OBS for Stressed Less Living

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.


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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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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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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A New, Healthy Beginning!

It is definitely time that I made me a priority in my life.   I need to get healthy in so many areas.   The huge amount of stress that I create in my life is just the tip of the mountain.   Time to move this mountain!!

living peacefully

“Why do we accept stress as normal and ignore its consequences?”    Tracie Miles asks this question near the beginning of Chapter 3 of Stressed-Less Living.    Good question.    She goes on to say that if we were diagnosed with cancer or something, we would immediately seek treatment.   “Likewise, if you know you are stressed to an unhealthy level yet refuse to discover the real problems and implement necessary changes to help eliminate or reduce your stress, then you are, in essence, refusing treatment and jeopardizing your life.” (pg.62)

I love the way that she does not beat around the bush in making a point!    Yes, I know that my stress level is at an unhealthy high level.  Symptoms – high blood pressure, stress headaches/migraines, moody, emotional — to name a few.

So what am I doing about it?   If you had asked me a year ago, I would have to say nothing.  But over the last year I have very slowly started to address the issue.   More so in the last three weeks, but I’ve started a new kind of health kick!

I would think that the highest stress point was about 18 months or so ago.   Since then it has decreased, but still is not at a healthy level.  The easy stressors to reduce were the ones that I was able to give to someone else.  However, that does not make me feel great knowing that I have just given my problem to someone else.   So replaced one stressor with another!

By talking about what is ‘stressing’ me out and admitting to my responsibility in creating this mess, I have been able to minimize a lot of stress in my life.    Also by making commitments to my husband and son that I am working on learning to manage my stress better is holding me accountable to take action.

I am reminded of Philippians 4:7 “If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than  the human mind can understand.   His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

I want God’s peace all the time, not just moments here and there.   So as I read chapter three ‘ The Silent Killer’ it really puts things into perspective.   I need to do something and I need to do it NOW!   By not acting until recently, I have put my physical, emotional, spiritual health at risk and also my relationships.

My first step to becoming a healthy, and stressed-less woman involves me spending time daily in God’s Word.   Not just doing a quick devotion in the morning, but really taking time to soak up his word each and every day  — morning, noon and night.   The peace that comes from this simple exercise is amazing!   I knew this was something that I needed to do, but never had that time or energy to put it into practice.  “Never stop praying.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT).    Having an on-going conversation with God throughout the day really helps.   I still whine to him — I’m working on that.    There are still things that frustrate me — he’s working on that!

The second thing that I have done to help make me healthy is to eliminate anything that is not important.   For example, time that was wasted on facebook playing games — GONE.   Worrying about things that I have no control over — GOING!   While I am still on the computer a lot, it is spend in studying God’s word and messages through blogs and other postings from the Online Bible Study group.

The next thing that I am tackling now is healthy eating and exercise.    I am trying to walk more.   Simple thing of walking my son to school and then continue on to work takes some time each day, but it is only about 20 mins…so not a big commitment.     Healthy eating is taking a lot more time.  My husband needs to get a handle on his diabetes, so the learning curve is a little high.   What exactly is a healthy choice?    So I am reading a lot, but in the process of helping him, I am helping me too!

That’s all I have tackled so far!

When I think of trying to get healthy, I have always done it for me.    This time I am doing it for God.   When I stop and think of all that he has done for me and I do not have the strength or wisdom or desire to take care of my health …. I am ashamed.    I have wasted so much time, but God has forgiven me.  Now moving forward, things will be different.    I know that I will stumble and maybe fall, but I am assured of his presence with me all the time.

“I know the Lord is always with me.  I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.”  (Psalm 16:8 NLT)

Tracie talks about God being the ‘Great Physician’ and he is.   The need to cry out to him first when I am feeling stress building up is key to managing stress.   God MUST be my first responder!   Tracie made what I feel is a key statement on page 65, “I had sought out a cure from the Great Physician, and he had provided it.  Not a cure for the problem but a cure for my heart as I dealt with the problem in his strength and under the refuge of his love.”  

God will answer my cries for help, but he is not going to eliminate my stress.   Not really what I wanted to hear, but it time to be bluntly honest.   Thank you, Tracie for that!    I need to know that no matter how many changes that I make, I will still have stress.   BUT, God is there to help me manage and dealt with it.

“As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.  He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness!”  2 Peter 1:3 NLT

As I continue to know God better, this will reflect in my life and the choices I make.   I need to make healthy choices in every area of my life in order to be truly healthy child of God.

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