Monthly Archives: June 2013

As easy as 1-2-3….or is it?

easy as 123As I think about the contents of chapter 11 of Stressed-Less Living, I am reminded of a couple of things.   First, there is only one week left and secondly, have I really learned everything to make my life less stressful.     The chapter is titled ‘The Rest Button’.  Ever have those days when you just want to go back to bed and start again?   I have.   And even though I have learned a lot from this study, I still have days like that.

Over the last several days I have felt more stressed than any other time during this study.   I’m not sure if part of the reason is that the study is coming to an end or if there are changes that I still need to make.    Been praying about this and trying to keep stress level under control, but to be honest, this has been a struggle this week.

But back to the chapter.   Tracie sums it all up in six easy, simple, straightforward — yet hard steps.

1.  Realign Your Life – “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Is my life aligned with God’s Word?   I think the biggest discovery during this study has been how little I read the Word of God.   I have been doing a quick devotional in the morning, and I study portions of scripture when I am preaching.   But to sit and read and meditate on God’s word has really taken a back seat in my life and priorities.   Over the last couple of months, I have found myself reading Scripture thoughout the day.  I think this has helped keep me more focused and priorities where they should be and not on all the ‘stuff’ that has been cluttering my life.   I think over the last few days I have allowed meetings to fill my schedule to a point where I am mentally exhausted and have not given my relationship with God the attention it deserves.

“With growth comes problems, and stress.  And with all those stumbling blocks, we fall out of God’s  Word, allowing our lives to get off track and out of alignment.” (Page 213)

Aligning my life to God takes a daily commitment and sometimes recommittment throughout the day.   Life can be crazy and overwhelming, but I need to keep my eyes on God during the craziness.

2.   Recognize Your Need – “May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.”   Psalm 79:8b

This is a hard step for me.   Recognizing that I can’t do it on my own and needing to ask for help.   “God never meant for us to be self-sufficient.  Dependable, yes.   Responsible, yes.  Confident, yes.  Self-sufficient, no.” (page 213).   The world teaches us that we need to be self-sufficient, but this is not God’s plan for our lives.  Yes I need to be dependable and responsible, but I have to also realize that I can not do anything without God.   It would be so much easier if everyone around me thought the same way.    But I need to be strong in my relationship with God in order to fight the pull of the world to do it all by myself.

Admitting that I need help is a daily challenge for me, but I feel that I am getting better.   Praying that God will continue to show me where I need to surrender to his will for my life.

focus

3.  Adjust Your Focus – “Have you never heard? Have you never understood?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.   He never grows weak or weary.  No one can measure the depths of his understanding.”  Isaiah 40:28

I love how Tracie tells us that I need to take my eyes off my circumstances and put them back on God.   I had to re-read this section a couple of times to really let this sink in.    The question that kept coming to me was how often do I like a situation or person take up my complete focus.    Looking back I can see how I have given the situation/person control over my life by taking my focus off of God.

I hear myself all the time telling my 9-year old son to focus on the task that I want him to do.   Now I am wondering how many times that God is saying that to me!!

4.  Be Filled with the Spirit – “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.  Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”  (Galatians 5:16)

I am pulled daily to be self-sufficient and daily struggle with the overwhelming need to worry about things.   Many days I have unrealistic ideas of what I can accomplish.   Unfinished work results in stress.   Worry is almost like breathing.   It has been given a constant presence in my life.   I know that I need to not worry about things that are outside of my control, but some habits are hard to break!

“If you have asked God to fill you with the Holy Spirit and you have given him dominion over your life, you can be confident in knowing that he has filled you according to his promise.” (page 215)    I love how this starts off with that little word ‘if’.    If I have asked God to fill me with the Holy Spirit and given him dominion, then confindence should be present.

It all comes back to what I choose to do.   I have found that the more times that I have to stop what I am doing and ask God for help and strength, the easier my day goes.   It is only when I try to do things without inviting God into the task that I run into difficulties.

5.   Be Faithful in Your Prayer Life – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16)

The importance of a healthy prayer life has become very clear during this study.   God will answer our prayers — in his time and in his way.    But a healthy prayer life is more than just taking a few moments to give my requests to God or to whine when things are not going my way.   A healthy prayer life has to be a two-way street.   I have to take time to commune with God and most important listen to him.    I wonder how many prayers that God has answered that I have not heard because I was too busy trying to do it all.

Taking time throughout the day to just pause and regroup through a meaningful conversation with God has helped me tremendously over the last few months.   I know that when I start to feel overwhelmed, that I need to stop everything and just take a few moments to refocus.

