Tip Tuesday: Track Your Tech Use

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Yesterday, I shared about how creating a personal technology mission statement can be a powerful way to jump start your journey in becoming more intentional with your technology use.  You’ve probably heard that you can’t change what you can’t measure.  Today’s tip will help you accomplish Step 1 in the mission statement process by tracking your daily tech use in less than 5 minutes.  

Because I’m a busy mom, I use my phone a ton do accomplish many different tasks each day.  In many ways, like you, my phone helps me to be more productive and efficient… but as we both know, it can be a huge time suck at times, as well.  But, I don’t normally have/take the time to ponder over all the various ways I use my phone or track time spent on each app.  Luckily, there’s a feature on my iPhone that will do this for me!  It takes less than a minute but is well worth the effort.

How To Track Your iPhone Daily/Weekly Use:

  1. Click on Settings.
  2. From menu options, select Battery.
  3. Scroll down to the area titled Battery Usage, and click on the small clock icon to the right of Last 24 Hours.  This will show a breakdown, in order of most use, of your apps and how much time you spent on each during the past 24-hour period.
  4. Select the Last 7 Days option to see a breakdown of your activity during that time period.

Since discovering this feature several months ago, I have a better idea of which apps I use most frequently (typically Safari, Instagram, Messages, and Mail top the list) and can gauge when I need to do a better job limiting social media, etc.

Similarly, you can also track your computer activity using your choice of free software.  This is especially helpful for those of us who do much of our job behind a computer screen.  Here’s a great guide to several free online time trackers.

Once you view your phone and computer activity reports, take a few minutes to ponder some of the prompts and questions in Step 1 of the mission statement guide.  This will hopefully be super helpful in identifying your strengths in the ways you spend your on-screen time, as well as any potential changes you want to make going forward.

Create a Personal Technology Mission Statement in 3 Easy Steps

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Each Monday during this 31-day series, I’ll share a challenge related to becoming more intentional with technology.  I’ll be doing each of them and reporting back on my progress later in the week.  I hope some of you will join me!

The first challenge is to create a personal technology mission statement.  Having identified the “why” behind becoming more intentional with technology, a mission statement focused on action is a natural next step.  Before the phrase “mission statement” scares you away, allow me to explain that this is different from a super long, lofty description that takes a long time to write and has little carryover to our everyday actions… We all know at least one of that kind, right? 😉  To the contrary, the most effective mission statements I’ve encountered or even helped create have been short, sweet, and to the point – easy to remember and put into practice.  Which is the point, after all – an effective mission should lead to positive, lasting action.

Your mission statement will simply answer one question:  When it comes to the different ways you use technology on a regular basis, what does “ideal” look like for you?  I’ll share a simple formula below, but feel free to do whatever works best for your unique thinking and organizational style.

Create a Personal Technology Mission Statement in 3 Easy Steps: 

Step 1 – Where You Are:

  • Purposes & Priorities:  Quickly brainstorm/list your different roles and purposes for using technology.   Examples might include texting, creating work content, responding to emails, searching online, using apps for organization, viewing/sharing on social media, etc.  It may be helpful to put them in rank order by priority.
  • Tools & Time:  List the main tools (phone, tablet, laptop, specific apps, etc.) you normally use for the above purposes; note times of day you use them, or if used on a continual basis.  Don’t get bogged down in the details – just jot down the main ones.
  • Helpful & Harmful:  Identify positive and negative themes/patterns/habits across the above lists.  Are your actions contributing to positive work habits and relationships?  What are your biggest distractions?  Hindrances to productivity? Stress inducers?  Time wasters?  Relationship barriers?

Step 2 – Where You Want To Be:

Step 3 – Bridge the gap:

  • Action:  Now, for the fun part – actually creating your mission statement! Remember your guiding question:  When it comes to the different ways you use technology on a regular basis, what does “ideal” look like for you?  Jot down 2-5 simple statements that describe your ideal in clear, specific actionable terms.  Each sentence/phrase should state what you should be doing in your ideal life.  There’s no specific formula for this, as your mission statement should be written in a unique way that best motivates you to action.

My best advice from working on a general personal mission statement in the past is to pray before and during the process.  Ask the Lord to bring to your mind and heart the priorities you should focus on and/or changes that need to be made, in order to align your heart to His desires for you.  We can trust that His plans for our lives are for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28; Jeremiah 29:11) and that they far outweigh any we can make on our own.

