Joy Journey Day 5: Slow Down

James 1

19 wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.

“Sometimes we feel that the busier we are, the more important we are—as though our busyness defines our worth. We can spend a lifetime whirling about at a feverish pace, checking off list after list of things that in the end really don’t matter.
That we do a lot may not be so important. That we focus the energy of our minds, our hearts, and our souls on those things of eternal significance—that is essential.” – Joseph Wirthlin

This quote is exactly the reason we need to stop being so busy, slow down and be intentional about the way we spend our time and energy.  We live in a fast paced, instant gratification, constantly connected society.  This leads to distraction, competition, comparison, stress, and burnout.  These things can be a danger to us in all areas of our lives, mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical.

How do you know if you are running too fast and burning yourself out?  Here are some questions to ask yourself… Are you constantly late? Are you always losing things? Are you forgetting appointments?  Are you unable to remember how you got from point A to point B?  Are you repeatedly getting sick?  Do you have no time to eat?  Are you not getting enough sleep?  Are you always multi-tasking?  If one or more of these apply to you, you may want to consider slowing down.

Slowing down will not be easy and it will take intentional thought and planning.  Here are a few suggestions I found for slowing down…

*Disconnect: A huge part of our problem comes from being constantly connected to technology.  We don’t give ourselves time to ponder, process, or just to relax.  We even use technology to replace the human need for face to face connection with others.  Physically our bodies need rest. Mentally our brains need time to decompress. Emotionally we need face to face connection with other people.  Spiritually we need a space of silence to reconnect with ourselves and with our God.

* Simplify:  Decluttering our lives does wonders for our emotional and mental state.  Get rid of a few things that you don’t need and spend some time organizing your space.  This will allow you to slow down and think more clearly.  We also need to simplify our task lists.  We need to DO LESS!  If we take some time to sort through the things we have on our to do lists and sift out the unnecessary busy work we assign ourselves, we will feel more peace and joy.  We really need to determine what things are necessary and what things we feel obligated to do.  There is a difference.

*Be Present:  This is another area where we really need to put our phones away and connect with ourselves, life, and others.  We need to be present in body.  We can even find joy in the tasks that we normally resent if we can be present when we do them, appreciate the fact that our bodies work so well, appreciate that the reason we have to clean is because we have been so blessed with food to eat and clothes to wear and a roof over our heads.  We can appreciate the sensation of warm water when we do dishes, or the sound of dirt being sucked up into the vacuum cleaner.  We can appreciate the shine of a clean window or mirror and the scent of clean clothes.  Are we really appreciating our miraculous bodies or the gift of our senses that God gave us? Sometimes when I am with another person I notice that my body is there but not my mind.  Why do I allow this stupid little rectangle I carry around to distract me from fully enjoying the company of another human being.  There are so many lonely people in the world.  I am starting to notice that sometimes because of my distraction, I am the cause of my own loneliness.

*Appreciate Nature:  God has given us the most beautiful planet.  He could have sent us to a perfectly smooth glass ball to live our lives and be tested in this sphere.  But He didn’t.  He gave us mountains, trees, sunsets, butterflies, flowers, birds, oceans, rivers and so many different animals to admire and appreciate.  How often do we take the time to appreciate what He has given us, to put down the phone, turn the TV off and really use our senses to connect with the beauty around us?

*Breathe: I did not realize how pivotal this action, perhaps most taken for granted, is to our health.  Well, obviously I know we need to breathe to live.  But I didn’t understand what things we allow to get in the way of breathing properly.  Our brain needs 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe and gets it from 20 percent of the blood that flows through us.  So when we are stressed, or have over eaten, or aren’t getting enough exercise or sleep and we are not breathing deeply enough, our brains are not getting the oxygen they need to do their best work.  Is it any wonder that I feel like I’m not thinking clearly or functioning well?

*Eat Slower: This is another thing that came as a surprise for me.  We eat a lot of garbage and we eat it fast.  Did you know it takes your brain 20 minutes to register that you are full?  So when we are shoveling our food in as quick as we can we tend to overeat because our brain can’t compute fast enough to tell us we have overdone it.  Maybe try putting your fork down between bites.  Enjoy what’s in your mouth, the flavor, the texture, the seasoning. Then after you have swallowed pick up your fork to add another bite.  If we eat slower we will even breathe better!

*Drive Slower:  We are all in a hurry and because of this our roadways are one of the biggest dangers in our daily lives.  Slow down!  When you are not in a hurry you are more aware of what is happening around you. You are less annoyed when you aren’t in a rush to get somewhere. A drive can actually be an enjoyable time, disconnected.  It can be a time to connect with good music, visit with other human beings in your car, or a time of pondering and prayer.  I love to turn my radio off when I drive and talk to my God.  I have had some of the best prayers, most profound answers, and amazing ideas come to me while I drive without any background noise.

