The Ultimate Faith Test

Ultimate Faith Test

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?  And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” ~Luke 16:10-12~

 

Just let me tell you, this post almost didn’t get written this week! I’ve fought the Lord about this topic for a week, but He won, so here goes……

 

Because I am working on the Creative Awakenings Prayer and Art Challenge (check it out here and join us next week if you haven’t heard about it yet!) and I chose “debt” as my issue to pray about for 21 days, the Lord just kept putting people and signs dealing with money in my path all week.

The Topic We Try to Avoid

I’ve wrestled writing it because it deals with money, debt, and tithing. Things most of us don’t like to talk about and I REALLY don’t!

How Did We Get In This Situation?

Let me back up and explain why this is such a painful subject for me. Two years ago I took a HUGE pay cut (about $11K to be exact) to take the job at Troy and Tom began his construction business about the same time, so we’ve struggled to make ends meet ever since. I know God is teaching us a powerful lesson and He’s got big things planned for us, but WE HAVE TO LEARN TO LIVE BY HIS PRINCIPLES or things will not change. We will always struggle.

 

We have been blessed beyond blessed since 2013 (parents who still help out occasionally, extra jobs here and there, unexpected money from complete strangers, etc.), but we are still deep in debt and struggling.

 

We give every month to our home church, but it’s not a total tithe (in other words, it’s not 10%). We have it drafted the 1st of the month, so we are giving the “firsts” of our earnings, but it’s still not 10%.

 

We have closed all of our credit cards and turned that debt over to a debit solutions company (GreenPath Debt Solutions if you need some help – they are awesome!) and we are working with money management counselors from our church (great to have as accountability partners), so we are getting things straight. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

 

So, when I finally realized what the Lord was trying to tell me, I thought, “Really? Geez! Things in my life are SO good right now, everything EXCEPT our money situation. Why do I have to talk about THAT subject this week?” It feels like a big, black cloud hanging over me all the time. Why would I WANT to talk about that? I don’t!

Ultimate 2

*BTW, because I have learned to listen to His voice, He usually gives me a heads up each week about what to write about, so although I knew it was what He wanted, it was NOT what I wanted. Selfish, I know.

 

Seeing The Signs

Then, low and behold, all sorts of signs started coming my way last week, but I almost missed them! I wasn’t focused on money last week, so when the signs started coming my way, I initially didn’t recognize them as the Lord speaking to me. I served at our church’s GROW Intensive with a friend from years ago. While catching up, she shared how she and her husband counseled couples getting married or married couples who needed help. Somewhere in the middle of our conversation, money issues came up. (Sign #1)

 

She recommended Robert Morris’ book, The Blessed Life, and told me once I read it I would never think about money, nor tithing, the same again. I LOVE Robert Morris’ messages! Love them! So, I went home and found the book, ordered it, and then found his message by the same name on his church’s website. I binged watched all SIX videos of his series in one night! I was in tears by the time I finished. My friend was right, I will never think about money or tithing the same, but I also knew something had to change. BTW, did I say I LOVE Robert Morris’ messages!?!?! (Sign #2)

Blessed Life

But, I still didn’t want to write about it. Ugh!

 

Then, while trying to juggle money between two banks (technically one bank and one credit union) I was pinged with an overdraft charge at the credit union. Not that I haven’t done this before, but I had never done it at the credit union. I received a call from the credit union shortly after I deposited money we had unexpectedly received. (Sign #3) I was scared to death to call, but I was also curious. I knew I had deposited enough money to offset the overdrawn amount, plus some, so what could they want to ask me?

 

Well, the credit union lady, Ms. Pam, talked to me about an overdraft protection plan they have, but it’s a little different from a regular bank. She just wanted to know if I would be interested in talking to her about it. I told her a little about our situation and how I was trying to get all of our money to them and not the bank. She took off the two (didn’t realize there were TWO!) overdraft charges from my account and got started with the paperwork. I thanked her profusely and as soon as I got off the phone I broke down crying. (Sign #4)

 

When I went by the credit union to sign the papers, Pam proceeded to talk to me about how she had taken a $50K pay cut when the company she worked for closed and she came to the credit union. (Yowza! I thought $11K was a lot!) She also offered to look into refinancing our condo for a short time (we’re looking to sell in the next couple of years) and just took time to really talk to me. No judgment, no conviction, just kindness and compassion. (Sign #5) BTW, I balled again when I got out to my car! Crying is always a sign for me that He is working on my heart about SOMETHING.

 

Then I started Robert Morris’ book, The Blessed Life (a must-read for all Christians), and started underlining almost every other sentence. (Signs #6, 7, 8, …..) Did I tell you how much I LOVE Robert Morris’ messages! Wow!

