Allowing others to hold the rope provides blessing both ways

7-year-old Belle Mitchell

7-year-old Belle Mitchell

“Belle will be featured in my prayers this day — for her, for each one who has a part in caring for her and Aunt Jen Jen, may the Lord wrap you in His loving comfort and enduring courage.”

Prayers like this have been coming my way continually through email, handwritten notes, Facebook messages and texts. Friends from around the world are following the cancer journey of my 7-year-old niece Belle (www.caringbridge.org/visit/bellemitchell). They have been such a great support to all of us, especially during the intense moments like now. As I write this column, Belle is having a difficult recovery from her fourth brain surgery.

Each day brings new challenges but also new levels of support.

Many who are praying have never even met Belle, yet they tirelessly secure the rope for us to hold on to during this time.

Along with prayer support, many are doing practical things like helping with Belle’s other siblings, mowing the family’s grass, bringing meals and even sending meals from hundreds of miles away (ordering pizza and having it delivered … a great idea I’m going to remember to use myself).

Showing grace

And so many are helping me personally by taking on extra work assignments, assisting me with my personal responsibilities and showing lots of grace for the commitments I’ve put on hold at the moment.

Some friends are too far away to help clean the house or do laundry, but they sincerely want to help.

“I’m not just saying it. I mean it. Tell me something I can do,” one friend said. Another, “I mean it. We are here to serve.”

And while I know what it is like to be on the other side sincerely wanting to help, it is still hard for us as a family to allow people to do too much. We are always appreciative and even shocked at the care shown by so many, but we start feeling as if we have used up our compassion quota and worry those around us are experiencing compassion fatigue.

Still we are learning to accept the offers more widely and depend on others during the tough moments.

The small things

It is amazing how much someone showing up at the front door with a bag of paper products or a gallon of milk can make a difference. Then there’s the Thinking of You card that shows up with a few $1 bills in it to help with vending machine and parking deck fees at the hospital. (For more ideas on how to help a family in crisis, see Arkansas Christian Parent magazine Fall/Winter 2013, pages 10 and 11.)

Observing the various options for assisting a family in crisis and plugging into those areas seamlessly and quietly seem to make the greatest impact, I’ve noticed.

Even inexpensive gestures that save the family time or make a routine responsibility more convenient means so much.

Above all though, consistent prayer support undergirds the family. It helps even more when specific prayer needs are known. The best way to keep up with these needs is to follow the patient’s preferred communication plan (CaringBridge, Caring Pages, Facebook, a blog, a family spokesperson, etc.). Another ministry to a family in crisis is to protect the immediate family members’ time and energy and work through extended family, close friends or church connections to stay updated and know how to help.

We have a hard time letting others serve us. We are used to being the ones serving, but what a tremendous blessing it is — in both directions — to allow people to minister to us. It is truly a picture of God’s people at their best.

— Jennifer Davis Rash

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Blitzing my way to freedom

With my birthday being the same day as this week’s publication date of The Alabama Baptist, it seems more than fair that I should be featured on the front page, right?

I agree, but I was unsuccessful in convincing others on staff. Oh well, at least my column was scheduled to run in this issue, so I could still sneak in a shameless plug.

And I know you are all thinking I must be getting close to 30 by now, but I will have to admit this is year 43.

Birthdays always send me into reflection mode and make me think about what was accomplished over the past year and what wasn’t. You might even remember that turning 40 in 2011 launched my journey to find balance in life — spiritual, physical, emotional, etc.

Two steps forward, one step back

The journey has been a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of experience, but I continue to make progress. My most recent single-tasking focus is actually helping quite a bit.

In fact, the overwhelming stack of undone projects is nearing a manageable level. It may take the rest of this year to achieve that level, but I’m encouraged by the ability to see the goal line for the first time.

One way I’m finding success is by using the blitzing method. My friend and mentor Terry Newberry taught me about blitzing in his book “The Boss” (www.terrynewberry.com/the-boss.html).

Bring on the dreaded

“Blitzing the most difficult or dreaded job first provides a huge sense of accomplishment and momentum,” Newberry writes. And he is right.

