Posted in focus on faith

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

trophy_stanleycuplg-2If you’re a hockey fan, it’s that glorious season when sane people who endured another Canadian winter are outside hugging daffodils but you (and me) are hunkered in front of a screen hollering at the refs and screaming when we score.

We are into the second round of the playoffs. My team, the Calgary Flames, are down two games to one but we’re hopeful, and Gerry’s team, the Montreal Canadians, are trying to pull off a miraculous come-from-behind victory. It’s intense!

By the time you read this, both our teams might be golfing! As a matter of fact, even if one of them goes all the way to the final round and somehow wins the coveted Stanley Cup, I daresay most of you won’t know it, won’t care, and surely won’t remember it longer than a year or two. Well Gerry will remember forever but he’s a rabid lifelong fan. I however, only take an interest if we make the playoffs. Fair-weather fan.

If you follow sports, you know the importance of focus. You know that athletes are taught to discipline not just their bodies but also their minds. They learn to visualize success and to keep their eyes on the prize. According to Bill Hybels in Simplify, believers would do well to have the same plan.

Hybels testifies that having a life verse has kept him focused and gotten him back on track repeatedly in his adult life. His life verse is 1 Corinthians 15:58: Therefore be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your work is never in vain if it is in the Lord.

Do you have a life verse? Is there one Bible verse, in whole or in part, that you come back to over and over again? If the answer is yes, I suspect that verse keeps you focused on the prize but that’s not all. Perhaps, like Hybels, it does more:

1. It clarifies what matters most — it directs my attention to God’s unique calling and assignments, it clarifies for me how my best efforts should be spent. It gives me focus.

2. It calls out the best in me — it minces no words; its marching orders for my life are blindingly clear

3. It brings comfort — knowing that I am competing in the race that really matters (seeking heavenly reward by making earthly sacrifice) might look crazy to those who spend their lives building up their portfolio but having a life verse comforts me, reminding me what to do and why I do it.

Having a life verse is one of the most powerful tools I know for simplifying your life. It keeps you on course. It helps you make wise decisions about where to invest your time, energy, and gifts. It motivates you to ruthlessly trim the waste from your life. It drives you to live each day with fervency and passion.  

ACTION STEP: Find a Life Verse

Maybe you already have one. I do. Mark 14:8 She did what she could. This phrase has rescued, refocused, and comforted me countless times as I battled my way through crippling anxiety, fear and panic in my stumbling effort to follow God one yes at a time as a pastor’s wife, writer and speaker. It kept me moving forward when I wanted to quit. It showed me that even small things matter if they are done for the Lord. It kept me responsible to use, and not waste, my talents. And, best of all, it was short enough that even I could commit it to memory!

If you need a life verse, be on the lookout as you read the Word. Look online. Once you find your verse, memorize it and let it guide, focus, and comfort you.

Posted in focus on faith

How do you spell fear? s-p-i-d-e-r!

toonvectors-12422-140My recurring nightmare as a child was my bed was full of spiders. I would wake up yelling and my dad — volunteer fire chief for 25 years — was always the first responder. He’s my hero.

He would turn on the light, pull back the covers to show me it was safe, and tuck me back into the top bunk over and over and over … until I finally got married. Then it was someone else’s problem! Some dowry eh? My phobic fear of spiders has lessened but never disappeared.

Fear is the fundamental barrier to peace, and its a deal-breaker when it comes to leading a simplified life, Bill Hybels says in the sixth chapter: Conquering your Fears. Welcome back to my bog-crawl through Simplify. Hybels says that simplified living is about more than doing less…. It requires uncluttering your soul…. by examining core issues that lure you into frenetic living, and by eradicating the barriers that leave you exhausted and overwhelmed.

Fear has built massive barriers in my life and, with God’s help, I have spent most of my adult years dismantling them. I’m not alone.

Hybles clarifies the difference between constructive and destructive fear. We will focus on destructive fear since that is our battleground. Destructive fear is baseless, useless and crippling…. it nips away at our emotional well-being, cluttering and complicating our lives by erecting false barriers in our work, our relationships and even our recreational pursuits. 