Takeaways

There is no way to relay everything he says in his book, but the biggest takeaways I have, so far (still got a few chapters to go), are the following:

 

1-The Principle of Firsts – The principle of firsts comes from the Old Testament Law of giving of the first born, first crops, tithe, etc. The Law has always been a Principle God wants His children to follow, so He can bless us. It held then, it still holds true today.

Jesus was God’s firstborn. He was born clean. Jesus was born a pure, spotless lamb. BUT, every one of us was born unclean; therefore, Jesus was sacrificed to redeem us. Jesus was God’s tithe! (paraphrased, Morris, p. 31)

When we give Him our firsts (which are really HIS anyway!) so He knows we are putting Him first in every part of our lives.

2-Giving to the Lord’s House FirstHe doesn’t tell us to give to a foreign ministry or local charity; He says to bring the firstfruits to His house.

The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. ~Exodus 23:19~

We must give our tithe (the FIRST 10% of our income) to our local church (the church where we are members or call “home”). Anything above that is considered an offering.

3-He Will Bless the RestWhen we give our firsts to Him in FAITH, He will surely bless us because the firsts are what’s holy. Giving our firsts is the trigger that allows us to be blessed beyond our wildest dreams!

For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. ~Romans 11:16~

Again, if He sees us giving Him our firstfruits, He will know we are doing it in faith and will then entrust us with more blessings.

I’m Taking the Test!

There are many more ah-ha moments all through the book and I’m sure I’ll have many more before I’m done, but here is what I’ve heard Him say to me this week: “You’ve done a good job in giving faithfully, but you have not given me everything. I need you to give me the entire 10%. Test me and let me show you what being blessed really looks like.” Wow! Really? I’m barely able to make the bills and You want me to give you $110 more? Ouch, that hurts! But, what if I do and we’re blessed even more? What a testimony that would be!

 

What we’re doing is obviously NOT working, but we’re trying. At first I felt resentful and sick at my stomach at giving the entire 10%, but then I realized by NOT giving Him ALL of our firsts, we don’t stand a chance of truly being blessed. We want to honor Him as THE #1 PRIORITY in our lives, so I’m taking The Ultimate Faith Test and I’m giving the entire 10% on August 1, 2015. (Still a little sick at my stomach, but feel excited that He is teaching us a lesson about faith, grace, and humility.)

 

Plans Going Forward

Going into 21-Days of Prayer with our church and the Creative Awakenings 21-Day Prayer & Art Challenge, I plan to do the following:

 

1-Tithe 10% of my paycheck on August 1 (and the 1st of every month thereafter)

2-Go on a spending fast & only spend money on food, gas, & “essentials” (anything that we HAVE to have – household supplies, meds, etc.)

3-Intentionally pray and create art every day

 

The Lord tests us and asks us to test Him (at least when it comes to tithing), so if you’re struggling with tithing, your time, your talents, and your treasures, I first challenge you to rethink how you think and how you could take The Ultimate Faith Test with me and give Him ALL of your FIRSTS (first earnings, first part of your day/week, first of your best talents, and firsts of your earthly treasures).

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough for it.” ~Malachi 3:10~

 

My prayer for you this week is that you all will seek His voice and obey his commandments and principles in every aspect of your lives. I pray that He will bless you and your families beyond your wildest dreams.

 

How has the Lord blessed you in your life? Do you find it hard to tithe? If so, why? Would love to hear from you.

 

BTW, please join us in the Creative Awakenings tab beginning August 2, 2015 for the 21-Days of Prayer and Art Challenge (Prompts will be posted August 1). We are praying big and creating small works of art for 21 days straight!

 

*Also, because school is starting back next week (on the road again!) and the 21-Days of Prayer & Art Challenge will be in full swing, I will not post a “full” post during the next three weeks. I will be posting in the Creative Awakenings tab during this time, so join me there.

 CA-2015

 

 

Worldly “Manners” Reveal Heavenly “Grace”

NOLA ART

The Alabama Girls – Connie, Tammie, Kelly

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. ~1 Corinthians 10:31~

 Please read ALL the way to the bottom and see our newest announcement and prayer and art challenge to start August 2, 2015!

Well, first, my apologizes for not posting last week. I had most of the post written, revised it in the car on the way to New Orleans for an art leaders’ conference, only to not have Internet in the hotel room. We could have gotten Internet (for a hefty cost), but when you spend most of the day in meetings elsewhere in the city, we didn’t see the point of spending more money for Internet. So here we go….

While pondering last week’s post (now this week’s post) I read a devotional in The Upper Room (July/August 2015, July 12) talking about how to behave in the house of God. The author of the devotional made a great statement that got me thinking, he said, “I am always in church because my body is God’s temple. If we are walking faithfully with Christ, we will reflect that holiness in our speech, our love, our faith, and our purity – wherever we are”.