I hope I’ve inspired some of you to participate in this challenge alongside me!  Over the next few days I’ll break the process down step-by-step into 3-5 minute segments.  This will hopefully make a seemingly overwhelming task more manageable to fit into our busy schedules!

At the end, I’ll share my technology mission statement and invite you to do the same.  If you plan to participate, I encourage you to leave a comment saying, “I’m in!” 

Happy planning!!

 

 

Why TECHnically Intentional?

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My creative oldest daughter with her handmade “manual” computer

In 2017, technology is an integral part of our lives.  Stop for just a minute and think about all the ways you rely on technology from the time you wake up in the morning (me, to my iPhone alarm) to the time you fall asleep at night.  The advent of the iPhone a decade ago, and steadily decreasing prices of similar devices, has drastically changed the ways we use technology on a daily basis for work, play, and communication … for better and for worse.

As an educator, I’ve given lots of teacher workshops on instructional technology, a topic I’m very passionate about because of its powerful impact on students’ learning and engagement.  Ten+ years ago, I spent as much time convincing teachers they needed to use technology as on sharing strategies – because then it was truly a choice.  Nowadays, in the majority of first-world homes and schools, access to multiple technology tools is a given; it’s not if we’re going to use it, but how.  I try to stress to teachers that technology is simply a tool, much like a white board or textbook – we, as the users, hold full power over whether or not it’s used in meaningful, effective ways.

Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  I desperately want to spend my life wisely, which means I must pay attention to how I spend my individual days, hours, and minutes.  In order to do that, I realize that I need to be intentional about making sure my long-term goals align with my daily actions.  And, if I’m honest with myself, like most people, there are days and seasons when I need to be more intentional with my uses of technology – from work, to texting, to consuming information, to scrolling on social media.

In goal setting, I’ve found that I do a much better job of following through with goals when I connect them to a deeper reason – the “why.”  Here are a few of my “why’s” in becoming more intentional with technology:

  1. My husband and two girls (ages 3 and 7) are my whole world, on this earth.  I want to honor my family with my time, uninterrupted presence, and eye contact as much as possible.  I do think it’s important to teach our kids that the world doesn’t revolve around them, and that there are times I need uninterrupted time to make a phone call, send a text, or complete a work task.  But I want to strive for clearer balance between screen and face time with those I love the most.  I want my kids and husband to know, without a doubt, they’re more important than anything behind a screen. Equally important, I keep reminding myself that my husband and I have to build and model our self-discipline with technology, if we expect our daughters to do the same.
  2. As a follower of Jesus, I truly want to fulfill “the greatest commandment:”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).  I need to make sure my habits and actions line up with the level of commitment to the Lord that I speak with my mouth and desire in my heart.  If my time/attention to things on-screen outweigh my time/attention with Him, I need to make some changes.
  3. I want to make a difference in the world!  I have dreams, goals, and passions the Lord has placed in my heart to live out for his glory.  However, “Dreams don’t work unless you do” (John Maxwell).  We all get 24 hours in a day – no more, no less.  I need to make sure I’m maximizing my time in ways that matter… and closely examine how technology plays into that equation.
  4. As much as I believe in the importance of hard work, I want (and need) to cultivate rest.  We were not made to be robots; our bodies, brains, and souls need regular “unplugged” time to rest and reset.

So, what’s your “why” in becoming more intentional with technology?  Did you resonate with any of my reasons above?  I’d love to hear in the comments!

 

TECHnically Intentional: A Write 31 Days Series

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Each October, a group of bloggers around the world participate in an online 31-day writing challenge, where they create and share series on countless different topics of their choice.  Last year, I started a series of letters to my daughters, which I really enjoyed and plan to continue as an ongoing work in progress.  This year, I likewise chose a topic near and dear to my heart as a mom and educator – cultivating intention with technology in this age of constant connection.

My goals are simply to finish this challenge by writing for 31 consecutive days, and more so, to encourage myself and my readers to consider – and take action to improve – the effects of screen time on our relationships, motivation, and productivity.  The posts will cover a wide variety of topics, from practical research, to parenting hacks, technology tool reviews, weekly challenges, and journaling on my own challenges and victories.  I’m a work in progress and certainly don’t have it all figured out when it comes to technology or life balance, but I hope you’ll join me along this journey!

