How Effectively Do You Use Time?

Our health is directly related to how we deal with stress. And time is one of those stresses that affects all of us. How effectively do you use your time? I know I am not always the best manager of my time.

So, I’ve been reading this book called The Deborah Anointing, by Michelle McClain-Walters (she also wrote The Anna Anointing and The Esther Anointing). In it she says,

“The quality of your life is determined by how effectively you use time.”

Notice she says, “time,” not “your time,” Hmmmm….

We feel most stressed when our calendars are so full and we feel like we have to get it all done NOW! So, how can we practically understand time and manage it better?

Ecclesiastes 3:1

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.

Michelle goes on to describe four spiritual seasons of time in our lives. We experience:

Spiritual winter – a time of death to self

Spiritual spring – a time to embrace the call

Spiritual summer – a time of revelation

Spiritual fall – a time of harvest and fulfillment

In the midst of our busy schedules it’s important to keep Christ as our focus. It is sooooooo easy to allow ourselves to focus on things of this world – money, status, reputations, ourselves… (God has been working on my heart on this very thing lately. Sigh.)

Our life here on earth was meant as a preparation period for our eternity. God created each of us perfectly and for His purposes. If what we’re doing isn’t glorifying God in some way, we might need to reconsider if we need that thing. What spiritual season are you currently in? And how can you honor and accept where you are?

Let’s look at 5 ways we can practically keep our focus on God and use our time wisely no matter what spiritual season you might be in.

1.Adequate time with God daily

This is the most important part of our day. Think about this: You have about 8-10 hours of time during the day that are most likely dedicated to someone else – work, kids, whatever. That leaves you with 14-16 hours of time for yourself. Hopefully about 8 of those hours are sleeping. And that gives you 6-8 hours to do whatever else you desire. What are you doing with that time? Cooking and eating, exercising, playing, chores… What can you do so that time with God is your number one, non-negotiable priority?

2. Make a list of our top 5 priorities

I encourage you to take a moment and write down the top 5 priorities in your life. These are the MOST important things. This list will help you prioritize what you say yes or no to. Then use this list. Don’t just make it and put it aside. Allow it to help you make decisions.

3. Take time to breathe

You might be thinking, Carrie, I breathe all day long. I know, I know. But, I’m talking about time to focus on your breath. Every time you breathe in oxygen God is breathing into you His breath of life. Take time for 10 deep, focused breaths a day (at least) and watch your stress melt away. There are many different breathing techniques for different things. If you need help with this please let me know! I’m happy to give you more details, information, or tips.

4. Say no

This might be one of the hardest things for us. Saying no – especially when they are good things! But, it also might be what needs to happen to clear some things out of your calendar to make room for your top 5 priorities. I invite for you to inquire of God first to see if it’s something He wants you to do or not. Is there anything you can say no to today? And I might add – that if you have kids show them how to say no to things too. You will help set them up for success in so many ways.

5. Make a plan and be flexible

It’s important to not be willy-nilly all the time or just live by the seat of our pants. We do need a plan. But it’s also important to be flexible with that plan. Life is uncertain and when we hold on to our plans like a tight fist then we are only causing more strain and stress on ourselves. (Take a moment and make a tight fist. See how that would feel in your entire body to carry that around all day every day.) Make a plan, and allow God to infuse, change, and direct you – even when His way seems way out of the way. His plans are always good!

So, what is one thing you can do today to be a better manager of time?

Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.

“Are the walls to lock you in or to keep others away?  And if the doors were to be opened would you leave or would you stay?”

These are the first words in the song, “Run Wild” by for KING & COUNTRY.  I love this song and it resonates with me deeply.

See, about 10 years ago I had locked myself in a prison of my own making.  I allowed depression, anxiety, perfectionism, and co-dependency to rule my life.  And my prison became a safe place.  I knew what to expect (panic attacks, social anxiety, stomach pain…).  And as horrible as these things were I didn’t quite know how to escape.  And if I did what would the pain be like on the other side?  Worse perhaps?  Fear kept me trapped.