Destructive fear mutes our joy and robs us of satisfaction. It makes us anticipate the future with dread rather than exhilaration. Hybels then cites people who refused to buckle to paralyzing fear but bravely stepped out into history and changed the world: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai.

Conquering fear is tough work. The first thing you must do is NAME your fear. Hybels lists some common fears: financial pressure, relational breakdown, unexpected bad news, moral failure, impending mortality. What are you afraid of?

Here’s how to craft a strategy to overcome your fear:

STEP 1: Understand fear’s origin. Can you identify the source? My arachnophobia began as a result of some innocent child’s play. My cousin would catch daddy longlegs spiders, pull off a couple of the legs and then drop them down my shirt. No matter if I ran, she was faster and she always caught me. That feeling of helplessness, knowing I could not escape, carried over into my dreams.

STEP 2: Expose fear’s lies: What are the lies that fuel this fear? All spiders are dangerous, creepy, and terrifying. Spiders will hurt me. Why do these lies seem believable? Some spiders are poisonous! But the truth is, most are not. There are virtually NO dangerous spiders that share my habitat in southern Alberta. Having long legs isn’t creepy, it’s sexy! (ok, I’m trying really hard here. Cut me some slack!)

STEP 3: Face Fear Head-On: What is one baby step you will take to face this fear? Forget it Hybels! No way! I will NOT be touching any spiders in the near future, or ever! Long deep breath …….. Movin’ on. Before you judge me a coward, ask how I overcame 12 years of crippling fear of public speaking.

STEP 4: Speak Words of Truth: 

  • Self talk: What strengths do I possess that will help me say no to this fear? What is the logical truth that most people believe about this fear? I am bigger than all spiders and I can squish them. All the spiders in my neighbourhood are harmless. When I travel to poisonous spider zones, I will take strong sedatives — ha ha, just kidding…sorta…. No, the truth is I have found spiders IN MY BED on occasion in other peoples’ homes and I have managed to kill or chase them off and then sleep undisturbed. I remind myself of this when the fear rises.
  • Scripture: memorize one or two verses to recite when fear grabs you. I wish I were that spiritual! When gripped by fear, I am paralyzed. Scripture does not spring to mind. Maybe this is why I offer a weekend retreat called Hope for the Rest of Us: when sainthood eludes you, God can still use you!
  • Prayer: What specific requests do you want God to answer re: your fear? You want specific? Would I be out of line to ask that He eradicate all spiders from the face of the earth? Knowing that’s pretty unlikely, I do request that He allows me to overcome my fear without ever having to willfully touch a spider in this lifetime. Also, it would be great to be able to brush one off me without doing the Freak-Out Dance and risk breaking a hip.

How about you? Does fear rob you of peace? What do you do to beat it into submission?







Posted in focus on faith

Take This Job and Love it!

imagesHow satisfied are you with your job? Bill Hybels asks in Chapter Four of his book Simplify. Welcome back to the fifth instalment of my blog-crawl. Hybles wrote Simplify to combat and inform our tendency toward overwork, exhaustion and over-scheduling. The purpose of the book is to outline healthy practices that will uncomplicate our lives and lead us toward peace.

Finding fulfilment at work, says Hybels, has the power to simplify your life in a number of key ways:

  1. Energy: if you love your job, time flies and it energizes you; a job you hate sucks the life right out of you.
  2. Peace: a job with a healthy culture, well-defined roles, clear directions, and properly assigned responsibility levels brings satisfaction because you can focus on the work without having to fight the system. This brings peace at work and in your after-work hours. By contrast, a job filled with conflict, frustration, poor decisions, chaos, inefficiency and an emotionally toxic environment creates an inner turmoil that robs you of peace at work as well as after-hours.
  3. Self-confidence: a job you love boosts your self-esteem in healthy ways; a miserable job eats away at your self-confidence through ingratitude, petty jealousy, disregard, lack of respect, lack of development, and an invisible ceiling you cannot get past.

