I would consider my giants.   They are the ones who I allow to fill me with stress and frustration within seconds.    My lack of patience and understanding for these individuals are at a low.

I have been praying in particular for help in these areas, but all I seem to feel is God telling me to stay.   I do not feel that God is telling me to confront them at this time.  I feel weak.   I sense that God wants me to rely on him more before tackling these giants.   I am trying to figure out if this is just a easy way to avoid them or if it truly is God’s will.

Another comment that stuck out to me in this chapter was that the real giant is the mental presence of stress, worry and fear in my heart.    I started to ask myself whether I am making more of situations, hence causing me more stress, worry & fear.   But I knew the answer before I finished the question.  Yes, I do.    I can allow a messy house to increase my level of stress.   I allow the actions of others to increase my stress.   I allow the fact that others do not meet my expectations to increase my stress.   (yeah, my expectations — not God’s, but mine!).    I have been trying over the last several weeks to look at situations and ask whether I have control over it, whether I should be involved in it and whether I should be leaving it up to God.    This also gives me a minute or two to take some deep breaths.

“Worrying cannot change a thing, but faith can change everything.”  (Page. 148)   Powerful words and extremely true.   So I am practicing trying not to worry about things that are beyond my control.   And realizing that a lot of things fall into this category.

This chapter was filled from start to finish with great words of wisdom in overcoming my giants.   Whether it was to do with my focus or my attitude, the all hit the mark and really made me stop and think.   But I think that Tracie seems it up in the following statement,

“When our faith is grounded in the Word of God and we are receiving those daily portions from him, we are so much better equipped to tackle these questions when they arise and to keep our minds on track with the truth.”  (page 154)

Have you ever noticed that if you don’t have time to spend in the Word of God at the start of your day, that the whole day is off, that nothing goes right?   I have.    If I am rushed through my morning devotions or don’t have the time to even do them, then I might as well crawl back into bed as the day is going to be stressful and full of frustration.    I must have my time with God each morning.  I must spend time in quiet prayer with him as the day unfolds — or I can’t seem to handle anything that comes my way.    I am definitely better equipped to handle what the world throws at me when I have committed my day to the Lord in advance.

I never realize the benefit of morning devotions until recently.   I am not what you would call a morning person.   But just over two years ago we decided to get a puppy.   Our precious dog likes to get up early in the morning and somehow it’s my job to get up with her.   At first I complained (ALOT) about it, but now I love it.    I have about an hour before anyone else gets up and I can just be in God’s presence with no other distractions.   God knew that I needed this time, it just took me awhile to realize that this was a blessing.

So as I finish this chapter and continue to work on facing my giants I am reminded of this truth.

“But in God’s eyes all giants are beatable.   Because God is bigger.”   (page 154)keep calm

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I can do it on my own….NOT!

I can do it by myself. 

I don’t need any help.  

I’m superwoman!

surrendering all

How many times have I said those words.   Maybe not that I am superwoman, but I’m sure it was implied a time or two!   I think that I have always been independent.   Always thought that was one of my strengths.    And in the world’s view, it is recognized as a strength to be completely independent — never depending on anyone for anything.

BUT, as I read chapter 6 of Stressed Less Living, I realize very quickly how wrong I have been for so many years.

In the Scripture verses this week was listed one of my favourite ones, that until this week never really took in the full meaning of the verse.

Philippians 4:13 – “For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”

I don’t know how many times that I quoted this verse.  But God revealed to me this week that I was not reading one of the words ‘with’.   I can do everything WITH the help of Christ.    I was never made to do it alone.   God gave us Jesus Christ to help us with everything.   So I can do everything when I lean on Christ for the strength that I need.    I always tended to read the first part and forget the second part.

One of the hardest thing in this chapter was when Tracie stated the fact that trying to do it all on my own was a pride issue.   I have never thought that I was a prideful person, but this chapter pointed out that I am.  (ouch!)

“All too often we do things in our own strength and wisdom, rather than realizing or relenting to our need for God’s help.” (pg 121, Stressed Less Living).   Very true.   It is not until all my strength is gone that as a last resort turn to God.    Why do I do this?    This lesson would have been a lot easier to learn when I was younger and not so set in my ways.     But once again, the breaking-melting-molding process is happening.

But there is hope.   “As we learn to dwell in Christ daily, we are better equipped to handle stress and adversities and better prepared to avoid meltdowns altogether.” (page 121)     Such easy advice.   Just dwell in Christ daily and no more meltdowns.   I know a few people who would appreciate the no more meltdowns!  But hard to put into practice when so used to doing it all on my own.

It was interesting to read that as long as I continue to do things on my own and not embrace God’s sovereignty and power, that my life will continue to be full of frustration and stress.    This is so clear-cut solution to my stressed filled life.

But….I want to do it myself.   I want to take the credit for accomplishing anything, something all on my own.    But this is not the way that God created me to be.

