I have a best friend that is unbelievably talented. We all think our best friends are pretty amazing, but let’s be honest, mine really takes the cake.
Jennifer and I met at summer camp in 3rd grade and have been best buds ever since. She has always been an inspiration to me, but now lives her life being an inspiration to others.
After college, Jennifer hiked the Appalachian Trail for the first time and really caught the hiking bug. Now a few years later, she holds the record for the fastest hike on the Appalachian Trail; was named a National Geographic Adventure of the Year; has been featured in The New York Times, on the CBS Early Show, Fox and Friends, and more; and has written two excellent books about her hiking experiences.
So yeah, she’s pretty legit…and I like to brag on her just a little.
She wrote a blog post this week that really hit home with me. Using hiking as an analogy, she explains that much like you must have a “pack shakedown” before starting on a long hiking adventure, we also need a “life shakedown” at times, to let go of so much we hold so tight.
I can think of so many things I hold so tight right now: my time (and protecting it), money, my appearance of being a good mom and having it all together, and especially...certain responsibilities that I just won’t pass off to others or ask others for help.
One of my favorite things Jennifer encourages us to do is to “share the load with other people” - I’m bad at this. In wanting to appear to have it all together, I often hold tight to things.
In Matthew Perman’s book What’s Best Next, he talks about delegating work, but I think it applies to more than work. He says, “our main aim in delegating is not simply to make our own lives better and free up our time. It is also to build up the other person…true productivity is about doing good for others."
In my life shakedown, what if I was able to let things go and bring others alongside me? Instead of fearing whether people will view me as incompetent, what if I saw partnering with others as a way to truly love them, giving them the opportunity to excel in a new task while also feeling a great sense of joy as they serve me well?
Asking for help is hard, but I think Jennifer really hits it on the head - we all need a life shakedown, and part of the shakedown is our opportunity to have others come alongside us to help carry the load…whether you are raising a child, completing a project at work, going through a tough life circumstance, needing a friend, or even just walking down a hiking trail.
In what areas do you need a life shakedown? In what areas could you let go a little and ask for help?
At this current stage in my life (young child, working full time), my ideal night (almost every single night) would be to put on stretchy yoga pants and stay at home. It is very rare that I want to make the effort to do anything at all.
I know this “having a young child” phase is just a phase, and let me tell you - it is real…full of exhaustion and added responsibility and added things to manage and more. However, I find myself using the “having a young child” situation as an excuse for many things.
Because I have a young child, I make excuses so that I do not have to:
• Have people over for dinner
• Actually pick up the phone when someone calls (or call them back)
• Make an effort to talk to our neighbors
• Do something thoughtful for a friend I know needs it
• Ask someone I don’t spend as much time with to do something
Yes, having a young child is overwhelming, and it demands all of me, all of the time. But, I allow it to also be a crutch I use to bypass many things that I feel the Lord calling me to do…it’s just so much easier to do nothing!
And let’s be honest, for lots of us (myself included), it’s not just during the “young child phase” - I made excuses before my son was even born when I was working long hours at a demanding job, or when I had a lot of “change” going on in my life due to moving, or when it was really cold and I just didn’t want to get out.
Being intentional is hard work. It requires forethought and planning. It requires you to do things even when you’re tired. It requires you to think about someone else besides yourself, even after long, hard days that demand so much of you.
But, I really don’t want to look back on this season in my life and see how devoid it was of love. Because, to me, being intentional is about showing love.
What are ways we can be intentional, or “glow” love locally to those around us, even in difficult seasons?
Here are some things I am planning to do this month:
• Send a card (in the mail!) to a friend
• Take half of a batch of cookies (I'm already making) to the older neighbor across the street
• Invite someone I don’t necessarily know as well to come over for coffee
• Text someone I haven’t talked to in a really long time just to let them know I am thinking about them
• PRAY for someone who pops in my head
• Invite someone to go out to eat with us (no house cleaning then!)
• Send a book I recently read to someone I think will really enjoy it
• Cook a meal for a new mom
I hope by giving myself a goal and writing things down that I will be more intentional this month….each of these should take me less than 5 minutes to complete (well, except the cooking ones, but I’ll already be cooking for our family, so pretty easy).