So, in working with a counselor (for many, many years) she showed me that the door was open and always had been.  I didn’t have to be in bondage to my emotions, feelings, and OCD-ness.  Yet, stepping out of the comfort zone was extremely hard.  And it took me awhile to actually shed the chains of imprisonment.

And what took even longer was shedding the effects of my imprisonment.  My hardened heart, my requirement for control in all situations, my tendency for enjoying being a hermit…

And if I’m honest those things still arise on occasion.  If I can be aware of when these things might rear their ugly head, then I can take steps to prevent them from taking over.  But if they blindside me then I become a prisoner in that moment.

So, I’m learning to be free again.  And if I’m honest… this freedom is pretty awesome.  I want to encourage you that if you feel imprisoned, you too can be free!

And the only way I can enjoy this freedom is because I know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus paid the price for my ugly sin.  He took on my shame, my imprisonment, my sin, and because He loves me so much I can live free.  And He tells us:

“You, my  brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh;  rather, serve one another humbly in love.”  Galatians 5:13 (NIV)

So, are you living free?  And what are you doing with your freedom?

Run wild.  Live free.  Love strong my friends.

God Specifically Said to Me…

“Encourage women with your story.”

For years- and I mean years- I knew that there was something God wanted me to do.

But He wouldn’t tell me what.

And then one Sunday morning about 4 years ago, out of the blue, I was sitting in church and God spoke to my heart. He said, I want you to encourage women with your story.” The words were so loud I actually looked around the room to see if anyone else heard them.

Nope. Just me.

At first I was excited to finally know my task. But 5 seconds later I was in mortal dread. What?!?? My story? My deepest, darkest secret?!?!  Nooooooooooo!!!!!

 

Anything but that God.

I can’t.

Bam. Anxiety attack.

 

Needless to say, I didn’t hear much of the sermon that day. My mind was racing. My heart was beating out of my chest. And I was at church by myself. Nobody to whisper to, “Hey! God just spoke to me.”

I felt alone. Like I had for the previous 15 years.

See, I held my secret – the I had an abortion secret- in for 10 years without telling a single soul.  I internalized the trauma and became very sick- mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was having anxiety and panic attacks. I developed ulcers and food allergies. I was in immense pain. I was severely depressed. I thought about cutting myself everyday to release some of the pain. And I wanted to die.

And I didn’t realize all these symptoms were from the stress of trying to be perfect enough so nobody would find out about my secret.

Through counseling (with an amazing woman – Thank you, Sybil!) I was able to learn to manage and eventually control my anxiety.  This took years!  I’m talking like 6 or 7 of them.  But, what I didn’t realize at the time was that God was molding me and shaping me into a new calling.  He was getting me ready for what He wanted me to do – encourage women with my story.  

Being that I have an absolutely terrible memory, I am digging out all my old journals.  I will be using them to remind me of the hard times (and I’m feeling the anxiety rising as I do this) so I can share, encourage, and love on you with my story.  

The raw, real truth of it.  

Hang on friends.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.  But, one thing I know for sure – the bumps are what smooth us out in the end. Kinda like rocks on a shore line.  Smooth, shiny, and beautiful.  But they didn’t get like that in a day.  It takes years of tumbling.  

 

Here’s a prayer I found in a journal that I had written for myself in November of 2015:

 

 

 

God,

I commit this calling to you. I don’t have any idea how, what, where, when this will come to fruition. I feel uncertain and wonky. I feel my anxiety growing inside me. I lay down my burdens, anxieties, and fears at your feet. I will let you take care of the details. I will honor you as my Father by allowing you to be in control.

Deep Dark Secrets

There has been so much talk about abortion lately. So many people are quick to exert their opinion and to ask questions like, who would ever, how could somebody choose, or why in the world?

This post is only for people who have or have had a deep dark secret, have skeletons in their closet, or have had an abortion. If you’re not one of those people then this is not for you.

