Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond!: Day 16

The challenge from Day 15 was to change our attitude towards work. Since I'm off work today taking care of my wisdom tooth-less husband, I've got time to reflect on what I do like about my job and reasons why I shouldn't view it as a hassle or chore. I really want to make a list or a printable to keep on my desk for those stressful days when I can't remember why I wanted to be a librarian! Did anyone do this activity? Is anyone still following along? I know it was hard to keep up with this series when I had some pretty big gaps, but I hope there are people still out there reading! =)

Today's chapter is called Don't Hurry!

Source for original photo

Focus Verse: She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. (Proverbs 31:18, The Message).

Sarah starts this chapter by asking if anyone has ever been in a real hurry only for everything to go wrong? I had a day like that last week. I came home from the gym to take a quick shower before going to work, and somehow, I started falling further and further behind. Then, when I was rushing to work, I had obstacle after obstacle and felt frazzled the rest of the morning. I would love to say that this was an unusual morning for me, but the truth is, I've spent a lot of time hurrying lately.

This isn't the focus verse, but this verse is worth showcasing also:

Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind (Proverbs 21:5, The Message).

I think I should get this verse tattooed across my forehead!!

Sarah wrote these words, but I feel like they could be straight from my mouth also:
I get in a hurry when I'm running late. Usually when I run late, it's due to a lack of careful planning. Either I hadn't set my alarm right, I hadn't planned for traffic, or something unexpected comes up.
Sarah has another great quote a couple of paragraphs later: "If you don't want to be in a constant hurry, you've got to make time." Everyone has the same amount of time in a day, and yet some people are always in a hurry and seem to get nothing done (guilty, unfortunately). You can't create more hours in a day, but you can become more efficient. The same technique that I wrote about yesterday in relation to stress reduction applies here too; if you want to be more efficient, you have to say no to some things. You have to figure out what is the most important to you and figure out how to keep those things in your schedule. You may have to ditch the rest while you're finding your footing and becoming more efficient, but you may find that you don't want to regain the extra stress!

You can also find alternatives to things that stress you out. For example, Sarah and her husband prioritize time with each other and their friends on weekends, so they chose to hire someone to clean their house in order to save time and not feel guilt about what they "should" be doing on weekends. You can apply this same principle in your life by outsourcing or bartering with someone.

Another way to find more time is to be efficient at what you do. Look for ways to be more efficient. Ask for help if you need to

Being busy can stop people from being amazing, and none of us want that, right? Learning to reduce busyness and stop hurrying will be so beneficial in the long run, and if we're sowing into our future, this would be a great seed to plant!

One final point that Sarah makes is to enjoy the journey of life. You may want an unpleasant situation to change as quickly as possible, but God is more interested in changing us- our attitudes, habits, and behavior. If you hurry through life, you'll miss the valuable lessons and character building.

Here's another great quote to end this chapter:
Don't hurry through life; God might want to teach you something that will boost you to greater heights. Enjoy the journey and praise Him for the wonderful gift that it is. Enjoy where you are right now. Don't waste time wishing things were different and hurrying them along. "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven," (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a time for everything, so enjoy the time you're in now and don't rush past. 
Today's challenge: What do you need to remove from your schedule so that you aren't in such a hurry? Rather than "no," are there alternatives that you could employ to make life easier? You might have to be creative, but you will reap great benefits in the long run.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond!: Day 15

The challenge for Day 14 was to sow good seed by talking nicely to someone you see daily, being kind to someone who annoys you, or finding a Bible verse to confess over your life. I've been working over the past week to be a lot kinder to someone who grates on my nerves. It hasn't always been successful, but I'm getting better! Did anyone take on this challenge? I would love to hear about it if you did!

Today's chapter is called Working Class

Source for original photo

Focus Verse: First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. (Proverbs 31:17, The Message).

We need to work. I know, I know, that may not be what you want to hear tonight, but it's true. We need to stimulate our bodies and brains, and as Sarah says, work is a part of life and amazing people do it well.

You were born to work hard, but you were not born to strive or struggle just to get through life. Striving makes work physically and mentally taxing. Thankfully, Hebrews 4:9-11 says that "there's a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God's rest have reseted from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest."

