Have you ever been frozen in indecision, wondering what to do next?
Me too. There are so many demand on us, it becomes harder and harder to stay true to our priorities. Sometimes it’s even hard to identify our priorities.
Maybe you ask yourself, what does God really want me to do? Especially when there are so many important needs out there.
If you can relate to that question, you’re not alone. There’s been a shift in society that’s silently affecting our ability to identify what’s most important. As I’ve traced this issue back a few years, the confusion seems to have started with email and accelerated with our cell phones.
Let me back up, and try to explain.
The growing competition on our priorities
Growing up, my family had a house phone. Just one. And it was connected to the wall with a cord. There was no call-waiting beep or answering machine. And of course, no email or texting. So if you wanted to reach me, you kept calling until you got through. Or maybe head to my house and actually knock on my door. Quite frustrating when “someone” spent hours talking to a friend!
Basically, the burden to communicate was on the person with the message to share.
Today the responsibility to communicate has shifted. No longer is it your burden to reach me; all you do is type-type-type a message, hit send and all the responsibility floats through cyberspace and lands firmly on me.
Multiply this by every which way people can reach me, and before I even wake up, I’m behind.
Starting out behind
This shift has silently affected all of us. A typical day starts with checking some sort of communication device to see who might have emailed, posted or texted. Then, before we begin to handle what’s most important to us, our day begins by responding to what’s most important to others.
Without a concerted effort to stop this pull, we are drawn into the day’s rushing current like a tiny raft on a whitewater river. And rather than being proactive, our days are spent in reactive mode.
Sound familiar? If so, you’ve probably also experienced the too-long to-do list that comes with it. After we’ve given the best of our time and energy to others, there’s little left to address God’s priorities for us. Consequently we put-off, delay and procrastinate our priorities.
After years of shortchanging myself and my family, and often dishonoring God, I realized I had things upside down! Things that mattered least replaced things that mattered most in my schedule. And work that would make the greatest impact on my life often fell to the bottom of my lists, then transferred to the next list until I either completed it with a fraction of my ability or abandoned it entirely.
Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to figure out our best work. It sounds so easy to say, “Identify your priorities, and do those first.” However, when we face multiple demands we can often feel helpless. And helplessness can lead us to escape, avoid or try and numb.
Pressing pause and reevaluating priorities
When those feelings start to overtake me and I don’t know what to do, rather than make a self-defeating choice, it’s time to press pause. Sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing … except seek direction and wisdom from the One who knows what our best is.
Given the chance, others will set our priorities for us. Yet God specifically has a calling for each of us that will only come from Him. To discern this, we need wisdom. Without God’s wisdom, we make decisions on facts and feelings. And the fact that I have 100 emails to answer and feel overwhelmed does not mean it’s wise to do so now.
To find wisdom, I need to silence the demands of many, to hear the commands of One.
God is faithful, and His Word promises we can receive wisdom. In fact, it’s a gift from God.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
As my life becomes more interconnected with others, my priorities are harder to identify. There will always be new demands rising to the tops of my to-do list, giving me reasons to delay tackling my own priorities.
There is hope. When we take our tiny raft out of the raging river, and sit on the banks with our Heavenly Father, He will give us wisdom for what to do next. Sometimes it’s answering an email, but it might be something else He has planned for today.
Glynnis Whitwer is a wife, mother of five young adults and executive director of communications for Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her latest book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day, is available through Proverbs 31 Ministries or wherever books are sold. Her next book releases July 4, 2017, and is called Doing Busy Better. Pre-order here. You can connect with Glynnis on her website: GlynnisWhitwer.com.
Maybe it is the new year, but I’ve plugged along with decluttering my cupboards. Then one day, while at a friend’s house, she asked me to grab something from under her kitchen sink. Upon opening the two doors I found literally five items (if that) inside a bare white cupboard. It was beautiful. My jaw dropped.
I immediately envisioned opening the doors underneath my own kitchen sink. Cue the shower scene music from the movie Psycho. Eek, eek, eek… I have a billion items under there. I own every cleaner under the sun and then some. My heart was deflated. I left her house feeling completely terrible about my own organizing capabilities. Wondering, what is wrong with me?
The next morning I was ramping up to work on a design project but my organizing ability was spilling over into my work and making me feel insecure. I read my daily devotional. It talked about how God uses us best when we are operating in our “sweet spot.” In fact, the devotional quoted my go-to verse.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
This verse always reminds me Christ gives me the strength I need, especially whenever I approach a challenge and in spite of all my weaknesses.
