Know thyself.. if you have time

Recently I was picking out a birthday present for my just-turned four year-old great-niece. It was a pretty easy task, and not just because she already has a deep attachment to bling, pretty dresses and Dora. (Thank God for Dora, the one non-princess in her life.)

No, it was easy because we just spent a week at the beach together. I saw her when she first got up and I saw her going off to bed and I saw her for most of the hours in-between. We played together and ate together and went to the movies together. Having watched her play, I knew she loved to color. So when I found the coloring books filled with pictures of Dora and various Disney princesses, I knew I had a winner.

I knew her because I spend time with her. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. It seems that I keep seeing people (including, at times, the one in the mirror) who feel like strangers to themselves (myself). It’s not hard to figure out why. They(we) haven’t spent much time with themselves (ourselves).

I can hear you sputtering in protest from here. You already have so much to do and now I’m going to make you feel guilty for not adding one more thing onto your plate. Well gosh, I hope not.

It’s not about adding one more thing onto our schedules, except those times when it is. Sometimes we have to say no to somethings in order to carve out a little time just to be with ourselves. More and more I find myself turning off the TV at night (or never turning it on) so that I can have some time. Just time to read a book that makes me think or to play with my dogs, which both reminds me of how much I’m loved and how much I need not to take myself too seriously.

But we can also clear out the time as we go about our day. Brother Lawrence found in the humble, repetitive act of washing dishes a time for prayer and devotion and growing in faith.  As I walk my dog I can spend the time rehashing (and beating myself up for) a mistake I made or I think I made. Or I can reflect on my life, where the itch of neglected dreams or unacknowledged pain is making me uncomfortable. I can look at what I didn’t handle so well and think about ways to do it better next time (which is completely different for beating myself over the head for being stupid, not that YOU’VE ever done that).

Even if our lives are challenging, when we are living in concert with our own best selves there is a flow that feels right and good. But first we have to take some time to be with those best selves. How are you intentional with your day? How do you find time to get to know yourself?

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Do you have your copy yet? Strugglers, Stragglers and Seekers: daily devotions for the rest of us is  in print. you can get your copy here and here. Local folks stay tuned for book signing announcements.

This is the cover.
This is the cover.

from amazon review…

“As an admitted straggler, my Bible has more than a layer of dust on it. Peggy’s book is more than enough of a reason to dust yours off (come on, I know I am not the only one, here, right?). In this work, she takes Bible passages and brings them to the present day complete with our modern struggles, humor, and hope. I only received this book 5 days ago and already I feel more connected to my faith. I am reminded that living with mindful intention is at the heart of moving from being a faithful person in word to becoming a faithful person in action.”

It’s Always Something

A friend commented today that she wasn’t getting my blog anymore. I had to come clean and admit that she wasn’t getting one because I hadn’t written anything in a few days. Well, almost a month if you’re going to be picky about it.

This is the cover.
This is the cover.

A large portion of my time was spent getting my latest book finished and ready to be launched last week. I’m glad to announce that the book is finished, printed and sent out into the world.

People have asked me how long it took to write. Here’s the thing: when you write a year’s worth of daily devotions you’re pretty much setting yourself up for writing about 366 devotions. (My former 6th grade teacher checked to make sure I’d remembered leap year provisions. I did.)

I started writing a lifetime ago; really, several lifetimes. Life kept interrupting me and throwing me off course. Accident and injury. Healing and physical therapy. Illness and death of people close to me. Sorting through a lifetime of memories in the form of a house and its contents. Caring for people who had cared for me.

My first year as an Associate Minister I kept waiting for the “slow time of the year.” About the time I celebrated my first anniversary there  I realized there was no such thing. With this book, I kept waiting for the “slow time,” the time when things would settle down. Still waiting.

Because, as Rosanne Rosannadanna reminded us, it’s always something. (Here’s a link in case you missed the comedy treasure that was Gilda Radner.) If you wait for the perfect time to write a book, to write a letter, to right a wrong you’ll never do it. Because there is no perfect time. There are only times that are marginally more manageable than others.

What are you waiting for? what are you waiting to do? Who are you waiting to be?

Now’s as good a time as any other to start.

The 12 Days of Christmas: Day Two: There’s no time! Handling the stress of too much to do and too little time

handling Christmas stressMost people I knew are somewhat busy. If you’re not retired, you’re working. If you’re retired, you’re working even more. Children and pets and homes and yards and bills that have to be paid and laundry that has to get done… well, you get the picture.

Then along comes the Christmas season, and on top of all of the everyday things you have to add shopping, cooking and baking, sending cards, decorating, parties, special events… well, you get the picture.