All posts will be linked below, as they are published.

1.  Why TECHnically intentional?

2.  Create a Personal Technology Mission Statement in 3 Easy Steps [Week 1 Challenge]

3.  Tip Tuesday: Track Your Tech Use

4.  Explore the Effects of Your Technology Habits: Questions & Resources

5.  A Heart Like His in a Constantly Connected World

6.  Shine Your Light – Online & Off

7.  TECHnically Intentional Thoughts: Week 1

8.  Schedule Unplugged Time [Week 2 Challenge]

9.  Tip Tuesday: Establish a Home Base for Your Phone

10.  Teach Me To Number My Days [Free Graphic]

11.  My Top 3 Tech Tools for Productivity

12.  TECHnically Intentional Thoughts: Week 2

13.  Just Look Up

In case you’re wondering what happened to posts the rest of the posts, I’ve got one word… life.  And if you’re a mom who’s ever had a sick kid or lived through the last two weeks of October, you probably get it.

At first, I was feeling pretty bummed that I didn’t finish what I set out to accomplish.  But on the bright side, I did write (almost) consecutively for (almost) two weeks, which is more than I’ve written in the past several months combined.  Through the Write 31 Days challenge, I also connected with a fellow mom blogger and Instagrammer, Chelsey Writes, who was, and is, a huge inspiration to me!

Perhaps I’ll revisit this series in the future (the second half was going to be focused on parenting in a digital generation).  For now, I’m choosing to take Michael Hyatt’s stance that “there’s no failure, only learning” and call it a success!  🙂

 

Fear, Faith, & Following on the Day After Easter

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Yesterday was Easter – what many consider the most significant day of the year in the Christian faith.  Perhaps you experienced a glorious Easter, filled with beautiful worship, family time, laughter, and traditions.  Or maybe your happiness was subdued this year by grief, loss, or loneliness.  In either situation, we can choose to cling to the joy of Christ’s resurrection, which pervades all circumstances, and find great hope in relationship with a real Savior, who humbled himself to an extent to be able to truly relate to both the mountaintops and valleys of this world.

For our family, this Easter weekend was a beautiful, memorable time, with many awesome reminders of Jesus’ sacrifice and celebrations of His resurrection.  The older I get, the more I try to live in, treasure, and soak up moments like this – knowing from past experience that each day is a gift, with the good times graciously sprinkled across difficult times of pain and suffering.  Having come to faith in Christ as a child and growing up in the church, the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is very familiar, though sacred, to me.  Once again this year, in the days leading up to Easter, I prayed that the Lord would reveal to me a fresh perspective on the Easter story, and He did.

In one of the services we attended, the preacher focused on the element of fear at the scene of the Resurrection, and in another service, the theme was how the resurrection changes everything.  As the women approached Jesus’ tomb to anoint His body, they were surprised to see an angel, who commanded them to not be afraid, and explained that Jesus had risen from the dead and could be found in Galilee (Matthew 28:5-7).  “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly, Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me'” (Matthew 28: 8-10).  This same series of emotions mirrors the Christmas story, when the shepherds encountered the angels in the field where they worked, afraid – then sent to the experience the newborn King firsthand and go tell of the Savior’s birth.

Do you see a pattern?

  1. Experiencing Jesus
  2. Emotions of fear/awe/joy
  3. Obedience – go/tell/do

When we truly experience Jesus, we can’t help but be changed.  It’s a natural overflow of encountering the love and power of the God of the universe.  Fear is also a natural, inevitable part of that experience – that we, as flawed, sinful men/women might even be allowed to enter into the presence of a Holy God, much less be invited to participate in His work, is mind-blowing.  We have two choices in reaction to these feelings of fear:  1. Focus on the fear, and allow it to paralyze us, or 2. Trust God through our fear, as we step forward in obedience.

A few months ago, I found myself awake in the middle of the night, struggling with a bad sickness and pondering a decision with big implications.  I came across a video of Jill Briscoe, a missionary in her eighties, and the Lord used her passionate message to speak straight to my heart and situation.  The part of her story that stuck out to me was her wisdom on fear and faith.  In essence, fear precedes obedience, and obedience precedes courage.  We first obey what the Lord is calling us to do; then, the courage will follow.  The Lord delivers courage as a result of our faith.  This principle is evident throughout the Bible, and in the testimonies of countless believers since.