So how do you find a job you love so much it will simplify your life? Hybels asks and answers this question — get ready for some babble-speak: I find it helpful to filter the role or position through four foundational alignments: passion, culture, challenge, and compensation. Huh? You mean I can’t just quit my job tomorrow and trust God to lead me directly into a high-paying, appropriately challenging, fun-to-do job in a company surrounded by other fun-loving, highly motivated hipsters?! Dang!

Here are the four alignments you need to consider when assessing your current job or looking for a new one:

  1. Passion: clearly identify your God-given passion and find a job that aligns with it. If you don’t know how to identify your vocational passion, read Let Your Life Speak by PJ Palmer.
  2. Culture: bad culture + passion for the work = no peace! In other words, think beyond the “what” you do, and consider where and with whom you work. If you find yourself in a toxic environment that cannot or will not change, look around for a better job placement.
  3. Challenge: Where do you do your best work? Not when you are under-challenged or dangerously over-challenged, Hybels says. No surprise there. But this did surprise me: not when appropriately challenged either! He invents a new category — appropriately challenged-plus. Here, you feel an excitement, a need for God, a need to work as a team. You’re in just enough over your head that you must swim hard and fast–but you’re not drowning.
  4. Compensation: Think beyond the paycheque here. Compensation includes satisfaction as well as cash. If passion and pay align, lucky you! If pay is low but passion is high, Hybels says supplement your income. If pay is high and passion is low, use that extra cash to fund your passion.

And finally, Hybels testifies that as a young man, God tapped him on the shoulder and called him into the ministry as a pastor. Already well-established in the business world, Hybels brushed Him off for two years, then rather skeptically decided to follow God and see. Forty years later it is abundantly clear God knew what He was doing! His point is, no matter what your current job is, if God is calling you into a vocation take the risk and follow Him.

ACTION STEPS: ASSESS YOUR ALIGNMENTS. This is where you can peek into the confessional as I work through these steps myself. Feel free to stop reading now since the chapter’s “meat” is above.

Passion Alignment: My job(s) fit well with my passions. I have several part-time jobs: homemaker, caregiver (grandkids), speaker, and writer. Some take more time and effort than others and I would not want to promote any of them to full-time. What works best for me is the variety so that no one role is burdensome.

Culture Alignment: I work either with family or people, mostly women, who pay me to travel to their locale. At home, I have a great deal of influence on the culture so if it’s bad, I (should) take the blame and try to improve it. In my travels, I am not any one place long enough to be overly influenced by culture. If it’s bad, I can soon leave. If it’s good, I enjoy it!

Challenge Alignment: At home, I am under-challenged mentally but I have the freedom, at any time, to up the ante and learn something new. On the road speaking, I was dangerously over-challenged for more than a decade due to my phobic fear and panic disorder (more about that in the Fear chapter). Now that I have conquered the fear I suspect I may need to work harder at developing new material in order to keep the level of challenge in the “needing God” zone. Another possibility is a complete role/job change where I would once again have to battle hard to achieve success. (That was not a prayer, God!)

Compensation Alignment: Lucky me, I have a sugar daddy. Not everyone does. Neither Gerry nor I have been driven by the pursuit of wealth. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the years of penury when Gerry was finishing his education, but we have found a nice balance where we have a comfortable lifestyle and the ability to help others and fulfill our responsibilities. Plus we have the job-perk of paid travel so our lifestyle doesn’t truly reflect our wealth, or lack of.

Overall assessment: I am so well aligned a chiropractor would use my x-ray as a model! How about you?

Posted in focus on faith

Dirty Little Secrets

If your true financial condition were put up on a billboard for all your friends and family to see, would can-stock-photo_csp13318719you feel satisfaction and peace? Or would you feel deep embarrassment? (Bill Hybels, Simplify)

Welcome back to the fourth instalment of my blog-crawl through Bill Hybels’ book Simplify. Today’s chapter deals with money, more specifically our relationship with finances.

In his four decades of pastoral ministry Hybels has counselled scores of people — many high-earning professionals — who have wept with shame and humiliation over the dreadful mess they have made of their finances.