It’s no wonder that many people find themselves greeting Christmas morning with illness. There’s a lot of stress mixed in with those holiday greetings.

Here’s a few tips for dealing with the stress of too much to do and not enough time for doing.

1. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. You really cannot make a quilt in three days. You cannot make personalized ornaments for each child in both of your children’s classes at the same time that you have a major project due at work. You cannot perfectly replicate Martha Stewart’s Christmas decorations and menu. I know you like to think you’re the exception, but you’re not. Just let it go.

2. Do triage. If you’ve ever been to the Emergency Room, you’ve been seen by a triage nurse. Triage nurses decide who is most critical and must be seen first.

Do triage for your holiday commitments. For example, I love receiving and sending Christmas cards. What I really love is connecting and catching up with old friends. One year sending out cards didn’t make it to the top of the list, so I sent out a New Year’s letter instead. Have you always done something because you’ve loved it or because you’ve always done it?

I know a pastor who told his congregation that if he and his wife attended every Sunday School class Christmas party they would have no evenings at home with their own family. So they started a rotation system. Maybe you need one as well. One year you’ll go see “The Nutcracker” and the next year you’ll see “A Christmas Carol.”

3. Have a plan. Do you need to ship presents to out-of-town family members? Put the needed shipping date on your calendar. Then a week or two before that date add a note about buying the presents. Sit down and look at your calendar and figure out when you can decorate or cook ahead. Fill in the special events you want to attend. Look at the month as a whole.

4. Abandon your plan. Stuff happens. Roll with it. One of the greatest stresses people create for themselves is when they insist that things have to go a certain way and that everything is ruined if that doesn’t happen.

So you forgot to put the sweet potatoes out. You can have them later. So the cat knocked over the Christmas tree. You can put it back up. One year my brother and his wife were unable to make it for Christmas because of a snowstorm that grounded flights. We had a wonderful visit a week later when they were able to get to our house. Stuff happens, and most of the time it’s really not a tragedy.

5. Decide what’s important to you and honor that. It’s kind of a triage on a deeper level. If you do indeed believe that the real meaning of Christmas is to celebrate God’s gift to us, then make room for honoring that. Make room for your spirit. Many years I make it a ritual to find time each week to listen to Christmas music while sitting by my tree or by the fire. This year I’m going to the Candle Tea in Old Salem. In addition to coffee and sugercake (which is not small things in itself!), I know I’ll be able to sing Christmas carols by the old organ. And it will be a good thing for my spirit.

Next time: Day Three: Present-Day decisions

 

Organized?

Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.  – Winnie the Pooh

The maker of some new product contacted me, asking if I’d be willing to review said product in my blog. I wrote back to say that this is not that kind of a blog. It’s a blog for reflection and (hopefully) some inspiration and encouragement.

But I’m breaking that rule today.

One of the things that I see people struggle with is how to get organized. Many of us are leading at least two or three lives at once (work tasks, family tasks, church tasks, home tasks). How can we keep track of all that has to be done, much less do it? We waste a lot of time and generate a lot of frustration just trying to keep track of things.

I kept looking for some magic system. Every year around this time I started prowling the aisles of Office Depot thinking that this year I could find the perfect planner. I flirted with the Getting Things Done (R) system but found it too cumbersome. I really wanted something that was hosted on the web so that I could access it anywhere.

And then I found Todoist. Todoist is a flexible, easy task manager program. It works on Outlook, Mac and Chrome as well as having a mobile app. (I have not yet tried the mobile app.)

Here’s how it works. You create a project. Within that project you can add as many tasks as you need. You can add a due date by the calendar or by typing in things like “tomorrow” or “Wed.” You can also make it a recurring task. For example, I’m writing this today because my “blog task” is labeled “Every Wednesday.” You can easily rearrange the order of your tasks.

One of the nice things is the filter. I can bring up lists of tasks for today, tasks that are overdue or tasks for the next seven days. The basic service is free but with a $30 a year subscription, you can add labels. For example, my labels include things like “publishing,” “counseling,” and “marketing.” You can put as many labels on a task as you want. This way I can bring up a list of what needs to be done today – or I can see what’s on my list for marketing. I can add a task when I think about it – no matter how far into the future it is.

Todoist integrates with iCal and Google calendar. I can bring up iCal on my computer and immediately see not only the appointments I have for today but also the tasks that need to be done. Being a visual person, it really helps me having it all in one place. It was very easy for me to learn.

If you’ve been struggling with keeping track of things you have to do or if you’d just like to be a little more efficient, I highly recommend Todoist.