Choosing Peace

As I write this blog, I have a busy few days coming. Well, really a busy few weeks. I promise this is not a humble brag or me trying to flex a busy schedule on you, but in the next 3 weeks, I have my son’s 10th birthday, my mom flying into town, homeschool, gymnastics, blogging, podcasting, extracurriculars, my last weeks of marathon training and then running that marathon.

I don’t like busy. I don’t like a full calendar. I like lighting candles and sipping coffee. I like adult coloring and crossword puzzles. I like sitting in a blanket on my couch watching Bluey with my kids or without them. Bluey is a really great show!

I don’t like being busy because I feel like I have to choose between what I have to do and what I want to do. I have to choose what gets done and what doesn’t.

One thing that I am choosing every day is peace. I used to get really worked up when I had a busy season. I’d make lists of lists to make lists and cross out things on lists and tear up lists to make newer prettier ones. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a list! But it no longer stresses me out.

Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
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Every morning, I focus my mind on Christ and receive the peace of God. What does this look like for me? It’s pretty basic. Instead of worrying about the laundry that I have done, I played restaurant with my kids. Instead of trying to run a billion errands for my son’s sleepover, I asked my husband to help out. Instead of rushing through my kid’s school lesson, we went to the library and got done what we could.

I know some situations in life are thrown at us without us asking for them, but even in those instances, we can choose peace. We can make the decision before hand that we will not be overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, but be overwhelmed by the peace of God.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

You can find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

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Occupancy Limit Reached

Yesterday, my kids and I went to Bath and Body Works to buy a fall candle. Candle buying is a family affair for us. My kids spend way too much time, smelling Every… Single… Candle.

At the entrance of the store, there was a sign posted that stated the store had an occupancy limit of 31. Over the past year, I’ve seen these signs more visible than before. The occupancy limit usually depends on the size of the store.

I read a scripture this week that has been a real game changer for my week. Have you ever read a passage in the Bible that jumped off of the page and into your heart and mind? I know I’ve read it before but I’ve never noticed it.

“Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭5:19-20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The last line of this verse is what I noticed. “God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” I’ve been asking God all week to occupy my heart with gladness. To occupy means to keep busy or filled.

Too many people allow their hearts to be occupied with the wrong things: fear, doubt, news, social media, worry, and the list go on. And it becomes evident in their conversation. I have become very intentional about what I allow to reach my eyes and my heart.

Jesus said this: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Matthew‬ ‭12:34‬ ) So I’ve been asking God to occupy my heart with gladness this week. I’ve been focusing on his goodness. I’ve been focusing on the blessings he’s put in my life.

When a building reaches its occupancy limit, it means there is no room for anyone else to come inside. When we allow God to occupy our hearts with gladness, there is no room for fear or negativity to occupy it.

I encourage you to pray this prayer this week and ask God to fill your heart: “Lord, I ask that you would occupy my heart with gladness. I refuse to allow negativity, fear, doubt, worry, stress or anything that doesn’t come from you to take residency in my heart. My heart belongs to you and thank you for filling it.”

Don’t Forget the Main Ingredient

Last night, my husband and I were sitting on the couch, finishing our evening coffee we have every night together when he gets home from work.

It wasn’t a busy day, but the kids and I had run some errands in the afternoon, so I didn’t really make plans for dinner. I figured I’d make tacos because we all love them and they’re fairly easy, but I didn’t have any ground beef.

As I neared the end of my coffee, I told him I didn’t have a plan for dinner so we were going to pick up food. I told him that I was going to make tacos, but didn’t have any meat.

“Isn’t that the main ingredient you need to make tacos!” he laughed, almost spitting out his coffee. WE both laughed and then ordered a pizza.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing a message for my women’s event at church. Today as I gathered what I needed for my message, I sat back to make sure I had everything. Notes, check. Bible, check. Clothes ready, check.

I felt ready to go. Then I remembered I was forgetting the main ingredient. I paused and dropped down to my knees.

Lord, will you be with me tonight? Will you fill my mouth with your words? Will you meet us as we gather and meet the needs of your women?”

What started as a quick, almost forgotten prayer, turned into hours of prayer and praise and worship. I almost forgot the main ingredient that would ensure that no matter who did or didn’t show up for the service, God would be there.

Have you ever made something and forgot an ingredient or used the wrong ingredient? Missing an ingredient can ruin an entire meal. Leaving out prayer and worship can ruin even weeks worth of preparation and planning.

No amount of preparation or planning can replace the presence of God. Make room for him and invite him into everything you do.

Coffee and Cat Food

My total was $78.13. We had run out of two things we can’t live without. Coffee and cat food. If my cat doesn’t have food, I won’t have a good day. If I don’t have coffee, no one will have a good day. I’m a person who plans. I make grocery lists, meal planning lists, cleaning lists. If it can be made into a list, I make it!

I love checking off boxes and slashing through tasks. It gives me such a rush! What I don’t like is the unplanned. I bet you’re wondering if I spent $78.13 on just coffee and cat food. It wasn’t organic cat food or artisan coffee that ballooned my total to almost $80. It was the oreos, the fruit, the juice boxes, the bobby pins, the cereal, and the press on nails I found in the clearance section.