So strongly does he believe in the need for financial reconciliation with God, Hybels says it is similar to spiritual reconciliation. He has found five central tenets for full financial reconciliation in Scripture and here they are verbatim:

Belief #1: All I have comes from God

  • none of us got to where we are today on our own

Belief #2: I live joyfully within God’s current provision for my life 

  • debt comes from wanting more than God’s current provision for your life and arranging other ways (credit cards, loans, second mortgages, lines of credit, etc) to get it
  • true financial peace comes only when you can live joyfully beneath God’s provision; in other words, spend less than you earn.

Belief #3: I honour God by giving the first tenth of all my earnings to His purposes in the world (this is called a “tithe” in Christian circles)

  • it requires faith to live on 90% of your income but the pay-off is that God ushers you into a life not available to the person who insists they need to keep all 100% of their earnings. Your “ticket” into the place where you experience God’s peace and blessing costs one tenth of your earnings. If you are already doing this, you understand. If you’re not, you think this is crazy.

Belief #4: I set aside a portion of all my earnings into a savings account for emergencies, giving opportunities and my later years.

  • adopting a 10-10-80 rule works well for Hybels. Give 10% to God’s work, save 10%, live on 80%. However, even starting with as little as one or two percent in savings each pay period will make a difference over time.

Belief #5: I live each day with an open ear toward heaven, eager to respond to any whisper from God regarding my resources.

  • Christianity is not a set of rules, it’s a dynamic two-way relationship with God. Financial freedom allows you to respond to God’s whispers when He makes you aware of a need you can meet from your 80%.

Okay friends, it’s Dirty Little Secret time! If your true financial condition were put up on a billboard for all your friends and family to see, would you feel satisfaction and peace? Or would you feel deep embarrassment? The Action Steps for this chapter are to prayerfully work your way through all five beliefs; Hybels recommends journalling your commitments in response.

Here it is for all to see…slight twitch in left eye…. The beliefs, in my own words, and my responses are below:

#1: It’s all His: Yup! We’re good.

#2: Live within our means: We did for years, then we didn’t for years, and now we do again. As I mentioned in an earlier blog we incurred some debt in the form of a credit line. We chose to do this during a high-expense season of raising our family because we believed it was more important to finance with some funds borrowed against our house than to exchange our ministry careers for secular jobs that paid higher wages. However, since April 2014, we have reduced our debt by 30% and are on track to see it paid off in less than two years. I will add that we have never carried credit card debt — we always pay it off each month.

#3: Give some back: I am happy (and humbled) to say that we have been “tithers” since before we married and I can think of only two times in…hmmmm, gotta get a calculator here… 451 months of marriage that we have not given at least 10% of our earnings to God’s work through the church.

#4: Save some: I am also glad (relieved!) to say we have some money set aside for our “later” years — which are just around the corner! We do, of course, expect our “spoiled” kids to take care of us once we’ve spent their inheritance. We remind them of this quite often….

#5: Say yes to God’s promptings: This is where the real joy of financial freedom comes from. When you are able to step up and help someone in need, the reward is priceless! We’ve been able to do this scores of times and the feeling of satisfaction can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

Don’t feel like you need to share your dirty little secrets but feel free to jump in with a comment on what you think about finding simplicity through keeping (or putting) your financial house in order.

Posted in focus on faith

The Power of a Single Word on your Calendar

putthis_on_calendar_clip_artJohn Grisham was an attorney who hated his job. He wanted to become an author, but he didn’t know where to begin. Finally he decided to start writing a one-word message to himself on the early-morning squares of his monthly calendar: “Write.” Grisham said to himself, “I’m going to get to work sixty minutes early each day, and I’m going to write just one page per day.”

And that’s what he did.

He began writing…and he kept writing. Today he is one of the most prolific and appreciated novelists of our day. That’s the power of even a single word written on a schedule and lived out. Bill Hybels, Simplify.

That example, in a nutshell, is the core message of Chapter Two: overscheduled to organized – harnessing your calendar’s power. This is the third instalment on my blog-crawl through Bill Hybels’ Simplify: ten practices to unclutter your soul

Many people’s “schedules are packed so tight we couldn’t slip a razor blade between appointments…we almost brag about it don’t we? It makes us feel important,” Hybels writes. But he cautions us to take control of our schedules because “a runaway calendar will keep you from simplifying your life…without conscious intervention, this pattern of chronically overscheduling ensures that the priorities you care about most will take a backseat to the urgent priorities of others every time.”

Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important, wrote Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits… book that sold more than 25 million copies. We’ve all done it! I still do it!

Hybels adopted a life-changing practice and began living it out when his children were tiny and he was out every night of the week. He wanted to become a better (less absent) father and after prayerful discussion with the Big Boss he wrote H-O-M-E on his calendar four nights each week. That one word changed the course of his family history. Deciding his calendar should also include his nonwork responsibilities, he proved the truth: “My schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become.” 

A simplified life begins with well invested hours each day. Your calendar is more than merely an organizer for what needs to get done; it’s the primary tool for helping you become what you want to become, Hybels writes. Ask yourself, “How would God have me spend my time today?”

The Action Step in this chapter explains how to write a God-first schedule.

  1. Begin by asking, “Who do I want to become?” This doesn’t have to be an over-arching total-life goal wrapped in a 30-word statement that only lawyers can understand! It can be as simple as “involved mother,” “dedicated employee,” “happier wife,” “joyful Christian,” “fit woman,” and so on. Prayerfully look inside yourself and see what sort of unrealized dreams might be lurking therein. Has God whispered ideas into your soul that you are now ready to act on? Things like, “homeschool a child,” “a career change,””a master’s degree,” “an organized household,” “a more satisfying relationship with God,” for example?
    • The words “servant leader” came to mind when I asked myself this question. I would much rather serve than lead but I recognize that by virtue of my position as the wife of a minister, the mother of adults, the grandmother of darlings, a speaker and author, I am a leader whether I like the title or not. However, as a servant leader I can set aside my agenda, my rights, my plans and can learn to lay down my life for others; I can serve others with my time, talents, and treasures. I like that.
  2. Next, add to your schedule those plans or engagements, and those relationships or activities, that will lead you down the path toward who you want to become. This is where the power of a word can change the trajectory of your future.
    • At Hybels’ suggestion I wrote Chair Time on my calendar for 8 a.m. As a servant leader, I need to stay connected to God every day so I don’t miss opportunities He places before me. Even if I don’t get to my chair exactly at that time, I see it at some point during the day and it reminds me to take 15-30 minutes to focus on God. I use a One-Year Bible for this and read some or all of the portion on that date. I journal my prayers after my reading and keep my journal and Bible in the breakfast nook. Even if I don’t see my calendar, i will see my Bible and journal because I never ever skip breakfast! (I can barely fall asleep the night before in anticipation!)
    • He also suggests, and I agree, that you schedule CHURCH. Don’t make that decision when you wake up on Sunday morning. If i did that, I might seldom go. But I consider it a commitment like showing up at work. People don’t make the should-I-go-to-work-today decision based on how they feel when they wake up — if they did the world would stop turning pretty quickly because we’d all stay in bed! Why calendar church? Like I said in my book about following God, if you want to bag a moose, you go to moose habitat. Likewise, if you want to connect with God, you go to the places you are most likely to find Him. A servant leader leads by example so even on those days when I am tired or cranky I still go and demonstrate with my presence that I believe church is important. And before long I forget my troubles and thank God I am there!

There are other things you could calendar, like family vacations, date nights, gym time, Bible Study group, marriage enrichment conference, and Hybels recommends you do so. By adding a word to your calendar and then following through on that scheduled event, you could save your marriage (date night), change your career (night class), lengthen your life (gym), deepen your spiritual walk (chair time), improve your portfolio (money management course), or write a book (WRITE). I did. Which proves anybody can!

The post The Power of a Single Word on your Calendar appeared first on Connie Cavanaugh’s blog.

Posted in focus on faith

How full is your bucket?

isl08062Draw a bucket and put a line to mark where you feel your energy level is right now. Do it. I did. That’s where we begin.

In my blog Simplified Living is Far From Simple  I featured Bill Hybels’ book Simplify and committed to blogging my progress, or lack of, through the book. Wait a sec…I need to grab another cafe latte…it’s my third one. We’ll talk about judging in a future blog!