Pride is very complex.   According to the dictionary, there is good (positive) pride and bad (negative) pride.   But if you read chapter 6 of Stressed Less Living you will realize that yes, pride is complex and also that nothing about pride is good or positive.   “Pride in any form will eventually lead to stress.   It is a condition that makes the heart sick.  And when the heart is sick, we are ill-prepared to deal with the stressors of life.” (page 132)

As I read these pages and realized how prideful I can be, I also came to the conclusion that I have not been allowing God to be actively involved in all areas of my life.    I realized that I have things placed into different compartments  —  things I can do and things that I need help with.     And to be completely honest, most things start in the first compartment and then gradually get moved to the second when I am completely stressed out!

Is it possible that the reason you feel as if God doesn’t see you or your problems or care about your stress is because you are focused on you, instead of God?” (page 132).    WOW!   What a question!   I think it really hit me because it has a lot of truth in it.   How many times have I complained to God that he was taking too long to answer my important request?   How often have I just went ahead and did something without waiting for God to respond…that’s if I took the time to ask him in the first place?

This really highlighted the area in my life that I need to be focused on.   My focus must always be on God and what he wants for my life.   I can see where in some areas, I don’t have a problem with this, but there are other places where there is a huge problem!   I am thankful that Trace puts it so clear and straightforward in this chapter.   There is no beating around the bush, she cuts to the heart of the matter.

Patience.  Obedience.   Two areas where I struggle with.   But God is working in my life, breaking me where it is needed, melting the areas that need correction and melting me into the woman he wants me to be.

My prayer this week is for me is a “life where I let go of the reins and give God complete sovereignty over my future” (page 133, personalize)

My song this week has been I’ll surrender all’.   It started this week on Sunday as a response to God’s message and has carried through to this Bible Study.   It is really about surrender every part of my life to him.

i surrender all

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Giving it Back!

“We can believe that a life of peace and less stress is feasible if we rely on God, who promises that it can be.” (Page 92).   This is one of the first quotes in Chapter 5 of Stressed Less Living by Tracie Miles that really hit me as I worked through the chapter.    I working  through this study and really opening up to the possibilities, BUT… do I really, really believe that a life of peace and less stress is even possible?    I read this sentence a few times and then I noticed the little word ‘IF’.

IF I rely on God, THEN a life a peace and less stress is possible.

Mark 10:27 says, “Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” (NLT)

I believe God can do anything that he chooses to do.   I do.   But then I look at my life and all that it involves and wonder if the miracle of a less stress life is even possible.   There are so many other factors that I can not control that affect my life daily.   I can almost hear Tracie repeating a comment from an early chapter, that the things I can’t control are for me to let God control.    So that gets back to me trusting God to do what is best.   How long will it take for me to learn that lesson?

This chapter is full of truths and information that on some level I already knew.   But for some unknown reason (well maybe not that unknown), I have not put into practice in my life and in my choices.

“But true joy and peace are withing your reach if you are reaching out to the right place for help – Jesus Christ.  Peace is not a matter of life or circumstances; it’s a matter of the heart.” (page 93).if you want to know

So, it does not matter what circumstances that I am currently living, I can still experience true joy and peace.   While trying to digest this tidbit of information, I am then faced with examining my heart.   Am I allowing the circumstances to dictate what is in my heart?   Am I allowing the world to control my joy?    To be honest, yes, I do allow those around me to control my joy & peace.

While God can do and control anything and everything about my life, he chooses to change me through my circumstances, not change the circumstances themselves.    Some days this is easier to accept than others.   Some days I just want him to take away the difficult situations and garbage and make it all sunshine & roses!

During the last couple of weeks, I have started walking my son to school and then walking from there to my office.    It takes about 25 minutes with the school being about half ways.    I have really enjoyed the time to just be quiet in God’s presence.   To spend the time in conversation with God at the start of my day.   Sometimes it’s all about me, but other days it is a chance to lift someone up to God in prayer.     I have spent a lot of time thinking about this chapter and the condition of my heart.

Tracie makes the comment that true faith needs to be active, not passive.   And if I am going to have genuinely active faith then I need to be focusing on the health of my entire being — physically and spiritually.    Lately I have been really concentrating on my physical health, but the blunt reminder that I also needed to be focusing on my spiritual health was heard – loud and clear.

If our hearts are not in the right place, the amount of time we spend trying to do all the right things will be pointless.” (Page 109)

create in me a clean heartWOW!    Nothing like cutting to the core of the issue.  Being busy doing things for God is not enough if my heart is not in the right place.   I think of the chorus, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”   So this week I have been singing this chorus (to myself!) and examining the condition of my heart.

There is a powerful paragraph near the end of this chapter that really summarizes the chapter for me.