A trip that should have cost no more than about $15 ended up costing closer to $100. In addition to list making, I’m also a professional exaggerator! 

As I lugged in the multiple bags from the garage, I had a quick moment of buyer’s remorse. While I needed the extra items I had purchased, well mostly needed, I didn’t need them immediately. 

I don’t just do this in the grocery store. There are so many times when I add things to my day or week that in the grand scheme of life, are not really things I need to prioritize immediately. 

I’m in the process of writing a book, but for some reason, I feel like organizing the dining room buffet is a task I have to do, RIGHT NOW! I need to do my workout, but how long has it been since I dusted the baseboards? It’s amazing how we can add on extraneous activities that keep us from doing what is truly important. 

I’m trying to stop adding unnecessary items to my list, both in the grocery store and at home and beginning to prioritize the things that matter most. A movie night with family, a long writing session, a much needed nap. Those are the things I’m putting towards the top of my list and thankfully, they don’t cost a penny!

Increase by Decrease

There are so many things I love about living in this modern world we live in today! I love ordering my coffee on the mobile app and when I arrive, it’s at the perfect temperature for consumption (140 degrees!). I love being able to solve a sudoku puzzle on an app so I don’t have to carry around my puzzle book. I love seeing pictures of friends and family who are in other states, who in times past, i would have no knowledge of their hobbies and interests. So often modern technology gets such a bad rap, but I do believe it can add and has added so much to our lives.

On the other side of the coin, with all the technological advances we’ve seen over the past two or three decades, it seems that people are more stressed out, more overworked, and busier than ever.

The time that was spent churning butter or ironing clothes is now replaced with a trip to the grocery store or a trip to the dry cleaners. We are saving so much time with the day-to-day tasks, but we are filling that time with other obligations, many of which we drag ourselves to begrudgingly.

As we fill out our monthly calendars and planners, we take pride in the three or four days we have every month with nothing written on them. Dentist appointments, dance recitals, volunteer opportunities, church activities, sports activities, sporting events, and charity dinners fill most days and our calendars burst at the seems with color coded priorities and checklists.

Shortly before writing this, I had come to the end of a very busy season in my life. I was coaching homeschool volleyball for four seasons, leading the women’s ministry at my church, volunteering at my children’s school, designing and sewing clothing for my online business, managing my home, working on this book, and just living life trying to be a good wife, mother, daughter, sister, teacher and friend. Oh yeah, and I was training for my first half marathon!

I don’t write this to brag. I write this to show how our good intentions can easily turn into the very busyness that strains our relationships, dismisses our health and distances us from our true purpose.

I came to a tipping point where my schedule, my obligations, my home, my responsibilities, and even my hobbies, we’re leaving me feeling burnt out and tired at the end of every day and week. I spent Saturday cleaning up from the week that had just passed and Sunday getting ready for the tornado that was on its way in the following week. Was this all there was to adulthood? Being too tired or too busy or too frustrated to spend time with the people I cared about most? I knew there had to be an answer so I turned to where I get most of my questions answered.

There is a story found in the sixth chapter of Judges about a man named Gideon. He was in a position of feeling overwhelmed. He was commissioned by God to deliver the people of Israel from their Midianite oppressors. He gathered a huge army and was ready to move out when God said he had too many men. I saw myself in this story. Everyday, I was going out to face the world and I was taking my list of things to do, my worries, and my packed schedule with me. I felt God saying that I had too many things.

I thought the answer was in finding a better productivity app or a better planner. Maybe I needed a better cleaning system or more organizational bins?

But the truth was there was nothing I could add to give me the rest I was looking for. I knew that it was only through subtraction that I’d find the way off of this highway of busyness.

I began slashing my schedule, removing myself from committees, turning down play dates and even missing some birthday parties- gasp! I even made the hard decision to not return to coaching volleyball since my kids were now getting more involved in their own activities. The more things I slashed, the more free I felt.

We are taught in basic math that the more you add, the more you get, but unfortunately this does not hold true in mists areas of life. The more clutter you add to your house doesn’t give you more space. It’s actually the opposite. The more clutter you remove, the more space you gain. It’s an equation I call increase by decrease.

When you feel overwhelmed, over stressed and stretched, the key is not in addition, it’s in subtraction. The more inessential items you can remove from your life, the more time you will have to pursue the things that are most important to you.

The other night, my daughter and I sat and played Barbies for 2.5 hours! They went on vacation, the hired babysitters, went shopping, watched movies on the laptops and had a fashion show. In the past, I would have set a timer for 30 minutes to play so I could finish whatever chore I had or get us ready to go somewhere. But because there was nowhere to go and nothing else vying for my time, we played until she asked to stop!

When you intentionally find areas to decrease your involvement or remove entirely, you will find that the areas that most to you will begin to increase as you intentionally make time for them.

I’m not telling you to call everyone and tell them you quit! If you’ve committed to something for a time, honor that commitment. But where can you say, “I no longer am able to participate in this event (committee, sports league) so this month will be my last month.” And remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. I remember people asking if everything was okay when I started cutting things and I assured them everything was fine, but that was it.

I read in the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown, “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.” Stop allowing other people, needless obligations, even your own clutter, determine how you spend your time and energy. Decide today what things you want to invest your time in, pursue them passionately, and begin to live the life you’ve always imagined.