“Courage isn’t a feeling that
you wait for. Courage is doing when you don’t have courage. Courage is
doing it scared.” – Jill Briscoe

So, what do we do on the day after Easter?

We allow the Truth of the gospel message to penetrate our hearts.  We humble ourselves before the Lord and listen intently to what He is calling us to do.  We feel the fear, and walk forward in faithful obedience to follow Him anyway, often in defiance of our personal comfort zone or conception of logic, knowing His path is better than anything promised by this world.  As Briscoe said it best, “you go where you’re sent, and you stay where you’re put, and you give what you’ve got until you’re done.”  Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Strong Women…


My Dear Girls,

Last week was International Women’s Day, as I learned from my Instagram feed. I was inspired to share with you some thoughts about actions and attitudes I hope you have as strong women:


1. Realize that femininity – embracing your God-gifted characteristics and roles – doesn’t undermine your strength, but rather adds to it. You were made in the image of our Creator, with unique differences from men that will allow each of us to accomplish unique purposes in this world, for His glory.

2. Live weak, recognizing and relying on your need for a Savior’s strength. You don’t have to fear or hide your shortcomings nor imperfections, knowing that your weaknesses are an opportunity for Jesus’ power to be made perfect in and through you. Rest in the Truth that you are enough and are fully loved, just as you are, even as you are being ever changed to become more like Him.

3. Appreciate and be confident in your bodies, choosing to focus on their capabilities over the flaws. Just the mere fact we were made to birth babies – without drugs if chosen – and sustain their lives is an amazing testament to our physical and emotional strength and endurance! I’d put the strongest men in the world up to childbirth any day! 😉 Beyond that, know that you can run hard and fast, be aggressive on the court and field, dance with beauty and grace, or whatever you put your mind to do. Let the phrase “just a girl” motivate you, rather than slow you down!

4. Prioritize self-care. You are mind, body, and spirit, and to care for yourself well involves not neglecting any of these areas. Believe in the power of exercise to refresh, build, and reveal your strength. Find an exercise/sport you enjoy, and prioritize it as a healthy life habit. (And if you haven’t yet found one you love, keep looking – it’s out there!) Understand a healthy relationship with food is a main way to sustain your strength. Strive to eat real, healthy foods when you’re hungry, but also understand that moderation is ok! Know that stress, and it’s negative effects on your mind and body, are real, and make time to unplug and relax, doing things just for yourself. 

5. Cultivate and appreciate authentic friendships with other strong women, through which you’ll find and give strength, acceptance, affirmation, and community… and sometimes laugh with ’til you cry/pee – depending on your age! 🙂 Your girlfriends will be among your fiercest cheerleaders and prayer warriors for your entire life. Search for friends who are kind, loyal, selfless, and low-maintenance. Steer clear of mean girls, who build themselves up by putting down or excluding others. And most of all, remember to BE a true, encouraging friend yourself.

6. Understand you don’t need a man to complete or affirm your worth, and wait for one who isn’t intimidated by your strength, intelligence, or dreams but rather values those qualities over your appearance. 

7. Don’t look to society, the government, or any other earthly authority to determine nor validate your worth or strength as a woman, but search for the Truth revealed in God’s living and active Word, the Bible. Study and find ultimate affirmation in Jesus’ completely counter-cultural interactions with and treatment of women.

8. “Work hard, play hard, and leave the rest to God.” (Florence Griffith Joyner, Olympic track champion). Dream big, and know that, while you can do everything, you can’t do it all at once. Prioritize your dreams in careful, prayerful consideration of your life seasons and responsibilities, with your family at the forefront. The biggest lie to 21st century American women is that we can do it all, and do it well; don’t buy it.

9. Don’t be intimidated by other strong, successful women, but celebrate their successes with them, resting in the knowledge that we all shine in our own ways and at our own times.