Philippians 4:6-7 states “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and mind as you live in Christ Jesus.”   Such wise words that are very hard to put into practice when you are so used to worrying and trying to control things.   Don’t worry — just pray!

6.  Believe God is Who He Says

When life gets busy and tough, it is hard to remember that God is who he says he is.   He has not changed.   Why do I ever doubt him?

“What we view as God’s absence or lack of quickness to change our circumstances or fix our problems is really God waiting for the proper time to act on our behalf, while simultaneously waiting for us to acknowledge our need for rescue.” (page 216)

Sometimes God takes longer than I would like to answer my prayers and requests.   Okay, probably takes longer all the time as I am still so impatient.   But I need to be more patient while awaiting God’s response.   By admitting that I need him everyday, with every area of my life shows my love, dependency and gratefulness for all that he does on my behalf.

Having faith to trust God in all things shows my faith and love that he is who he says he is.

This study has been a great exercise in really looking at my life and more importantly my relationship with God.   Highlighting the things that are unimportant and taking up my time and energy was also a very important exercise.   While there are sometimes when I feel that others are expecting more from me than I can give, I need to put this aside and just stay focus on what God expects from me.

I know that if I meet God’s expectations, then nothing else really matters.    Hard lessons to put into practice when there are moments of doubts in my ability, but I will continue to journey forward knowing that when I stumble, God will be there to help me up.

have you talked to God

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Breaking Point

  brokenness road to renewal“Most of us desperately want to feel capable of handling the trials and problems of life on our own.  We want to feel equipped to deal with what life throws at us, and we take pride in accomplishments of doing so.  But it is often that exact determination and pride that causes unnecessary stress.   In fact, some of us would rather risk falling flat on our faces than admit we need help.” (Stressed Less Living, page 199)

This is how Tracie Miles starts off chapter 10.   It is such a true statement.   How many times has the world told us that as women that we need to be strong and capable in every area.    We need to have a profession.    We need to be a great wife and mother.   And be available to sit on various committees at the school and in the community.   And of course we need to be doing all this with a positive attitude!

I like how Tracie asks what was my breaking point?     When did I realize that I could not do it all and still remain sane.    The story in 1 Kings 17 about the poor widow is provided as an example of a woman in a hopeless situation.   This is a great example of a person who had nothing and yet still obeyed the Lord.

So, when was my breaking point?   I have mentined this before in previous posts, but my breaking point was about 18 months ago when I was completely overwhelmed by all that needed to be done and everyone’s expectations of me.  Or more realistically, the expectations that I thought everyone had for me and of course, the ones I personally placed on myself.

brokenAt this time, I was angry and very unhappy.   Home life was miserable as I took out my frustrations of my choices on my husband and son.    Nothing was going right.   No one was cooperating with my plans and everyone (or so it seemed) found fault in everything I did.    It was never enough.   I needed to do more and be more to more people.   I was stretched so far that I honestly thought I was going to have a breakdown.    I felt like a complete failure.  For most people around me, they did not know the pain and unhappiness that I was feeling.   It was only the people closest to me.

I remember admitting to myself that something had to change.   And talking it over with my husband that changes had to be made at home as well as the office.

I guess this really highlights the stress of working with your spouse all day and bringing home work at night.   There is no clear line between home and work.   I remember getting the advice from various sources that I needed to delegate.   I know that I was at the point if one more person told me to delegate, I was going to scream.    How could I delegate and expect someone else to do it my way.     (yeah, I laugh about that now!)

But God had a plan for me.   He knew my pain.   He knew my unhappiness.    Looking back I know this now, but at the time I felt very far from him.   I did not feel that he was active in my life.   Again, the results of poor choices on my part.

For about six months or so I remember trying to figure out how to change things.   How to improve my life.   Delegating work related tasks was easy as I already knew who could take them over.   But there was a process and that took time and energy.      During this time I remember speaking to other women officers (pastors in The Salvation Army) and one comment in particular stuck out to me.   One of my friends said that she was concerned about how angry I was at the situation.   And I thought why is this sticking out?    I thought there would be other areas or problems that she could have commented on.    So, I tucked that comment away and kept trying to figure this out on my own.

About a year ago, I remember asking the women of my church if they would be interested in doing a women’s Bible Study.  I would run the same Bible study twice a week — one evening and one daytime to hopefully accommodate everyone.   It was just put as an insert into the weekly bulletin and I was shocked by the response.    The first week I had 8 or so ladies express an interest.    I was excited to do this new ministry as I had never lead a Bible Study before.

Over the summer I found myself praying more for this study and the other Bible Studies that were being planned at the church.     And I started to feel more peaceful and less angry.    Shocking how spending time with God creates peace in your life!!