As I traveled last week, I thought about how I reflect my holiness when I’m in unfamiliar places or when I’m in a place where I don’t necessarily know everyone.

I realized a lot of what we see and do are seen as worldly “good manners”, but often could be revealed as Heavenly “grace”. Christians struggle, on a daily basis, to live in the “world” while trying to maintain some degree of “holiness”. We tend to have a lot of outward signs that show we are Christians: Cross necklaces, WWJD bracelets (even When We Listen bracelets!), fish magnets, bumper stickers, etc. People then tend to see our stuff, rather than us and when we mess up, oh, Lordie, we’ll hear about it! Well, maybe we won’t hear about it, but I can guarantee I know what they’re saying, “You know she wears that cross necklace all the time and then she cusses like a sailor!” Come on, you know they we do! 

So, while traveling last week, I consciously took note of worldly good manners, random acts of kindness, whatever you want to call them and tried to see how my daily interactions could reveal heavenly grace to others.

 

Here are just a few things I noticed about others and myself:

-Before leaving for NOLA, I helped someone I know, who sorta wears on my patience, with a technical problem. How did it make me feel? To start, I was a bit frustrated, but it made me feel better once I helped and they thanked me.

-I hugged some ladies I barely know, to let them know how much I appreciated them.  How did it make me feel? A little awkward at first, but good once I did and they hugged me back.

-While driving, I let a woman cut across the road because no one would let her, then she waved profusely at me as she crossed.  How did it make me feel? I felt really good when I saw her smiling face.

Those are little things, but they’re daily stuff you probably do everyday as well.

 

Then when we arrived in NOLA, things got a little cra-cra. Only the Alabama girls could find themselves in such predicaments!

We (the 3 Alabama gals and the Kentucky prez and her husband) headed out for a day of sightseeing in NOLA. Before we could leave the hotel, one of the other drivers in our makeshift convoy had car trouble, so we stopped to help. We got her car started and headed out to join the rest of the group.

To make a long story short, we made a wrong turn in the French Quarter putting us in the parking lot of a train depot and loading docks. Before we could get turned around and back across the tracks, a train, a very long train (267 cars +!) came through the yard and stopped! We were literally stuck on the “wrong side of the tracks” for about an hour!

Unable to get to our tour of historic NOLA homes, we decided to find the fun in our predicament. We started noticing the cool graffiti scrawled all over the train cars. We took pics of the cars and made goofy pics of ourselves around the port-a-potty.

 

NOLA port-a-potty

NOLA Grafitti

 

We were not the only ones stuck waiting for the train. A sales rep there to serve the Port Authority’s copy machine was stuck. A Port Authority employee making inspections was also stuck. So, we decided to strike up conversations with them. We exchanged pleasantries and laughed about our situations. We learned how PVC pipe is made (the warehouse and loading dock held huge bags of the powder resin used to make PVC pipe), so we learned something new.

In short, we made lemonade out of lemons.

We eventually caught up to our group and of course, were the butt of many jokes the rest of the week.  What struck me about the response was not the joking, because come on, it was funny, but it was people telling us they were impressed by our “graciousness” in how we handled the situation. That struck me as odd because that’s just us, we all have very laid back personalities and rarely get upset over things, but still, it stuck with me.

 

Predicament #2

On the way home from NOLA, Tammie (our trusty driver) noticed the tire light came on signaling one of the tires was low. We stopped to check it out. Needless to say, it was extremely low and she found a nail logged in the tread.

Not wanting to take a chance on it blowing while on the road in the heat of a Southern summer, we started talking about what we should do. Out of nowhere (okay, he was parked next to us) a guy came around our car to ask if we needed any help. He was actually there helping a family member getting their car towed.

He took a look at the tire and said we should have it checked out. He and the tow truck driver told us where to find a tire shop so we thanked them and set out to find it.

We got to the first tire shop (I say first because you know this story can’t end that easily!) only to find it closed an hour earlier. Seeing a pattern here?

We then found a Auto Zone, asked them where to find another tire place, called them and found out they were open until 7PM (on a Saturday none the less!). As we pulled into the packed parking lot, we noticed every parking space was filled and every garage had a vehicle being worked on. You guessed it….we were in line for about an hour.

Again, we decided to make lemonade out of the lemons we were served. We took our laptops, books, and phones in to entertain us and make more goofy pics while we waited.

 

NOLA Tires

 

Actions Speaking Volumes

I tell you all this to reiterate the point of this post: without even realizing it, we were walking out our faith wherever we were. We met some awesome people along the way. People willing to step out of their own predicaments to offer us help. People stuck just like us willing to join in our laughter about the situation. And people just using good manners in their day-to-day activities.