*Stop Multi-tasking: We think that we are getting many things done faster, but really we are just not doing any of them well.  If we choose to focus on one thing at a time and give it our best effort I think we will find that we actually work more quickly with better results.  Try it.

*Intentional Social Media: I am not at all implying that we should never be connected.  There are some amazing tools on that same little rectangle that can be a distraction!  When used with purpose it is a very good servant.  But when we are careless it tends to be a heavy task master.  I suggest planning out your social media time.  What are you getting on to do?  How long do you plan to spend?  If you do searches rather than just scrolling you will probably feel energized when you get off rather than like you are coming out of the Narnia wardrobe.  Join groups and follow pages that make you feel uplifted and inspired.  Use the tools to select which friends you want to see first.  Then Facebook will be a light to your day rather than a drain on it.  Share positive thoughts yourself so that you are adding to the positivity that can be found there.

*Create a Daily Space of Silence: One of the best ways to slow down is to disconnect to the world and connect to your Divine source of power.  Take some time to decompress as you read the word of God, listen to some uplifting Christian music, and talk to the One who knows every detail of your life and wants to help you, but will never impose.  Then give Him a little silence to give you some feedback.  It is amazing to me how much He wants to help with every aspect of our lives if we will just give Him a little space to do that.  But we really do need to turn a few things down and a few things off so that we can tune in to hear that still small voice.

If we want to add more joy to our lives, slowing down is a very good place to start.  When we slow down we are rewarded with clarity of vision and renewal of focus.  We allow our brains to rest and recharge which in turn allows us to be more creative and better tuned into recognize new ideas and inspiration.  Slowing down allows us to disconnect from the world and our busyness and reconnect with the things and people that matter most. It allows us to be better able to organize our time and sift out the things that really aren’t necessary.  When we slow down we will be more intentional in our actions and choose things that fill us with increased gratitude and joy.

Song: Slow Down by Danny Gokey

Face to face with the author:

Gratitude Challenge Day 4: Be Present

One of the things that impedes joy the most in our current society is our choice to not be present. There are many things that we allow to distract us from our life, from learning, growing and progressing. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of distractions in my own life is my cell phone. It has many good uses. It allows me to research interesting facts or facilitate my scripture study. It helps me stay connected with friends and family. It give me tools through social media to maintain relationships that would otherwise be lost with distance. It gives me a platform to share my witness of Christ and to spread light. But when I am not intentional in how I use it, it can easily become an escape from life. I can spend hours scrolling on Facebook, pinning on Pinterest, or get completely sucked into a game. I can get caught up in feeling sorry for myself as I compare my life to the pictures of what my friends are experiencing in their lives. I can even become frustrated and discouraged with myself as I begin to believe I am not doing as well as some of them are in my role as a wife or mother. In essence comparing my “behind the scenes to their highlight reels”, as Pastor Steve Furtick wisely put it. All of these things distract me from living the kind of life I know God wants me to live. He wants me to love my life and find joy and gratitude in it. He wants me to be focused on growing closer to Him and learning how to live more like His son. He wants my time to be spent serving others and spreading His light and love to the world. And to do that best, I need to be present. I need to be aware of my time and how I am spending it. How often have I allowed opportunities of truly connecting with another person through conversation or participation in an activity because I was distracted by my phone? These lost experiences haunt me at times. It is something I need to do much better!

Another way that we get distracted from being present that is worth mentioning is when we choose to live either in the future or in the past. Some people spend so much time working and building the future they wish to have that they do so at the sacrifice of the present. They lose the moments that are happening now because they are so focused on what they hope is coming. Far more of us, I’m afraid, miss out on the present because we are too focused on what we have left behind. In a class I was taking a few years ago a woman who had lost her husband suddenly and had grieved deeply mentioned that she had to learn to stop coveting her old life. I found that profound! How often, especially in hard times, do we spend our days thinking about and wishing we had back the happiness and contentment we remember from a past time in our lives. I know I have spent good chunks of time in my life living in a fantasy that no longer exists, so caught up in this memory that I am not engaged in my present life, focused on improvement and gratitude of my current blessings. This can cause us to sacrifice current opportunities, desires, and even relationships. I know this in not what our Father wants for us. Of course He wants us to plan for the future and He wants us to learn from our past, but He wants us to live in our present. He wants us to enjoy the life we have, appreciate the blessings that are currently ours, focus on serving and loving the people around us, and He wants us to work on discovering and pursuing our own special purpose on earth. This is where our time is best spent, living, truly living in the present!

