Re-evaluating Life

What do you do when your heart is empty and your schedule if full? I think all too often we keep pushing ourselves. We think that we must keep going.

This month’s Recalibrate Life Read is The Worn Out Woman: When Your Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray.

One of my favorite chapters discusses how Gray dealt with the overwhelm in her life. She says, “[one] day, when I was in one of my fed-up, hurry-up, always catching-up moods, I decided to schedule a one-day retreat for myself.”  She did so because “life had gotten so overwhelming.” Gray says that she had gotten to a place where she just wanted to quit everything. It all seemed like too much.

Have you been there? So overwhelmed you just want to quit? I know I have. But as much as we may very well know what we need, we do not often take the time to find a way to take care of our needs.

The mini-retreat that Gray suggestion sounds so life-giving. We need to create space in our days, weeks, and months to reflect and to look ahead as well as to evaluate so we can make wise choices.

Gray decided to go to a nearby retreat center for just an eight-hour period. I think that we each need to tailor such a retreat to what works for us. Maybe a retreat center is out of the question due to cost, but what about finding a quiet place where you can find solitude? Maybe an empty beach early in the morning, or a grassy park area, or a friends’ empty apartment during her work hours. Wherever you go, it seems that the focus is more important than the place. Gray took only three books with her; her Bible, her calendar and a blank notebook to record her findings.

When we recognize the overwhelm in our lives, the feeling of a life out-of-control consuming us, hopefully we realize our need for help beyond ourselves. And that is exactly what Gray sought as she cried out to the Lord for help to get her life under control.

What she found she needed most, after she spent time in prayer, was rest, and she took a long nap. This so reminded me of Elijah, and how the Lord ministered to him in his neediness in 1 Kings 19. In our weariness we need reviving, and sometimes that means a few extra hours of sleep.

When Gray woke up she was ready to take a look at her life and hear from the Lord. She pulled out her notebook and started out by listing her areas of strength and giftedness. She shares a list of question that are helpful in determining these. In fact she mentions using some of these questions to help herself as she reflected on her life.

This reflection led her to consider her legacy. It is important to give thought to the legacy we want to leave behind. Not only financial, but equally as important is your belief system, your values, and what you want others to remember you by. Gray found that contemplating this helped her to find better focus for determining the direction she wanted for her life now.

Another part of her retreat was spent in writing down her longings. She said that she wrote them “rapidly and with abandon.” There was no space given here for the inner critic. After taking time to meditate on Psalm 139 and getting in a walk, she returned to what she had written. Spending time in the Word, talking with the Lord, meditating on what He impresses on our hearts all lead us in the right direction.

Gray marvelled at the fact that she “had never stopped to think that [her] deep yearnings might actually be connected with God’s design for [her] life.” Taking more time to look through her list of longings she decided to especially pay attention to the ones that stood out to her, the ones that had been coming back to her for many years. We all have those longings that we have buried away and every once in a while we dust them off and look at them again. She realized that a few were unrealistic, or no longer fit, and she scratched those out, but she kept the rest.

Setting the list aside, she picked up her calendar. Looking at our calendars can tell us a lot about why we are feeling the way we do. Gray noticed that there were “energy drainers that did not line up with [her] areas of strength and God-given longings” which she weeded out. She saw many things there that she did not feel passionate about and there were also those commitments that were just about what others wanted her to do. I am sure each one of us would find similar items and all of these are a part of the reason for our overwhelm. Gray was able to eliminate some things immediately, but others she had to make more of a long-ranged plan of how to do away with them more gradually. Some were still necessary.

This kind of mini-retreat helps us to really see what is going on in our lives and gives us opportunity to make a plan rather than flying along by the seat-of our-pants, being pulled in every direction.

All of this helped her to set new goals that related to her dreams and longings. All that she discovered gave her a filter for her future choices, sifting out the kinds of things which led to much of the overwhelm to begin with. We all need a “filter.” The filter is determined by who we are, what our God-given strengths and gifts are, what the Lord is impressing on our hearts, what goals we can connect to our dreams and longings, and what kind of legacy we want to leave. When we determine those, we can sift through everything that is on our calendar and all that comes our way. We can choose the life-giving. We can begin to eliminate, or not allow so many of the energy-draining things to cling to us and suck us dry.

This type of mini-retreat has become on ongoing event in Gray’s life. She schedules time now twice each year. We too can choose to set aside the time to re-evaluate our lives, look at our longings, set some goals, and review our calendars to see what fits or doesn’t fit. Gray says that this practice keeps her from getting to a place of overwhem. Making life-giving choices can help to keep us from drowning in the demands of an out-of-control life.

I am making this a new goal for myself as I seek to recalibrate my life. I think that re-evaluation is a very important part of being intentional in life. Is there any part of this re-evaluation process that intriques you and that you think you may find helpful?