Once the ball gets rolling, new energy appears to tackle another project and another and another.

I’ve been working on this at home and the office. We even had a Project Blitz Week recently at The Alabama Baptist (see the May 29 issue, page 1).

It was fun to watch the weight lift from everyone’s shoulders and the energy level escalate throughout the staff.

And with new energy comes clarity and focus if we let it.

I gained a new appreciation for seeing clearly after having an allergic reaction in early May that landed me in the emergency room for five hours. My eyeballs swelled quite large and then my eyelids swelled shut — yes you may laugh at the image I’m sure you have of me right now.

Making room to hear

I could not see anyone around me, but I heard the gasps and “oh mys” clearly as I made my way through the ER waiting room. It was hard for me to be so dependent on others and not be able to see. It was an odd feeling knowing so many people could see exactly what was happening to me while I relied solely on the reports of those with me.

And while I couldn’t see at all for a while and then couldn’t see clearly for several days, I realized how much more carefully I listened when I wasn’t able to use my eyes to their fullest ability.

So many things compete for my attention and I’m constantly looking here and there and everywhere to take care of this task and that project and whatever else shows up unexpectedly. But with all the attention to daily life details, it’s sometimes hard to hear God’s still, soft voice.

Can I hear what He is saying?

What is He saying to me today? Am I truly listening to Him? Did I run right over what He was impressing on my heart because I was focused on everything else around me?

And if I’m truly honest, is it possible that I am actually more comfortable staying too busy and being too distracted to really hear Him because I’m not sure I’m ready for what He has to say?

It’s exciting when you know you’ve heard from the Lord, but it also can be pretty scary. Will I be able to follow through with what He is asking?

— Jennifer Davis Rash

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$5 kickoff

A five-minute restroom break during our Spring Break road trip resulted in the $5 kickoff to my 2014 effort to raise support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in honor of my 6-year-old niece Belle.

generous, St. Jude, marathon

The $5 bill the man from Illinois gave Aunt Jen Jen to kick off her 2014 fundraising effort for St. Jude in honor of Belle.

It is my fourth year to participate in the St. Jude Memphis half-marathon, and I had not even signed up yet when I ran into the man from Illinois. He didn’t know me nor did he spend more than two minutes with me, but he sized up my St. Jude T-shirt, asked about my connection and pulled out his wallet.

I knew then that my efforts had begun, and now I’m seeking 499 more $5 contributions. Please consider supporting me in my run in honor of Belle. Whether you can give one $5 donation or more, each dollar helps with research for childhood cancer and helps families not to have to worry about finding the resources to pay for treatment.

Click here for more details and to donate … and please continue to pray for Belle in her fight against cancer.

Aunt Jen Jen

 

 

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Redeeming the time

It has been almost a month since I declared war on multitasking, and so far, so good.

I have slipped back into the old habit a few times, but I recognized it quickly and pulled myself back out.

The effort it takes for me not to live there means I am learning to carefully think through requests before agreeing to them. I must understand the commitment I am making and determine whether I can truly take it on.

I don’t like to disappoint people, and it seems that is exactly what I’m doing right now as I set boundaries, but I also know myself in that when I commit to something, I give it everything I have.

Of course, that’s also the problem if I’m overcommitted. The intention is always to give 100 percent to the effort, but with too many slices of the pie doled out, the intention doesn’t always result in as successful of an ending as I intended.

So it’s not necessarily an easy transition I’m making, but I’m encouraged by the richness and depth of the new world I am experiencing.

I’ve also been a part of several conversations related to the March 27 Rashional Thoughts column “Move over multitasking; singletasking finally wins out.” It seems I am not alone in this battle. Everyone I talked with related to the examples in some way and shared some of what they are facing.

We all expressed a desire to make sure we make the most out of each day.

So as I continue to learn to singletask, I’m strategically working to ensure I am consistently redeeming the time, even when that means making time for proper rest or recreation in which I’m completely there in mind as well as body.