But this time when I read it, in light of the words in the devotional, it occurred to me: Christ accomplishes much when we need his strength, He can accomplish so much more when we are leaning into our strengths and operating out of our sweet spot. The place where we are supposed to operate as opposed to operating out of this place that isn’t unique to us, it isn’t where we are gifted.
I sat down to start the design project I felt to inadequate to accomplish. I ended up painting a picture inspired by flowers found on my morning walk. I must admit, I have not painted a true watercolor in years, and I was scared. What if it didn’t turn out as I envisioned? I am guilty of not even doing something if I don’t think the end result will turn out perfectly.
But this time, recognizing only Jesus is perfect, I mustered up my courage and his strength. I sat down to actually do the work I was called to do. God sparked in me my passion, my very own “sweet spot.” When I witnessed his creation through me I knew without a doubt I was doing what he called me to do.
I cried, tears of joy that resonated in my heart. “I am an artist.” I had been so defeated about not being organized and I hadn’t embraced my true calling in a really long time. I am an artist. I work great in organized chaos. I may not have a completely bare cabinet, but I am truly gifted in art. Now that I found my sweet spot, I will be brave with my God-given talents and no longer wish I was someone I am not. Someone I was never created to be.
One Small Win: Christ accomplishes much when we need his strength, He can accomplish so much more when we are leaning into our strengths and operating out of our sweet spot.
Julie Landreth has a passion for healthy and thriving relationships – especially in marriage and friendship. She is a speaker and a “wife coach” who loves sharing with women her passion for prayer and ways to actively cultivate a thriving marriage. She leads a growing number of women in San Jose, CA, through her curriculum: Consistency and Persistency: The Art of Praying for your Husband.
Having been married 12 years, she and her husband have cultivated a marriage filled with intentional love, effective communication, sustainable fun, and a date night every Friday night for the last nine years. She also finds deliberate ways to spend quality time with her nine-year-old son who shares many of her artistic talents. Follow her on Instagram: @julielandreth.
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase Scripture memorization? I used to associate that with “Super Christians.”
I’d look at my friends who regularly memorize God’s Word and think:
I’ll never be able to do that. I’m just not disciplined enough. I can barely remember my important phone numbers. I’ll just stick to prayer. I can do that one.
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar? You’re not alone.
A few years ago, motivated by anxiety and desperate reliance on the Lord, I finally gave scripture memorization try. Let me tell you — memorizing Scripture has transformed my spiritual life and relationship with the Lord! I learned by trial and error, but once I settled into a grove, I realized that Scripture memorization was all about a simple three-step process:
1. Choose a line or passage that is MEANINGFUL TO YOU.
Why is it so natural for us to memorize our favorite songs? Because something in the lyrics resonates with us. If you turn on the radio and try to memorize the first song you hear, you’ll probably struggle. In the same way, it will be difficult to memorize a random piece of Scripture. All of God’s Word is precious, but choosing a piece of Scripture that sticks out to you will be most effective for memorizing.
During this difficult season in my life, I found comfort in Psalm 23, so that was the piece I chose to memorize.
2. Write it down with pen and paper.
Okay, call me old school, but there is research behind memory and the physical act of writing something down in your own handwriting. It really does help with the memorization process!
3. Recite chunks of your handwritten passage out loud to yourself.
The key here is repetition and speaking out loud. Again, there is research about memorization and auditory recitation. You only need 5 minutes before bed to recite your passage. Add a little more each night until you’ve memorized the entire scripture, including the reference.
I’m convinced that after your first successful memorization you’ll be hooked! You’ll see that despite the message of the little voice inside your head, you CAN memorize scripture, and you’ll reap the benefits of hiding God’s word in your heart, as it influences your every day life.
Pick a passage that resonates with you and start memorizing tonight!
“You word is a lamp upon my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105
Kelsee Keitel is a graduate student, writer and speaker, living in Indianapolis, IN, with her newlywed husband. She is passionate about cultivating sisterhood through vulnerability and introducing young women to the freedom and abundance of life in following Christ. When Kelsee is not snuggled up with a book and sipping tea, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or chatting with her mom.
My failure felt huge, as if someone had come into our backyard with a backhoe and dug a hole as large as our house. And now I was sitting by the hole—broken, beaten down, discouraged—trying to fill this huge hole back up with one teaspoon of dirt at a time.