Jesus struggled and stressed for us, but this doesn't mean that we can throw all responsibility and work ethic aside. Rather, as Sarah writes, it means that the work we do shouldn't stress us out, cause us pain, or steal time that we should spend with others. Proverbs 13:4 tells us that those who work hard will prosper, so whatever areas of our life we want to be amazing, we should make sure we're working hard on them.

We should also work not to have stress. Easier said than done, right? But, honestly, stress is a choice. We stress ourselves out by saying yes to too many things and letting our lives getting out of balance. One way to reduce our stress is to look at our priorities. Choosing to do things according to life's priorities will reduce stress.

When you're choosing to reduce stress, don't swing too far the other way and become so passive that you just give up on life. Don't let life pass you by! Sarah writes: "Look alive! If you can't find encouragement any other way, encourage yourself. Be amazing. Be awake for all life throws at you and be prepared to work it for all it's worth."

Today's challenge: It's time to change your attitude toward work. It is not a hassle. It is not a chore. It is what you were born for. Don't let work stress you; relax into it. Get that get-up-and-go and go!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond!: Day 14

For some reason, this has been an incredibly difficult series to finish. I don't know if it's just the busyness of life getting in the way, my lack of time management, or what, but this is going on way longer than I ever anticipated! Do any of my blogging friends have any suggestions on how I can help myself refocus?

Okay, here we go again! The challenge for Day 13 was to reflect on how you invest your time, decide what to change, and figure out how to do it. A tall order for sure! I've actually kept a time log before, but it's been a while since I've done it, so I think I'm going to do it again starting on Friday and see how I invest my time. Did any of you look at how you invest your time? I would love to hear any insights you came up with!

Today's chapter is called She Plants...

Source for original photo

Focus Verse: With money she's put aside, (she) plants a garden. (Proverbs 31:16, The Message)

Last Saturday, one of my friends and I went to a local farmer's/artisan's market. One of the booths had little markers made of spoons and forks that you put in your garden to keep track of what you're growing. I started talking to the lady running the booth about starting a garden and what it would take to grow certain types of plants. Although I decided that right now isn't a good time to start a garden, it made me think about what it takes to grow plants, fruits, and vegetables.

Gardening is a process. You plant seeds, nurture them, then wait for the harvest. Your harvest won't surprise you. If you planted tomato seeds, you'll end up with tomatoes (well, if you do everything correctly you will!). If you planted carrot seeds, you'll end up with carrots. I'm sure you're following me here. As Sarah shares, the same is true in life; when you metaphorically plant something in someone's life, like love or kindness, it will come back to you, much more than you planted in the first place.

Planting and harvesting is not a quick process. Planting prepares for the future. Sarah uses this example to show that amazing people are future-minded. One way to plant for the future is to think positively about the future. Sarah's insight on this is great: "If you think the future is bright, there is a good chance you will enjoy life and make good decisions. Conversely, if you think the future does not hold much, you will live in the moment with no consideration of tomorrow." This rang true to me because when I dread the future, whether it's an event or just a general blah feeling, I don't really care about anything beyond how I feel in the moment. I'm not likely to make good, healthy decisions, and I'm more apt to spend money because it makes me happy now, rather than thinking about how that money can be used more wisely.

When I'm feeling blah, I also feel hopeless. This is a direct result of my negative outlook and feeling like the future is bleak. If you think the future is bright, you will be hopeful and have a positive outlook. \Sarah points out that hope is one of the essentials of life, and that when all hope is lost, it often signals the decline of life. Luckily for you (and me!), amazing people have hope, which can also be seen as an expectation of good things and believing in a good outcome. That sounds a lot more fun than being mopey! Also, when you have hope in your thoughts, you sow great seeds for your future.

Another way you can plant seeds is by what you do. Matthew 7:20 says "Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions." As Sarah points out, to get a tree and fruit, you first need to plant seed and actions are seeds. She even says that everything you did today was a seed. That puts a different spin on just going through the daily motions if you think about everything you do being a seed that sows into your future. Kind of makes you want to quit playing Candy Crush, huh? (I'm talking to myself here but if it applies to you too...).

Let's go a step further with our actions being seeds. We'll include our thoughts here too because our thoughts are what propel us to take actions. Every action falls into one of two categories: life and death.

Let that sink in for a moment. Every action falls into one of two categories: life and death.

That's a big thought that I've never really considered, so I want to share what Sarah said about this:
If what you do will bring life to all those involved, then it is a good choice. If, on the other hand, your action will lead to death, don't do it unless you don't mind sowing bad seed. I don't want to give Satan any of my seed. He has taken enough from humankind, and I have no intention of freely giving him seed from my life. I want to sow seeds that will produce life.