I am always surprised how doing one intentional thing stirs me to be more aware and eager to do another - once I start making the effort, I am more in tune to continue making the effort…which makes it all easier.
Do you struggle with being intentional during certain seasons of life? What are small ways you are more intentional?
When my husband comes home after work and asks me how my day was, I have noticed that my feelings towards my day often hinge on how closely the day lined up with my expectations. If I stayed on track while getting a lot done on my to-do list and knocking out a big project during my work time, then it was a good day. If my son didn’t nap and I got bogged down in responding to e-mails instead of working, then it wasn’t a good day. My feelings towards my day revolve around my productivity.
Recently when reading Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, a quote from her book just really jumped out at me:
“I know that none of us would just come right out and shout, ‘Stop meddling!’ at the Lord, but we frequently say it…my plan has become my god; I am an idolator. I worship my idea of a successful day, my right to decree how its every moment will go.” (128-29).
And oh, isn’t this so true? I do worship my plan for the day. I worship the to-do list I set in the morning. I worship my proficiency in accomplishing tasks on time. I worship my productivity in multi-tasking while playing with my child.
By the way I live my life each day, I am essentially telling the Lord to “stop meddling!"
I leave myself no room for the unexpected and no room for intentionality. But isn’t that what God calls us to throughout all of Scripture?
We’re called to be servants (not perfectionists). We are called to work faithfully for Him with all of our heart (not working for my to-do list). We are called to show hospitality and love others (not protecting my time to get my stuff done).
By running my life on proficiency, I am leaving no room for God to move.
I must allow margin in my schedule so that accomplishing tasks is not paramount to spending time with a friend who might need someone to listen. I must allow grace to abound when my son might need one-on-one attention for a huge part of a day that I feel justified in having “me time.” I must give room to decree this moment as God’s so that frustrations of going off schedule do not cause me to feel downright angry.
If we treasure the things of the kingdom, if our focus is on Christ in all we do, if we really focus on the goodness of God, our days can refocus on eternal glory, not productivity. We can see joy (because we see Jesus) even when things don’t go as planned.
Do you have a hard time centering your days (and your feelings toward your day) on productivity? How can you leave room for God today?
Do you remember mind mapping? Reminds you of middle and high school, huh?
Confession: I actually still use mind mapping all the time. When I have a work project and I want to think creatively and explore different patterns, I mind map. For example, I recently was working on a website redesign project and used mind mapping to figure out why people would come to the website and who the audience is.
Tom and David Kelley in the amazing book Creative Confidence talk about mind mapping being better than a list, to "help facilitate divergent or unconventional thinking.” I would agree; mind mapping helps my list-making, slightly-type-A personality feel more free to explore different concepts. Here’s an example they share in their book:
Have you ever thought about mind mapping to grow and learn more about Jesus?
The other day, I was talking to my husband about farming, and it reminded me of some Bible verses about farming…which got me looking in the Bible for different ways God describes our growth using farming-type images. I tried to write a straightforward list, but it was hard in list-form to connect ideas.
So, I decided to mind map.
I was looking specifically at growth - I wanted to know more about how God uses the ideas of harvesting and planting to speak to us about that idea.
Using my Bible, an ESV Study Bible, and good-ole Google, I looked up words such as “harvest”, “vine”, “fruit”, “tree”, and more. As I came across new verses, I started drawing out my mind map.
I started with the word Growth in the middle, as that was my main focus, and branched off from there. When I got done, my finished product looked something like this:
It helped so much to mind map this concept, as it allowed me to see how different verses fell in different categories. I could see how the Lord uses harvest imagery to explain how we can become a wild vine when not bearing Godly fruit. I could see how many times God uses tree symbolism when talking eternally. I could visually see how the idea of planting seeds and sowing righteousness came up multiple times.
Relive your middle school glory-days and give mind mapping a try…a great way to visually put God’s word together into a big picture.
Do you still mind map? Have you ever done it when reading the Bible?