If you have a deep, dark secret (like having an abortion, perhaps) I bet you’ve kept it a secret for a reason.

Shame. Guilt. Don’t want to deal with the judgement of people finding out…

Here’s what I have to say about that:

The ONLY opinion of you that matters is from God. And He knows about the deepest, darkest places of your soul. And He loves you more than you could ever dream of being loved.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to [the brim] of all the fullness of God,”
Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV), words in [ ] are mine.

God forgives all of the darkest places when we come to Him and ask. That’s all it takes. Asking.

And if you’ve found yourself in a deep, dark hole because of your shame or guilt I want to encourage you. There is ALWAYS a way out. There is ALWAYS hope. There is ALWAYS love. Even down there in the deepest, darkest pit. Find a pinhole of light and begin moving toward it. Even if it feels like it’s a million miles away. And even if it feels as if you have to cross the entire world to get to it. Take one step toward the light today. And if that’s all you can do today, great! You can take another step towards the light tomorrow. Before long, the light will seem so bright you will wonder how you traveled so quickly!

I hear some of you saying, “Carrie! How do YOU know what it feels like to be judged because of what you’ve done or not done or what’s been done to you?”

Well, because I have lived this truth. See, I am one of those that has had an abortion. I let my decision pull me down into the deepest, darkest pit I couldn’t even imagine. And I didn’t tell a soul. For 10 years I let this dark pit grow until it consumed me.  And I wanted to die.  

I’ve lived with the shame and regret and guilt of my decision for almost 20 years now. And what I’ve learned is that forgiving yourself is the hardest part. And I’ve also learned it’s so worth the decision.

I now live in freedom from my past. It no longer holds me in bondage. All because of the love and forgiveness of God.  And God has asked me to encourage women with my story. So, I boldly (only with God’s help) step out and tell you my deepest, darkest secret.

If you’re out there hiding in the darkness because of fear I encourage you to reach to God. Ask Him to help you walk towards His healing, loving, peaceful light. And if you need someone to talk to, I’m happy to listen as well.

There is always a way out.  There is always hope.  There is always love.

Whoa Nelly!

Whoa Nelly:  whoa is the word to stop a horse.  Nelly is what farmers used to call all their female horses (because they didn’t name their work tools and a horse was a tool – according to urbandictionary.com).

In today’s time this phrase is also used to talk about anything out of control – you know a dog, a kid, breakfast time, life…. And it’s usually used after the fact.

Whoa Nelly!  2018 was cray!  That’s the term I’m using for last year.  Whoa Nelly!

In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

The year started off really nicely with a few ski trips with my husband to some new and some familiar places.  One of those new places was New Hampshire in February.  This is where the year began falling off course.  We decided to hike up Mt. Washington.  Tucker’s Ravine to be exact.  With 40 pounds of ski equipment on our backs.  And when we arrived at the hiking location my shoes instantly broke apart from dry rot.  But I didn’t have any other options so I hiked in broken boots.  Oh, and there was a blizzard that day.

I ended up with an injured neck, spine, and foot.  Not from the amazing ski down.  But from the hike up.  Fast forward a few months (I rested and took care of my neck and back, but not the foot) and I re-injured my foot.  I was put in a boot.

Then, my husband ended up in the hospital from an infection from being flogged by our rooster (I know, I know.  It sounds crazy.  And it was.).  He nearly lost his leg and was in the hospital for nine days.  During that time, in my boot, carrying our whole house to and from the hospital each day, my foot got worse.  I got put on crutches and when my husband was discharged they wheeled us both out in wheelchairs.  What a sight!!!

2018-04-30 16.53.16

My husband healed up pretty quickly – in about half the time the doctors expected.  Me on the other hand – my road to healing was not going to be easy.

I wasn’t able to teach or do yoga anymore, but was determined to heal quickly.  Within a month or so, I was back at the gym trying to gain strength.  I had even termed the summer, “My summer of buff.”  But that was short lived.  Because I injured my foot again.  Really?!?! Yes, really.  I was gaining strength and being really mindful and careful, but something wasn’t quite right.