Being a Christian not only means serving God with our bodies, but serving him with our hearts, souls and minds.  It means being totally sold-out to Christ in all aspects of our lives — surrendering all of our thoughts and actions to him.  It means seeking the Lord with such great intensity that helps us to be keenly aware of our need for his help to deal with our stress in the most effective ways.   Once we are fully connected with Jesus, we will begin craving an insatiable daily portion of him to nourish our souls and fill our spirits with the peace we are starving for.” (page 111)

So I leave this chapter with the challenge to seek God with great intensity and to daily remind myself that I need his help to deal with the stressors in my life.   God wants me to be full of joy and peace, but he is patiently waiting for me to turn to him for help.    This chapter may be entitled “Take Back Your life”, but I am giving it back — back to God.    Giving back complete control to God of my life.

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Do Not Copy

The verse for Chapter four of Stressed Less Living bible study is Romans 12:2.   The most familiar version is taken from the New International Version (NIV) and starts off ‘Do not conform’.   But I like the NLT version.     This week I have spent some time in looking closely at this verse and was really impacted by God’s message in this one verse.

keep calm and don't copy

                                 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world,

but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world”.   This verse starts with a very clear instruction that we are not to copy or reproduce the behavior and customs of this world.   We are not to act like those who live in this world act.    In the newer translation of the Bible, The Voice,  this part of the verse states, “Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image.”    As Christians we are created in the image of God.   This instruction is telling us to look at the standards that we are using to measure what we do.    What do I consider acceptable just because the world thinks it is acceptable?    I need to set the bar where God instructs me to set it.   I need to act and treat others like God has instructed me to.     The standards of acceptable behavior and actions that the world has are much lower than what God sets for us.   I pray that I can strive more each day to meet God’s standards.

“...but let God transform you into a new person”.    To be someone new.   To erase all the mistakes I have made and to begin anew. What hope this part of the verse brings!   As I reflected on this, the chorus ‘Spirit of the Living God‘ comes to mind.   The line that states, ‘break me, melt me, mold me, fill me’ in particular really speaks to me about letting God transform me.    I can’t change my attitudes, behavior or actions on my own.   I need God to do it.   And more importantly, I need to LET GOD CHANGE ME!!!   This is the key word in this part of the verse.   LET.    To allow God complete control over every aspect of my life in order for me to be transformed into a new person is a struggle that I have.    I like to be in control of things.   Letting go of control and letting God take control of my life is becoming easier, but it’s been long road to get here.

“…by changing the way you think.”   It’s all about what is in my head.   How do I think what is acceptable behavior is how I am going to act.   In allowing God to transform me into a new person, I have to change the way I think.    What I know to be God’s truth in acceptable behavior and actions for a Christian must be the same in my head as my heart.    It is easy to know in our hearts what God wants us to do, but our heads sometimes create more ‘grey’ areas than is needed.    As I reflected on what I think and compare it to the world’s view and God’s view, I was surprised to admit that I am not always completely on the side of God’s view.    While I agree with all that God tells us to do, I have discovered that my standards have lowered towards the world’s view.    I think it’s a combination of being lazy and just wanting to fit in with those around me.      The easiest way to be in completely agreement with God’s view and to change the way I think to be in-line with God, I need to be immersed in his word and teachings.    I have found over the last few weeks to have more clearer direction of what God wants me to do and say.

“Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, ”  Did you notice how this sentence starts?   The word ‘then’.    I need to be changed first, then and only then will I finally learn to know God’s will for my life.     If I want to know God’s will for my life, then I need to allow God to change me into a new person whose thoughts are not of this world.     So all the times of praying for God to reveal to me what he wants me to do was delayed because I needed to change first!!   God’s will can’t be known until we have changed the way we think.  Once God has transformed us, then his will for our lives will become clear.    As I read this and meditated on this part of the verse, I wanted to ask God why?   I want to act like a two-year old and stomp my feet…Why make me wait until I change?   Why can’t he just tell me his will first, then I’ll change?    It is all about obedience.    God wants me to be obedient to him, before I know how he is going to bless me.   But I so want to know the ending first!   I guess that’s the impatient part of me!!!

 “…which is good and pleasing and perfect.”   God’s will is good and pleasing and perfect.   Do I acknowledge that God’s will is the best for me?    As I reflect back over my life, I see there are many, many times that God’s will is the best for me.   But I also see there are many times where I fought him on the changes that needed to happen in my life in order for his will to happen.   In my heart I know that God’s way is best, but I want to do it my way.    I think I have allowed the world’s view that I need to be completely independent, be able to do everything get in the way of being obedient to God.   To fully acknowledge that his will for me is good, pleasing and perfect, I need to stop fighting him on the changes needed in my life.

Spending time this week just looking at this verse and praying this verse has allowed me to see areas of my life that are reflecting the world’s view and not in line with God’s views.   It has allowed me to see where I need to be spending my time and energy on.   By looking at the different translations of this verse and taking it part-by-part really helps in seeing a clearer meaning behind it.

“Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image.

Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind.

As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills

and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” 

(the Voice)

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