Using this life and death principle is a good way to determine whether you're sowing good or bad seed, if the action is not something that scripture deals with.

Your words are also seeds. Words are extremely powerful. God sowed seed with words and ultimately created the universe! You can sow good seed with your words by taking the advice from 1 Peter 3:10: "...If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies." This means speaking good, life-giving words, no matter what your circumstances are. Sarah uses an example about being loving and understanding, even if someone cuts you off in traffic. That hit a little close to home for me because I've been hitting some frustrating high school traffic on the way to work lately, and let's just say that I've been a little less than understanding and loving with my words! She ends this section with another great quote that I want to share:
Planting seed thoughtfully is a huge challenge. What you think about is seed planted for the future. What you did today was seed planted for the future. Every word was planted for the future. What you did at work today will impact your future. How you responded to your spouse is seed planted for the future. There is only one way to consistently plant good seed, and that is to think, act, and live like Jesus. 
Unfortunately, even if we plant great seeds and sow them carefully, bad circumstances are going to come along. In an actual garden, people have to deal with things like weeds. In life, we have to prune weeds too- problems, difficult circumstances, challenges. Everyone faces these things, but the amazing people are those who can still flourish and grow in spite of these difficulties. As Sarah says, "problems are inevitable; growth is optional."

One final note from the chapter relates to money and saving for the future. When you plan for the future, you should remember that money is a commodity for today and the future. Be wise with your money. Save and invest so you can harvest when the time is right.

Today's challenge: Choose to sow good seed today. Talk nicely to the person who makes your coffee. Be kind to the person who annoys you. Find a verse in the Bible that you can confess over your life and watch for it to take place. Sow for your future.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond!: Day 13

The challenge from the last entry was to picture yourself in a challenging situation and then picture yourself rising to conquer it. Did anyone have a chance to do that? If so, share what you did to conquer the situation (in your mind!). I'm actually working on ways to overcome the challenge of losing my motivation- both in blogging and related to healthy living. I'm making a list of possible motivation busters (or challenging situations) and how I can rise to conquer them. I may eventually share that list also.

Today's chapter is called A Buyer

Source for original photo

Focus Verse: She looks over a field and buys it. (Proverbs 31:16a, The Message)

Judging from the title of this chapter, it was written for a shop-a-holic like me! In the first paragraph, Sarah states that a wife of noble character loves to shop...but the message of Proverbs 31 is to be wise with what you buy and your investments. Oh boy. This one might be a tough one for me!

First, you have to be wise with your money, especially when making a big purchase. As Sarah writes, if you were to spend thousands or even millions of dollars purchasing property, you would prepare beforehand. You would research the property and have an expert evaluate it as well before spending your hard-earned money. You would make sure that you're as prepared as possible before investing your money in something.

Second, you have to be wise with your investment of time. Sarah aptly puts it this way:
It is wisdom to think highly of your time. The people you give your time to each day are an investment. So the question is, are you investing in people who will bring you a good return or not? Is the person with whom you spend most of your day going to bring you a good return?
Sarah and I both spend the majority of our time with our husbands, and we both definitely feel that those relationships bring us a good return! =)

She also points out that you need to make sure that friendships are a good investment of your time. If a relationship is toxic, causes you to behave badly, or just plain wears you out, then it's time to invest elsewhere.

Third, you have to invest in your dreams. If you don't have any dreams, take some time to brainstorm and write down a few. Do it now! I'll wait...

[Cue elevator music here]

Okay, you should have some dreams now! In this area, you should view every experience you have as something that can help propel you towards your dreams. For example, Sarah worked in a part-time retail job selling jeans. While she didn't have any interest in making that her lifelong career, she was determined to learn from the work experience and use those lessons to help her achieve her dreams. So, even if you're not necessarily where you want to be in certain areas of your life, use those experiences as investments towards your future dreams.

The fourth investment we should make is in our habits. Sarah puts it best when she says the habit of today is an investment for the future. The habits you currently have, positive or negative, will shape your future. Sarah gives a good way for you to determine whether your habits will help or harm your future. She says to consider the return your habits can give and ask, "Is this what I want for my future?" Habits are hard to break but easy to fall back into; ask anyone who has skipped a few days of working out, and they will confirm this!