Okay, let’s simplify! The first of the 10 practices in Simplify is replenishing your energy reserves. This is how you move from exhausted to energized. Ergo, the bucket exercise. This gives you a visual for where you are right now. How full, or empty, is your bucket?

Yesterday, I drew my line around the two thirds mark, say 65 percent full. But now that I’m working on that third coffee, I feel closer to 90 percent! Note to self: don’t be fooled by false readings based on faulty evidence. The caffeine pendulum swings both ways. I’m going with the initial assessment of two thirds.

Leaders are seldom naturally drawn to simplicity, says Hybels. He confesses that simplified living is a learning journey for him too. But he is determined to strive for simplicity because he has personally experienced the damage done to himself and others when he allowed himself to get dangerously depleted.

Depleted people are often:

  1. resentful
  2. irritable
  3. unable to focus
  4. seeking escape in unhealthy ways

Replenished people, however, are usually:

  1. soulful
  2. rested
  3. creative
  4. loving
  5. playful
  6. prayerful

Which list describes you these days? I find myself straddling the fence; not fitting either list exactly, which seems to support my bucket reading of two thirds.

Evidence of being Depleted:

  • Resentful? No.
  • Irritable? No, but credit must be given to HRT.
  • Unable to focus? What menopausal woman isn’t?
  • Escapism? I have been watching more Netflix these days….hmmm.

Evidence of being Energized:

  • Soulful? Not sure what that means; assuming it refers to being driven by non-material pursuits I would give myself a passing grade but not by much.
  • Rested? Usually, because it is a priority.
  • Creative? Not wired that way.
  • Loving? Hope so. Will ask my family to report. If you don’t hear from me, I flunked.
  • Playful? Also missing in my DNA but being a grandparent has revealed hidden reserves, so, Yes. Still not even close to my party-animal sister Lisa but better than I was.
  • Prayerful? If unspoken groanings count then I am a prayer warrior.

Hybels recommends that before you try to fill a depleted bucket you should figure out what is driving you to make holes in your energy bucket. The two main hole-makers are:

(1) getting our self worth from over-achieving (people pleasing)

(2) feeling guilty for taking time to replenish (children are starving and I’m at the beach!?)

Hybels says the path to simplicity requires total honesty: I confess, what others think of me has always mattered. A lot. Probably too much. But I am pretty much over the guilt I used to feel when I worked in my garden, went hiking or skiing, walked a beach, read a book, or did other activities that fed my soul. Like Hybels I’ve learned that I am of more value to others and more connected to God when I have taken the time to replenish. Spend some time thinking about what drives you.

Make a list of the things that replenish your energy. Hybels lists his five keys: connecting with God, family, satisfying work, recreation and exercise (including rest and diet). But he suggests you make your own list by determining what are the replenishing people, dynamics, activities, and engagements that fill you up?

My list mirrors Hybels’ (like I said, I’m not creative!):