God doesn’t want His children living burnt out and broken down lives, He wants us to be energized to fulfill His purposes and to live to bring Him glory. We can’t do that when we are overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated with our lives. Is it time for you to do some re-evaluating?

 

*Photo from Unsplash taken by Annie Spratt.

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Reacting or Choosing

My Recalibrate Life read for the month of May is Worn Out Woman: When Your Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray. The authors promise that this book “will be a retreat for your soul if you are among the more than 60 million worn-out women in the U.S.”  My posts will highlight some of the thoughts shared in this book.

This week I want to share about how our lives can be different depending on what pattern we follow. Are you in a pattern of “reacting to the demand of others”? Or do you instead “actively choose how you want to invest your life”?

I know I fall into the pattern of reacting far more than choosing. Many times it is reacting out of habit, a habit that has grown through the years as I tried to manipulate and control in order to earn love. So I add more and more to my to do list as I continually say yes to opportunities and responsibilities, and then I end up resenting that I have so much to do. I resent that I never have time to do what I want.

Gray says,”…the items we never get to are sometimes the most important ones…’urgent’ issues will almost always crowd out those that are more important but less time-sensitive.” Gray mentions, as other authors of my recalibrate life reads have stated, that often our time with the Lord, as well as, time with family and friends are postponed or cancelled because of too much to do. We can’t do it all. I am not sure why we think we can, but somehow we get sucked into the trap of that mindset.

Oftentimes, we look at our progress on our to-do list to decide on how we are doing, How many items did I check off? What do I need to migrate to the next day? That can leave us feeling satisfied or anxious or frustrated. But is it a good measure? Gray suggests a better guage of measure is to take a look at our relationships. How are they going? How are we responding to our loved ones, to those closest to us?

This seems like a wise idea. I know, when I get in a place of overwhelm and frustration, I often am resentful and snap at those around me. When in reality, many things on my to-do list may be for their benefit, how is my doing those things helping the relationship if I am short with them? The point here, I think, is that it is not about how much I accomplish, but am I being loving? How can I show that love best, is it by checking off every item on my list or by being present and available?

And with that I am faced with the conundrum of how to move forward, because I want the satisfaction of accomplishing things and the love of the other person(s). I want to say “yes” to everything, and be everything to everyone, but in doing so my life becomes unbearable. Yet, the fear of disappointing and the fear of losing love push me on.

So, when options arise, and another opportunity presents itself, what should we do? We have to make a decision, we could react or we could choose but wait, there is another option  The authors suggest practicing “responsible procrastination.” They encourage us to not spend “all of [our] time on oughts and shoulds” we should “try to steal a little time for a favorite activity.” Take time to decide if what seems so urgent really matters that much and do something you enjoy in the mean time.

I am finding that taking a few stolen moments for things I enjoy throughout the day makes the whole day more enoyable, like sitting out on the patio journaling and sipping coffee or taking time to play with my bunnies. Stopping to read a chapter in a novel or pulling out my watercolors and splashing paint on a few pages of my creative journal. I am also finding how much I enjoy sitting down to listen to a podcast. Many of them are very thought-provoking and I am left encouraged with new ideas of how to move forward in an area of life. When I take extra time to do these life-giving activities I come back to my to-do list re-energized. These activities also give me space to really breathe and think things through so I can choose wisely.

Rushing through life, busy all of the time, feeling like I live in a pressure cooker has left me stressed and exhausted. Trying to control everything and saying ‘yes’ to everyone has not gotten me the love or approval I have been seeking.

Slow feet!– those word keep coming back to me. When I take it slow and don’t respond out of the neediness inside, it is only then I can even begin to muster up the courage to say “no.” But I must stop and take time to think about what will happen if I say “yes.” How will it affect my life and my relationships? When I stop and pray and take time to seek the Lord’s wisdom, He often shows me how unrealistic I am being in trying to add more things into my hours and my days.

Gray also suggests that another way to help ourselves is to not add any new activities or responsibilities unless we eliminate one. This is a practice I want to incorporate in my life. It seems like a good method for being responsible with my choices.

I am realizing that when I react immediately responding with what may feel good in the moment, often because I know it will please the other person, I usually end up regretting what I have agreed to do. When I stop and think, give myself time to pray and make a wise choice, the outcome, often, actually gives me peace. And if I know choosing something new will mean I have to give up something else, I may not be so quick to react.

It seems that choosing is definitely a better option than reacting. But it is an option that takes intentionality. It is an option I want to be intentional about in my life and that will take extra effort to put into action. It is another step on my journey to recalibrate life in 2019.

What about you? Do you need to work at actively choosing instead of reacting?

 

 

 

* Photo from Unsplash taken by Annie Spratt.