Before I wrap up this entry, I want to share another great quote from the chapter:
You are incredibly talented, beautiful, and amazing, so consider your investments conscientiously. It is wisdom to take regular stock of your life and put things into perspective. If you recognize bad investments, ditch them now and move on. There are many great opportunities, people, and habits you can develop in life. It is a shame to waste them on bad ones.
That is so true! Life is too short and too precious to waste on bad habits, bad relationships, or a lack of dreams. I thought this chapter would call me out as a shop-a-holic, but instead it is challenging me to think about what I want from my investments.

Today's challenge: Reflect now on how you invest your time. Be honest with yourself and take a good, thorough look. Now the hard part: decide what to change and figure out how to do it.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond!: Day 12

Today's chapter is called Rise Up!
Focus verse: She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. (Proverbs 31:15, The Message)

I am not a morning person. I know that's a shocking confession, especially to those who know me in real life, and since I'm the daughter of a man who says "embrace the morning." Blech. I'll embrace it...around 10 or 11! However, despite not being a morning person, I work at a place that opens at 7:30 during the academic year, so I have to get up and get moving.

Beyond having to get up for work and exercising early, Sarah points out that God wants us to rise early and prepare for the day, as well as rise up and make a difference.

Since I have been in a slump lately, this is a perfect call for me. It's so easy to stay in your rut, with your head down, not really rising up to do anything, but this is the wrong attitude to have. As Sarah says, there will always be opposition, excuses, and difficult situations, but you have to choose to rise anyway.

Throughout the chapter, Sarah gives examples of amazing women who rose above their circumstances and made a difference in the world for God. I won't spoil the details, but it's very inspiring to see these women who have done great things in spite of their circumstances. It definitely made me think about just what a whiny brat I've been lately when there's not been anything nearly this challenging in my life!

When we've experienced sin, brokenness, or anything that makes us want to fall instead of rise, we have to move past those things and persevere. Sarah says not to let brokenness hold us captive because we deserve better than that. We have to rise from brokenness, embrace the victory that is ours, and determine not to go back to that place of brokenness again.

Today's challenge: Take a moment and picture yourself in a challenging situation that you may face today. Now picture yourself rising to conquer it. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Back in Bloom

Remember back on April 23 when I said that I was going to finish the Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond series by mid-May, barring all sorts of catastrophes? I didn't take into account the possibility that I might just feel sad, worn down, and not interested in anything.

Even though the weather was starting to get prettier and we were nearing the end of the spring semester to make way for a calmer summer semester, I just felt blah. I would think about blogging, and it just seemed like so much effort. I knew something was off because I love to force my opinions on anyone who will read or listen to them write.

Slowly, though, I came out of my funk. I began to feel inspired to write again. I was a little more pleasant to be around (or so I thought...ha). I felt human again. Now I'm "back in bloom," so to speak. I'm ready to pick up where I left off and share a lot of the other ideas I've had lately. I'll pick back up with day 12 of the series this weekend...for real this time!

I hope all of you who are reading are doing well and haven't gone through a funk lately. If so, here are a few things that helped me:

1. Talking to people- I didn't necessarily talk about how meh I was feeling, but the act of just forcing myself to interact with others made me get out of my own brain for a little while.

2. Exercising regularly- I go to a fantastic gym, re:MOVE//Training, where the workouts are challenging and definitely distract you from everything but the sole goal of not throwing up! (Kidding...kind of!). But, even taking a short walk or doing something not as difficult helped.

3. Getting more sleep- We've started trying to institute a rule where we turn off all of our electronics an hour before bedtime so we can wind down and fall asleep more easily. We don't always do it, but when we do and get to bed earlier, it makes a huge difference!

4. Purging clutter- I know that this seems kind of odd or crunchy, but I think there's a connection between physical clutter and emotional well-being. When you're constantly kicking stuff out of the way or trying to find something amidst a bunch of junk, you just feel overwhelmed. I have a lot more to get rid of, but I'm off to a good start (my mom will be so proud of this one!)

I am missing the element of my spiritual relationship and walk with Jesus here. Honestly, that's a topic I'm not wanting to delve into at the moment, but I know there's a connection between my lack of faith lately and my mood. That's a goal that I'm going to be working on, and I may talk more about that later.

What helps you all get out of a fog and back in bloom? I'd love to hear what helps others!