We three are believers, so it helps when you’re surrounded by fellow Christians, but it also offered us several opportunities to share our grace with others in places we never dreamed we would be.

And because I was working on this post, it really made me think about how we were treating others and how others treated us. I found myself wondering if the people who were showing us “good manners” were believers. There was no outward sign they were, but their actions spoke volumes.

This week, I am serving with my church’s GROW Conference. This is a conference where pastors and church leaders come from all over the world (Literally! I met ministers from Texas, Michigan, South Africa, AND Germany just last night!) to learn how to grow their churches and their memberships. You would think I would be the one doing all of the random acts of kindness, but I have a feeling I will be blessed as much as others this week.

So, here’s my challenge to you: Take a day (or if you’re really ambitious, try it for a week) and purposely do things that would be considered good manners or random acts of kindness to whomever you meet. Write it down sort of like I did above and write how it made you feel. You might be surprised how often you do things for others and how often others do things for you.

 Question: Have you showed your “grace” to anyone lately? Has someone else showed you “grace” in a way you remember? PLEASE share your stories with us below.

****Excited to announce an upcoming prayer & art event*****

Go to the Art Stuff tab and see the announcement about the first Creative Awakenings 21-Day Pray Challenge to start August 2!

Creative Awakenings pic

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Also go to the Art Stuff tab and see pics from the 1st Prayer Painting Workshop at the Vine and Branches Baptist Church in Castleberry, Alabama. 

V&B 17

 

 

How to Succeed While Living in the Margins

Plan A:B

 

I originally planned to call this post Taking Leaps of Faith, Crossing Bridges, and Totally Expecting to Land Flat on My Face, but decided that was way too long and WordPress evidently doesn’t like really long titles. Plus, Living in the Margins pretty much says everything I wanted to say without that really long title.

So, what does “living in the margins” even mean? According to Jeff Goins in The Art of Work (a MUST read for finding your life’s calling, btw!), it can be all the things that seem to distract us from our calling, but in fact it may be the exact things that help us determine our calling.

While preparing for my first official speaking/workshop engagement this weekend, I was also reading Goins’ book and it truly felt like he was writing my life’s story. Growing up we think we are suppose to “know” or “be called” to what we will do as a career or a job, when in fact we are working at it throughout our lifetime.

Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come. ~Unknown~

Very few people I know actually knew from a young age what they were “called” to do. The rest of us just keep trying to get it right by jumping from job to job, not realizing each one is preparing us for our life’s calling.

As I looked back through my list of “careers” I began to see connections. (It looked somewhat like the graphic below….all over the place!) Let me show you what I discovered. I began college on an art scholarship, but earned a degree in business. From there, I worked in retail management, publishing, advertising, and back to retail from the vendor side of things. From the business world I went back to the art world as an art teacher, teaching all ages from preschool to college, managing fine arts departments, leading professional organizations, and teaching other teachers how to teach art. Throughout my entire life every business and art job, along with every experience along the way, connected one to the other leading me to this point in time.

Image courtesy of sritangphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sritangphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But, in the midst of living it, I couldn’t see the connections. Only when I sat back and took a good long look at my life (probably turning 51 this year and contemplating retirement plans did that as well!) did I see the connections. All of the odd jobs, experiences, and shifts in careers (i.e. life in the margins) seemed like totally disconnected job-hops. Little did I know they were all leading me to teach art to college students AND to start a faith-based/art blog at this stage in my life. I didn’t see that second one coming at all!!!! Now it seems like a “perfect” plan, but I wouldn’t have seen it 20 years ago.

I say “perfect” plan very tongue-in-cheek because I have a feeling this story ain’t over just yet!

Art supplies

So, how can you find your calling, much less succeed, while living in the margins? Well, here are some tips I’ve learned this week, maybe they can help you as well.

1-You HAVE to find time to reflect (maybe you should first find a few minutes to read last week’s post about finding time )

Not until you step back and reflect on your entire life can you see where you’ve been and how all the seemingly disparate parts actually fit together.

  • Make a timeline, yes, a literal line, with markers for events (big or small) that happened throughout your life

               1964 (born)————1982 (HS)——–1985 (BSC)———>>>>>>> and on it goes>>>>

  • Write down everything, person, event you can think of – be ready to add to it – once you start thinking, the more you will remember.  And, just a suggestion, get in the habit of carrying a small notebook with you so you can jot down things when they come to you. Then you won’t forget and you can make notes about nudges you feel along the way.