I then began working with a physical therapist (thank you, Penny!!!).  What we found out was that when my foot healed the first time it healed incorrectly, so the re-injury was just a matter of when.  She did so many things and continues to help me so very much!

And today, in 2019, I am still having pain and it gets tired really quickly, but Penny and I are onto something with a plan of healing.

Whoa Nelly!

In addition, the stress of our injuries took my focus completely off my business.  And it really showed.  I allowed stress and fear to overtake my mind, and my business nearly went under.  I even had to take an additional part time job to help make ends meet.

And that was a whole other mind battle to face.  Why am I here?  Why can’t I be good enough to make my business work?  I’m committing my ways to you, God.  Why aren’t you following through on your end?  and so on and so forth.

Sigh…..

Plus, my husband was totally stressed in his job too.  We were just a household brewing stress by the gallons.

I ended up cancelling all the ski trips planned for 2019 because of my foot.  And skiing is my favorite thing ever!  Sigh, again.

So, to say that I was ready to let 2018 go is an understatement.

And now, just a few days after I let go, I have begun anew.  Isn’t it amazing how new beginnings can feel refreshing, energizing, and encouraging?  It’s like I’m a new person.  Why couldn’t I decide to do that in 2018?  That I don’t know, but what I do know is sometimes it takes a new year, an event, an injury, a God intervention…. to wake us up and pull us out of the muck and mire and into our God given destiny.

I am determined.  I am strong.  My mind is focused.  Watch out world, cause I’m free!  I’m leaving my Whoa Nelly behind.  My chains are being broken, and I have God-power behind me!

True Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you and your family have abundance and notice God’s blessings especially this week!

So, at a time when we focus on our gifts and are thankful, let’s look at true gratitude and what that really means.

Robert Emmons defines gratitude as two things:  “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”  Secondly, he says, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.…”

So, gratitude is receiving good things and recognizing those good things come from someone besides ourselves.  And if you’re a Christian, we recognize those gifts come from God – even if they come through another person.

Psalm 31:19 says, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”  (NIV)

So, gratitude is recognizing the good things God has given us.  And I might add, even those things we don’t see as good in the moment.

For example: my depression.  In the midst of it was the worst thing I’d ever experienced.  In my eyes it was not good.  But coming to the other side of it, I can see all the good it did for me.  It allowed me to deal with my past, it gave me great compassion for others, and brought me to the place I am now – which is soooo much better than where I was.  And if you are a Christian you know that what the devil intends for evil in your life, the Lord will use for your good – if you allow Him.

So, gratitude is being grateful for ALL things.  Sigh.  That’s hard.  Especially hard in the hardest of things.  So, how do we cultivate gratitude in the midst of the hardness?  OR how do we continue to be grateful in the good times?

Here’s what has worked for me:

My counselor helped me begin to cultivate a gratitude practice.  In the middle of my really sticky messiness when I was so far from having a grateful heart, she invited me to begin writing down every single day 3 things that went well that day.  And I also wrote down one thing that I would do differently next time.  This went on for months and months.  And then she invited me to begin writing down 3 things I was grateful for every morning.  And at the end of the day writing down 3 amazing things that happened that day (and it might be as simple as I made it through the day and am still alive).  And currently, I practice gratitude as often throughout the day as I can.  I am constantly noticing the beautiful things God has placed around me and stopping to say thank you.

Gratitude is a journey.  It’s not a destination.  And the more we notice the blessings and say thank you the more God will pour out from his heavenly storehouse on us!

If you’re wanting to begin cultivating a gratitude practice but aren’t sure where to start or how it will look for you, I encourage you to check out Ann Voskamp’s book and devotional, One Thousand Gifts.  It was super beneficial for me in cultivating a gratitude practice.  It’ll help you get started and guide you along the way.