For me, this feeling of having failed big time—so big that I couldn’t imagine any hope of repair—happened in my coaching business.
Have you felt failure?
Maybe you’ve felt this way, too.
Maybe you felt defeated in a relationship with someone you loved. Now you are no longer speaking.
Maybe you’re blaming yourself for your child’s poor choices.
Maybe you tried something new at work only to have it backfire.
The exact details of my failure aren’t important. Let’s just say they involve regretting a large financial investment, hurting from many misunderstandings, and feeling totally discarded. As if all of a sudden, my work and I didn’t matter any more.
A failure too big?
As I processed the pain and loss, I began to change my thoughts about this event, which originally felt like a failure “too big to fix.”
Changing my perspective on “success” and “failure” actually helped me to gain more momentum than if the “failure” had never happened.
For years, I wrongly believed success in business meant I would reach a point when I no longer “failed”.
Do you feel this way about parenting, work or relationships? Are you just waiting for the day when you make your last mistake?
Here are a few new ways I’ve learned to look at failure from studying high achievers.
They accept making mistakes is a natural part of succeeding.
They learn from their mistakes.
They do not allow the fear of failure to hold them back.
God never stopped working in my failure
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably way too hard on yourself when you make a mistake.
Maybe you feel like you’re sitting by a huge hole. A failure of your own that feels too big to fix! Trying to fill it back up with a teaspoon.
God honors the smallest thing we do. It’s as if He comes in behind us and throws in shovelfuls of dirt when we aren’t even looking. Over time, the hole fills back up.
One Small Win: Today, let go of putting so much pressure on yourself by expecting a “failure-free” life. Instead, accept when you make mistakes or even fail, God still works.
Success isn’t all “up to you.”
Watch and be astounded at what I will do. For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” Habakkuk 1:5
How does it change things for you to realize that failure is a necessary part of success?
I was sick when I was pregnant and not just a little bit. Doctors diagnosed me with hyperemesis, which I loosely translate into “throwing your guts up day and night.”
When I got pregnant the second time, people assured me every pregnancy is different. And they were right. The second time was worse.
I sank into despair
For a woman who had led a largely sheltered and happy life, the sickness and helplessness overwhelmed me. Even though I knew the suffering would end with a blessing, my baby boys, I drifted from discouragement to despair. And then I sank. I also followed a harmful pattern that made everything worse. For the first time since I had fallen madly in love with Jesus, I didn’t pray. I didn’t read my Bible. Instead, I withdrew from God.
Just a month after my second son was born, I developed a close friendship with a woman named Linda whose sons were the same age as mine. We were both sick during our second pregnancy, but her nausea had a different source. It was caused by the chemo she was receiving for a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer.
Faced with a terminal illness, a new baby, and a grieving family, my friend didn’t react to overwhelmed by pushing God away. She drew close to Him.
In her truly overwhelming circumstances, she administered David’s remedy given in Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (NIV, emphasis added)
What my friend taught me about seeking God
Instead of withdrawing from God like I did, Linda’s secret was that she withdrew each day with God. Linda brought all her emotions to God and let Him help her. She didn’t try to fake cheerfulness in His presence or avoid Him completely. Instead, she trusted Him with her feelings and found Him to be her refuge.
If you’ve made my mistake and developed a pattern of withdrawing from God instead drawing close, I have an action step for us to take. Let’s set a reminder on our phone or a write a note on our calendar each day at a specific time that says, “Pour out your heart to Him.” When our daily time arrives, let’s take the next five minutes to bring our honest feelings to God and ask Him to help us with them.
Creating a new pattern of withdrawing to Jesus in overwhelmed times instead of hiding from Him means we access His power, strength and peace to face the day. We’ll not only build deeper trust in God, but just like my friend Linda, we’ll strengthen and inspire others.
One Small Win: In the past, have I responded to overwhelmed by withdrawing from God or with Him? What steps can I take to either change or strengthen that pattern?
Amy Carroll is a speaker and writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She’s the author of Breaking Up with Perfect as well as the director and coach of Next Step Speaker Services. Amy and her husband live in lovely Holly Springs, NC with a bossy miniature dachshund. You can find her on any given day texting her two sons at college, typing at her computer, reading a book, or trying to figure out one more alternative to cooking dinner. Share life with Amy at www.amycarroll.org and on Facebook.