A calling is what you have when you look back at your life and make sense of what it’s been trying to teach you all along. ~Jeff Goins~

2-You HAVE to Listen

If this past year has taught me anything, it’s how to listen. I’ve heard God speak to me (no not audibly, but through a tugging on my heart or a whisper in my head) but I had to finally slow down long enough to listen. Once I learned to listen (and you really do have to “learn” how to hear Him) my life was opened to so many opportunities and blessings; it’s really overwhelming to even think about.

If you haven’t signed up yet to receive the blog posts each week, please do and immediately receive my free download entitled Learning to Listen to God’s Call on Your Life for more details about how I learned how to listen.

Goins recounted the story of Samuel and Eli (1 Samuel 3) in his book and how we are often like Samuel, not sure why we feel pulled in certain directions or why our interests wane. If you are unfamiliar with the story, here it is in a nutshell:

Samuel was sleeping and thought he heard his master Eli’s voice, but when Samuel got up and went to him, Eli said it was not him. It happened two more times and on the third time, Eli instructed Samuel to go back and lay down and when he heard the voice again to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” The Lord had a very important message to tell Samuel, but He had to get Samuel’s attention and teach him to listen so Samuel would hear the message.

I too think we are a lot like Samuel when we’re not sure what we’re hearing or where we’re going. We feel we’re suppose to change jobs or vocations, we suspect we are to say something to a total stranger, or we think we are suppose to donate an organ to a total stranger. All those little nudges could be your life or the Lord trying to point you in the right direction.

So, I have no idea how you will HEAR the calling on your life, because it will be different for everyone, but you can learn to listen for small whispers reminding you of things you enjoy. You can learn to recognize tugs on your heart to do things that challenge you, yet things in which you are successful. You can learn to distinguish the noise of the world from the consistent prodding of the Lord.

3-You HAVE to Act.

Its one thing to hear or feel like you are suppose to do something, but it’s a whole different ballgame to actually act on it. This is usually where most people stop. They never take those leaps of faith or cross another bridge or put the pieces together from their lives lived in the margins and then they never know what could have been. They are the ones on their deathbeds asking “What if?” Don’t be one of those people!

Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. ~James 1:22~

 So, you’re getting restless and you think you are being nudged to do something, but you’re not moving. You HAVE to move! The nudging will not stop until you decide to act on it. Whether or not it is in fact what you should do, can only be determined AFTER you move.

That you respond to the call, not how, is what makes it extraordinary. ~Jeff Goins~

Once you start moving there will still be work, sometimes that’s when the most effort is required. Acting on something that seems foreign to you will mostly likely not be an easy transition. It will require effort on your part. So push up your sleeves and pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get ready to get a little dirty!

When I “thought” the Lord wanted me to donate a kidney to a total stranger, it took me 6 months to move. I took tiny steps during those 6 months, but it took me that long to finally commit and move. Then when I felt like the Lord wanted me to start this blog, I hesitated for a few weeks and then dove headfirst into finding out everything I could in order to get it started in the shortest amount of time. By no means am I an expert but I know a ton more than I did in April! It’s still a work in progress. My point is I act much quicker now that I’ve learned how to recognize those nudges and soft whispers.

You can act too. You will be scared. You will feel unqualified. But, you will also start to believe. You will start to believe in yourself. You will start to believe in the small whispers you feel in your bones. You will discover that all this time you have spent living in the margins has prepared you for something wonderful. You will succeed.

Success

 What experiences during your life of living in the margins have led you to where you are today? Or are you one of the people who knew at a young age what you were meant to do? Please comment and share your stories below. I would love to hear from you!

How to “Find” Time in Order to “Create” Time

Alarm clock

The trouble is, you think you have time. ~Budda~

 I recently wrote an article for our professional art educators’ association about making time to create and now I see how some of the tips I shared with art teachers could also apply to others exhausted by day-to-day stress. Most think we teachers have it “easy” because we get “our summers off”….please! Have you really ever stopped a teacher long enough to hear what they do during their summers?!?! We do NOT have the summer OFF! Maybe we don’t clock in every day at the school, but we work our butts off! Oh, sorry, I digressed…..

Okay, let’s acknowledge what we DO know about time:

  • All of our plates are full, too full.
  • All of our schedules are cray-cray.
  • All of us have overcommitted ourselves.
  • All of us are exhausted and stressed out.

AND

  • All of us have the same number of hours in a day.

So now you’re asking, “then how in the world do I ‘find’ time to ‘create’ more time?”

I’m glad you asked…..

About this same time last year, I was exhausted. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. Emotionally. Someone needed to stick a fork in me because I was D-O-N-E! I was overweight. I was tired ALL THE TIME. I was stressed about work. I was stressed about money. I was stressed about my relationships. I was stressed about not having enough time to get everything done. I was stressed about being stressed! Not good!