10. Know when to speak up, and when to remain silent. Have meaningful conversations, and walk away from gossip. “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Remember that, even when you may not  feel like it, you ARE strong and beautiful. Because your mama said so. 🙂

Here’s to Strong Women,

Me 

On Elections, Opinions, & Thinking

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My Dear Girls,

Last night was the 2016 presidential election.  There are LOTS of opinions – with varying degrees of tact – floating around online in my social networks.  Here are a few thoughts I wanted to share with you while they are still on my mind, in no particular order:

  1. As an American, you have a great honor and privilege in your RIGHT to vote for your leaders.  Whether or not you like the outcome of any election, never take that privilege for granted, and fulfill every opportunity you have to exercise your right as an informed voter.  Many men and women in our great military served and died to uphold that right for you; don’t waste it.
  2. Be ever grateful to live in a land of MANY freedoms and privileges!  Among the greatest of our freedoms include religion, speech, and bearing arms.  In many countries, women are considered second-class citizens who cannot vote nor attend school.  In other countries, people are stuck in a caste system, with no hopes of moving beyond their lot in life, and/or experiencing extreme, desolate poverty.  In other countries, unstable, cruel governments, war, and fear are a way of life.   Be proud to be an American.  Don’t forget that many of the “problems” we complain about here are first-world problems indeed.
  3. Be inspired to live in a land of opportunity.  Both dominant-party candidates in yesterday’s election held historical implications – one was a woman and the other came from a business, rather than traditional political or military, background.  There were several other candidates in both parties’ primaries from varied ethnic and career backgrounds.  With either outcome, history would be made.  Even for those, like myself, who did not ardently support either candidate, the prospect of historical implications for our democracy is exciting to see unfold.
  4. Don’t let fear be a driving force in any decision you make or response to any outcome you are dealt.  Yes, I understand this is easier said than done.  But, we thankfully serve a God who “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28).  For good reason, the Bible tells us no less than 365 times to fear not.  Rest assured in Jesus’ words to “have peace” and “take heart” in times of trouble, for “[He has] overcome the world!” (John 16:33, my paraphrase).  Christians should rejoice that our ultimate hope isn’t found in anything this world has to offer, including rulers.
  5. Think for yourself.  Man, this is a big one!  If your dad and I, or your teachers, don’t teach you another thing in this life apart from your faith, I hope you learn to respect others and think for yourself.  Don’t just follow the crowd or believe what you are “supposed to” or what’s “in” with your tribe.  Take the initiative to research information from all sides, and use your intelligence and values to prayerfully discern what is good and True.  Don’t take for granted what someone else says to be true; look it up for yourself.  Be discerning; consider the source and any potential biases when reading anything, in print or online (I am continually amazed at how many otherwise intelligent adults seem to believe anything they read).  In politics, my parents taught me not to be a straight-ticket voter, but “for the person” – to think about whom I vote for and why.  My parents, grandparents, and the church I grew up in also encouraged me to read and study the Bible for myself, for which I am eternally grateful.  Surround yourself with people you respect and consider wise, and heed advice from your elders, but at the end of the day, have the courage and confidence to make your own informed decisions – even if it means going against the grain.
  6. You will not agree with everyone; the key is to learn to disagree well.  To disagree, or sometimes to “agree to disagree” is ok, and I daresay GOOD!  I expect you to have some points of political disagreement with your dad and I as you get older – because it will demonstrate your ability to think for yourself.  Your dad and I, while agreeing on the major points, have slight points of disagreement with each other as well.  I want to implore you to disagree WELL.  This often means holding your tongue, listening before and after you speak, and trying to see all sides.  You don’t have to agree with all sides, but it helps greatly to consider where another person is coming from.  Your dad really likes this quote by Mark Twain:  “Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”  You may need to stay there, or you may not – but at least think about it.  I would encourage you to seek out friendships with people who are both like-minded and differently-minded from you, and learn to share with and learn from them in a tactful, respectful manner.  Who knows – you just might learn something, and so might they.  But you’ll never have the opportunity if you isolate yourself among people who only think exactly like you do.
  7. Social media is not the best platform to voice disagreements or vent opinions.  Ever.  A face-to-face conversation, with love, respect, and tact at the forefront, will always win.  Just trust me on this one.  In teacher workshops on using social media for professional networking, I often liken posting on social media to shouting a statement in a public forum.  How many people would dare to read aloud some of the vehement phrases they so freely type?  Some adults especially struggle with this, and I often wonder what our actions are teaching the next generation.  I also wonder what the stats are on a social media post actually changing someone’s mind – not promising, I would assume.  If you don’t know what to say, the best answer is often nothing – or at least prayerfully consider the implications or potential misinterpretations of anything you consider posting.  And when you do choose to speak, do so thoughtfully and diplomatically.
  8. Be the change; be the good.  If you don’t like something, resist the ever-present temptation to complain about it, but instead, devise a way to become part of the solution.  Research the issues.  Speak out with an informed, diplomatic, strong voice.  Become involved with a non-profit or charitable organization, or start your own!  Find ways to serve, to lead, to inspire others to hope and change.  Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
  9. Remember who you are.  As Christians, you are His; a representative of Christ; the “light of the world;” “a city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14).  Don’t take that charge lightly.  Others are looking to us.  Show love, grace, kindness, and compassion to a greater extent than is expected or deserved.  Be very careful how you treat others, and how you use your words.  Read Proverbs and James for more on the power of the tongue. You are also part of a family line of hard-working people who strive to treat others with love, kindness, respect, and tact, through both our words and actions.  Admire and continue that legacy.
  10. Learn about history, and develop a global mindset.  Spend time learning about the history of our great country, as well as your personal family history.  Know who you are, and be proud of your heritage.  In addition, take every opportunity to travel – to see the world and interact with others from different cultures.  Travel has abilities to open your mind beyond anything you could ever learn in a classroom.  It’s also good to realize that you’re not as important as you may think; there is a big, wide world beyond the U.S.A. and our problems – both real and imagined.  Seek ways to see the world and to change your world – from your own family/home to your community to abroad – one small step at a time.