  1. connecting with God: Mainly — bible reading, prayer, church attendance and involvement, acts of service, Christian books and studies. Occasionally — nature walks, fire gazing, worship music.
  2. family: I work part-time from home (writer/speaker) since having children and have often curtailed my work when my family needed “more” of me. A five-year season of homeschooling, my husband’s burnout from exhaustion, and our daughter’s cancer were times when I scaled way back to accommodate what I thought were higher priorities. Obviously this put a strain on our finances since my husband is not an oil magnate but a minister. We incurred some debt — not for necessities but for extras — and have been following a self-induced program of rapid debt retirement for the past year. It’s exhilarating watching that debt shrink!
  3. satisfying work: honestly, I used to prefer my unpaid job, puttering around the house. In fact, my reward after a speaking engagement was to spend a day cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, gardening, anything that did not involve sitting at a computer or engaging with people. Obviously I am an introvert. My work-for-hire job of public speaking, for many years, was only satisfying when it was over and I was on my way home. But that was because I had to overcome crippling fear and occasional panic attacks on and off stage. Now, thankfully, I can enjoy my work/calling due mainly to persevering with God’s help and learning to follow Him one yes at a time. So I caution you, before you walk away from the right job, think about what it is about the job that’s depleting you. In my case, I didn’t need a job change but a “me” change. Keeping the job forced me to grow and to rely on God and I am so glad I hung in there.
  4. recreation: Online Scrabble, reading for pleasure, being outdoors, grandkids, simple home reno, gardening, traveling with my husband…. All these things–lest we forget BBC shows on Netflix!–replenish me.
  5. Exercise/rest/diet: For most of my adult life I have been disciplined about this. I have found that fatigue makes me feel sick, literally. I hurt all over. So I am motivated to get enough sleep most of the time. Poor diet also makes me sick. I can’t tolerate dairy, gluten or much sugar. So I am motivated to eat foods that make me feel good (if you need a category, I am closest to paleo). And God brought me a fabulous gym partner several years ago who is my secret weapon — she calls me M/W/F at 6 a.m. and I say yes. Almost every time… I attend a later gym class T/TH and supplement with outdoor walks and getting up off the couch to get my own snack (if my husband is away, otherwise, I grow roots and he feeds me)

So that’s Chapter One! If you’re still here, you are really motivated to find a simpler path (or you have too much time on your hands!). Dive in and let me know what depletes your energy, what you do to replenish your energy, and what you think about the quest to find a simpler life.

Posted in focus on faith

Simplified Living is Far From Simple!

“Simplified living requires more than just organizing your closets or cleaning out your desk drawer. It requires uncluttering your soul.” Bill Hybels

As we went around the table at our Caring Circle monthly meeting, each woman in turn started the same way, “I’m so tired!” Young moms, grandmothers, working-outside-the-home moms, working-at-home moms. Our ages spanned four decades yet our stories were the same. I’m pooped! And I don’t like it!

I hear the same words repeated over and over: exhausted, overwhelmed, over scheduled, anxious, isolated, dissatisfied testifies Bill Hybels in Simplify. Hybels says he began talking about “simplifying” in response to meeting so many people all over the world who were facing burnout, stress and dissatisfaction.

Why is it that a full generation after learning there is no such thing as Superwoman (the dedicated employee, involved mother, sexpot spouse who never has a headache. She’s a gourmet cook, fashionably dressed, stylishly coiffed, gel nailed, completely accessorized dynamo with buns of steel who teaches weekly Bible studies and volunteers for her community association) women are still knocking themselves out trying to squeeze into that skimpy leotard with the Big S stretched across their bursting bosom?

Everybody is writing and talking about simplifying these days. Go to Amazon and key in “simplify” and you will have scores of resources to choose from. They span concepts like frugality, minimalism, decluttering, organizing, downsizing and more. But most of us are too tired and busy to read those books and we don’t need the stress of having to add one more thing to our lives even if that one-more-thing is “finding a way out of the mess I’m in!”

To most of us the word simplify means “get rid of.” It might mean I need to purge my closet of all the clothes I don’t fit, don’t like, and don’t wear so I can easily access what I do fit, do like and do wear. It might mean get rid of time-wasters, like watching Netflix so I can be more active…but what if I lose weight and have to bring all those skinny clothes back to my overstuffed closet? Oh rats! Two steps forward; one step back.

There are no shortcuts to simplified living, says Hybels. Untangling yourself from the overscheduled, overwhelming web of your current life is not for the faint of heart. It’s honest rigorous work…. Action is required. Hybels then outlines 10 practices to unclutter your soul. These practices deal with finances, time management, relationships, work, forgiveness, and energy to name a few. He concludes each chapter with action steps because reading the book alone will not simplify your life — taking action will. I’m already tired and Bill just told me I need to take action!?

Simplified living is about…being who God called us to be….If you crave a simpler life anchored by the priorities that matter most…you can stop doing the stuff that doesn’t matter and build your life on the stuff that does, Hybels says. Join me as I work my way through Hybels’ 10 practices in my next series of blogs. I will try to be as honest as I can about my “action plan” and how those actions are working — or not — to unclutter my soul. I invite your comments about your own efforts to simplify.