Romans 12:

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Song: Love Like Jesus by Rhett Walker Band

Today’s Challenge:

Challenge Video by Oléa:

Gratitude Challenge Day 1: Intentional Appreciation

Thank you so much for joining me for our Gratitude Challenge. I’m so excited about this week! I am looking forward to sharing some things I have learned with you as well as feeling the lift that I know comes from focusing on gratitude. (Please forgive any typos I may have in these memes I created. My brain is pretty tired this morning.)

(See challenge at end of post.)

Today I want to focus on Intentional Appreciation. Our brains are such amazing things! They really do find what we are looking for, whether that is positive or negative. And if we don’t like the way we have been feeling or habits we have created our brains are capable of being retrained. We can literally change the neuropathways of our brains. These little pathways are like ruts that have been created through a field as we walk the same path over an over again. When we intentionally focus on new things, better things, we create a new pathway and eventually the old pathway will grow over and the new more positive thoughts will be as natural as the old negative ones were. So I challenge you today to be mindful of when you are thinking negatively and stop yourself in your tracks and think about something you are grateful for. Notice even the small blessings in your life, the things you typically take for granted. See if you can go the whole day without allowing a negative thought to last longer than a couple seconds before you recognize it and squash it.

Our Savior loves us so much and truly desires for us to be happy and to appreciate the many things He has blessed with. Many times in the scriptures Christ tells us to be of good cheer. I know that He desires our happiness. Not only is it something He wants for us, but we also best show our love for Him as we show gratitude for all that we have been blessed with. Neuropathways

Colossians 4:

2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving

Song: Gratitude by Elevation Worship

Today’s challenge:

Day 1 Challenge Video by Oléa:

Casting My Net One More Time

Casting Net

I want to share with you what I have learned about casting your net when it is so empty and you are so tired.

As I have been studying in the Gospels this year I have been amazed at how many applications I can make from the lives of the apostles to my own. This last week I was thinking about how chaotic my life has been over the last year. So many changes and so quickly, like a whirlwind. Many of them have left me feeling unstable and reeling! And yet, amidst them all I have felt the peace of my Savior. This has come in surprising ways.

It seems like when I am going through the craziest most difficult times God will ask me to do just one more thing… for Him. Like the apostle Peter, He will ask me to cast my empty net into the water one more time. In my own very human mind I will say to Him, But can’t you see that I’m in the middle of a mess right now? I am so tired and worn out. My net is so empty and I don’t know if I have the energy to cast it one more time.

But because I want to be faithful, I do it anyway. I do the one more thing… for Him. And somehow, by some miracle, this one more thing ends up being the thing that saves me, the thing that actually fills my net. This thing I did for Him, ends up being the thing that draws me closer to Him and gives me added strength and energy and renewal. This thing I did for Him ends up being such a blessing from Him to me. I am so grateful that He knows how to fill my emptiness and pushes me to do just one more thing.

Get Anchored

This morning as I was preparing to create my first podcast *eek* on overcoming the loss of hope, I had a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head. One of my thoughts came as I acknowledged a particularly bad day yesterday. I believe our fight for hope is often fought on an almost daily basis. Even when everything else in life seems to be going fairly smoothly, we can have a day that just knocks the wind out of us. We feel inadequate, useless, and just plain lousy! I have come to recognize these feelings as an absence of hope. I believe the solution to overcoming these feelings comes down to acknowledging them for what they are. Then, when we have given ourselves adequate, but not excessive, time to experience them, we know what to do to start conquering them.

At that point we do those things that help us personally anchor in Christ. For me, that looks like getting down on my knees and crying to my God a little, or a lot depending on the need. Then asking Him to free me from those feelings, to give me the confidence in Him to know that eventually everything is going to be okay. Then I have to get up off my knees and act like I’m ready to be done with the gloom and doom feelings. I immerse myself in His word for a little feast to fill my emptiness. Then I turn on some good upbeat Christian music, because a little private karaoke session is always good for my soul. Finally, I stop isolating myself (I can’t be the only one who prefers to be miserable alone) and I call a friend. If there is no friend available at the time, writing is a close second for me. Somehow when I process those feelings I’ve been having it releases me from their grasp. When I feel securely anchored, I can feel those peaceful feelings of hope returning and I know that Christ and my relationship with Him are a prize worth fighting for!

Hebrews 6:

13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Song: Prize Worth Fight For by Jamie Kimmett

Inky Johnson’s loss was much greater than a day’s dark feelings. But I love how other people’s stories of overcoming loss can really help me put my own discouragement in perspective.

What can you do today to anchor more securely in Christ?

Look Up!

About a month ago my life imploded! A little dramatic maybe, but that’s how it felt. Things were going smoothly and relatively peacefully. It seems that God allows us to have those moments before it’s time for another growth spurt.