I saw a picture of myself around that time and thought, “Oh, my, goodness! What happened?” (No, I’m not showing THAT picture!) I had gone through a battery of tests to become a living kidney donor only to find out I had high cholesterol, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and I was about 20 pounds overweight. Ugh! Not pretty. Not knowing if I would be approved as a donor, but wanting to be healthier if I did and having seen that picture, and determined to change that imprinted image on my brain, I decided I had to do SOMETHING and I had to do it NOW.

Me Run

 

I started walking the very next day. Let me tell you, I couldn’t walk very far that hot day in July, but by the end of November, I entered my first 5K and finished in record time (okay, it was MY record time, but it was still a record in my book) and dropped 23 pounds.

Oh, and guess what? I had more energy. I was getting more done. And I was a lot less stressed! And I found time I never knew I had.

Once I carved 30 minutes out of my day to exercise that opened up time to think about other areas of my life. While I walked/ran, my mind was free to think about all the things stressing me out and I actually figured out how to solve some of those problems along the way.

That was the first step….

1-Make the Decision to Start

You know you need to do something different, right?

Okay, check, you’ve done Step 1! Only 3 more to go…..

Find 15-30 minutes somewhere in your day. Mine was a short break in the late afternoon to reboot my energy. Maybe your 15-30 minutes is in the morning before the day gets going or maybe in the evening after everyone is asleep or busy doing other things. Maybe it’s not 30 minutes right off the bat. Start with whatever time you can find to just stop (no distractions – that’s cheating) and step back to objectively look at your life.

You can’t “create” time if you don’t know what you’re already doing with the time you have. ~Kelly Berwager~

 

 2-Schedule some YOU Time & Have a Goal

I’m not sure what you need time for (exercise, prayer, creating, etc.), but you have to schedule it like you do anything else in your life. Put it on your calendar. Put it in your phone. Schedule it just like you do anything in your life that you deem important.

What gets scheduled gets done. ~Michael Hyatt~

You may also need a goal to strive for in order to focus on moving forward. My goal in creating time was to lose weight and gain energy, so I looked at each week and then each day to see when I could schedule a time to run. It didn’t happen every day, but I could fit it into most days and put it on my daily agenda as a scheduled item.

I also put a timer on my phone for other things. I would grade papers or create PowerPoints for about an hour at a time, take a break, walk around the building, stretch, etc. Once I started paying attention to the time I was WASTING actually doing my job, guess what? I found “extra” time in my day! If I seriously spent one hour grading papers and not looking at or answering emails or making unnecessary trips to the copier, I accomplished what I was “suppose” to AND I had time to do what I “wanted” to.

 

3-Replace Your Time for Other “Stuff”

When finding those extra nuggets of time, maybe look at what you could get rid of first. Is there some television you could live without? What about less “surfing” and scanning of Internet, magazines, etc.?

Try waking up a few minutes earlier in the morning to look at your day, make a to-do list, and schedule a little extra time in your day. Or maybe you’re better at night; before you go to bed make the to-do list and schedule some you-time for the next day. If you know what’s on your agenda for the next day, you’re must more likely to make it happen.

Priorities people, priorities!

 

4-Learn to Say “No”

The difference between successful people and very successful people is that the very successful people say “no” to almost everything. ~Warren Buffett~

 As children “no” was one of the words we let spew out of our mouths all the time; it may have been the “first word” for some. As adults we forget how to say that small two-letter, one-syllable word, yet every time we say “yes” we add more stress to our already stressful lives. Why do we do that? That’s probably an entire post all to itself! For now, let’s just practice saying it. No. No. No.

When you’re asked to do something “extra”, think about it before you give people an answer. REALLY think about it. Don’t just look at your calendar; think about what it will do to your attitude or your stress level more than your already full schedule. Will this commitment take away even more time from your day? (If yes, then your answer should be “NO”.) Will this group or organization fall apart if you say “No”? (And you know they will survive without you, even if just for a little while. If the answer is no, then tell them “NO”.) Will this activity or new responsibility add more or less stress to your life? (You are the only one that knows the answer to this one, but be honest with yourself.)

See, saying “no” is really not that hard! You remember how to do it, right?

Saying “no” to just a few things in your life could actually open up time to deal with other things that need your attention: your work, your wardrobe, your children, errands, bill paying, etc. The list is endless (because we all have endless lists).

Spa rocks

I really haven’t touched on what staying stressed out, being overcommitted, burning the candle at both ends, being out of balance, or whatever you call it, can do to you spiritually, but the enemy finds a way into your life every…. single…. time. Think about it….am I lyin’? No.