I guess that pretty much sums it up.  I know you’ll both make me so proud, as you already do.

Love,

Mama

When You are Tired…

My Dear Girls,

One day, you may be a wife and mom to young kids – or not.  And you will likely have a job outside and/or inside your home, with inevitable busy seasons.  Either way, you will definitely, 100%, beyond a shadow a doubt, have times when you are tired – as in, too tired to think, exhausted, or as we say in the country, “worn slap out” kind of tired.  When you come to that point, here’s some earth-shattering advice on what to do next…

STOP.  REST.

But… but it’s not that simple. Yes, yes it actually is.  Unless you want to crash and burn a few days/months/years later.  There are not many excuses that are more important than your health and overall well-being, which is really what you’re sacrificing when you choose to skimp on rest.  We must care for ourselves first, if we are going to be able to care for those who we love so dearly and who are depending on us!  Preaching to myself here, over and over again…

Most women today are stretched way too thin – partly by our many roles in serving others and partly by our own decisions and commitments (that too often aren’t as necessary as we think).  The bottom line is that you are not a robot; you were designed by your Creator to rest – on a daily and weekly basis.  The Lord gives us rest as a gift.  He even modeled it for us in the creation of the world.  But we have to take it, to prioritize it, because no one else is going to do it for you!  On the contrary, most people will take as much of you as you are willing to give.  The Lord revealed the importance of rest and its power on my physical, spiritual, and emotional health a couple of years ago after I went through some health issues that led me to examine my lifestyle and habits and make some hard, but necessary changes.  They weren’t easy lessons to learn, but I’m so grateful I did.  I would encourage you to study what the Bible says about rest.  God wants us to rest in Him, recognizing that He is God and we are not, as we let go of the control we often cling so tightly to.

So, what does this look like on a practical level?  Well, for starters, sleep is a basic human need but often viewed as a privilege here in America, where people pride themselves on productivity in exchange for rest.  I recently read an article that the number one cause of aging is lack of sleep – hence, the phrase “beauty sleep.”  Did you know our brains and bodies actually take time to repair and regenerate while we sleep?  Beyond sleep, try to carve out a few restful times into your day.  Try simple things like waking up early to have a quiet time with the Lord, not working at your desk through lunch, sitting down to eat meals, taking work breaks, limiting your time on social media (or whatever in the world we’ll have in the future), having parts of your day that are “unplugged,” or just making yourself sit still for a few minutes here and there without DOING anything (Why, oh why, is this so much harder for women than for men?!).  Also, taking at least part of one of your weekend days for a sustained Sabbath rest is so important, and although I neglect it more often I’d like to admit, I have resolved to do better!