The Comfort Zone

Do you ever find yourself going in the same stall in the bathroom just because you’re used to that one?

Or, do you always park near the same place because it’s what you’ve always done?

I found myself doing these exact things and really thought about my comfort zone.  Perhaps a different stall might be even better, or cleaner, or have purple toilet paper!

My comfort zone is a place where I have experienced certain things and outcomes and know exactly what to expect. It’s comfortable there.

What I also began to realize was my comfort zone kept me in a place that I wasn’t supposed to be, but it was what I knew. I called it my comfortable hell.

I was miserable. I knew God wanted something else for me. And yet, I also knew what would happen if I stayed because I was comfortable there.

God wants us to find comfort in Him, not in our circumstances.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1 (NIV)

Are you in a place, a relationship, a job, a home, a city, a Starbucks rut…. whatever?!?! that God is calling you out of? Is He asking you to step out and trust Him? Then your comfort might just be what is holding you back.

One thing I have learned is that if you seek God with all your heart and follow his will you won’t be residing in a comfort zone for very long. And once you get to a comfortable place, He’ll ask you to change something again!

See, God wants us to consistently and constantly trust in Him. And if we are relying on ourselves and our comfort zone then He doesn’t usually get honored and get credit for what’s going on in our lives. Comfort is a place we can handle on our own. Instead, if we step into a place God calls us where we are unequipped, nervous, or not ready then we have to rely on God. We have to trust Him.

That is His favorite place to shine! He loves to be the strength in our weakness, the comfort in our storms, and the peace in our dark valleys!

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s Power my rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

So, if God is asking you to step out of your comfort zone and trust Him, know that your choice will be rewarded greatly!

And in the meantime go ahead and try out a different bathroom stall! 😜

The Power of Creativity

Have you ever said, “I’m not that creative.  I can’t paint, or sew, or draw, or decorate a house like Joanna Gaines.”  (Love her!!!)

Being creative doesn’t necessarily have to be about art.  Perhaps you’re really good at cooking, making a spreadsheet, dancing, or diapering a baby’s butt.  Or maybe you can put together an amazing outfit or pick out the perfect jewelry to compliment.  Or perhaps, you always know the right thing to say.  These things all require creativity.

So, even if, just for a moment, let’s say we all are creative.  In our own special ways.

Perhaps we can even view our gifts from God as creativity.  Here’s what God says about our gifts:

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”  Romans 12: 6-8 (NIV)

God gave us all unique and specific gifts.  And he’s asking us to use them.

So, lets draw this all back to our health.  How in the world can being creative help me be healthy?

Here’s how:

Do you ever notice that as adults we get serious?  And if you are in a place of depression or anxiety this probably really hits home.  There’s no time to laugh and have fun.  We have things to do, places to go, and people to annoy (I mean see).  We get serious about all the things.

Now, lets compare that with a child.  Children are naturally creative, imaginative little creatures.  They pretend.  They laugh.  They play.  AND, for the most part, they are happy, lighthearted, and frolicy.

So, what if we tried on a little play and creativity?  What if we added a moment of lightheartedness to our to do list?  What do you think might happen in our brain?

It’s going to chill out!  Stress is going to lessen.  Digestion is going to happen.  Smiles are going to occur.  And perhaps even laughter might escape our lips.  We might even allow ourselves to feel lighthearted.

Play and creativity is a crucial part of reducing stress.

PLUS, if we’re using the gifts God gave us we are fulfilling our purpose in life.  You probably know that people who feel like they have a purpose are much happier and fulfilled than people who don’t know what their purpose is.

So, get out there.  Do your thing.  Create.  And enjoy doing it!

 

 

 

 

 

Just Breathe

So, I’ve had a pretty emotional few days and wondered what in the world I was going to write about today because I’m still in an emotional roller coaster. I decided to just write what was on my mind:

Sometimes life sucks.

Something unexpected happens and pulls the rug out from under your feet. Or something not so pleasant happens that you know is going to happen and it still sucks.

So what are we to do?!?!