When your defenses are down (physical, emotional, spiritual, mental) the enemy sees a crack in the door to sneak his way into your mind and life. When things start spinning in your head and you’re exhausted, spent, d-o-n-e, you can’t think straight and you start believing the enemy. Gurl, don’t believe it! This is when you HAVE to make time to take control of YOUR TIME and use it for what God intended you to do. If you don’t know what that purpose is, NOW is a great time to start finding out.

So many parts of your life can be saved (and I’m NOT being overly dramatic here, I’m serious) by stepping back and getting your life back on track. The enemy wants you off-track so he can make you doubt yourself and do things that you normally wouldn’t do. Just think, if you felt good, were not stressed, and had time to think, pray, meditate, sleep, exercise, create, read, spend time with your husband, boyfriend, friends, or children, wouldn’t you be a much happier person and a nicer person to be around? YES, you would! The enemy would lose!

Find time TODAY to create time EVERY DAY – Your [eternal] life depends on it!

My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! ~ Psalm 31:15~

Hands w: cross

What things do you do on a regular basis to create time for yourself, your sanity, or your life? Please share them below in the comments. Also, don’t forget to sign up to receive the blog straight to your email by signing up here on the blog or find us on Facebook (When We Listen). 

 

The Only White Girl on the Bus and Racism

Charleston-Shooting-A_sham-725x502 With conversations surrounding the Charleston, S.C. shooting, I decided to revisit situations that have shaped my thoughts on racism.

  

As my Dad rounded the corner off Pennsylvania Avenue and parked in front of one of many high-rise buildings, I slowly read the words across the top: American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. I was sitting in front of THE AFL-CIO building in Washington, D.C. What the heck had I gotten myself into?!?!?

 

Let me back up a second….I was 19 or 20, had been accepted to a summer program at Georgetown University to study Comparative Political and Economic Systems (yes, this art teacher was a business major at one time!) and to intern at a government agency. Lucky me was assigned to the AFL-CIO! The white girl from small-town Alabama was going to school and working in Georgetown for a summer. Holy cow!

 

Every day I took classes at Georgetown University, caught a bus from downtown Georgetown, connected to the Max subway system and took 1 or 2 trains to a subway stop just blocks from The White House. I would cross Lafayette Park, and arrive at my internship at Frontlash, a voter registration arm of the AFL-CIO. I, along with another student, were assigned to one of the lead peeps there named Sonte’ DeCote’.

 

The White House & Lafayette Park

 

I will never forget her name because I thought it was such a beautiful name. She was the first person I had ever met who was of a “mixed” race, but she would not be my last. Her heritage was French and African American. She was under five feet tall, beautiful, and a ball full of fun and confidence.

 

When construction workers would howl at me on the streets of D.C., I would make a face or act offended. Sonte’ taught me how to walk with confidence down those streets (in my 1980s suit, pantyhose, and high heels, none the less!) and to acknowledge their hoots and howls with a nod and a smile. The jeering stopped! Worked like a charm! Who knew!

 

Before I left D. C. that summer, Sonte’ told me I was “the coolest white girl she had ever met”. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that comment, but decided it must be a great compliment and thanked her for the experience of a lifetime.

 

I tell you all of this to set up for what I really learned that summer……

A Life of Privilege

Coming from a small town in Alabama, I might not have been “experienced” in a worldly sense, but I had lived a life of privilege. Our family was upper-middle class, Dad worked, Mom stayed home, and we wanted for nothing. We had traveled some. We had read and seen a lot, but we never saw “color” among people. We never heard derogatory words used against other races, other religions, or other people of any kind.

 

All that said, I knew some of Alabama’s history when it came to the Civil War (or the War Between the States, as my Grandmother called it – there was nothing “civil” about it she always said), the Civil Rights Movement, the 1960s, etc. But, when I was asked to repeatedly say “ya’ll” and to comment on Governor Wallace and Selma, I realized these folks didn’t get out much! Wallace and Selma, seriously? Was that ALL people knew about Alabama?

 

Not until I was allowed into “the field” with Sonte’ did I realize the irony of my situation.

 

Rosa Parks

 

We literally traveled via public buses (never did that in Alabama!) to transportation hubs (places where the drivers picked up their buses) and registered transit workers to vote. I looked around one day and yes, I was the ONLY white girl on the bus. The only white person period! Then it hit me, oh, my, goodness, is this what it feels like? I wasn’t scared. Heck, I had Sonte’ with me. I was intimidated and I was feeling a bit ashamed. Not sure how to put that into words. No one knew I was from Alabama, until I opened my mouth, so what did I have to be ashamed of?

 

Alabama’s Checkered Past

Knowing where I came from, the history and reputation my state had, the questions I was being asked by other students from around the country, and sticking out like a sore thumb, it finally clicked for me.

 

I saw color for the first time in my life.