Most importantly, learning how to say no – often to the good, in exchange for the best (probably a topic for another letter) – precedes rest.  I have had to learn to reevaluate and change some habits that had set the tune of my life to frantic rush, which really is no way to live.  And although I still struggle from this from time to time, it doesn’t take me as long now to tune in and get back on track.  Don’t wait as long as I did to learn the power of rest and to freely accept what’s already been so graciously given to you.  You are not God, you are not a robot, and you ultimately are not in control, so give yourself permission to surrender to and be restored through the wonderful gifts of His freely given rest – both physically and spiritually!

Resting in Him,

Your Monday-Tired Mama

The One Thing

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Dear Kate & Annabeth,

I’m getting ready to leave tomorrow to go on our annual church women’s retreat, and I remembered something I wrote after last year’s retreat that I wanted to share with you:

I spent the past weekend at our church’s women’s retreat with some precious Christian sisters at a gorgeous location with two of my favorite things, water and woods.  While there, I heard one of the simplest and most powerful Truths through an amazing Bible Study delivered by our women’s ministry leader, Tollie Meggs.  And she brings the Word – in an awesome, anointed way.  Just, wow!  How blessed we are by the gift of her teaching.

So often, we tend to complicate motherhood.  And you know what else we tend to complicate?  Simply being – our entire lives. We were made for one purpose – to worship.   Everyone who is alive is worshiping something or someone.  Specifically, we were created to worship God – our Creator, Provider, Sustainer – and His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  To do anything else is to waste our lives.  To attempt to put anything else – work, goals, dreams – before worship is to totally miss the picture.  Worship must be the origin of and must be pervasive within all that we are and all that the do.  I can tell you what work, including spiritual service, will do to a believer who got worship out of order in the equation – It leads to exhaustion and burnout.  I know this firsthand myself from past experience and know far too many other ladies who also know what it feels like to work hard for the Lord without having worship in its proper place… and it’s not a pretty picture.  To learn and live out true and acceptable worship will first and foremost please the Lord, and it will also spill over and impact every single area of our lives.  I am convinced that a person never be all she can be without worship at the center of her life.  But we don’t do it for ourselves; we do it because God is worthy.

It’s life-changing stuff, if we will simply submit to the Lord’s leading, obey His commands, and make time to truly worship Him.  And, despite our modern vocabulary, worship is not synonymous with music or meditation – nor does it require anyone else to lead us into it.  There are no bells and whistles, no bright lights or fantastical out-of-body experiences – just simply surrendering yourself to spend time sitting at the Lord’s feet, praising Him for who He is and all He has done, as His Spirit meets you there.  Because my words are pitifully inadequate in describing the depth and breadth of the command to worship and its accompanying promises, here are a few of many verses on worship.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10: 38-42

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. – John 4:23 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  – Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  – Matthew 23:23-26 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.  – Hebrews 12:28-19 (NIV)

My prayer for myself and your Dad, for both of you, and for anyone who reads this is that we will be filled by God with a renewed desire – a consuming hunger and thirst – for His Word and His commands, to seek His face and truly worship him with all we have, above all else for all of our days.  To get that one thing right will be to have succeeded in all our roles in this life, as well as eternity.

All My Love,

Mama

When You Don’t Know What To Do

My Dear Girls,

This may be one of the shortest letters I write you, but not among the least important. There will be many times in life when you feel as though you’ve come to the end of yourself, exhausted all the options – you truly don’t know the next step to take. When you find yourself in that place, go to this story from the Bible:  2 Chronicles 20.  I won’t go into the details here, because I want you to take time to read it yourself. Remember that God’s Word is living and active for believers, who have the Spirit of God living within us. God  often speaks personally to us through Scripture, offering wisdom and guidance directly to our current situation.

I was recently led to this passage during a time of worry over a difficult situation – and reminded of it again today – and it brought me such great peace both times. Here are my two favorite parts:

“… For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.
‭‭- 2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:12‬

“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:15, 17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I won’t reveal the ending, but it’s pretty awesome! Go check it out for yourselves. And when you find yourself feeling lost or hopeless, take a lesson from Jehosaphat:  Turn back to God, seek His wisdom in prayer, and trust Him to take the reveal the next step, all the while praising Him. After all, the battle isn’t ours to begin with. All we need to do is stand firm, fix our eyes firmly upon Him, and rest in His loving faithfulness.

In Hope,

Mama