About a year ago we decided to put our house on the market. Three months later we had fixed anything that needed fixing, listed it, sold it and signed a one year lease on a rental house. Four months later my husband got a job in Tremonton (the area we were initially wanting to move to).  He was given a company car for the commute and a year to relocate to that vicinity. All of the sudden, about a month ago I started feeling a real urgency to look for our next move.  To be honest, I wanted to just bury my head in the sand and wait until the end of our lease to start looking. I did follow the prompting though and after some time looking, a lot of stressful feelings, and a little discouragement at not finding the place that felt right, the perfect option appeared out of nowhere!  We found a builder willing to carry the loan on a newly built house and we put an offer in on the lot.  This decision is extremely exciting and equally as stressful.  There is a lot of second guessing yourself and hoping you are making the right decision. There is also a lot of waiting on other people and hoping they are doing their jobs efficiently without anyway to verify.

About this same time I was struggling to make some weighty decisions with my business. I have been selling in some consignment stores for about 5 years now.  It has been hard to watch the “mom and pop” stores decline in business as internet sales have increased.  This was really effecting my sales (both declining at my booths and increasing online).  It felt like the right time to pull out of the stores, but at the same time even though they were not consistently producing, they were kind of my safety net as some months they did do well. It took a lot of faith to send my 30 day notices to these stores and hope that investing the same money in online marketing would produce needed results.  I have spent the last month going back and forth on this decision and feeling very torn.

Finally, about a month ago I was feeling a need to start pursuing my dream of publishing a book I had started and then put on the backburner. I brushed this feeling off and then was contacted three days later by a woman who was offering a course in writing, speaking, and creating a media presence.  I have wanted to do each of these things and my business has partially nudged me into these fields, but of course fear and excuses have held be back from really pursuing them.  This invitation resonated right to my core and after some intense consideration and prayer, I decided to invest in my dream.  Along with the investment of money came a very real investment of time… time for video conferences, assignments, collaborations and a whole lot of pondering!

With all these decisions and thoughts and worries heaped on my shoulders I have found myself walking around with my head drooping and wondering how I am going to do everything that is required of me.  How will I handle the waiting?  How will I make the right decisions?  How will I manage my time well enough to balance my load?  Even though these opportunities are so exciting, they also feel so big and overwhelming!  I was sitting in a church meeting when I heard a phrase that really hit home.  “It is better to look up.”

I don’t think it was until that moment that I realized I had been looking down and worrying about how I would handle everything on my plate.  I had forgotten that I am NEVER alone, I never have to handle everything by myself.  Of course!  When we partner with God, when we allow Him to help carry our load, and validate our decisions, and direct our path the way does not seem so scary or so hard.  And even though I had consulted Him at each of these crossroads, it is easy to slip back into that aloneness of independence on a daily basis.  It must be a daily decision, this looking up, sometimes an hourly one.  There will still be times of concern and doubt, but when these come we can use them as a sort of alarm, if you will, to remind us to conscientiously and intentionally look up!

Isaiah 40

26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.

Psalm 123

1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Song:

I Will Look Up

Talk:

It is Better to Look Up

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/it-is-better-to-look-up?lang=eng

Day 5: Accepting Service

John 13:

4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.

My thoughts on this topic really dovetail into our topic of service from yesterday. There have been situations in my life where I have needed others and would not have gotten through those trials without allowing others to serve me. It is not easy. In fact, I think it’s actually much harder to accept service than to serve. In this example from the life of our Savior, how eager and willing was Peter to serve the Savior always, but when the Savior tried to do this act of service for him it took Peter back and he struggled to allow it.

I believe it is hard for us to accept service because it requires a certain amount of vulnerability to admit we need someone else’s help. It makes us feel weak. And our human nature tends to be that when we look at others we compare their successes to our failures. We don’t recognize that we all struggle with similar things. Life would be so much easier if we leaned a little more on each other.

Over the last year I have felt a heavenly challenge to be more open with others about the things I am struggling with and to be quicker to ask for help rather than trying to bear all my perceived responsibilities myself. It has been eye opening to realize how difficult this is for me and how far from my natural way of doing things. I love this quote from Spencer W. Kimball: “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom.” I have always loved that quote and it has always encouraged me to look for ways to help others. However, when it popped into my head this morning the thought that came with it was this… How often do we tie God’s hands when we are asking for our burdens to be lifted and our trials to be lightened, but don’t allow anyone else to know that we are struggling and need help?

Song:

When Life Gets Broken

The Servant Song

Talk/Article:

Our Call to Serve and Be Served

https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/2018/03/our-call-to-serve-and-be-served?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

How can you be vulnerable enough to accept service from someone in your life?