No One is Born Racist

LOVE this caption and picture! SO, SO TRUE!

 

That summer was the summer I grew up. I saw things, experienced things, and did things that allowed me to see past the walls of Alabama.

Mr. Wu, I Presume?

I met a guy. A Chinese-American guy (told you Sonte’ wasn’t the only “mixed” person I would meet that summer!), and we fell in love, or so we thought. That’s not the point of this story though. We fell out of love a few years later, but we’ve remained good friends to this day. Moving right along……

 

When I asked permission to spend extra time in Georgetown to work for an Illinois senator and stay with my new “love”, I was met with discrimination that I had never heard or seen before. My parents were against it. My friends were against it. What the what?

He was Chinese-AMERICAN for God’s sake!

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/07/friend-foe-the-contradictions-in-how-americans-and-chinese-see-each-other/259710/

 

It was the first time I realized how much it truly bothered me for people to make assumptions about others without knowing anything about them other than a name or an ethnic background.

Fast forward a few years and racism hit me in the face several more times….

-My college sorority tried to pledge an African-American gal (who was awesome btw!) and we were met with opposition from an alum (we fought it all the way to the national level and WON!)

-Had my pen pal of 15 years from Antigua banned from a “private” restaurant where I was having my after-rehearsal dinner (I canceled the party without consulting the member whose membership we were using and found another restaurant just as appalled by the discriminatory actions as I was!)

Nelzine

-A job I held, for a very short period of time, at a moving company proved to be unbearable when my boss, who was also an African-American minister, used reverse discrimination towards me by making black and white references towards me constantly.

An African-American student at a high school where I taught accused me of discriminating against him even after we had some very deep conversations about race and how much it bothered me to see anyone discriminated against. Once his mother heard that, she quickly apologized and took him out of the office.

A tour guide from Pakistan tried to get me to go on a personalized tour of Jerusalem with him and became offended when I turned him down (multiple times, btw!). He asked me if I had something against a man from Pakistan taking me on a tour and I stopped in the middle of Old City Jerusalem, stomped my foot and said (in my best stern teacher voice), “I have nothing against a Pakistani taking me on a tour! I would have you know I teach in a school with children who are Christians, Jews, Muslims, black, white, …..” and I went on and on! (I wanted to say, “I have nothing against a Pakistani taking me on a tour! I have a problem with YOU taking me on a tour!” but I refrained.)

images

 

What Makes the Difference?

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, other than to say none of us is immune from racist actions if we are truly paying attention and listening to what’s going on around us. No one is born to hate. We are born to love, so why do we continue to have these conversations and tragedies, often in the name of “religion”?

 

Racism is nothing new. There is actually a very, very, very long history of racism dating back to Biblical times. Jews and Samaritians were not allowed to talk or associate with each other. The German Nazis Party wanted to completely annihilate Jews. European explorers tried to extinguish Native Americans from their land. Europeans and Americans owned Africans as slaves. The list goes on ad nauseam! So if Christians are taught not to hate, but to love one another, just as Jesus loves us (John 13:34-35), why do unbelievable events like what happened in Charleston, SC continue to take place?

 

I am still dumbfounded. I do not have an answer. But, I do wonder……

 

By looking back through my past thirty years and remembering that summer in D.C., I realized there are things in this world that I did not agree with, I can only say it has a lot to do with who and what I grew up with. 

 

Did my “opportunities” allow me to “see” racism in action while also softening my heart NOT to perpetuate such hate? I’m sure all of those things did.

 

Did others, like the South Carolina shooter and many more like him, NOT have those opportunities, those friendships, those conversations that might have opened their eyes, ears, and minds to see PEOPLE rather than COLOR? I can only think the answer is probably, yes. Opportunities to experience others’ points of view. Chances to walk in someone else’s shoes. Occasions to see the pain and the hurt words and actions can do to a person’s self-worth. YES, all those things COULD make the difference between someone hating another and loving them.

 

I Will Never Truly Know Your Pain

As ugly and upsetting as MY experiences have been, they are nothing compared to the things that have been done to and at people of color. I will never know the true feelings of what people of color have or will experience.

  • I can only put myself in situations that teach me how to love rather than hate.
  • I can be friends with people who teach me how to accept rather than reject.
  • And I can have conversations with others to teach them how to see people and not to see color.
  • I can pray for healing in South Carolina and across this nation.
  • I can lead by example. 

 

mandela-racism

My short time as the only white girl on a transit bus let me step into someone else’s shoes and see what it might feel like to be the “minority”.

 

Have you ever been discriminated against for the color of your skin, your gender, your religious affiliation, etc.? Tell me your story by leaving a message in the Comments section below and you’ll be entered to win one, or two, of my new When We Listen wristbands.

Wristbands