My advice is to just breathe.

Breathe in the breath of God.

In Genesis 2:7 it says,

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Without God’s breath this man would not have come alive. AND, it is the same today. Every single being comes to life with the breath of God.

Have you ever heard a baby take its first breath and cry? Guess what?!?! God did that! He breathed His breath into that little, precious miracle.

In addition, every single breath we take we are filling ourselves with the breath of God. Imagine that resurrection power entering our nostrils, traveling to the lungs, entering the blood stream, and what that power is capable of. 🤔

Johnny Diaz sings a song called, Just Breathe, that is such a good reminder for me.

Last week I posted a video on my Facebook page about anxiety. And in that video I discuss one way of breathing to help calm anxiety. And sometimes we could use to focus on the breath to just make it through the day- whether we have anxiety or not.

From a health perspective, breathing can calm the central nervous system allowing us to process the emotions instead of storing them inside our bodies as toxins. (I love talking about emotions and our bodies by the way! Perhaps a blog post topic for the future.) The less toxic we are the better our bodies function and the better we think and feel.

Yes, breathing can help with all that. Wowie! So, today, in the midst of the emotional struggle I’m going to focus on breathing. Breathing in the breath of God.

What life events or struggles have you had that pulled the rug out from under you? Comment below so we can support, encourage, and pray for one another.

That Elusive Peace

In yoga we often say, “Having peace doesn’t mean there’s no chaos in your life.  Having peace means you’re in the midst of the chaos and you have calm in your heart.”

 

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

 

1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV)

 

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  (NIV)

 

Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.

I’ve heard those verses before (maybe even a thousand times).  So, how do they help me find peace?!?!

I heard a sermon by Pastor Mark this past weekend that was all about disillusionment.  He used the movie, Ready Player One, to illustrate his point.  The characters in this movie join in a video game to escape their current reality of life.

Is that you?  Are you currently trying to escaping your current reality?  Like, scrolling social media for hours on end, watching endless Fixer Upper or Family Feud, playing video games, whatever…..

Some people think if they become Christians and believe in God then EVERYTHING in life will be perfect and peace will abound endlessly.

That is disillusionment.

God doesn’t promise smooth sailing.  In fact, he might even bring you into the “wilderness” just so you will seek him to get out.

To have peace, we must first understand why we are here on this earth, understand our purpose.  And we all have exactly the same purpose:

To Serve God.

No matter what we’re doing in our day to day lives:  changing baby’s butts, doing dishes, driving, cooking, learning, working….

We are to serve God in all we do.  When we seek God with all our hearts God will come to us.  He promises to.  And, I know that is easier said than done.  Believe me.  It’s a daily struggle for me too.

But, I have experienced God’s peace.  And for an extended period of time.  I can’t explain it.  There was no reason I should’ve had it (my life was crazy unpredictable).  Yet, it was there.

And then… it was snatched away in an instant.

See, my husband was admitted to the hospital a few months ago, had two surgeries, and nearly lost his leg.  The same week, I was put on crutches for a torn tendon in my foot.  And I lost my peace.

The devil knew I was strong with God.  So, he attacked something I couldn’t control.  A rampant infection in the person I love the most and my mobility.  And he stole my peace.  Rather, I allowed him to take it.

I think we tend to see control as peace.  When we know what is going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and how it’s going to happen, then ahhhh…. we’re okay.  At peace even.

But, God isn’t about what we can control.  No. No. No.

Sigh.

He’s about us serving and worshiping him.   And I know and have experienced that if we keep our focus on him, peace will come.  So, as I work to reclaim my peace – in a place of complete uncertainty in my business, life, direction – I am seeking Him.  The one who’s hand created the boundless stars and hung the moon at just the right spot.  He’s got my focus….

Now, if I can only keep it there.

 

(By the way, my husband is fully recovered and still has his leg!  Praise God!)

2018-04-30 16.53.16

This is us the day we came home from the hospital.  Celebrations all around!!!