I committed to spending more time with God, reading his Word and devotionals.     It was through one of these devotionals that I saw the advertisement for the online Bible Studies.    I was not sure if I could do it.   I tried to do the ‘Made to Crave’ by Lysa TerKereust, but could not keep up and dropped out.   I did finish reading that book eventually.

When the notice came up regarding this current study on ‘Stressed-Less Living’, I knew I had to make the commitment and effort to do this study.   Not for anyone else, but for me.    WOW!   has God ever used this study to grow my relationship with him!

When I look back at the last 10 months I can see so much of God’s work in my life.     I am still not completely where I want to go, but I feel that as I going in the right direction.    I still have days where I feel stressed, but I can usually pin-point the reason and it usually is the fact that I am trying to do it on my own.

“I have come to understand that God cannot use people greatly until he has broken them deeply.   And when we embrace our brokenness, we are ready for breakthrough.” (Page 207)

I feel that I have experience the breaking process and now God is using that experience in teachimg me the importance of giving him the controls for my life.   It is through this journey this past year that I have felt more like a pastor than anytime in the last seven years of ministry.

blessingsPart of me wishes I could have figured this out sooner, but then I realized that I needed to go through this experience in order to fully understand what it meant to be broken.

I thank God for his unending patience and understanding while waiting for me to admit that I needed help.     I am thankful that he sent me to this community to be surrounded by friends he has placed in my path to go through this part of my journey with me.

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Spiritual Vitamins

biblesAs I reflect on this week’s reading in Stressed-Less Living study, I am reminded of the importance of daily vitamins.    I personally don’t take daily vitamins and have actually always had a hard time remembering to take any kind of medication everyday.    But the need for daily spiritual vitamins is something that must be a part of my life, a part of any Christian’s life if they want to remain strong in the fight against evil.

Chapter nine was all about choosing our weapons.   We are in the middle of major spiritual battle every day and if we are not equipped with right weapons, we will end up defeated and stressed.    In others words, the devil will win.

I was challenged this week to examine what weapons I choose when I encounter difficulties.    Tracie mentions lots of weapons that I have turned to in the past and that many of us do use when dealing with stress — food, alcohol, shopping, prescription drugs, cigarettes, sports, etc.   While some of these may relieve stress for a moment, they are not permanent solutions.    They actually will increase stress, many leading to unhealthy addictions.

“There are so many worldly weapons available at our fingertips to help us win the war against stress, yet all are completely inadequate to fight the battles that life brings.  When charging towards the giant of stress in our lives, we must choose our weapons for the battle very carefully.” (page 178)

So what do I choose?

As a pastor I want to say that every time I encounter a stressful situation, I immediately turn to God for his strength to fight the stress.   But that would be untruthful.    I so want to be that person.    But I am still struggling to do this on a consistent basis.   I feel that I am doing it more, but still have to do this first instead of waiting until a meltdown happens.

“Real strength results from persistent communication and fellowship with him and allowing his words to guide us through each day. “ (page 178)

This is where is becomes quite easy.   Tracie lists four easy steps in accomplishing this.

Step 1 – Choose God.   This involves trusting and relying on him for everything.   I can work on doing this more routinely.   I feel that I am getting better at turning to God when I start having the stressful, overwhelming feelings.

Step 2 – Turn to His Word.    As part of my daily devotion I am reading his Word every morning.   I have also found that throughout the day I am reading encouragment words of Scripture, usually from a variety of facebook sites I subscribe to.    It is amazing how God continues to use these avenues to speak directly to my heart and the situation that I am facing.

Step 3 – Prayer.   I completely believe in the power of prayer and have felt it numerous times in my life.   In this chapter, Tracie highlights David’s prayers in Psalms.  These are powerful and honest of what David was thinking and feeling at that moment.   “Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth!  Grant me purity of heart, that I may honor you.” (Psalm 86:11, NLT).   Praying throughout the day is the only way that I know that I can fight the spiritual warfare in the world that I live in.

Take Spiritual Vitamins.   This is not really another step, but a nice little way wrap everything in a neat little package.     Spending time with God in prayer and reading his Word.   And most importantly surrender all to him everyday is the spiritual vitamins that I need, that you need in order to win the spiritual warfare that is our earthly world.

I am reminded of a simple children’t chorus that is an important reminder of what I have to do.    “Read your Bible, and pray everyday and you’ll grow, grow, grow.”   This is so simple and so true.   If I want to grow in my relationship with God, then I must read my Bible and pray every day.    The only way that I am going to reduce my stress is to pick up the weapons that God provides.

So I reach for my Bible and open my heart for God to speak to me.

psalm 119 105

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