A new friend of mine depicted a good example of redeeming the time recently when a group of Baptist communicators were embarking on a day trip. When he learned the trip was four hours round trip, he hurried back to his room to grab a graduate studies book.

I teased him about how awful it would be to spend the time getting to know his new friends and that he should definitely get the book, but in reality, he was wise. He could still take some time to socialize and then spend the rest of the time studying. It was a smart way to redeem the time.

Another idea is to keep information needing read or reviewed with you for times you are waiting or flying.

If you are responsible for taking minutes during a meeting, then schedule an appointment with yourself right after the meeting to prepare and finalize the minutes rather than waiting until later to do them. You will be able to knock them out in half the time because they are fresh and you won’t have the pressure of writing them hanging over your head.

Take 10 minutes to think through all the errands you need to run this week and group them according to similar sides of town or in order of how they fall on your route.

Fold laundry while watching TV. Do leg lifts or stretches while talking on the phone (if it is a casual conversation, probably better to stay totally focused if it is a professional conversation).

What about doing something else besides strictly driving and focusing on the vehicles around you on road trips? Obviously talking on the phone, texting and plugging in coordinates on the GPS shouldn’t be done while driving. But is listening to a sermon podcast or the Bible on CD redeeming the time or multitasking?

In a brief Internet research on the topic I found differing views. Some say driving is one of those tasks that requires our full attention. Others say it would be similar to folding laundry while watching TV. The verdict is still out for me. What do you think?

And what are other ideas of redeeming the time? Comment below or email them to me at jrash@thealabamabaptist.org.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Move over multitasking; singletasking finally wins out

My sweet friend was more gracious than I deserved. She shrugged it off and said not to worry about it.

I had basically insulted her in a group message on Facebook; how could I not worry about it? It wasn’t intentional and I certainly didn’t mean it. I was trying to do too many things at the same time, and thus a reply to a message came out wrong.

The same thing happened during an in-person meeting recently. I was attempting to deal with a major organizational situation while rushing through the lunch meeting and making needed announcements. My friend and co-worker asked a simple question and the phrasing of my answer came out all wrong. It wasn’t what I meant at all, and my dear friend assured me she knew what I had intended to say. But I was mortified that my words could have been extremely hurtful.

And there was the time I misread an email, leading me in the wrong direction with an assignment. It cost myself and others many hours of unnecessary work all because I didn’t read the information carefully.

Again a mistake that happened while multitasking — doing the thing that I have taken such pride in since I was a teenager. I’ve always been able to handle multiple tasks at the same time, juggling lots of activities and making consistent progress on all of them.

In high school, I cleaned my room while talking on the phone. In college, I studied while watching friends play baseball. While on the missions field, I had friends help me with work projects so we could have “hang out” time without me having to lose momentum on the projects. And when a guy asked me out on a date, sometimes I would invite everyone else along who had mentioned doing something fun that particular week. That way I could spend time with everyone but do it all at the same time (true story that my husband of nearly 17 years loves to tell on me — it happened on our first date).

Today I can answer email on my computer while talking to someone on my landline and texting someone else on my cellphone. That’s right, I can carry on three conversations at the same time. Of course, you see where it has gotten me a few times!

I have been pretty creative with multitasking through the years, but I’m not sure that has always been a good thing. A recent conversation with my family ended with them all agreeing that I am not always fully present while sitting in front of them. They mentioned how I check my phone constantly for emails and texts. I may attend my nephews’ birthday parties and basketball games, but am I putting my full attention on them and the day’s activities or am I distracted by other things I’m working on at the same time?

My sister-in-law, Amanda, mentioned a new trend she likes where a group of friends or family members meeting for dinner all put their phones in the middle of the table when they arrive at the restaurant. The deal is that no one is to touch their phone during the outing. The first person to give in and check his or her phone has to pay for everyone’s dinner.

Accountability and consequences for breaking the rule — I like it. It is probably something I need.

Visualize an entertainer on stage spinning plates on top of poles attempting to keep them balanced. He adds another, then another, then another. He always seems to stop adding plates at some point recognizing his limit. We all clap in affirmation. Impressive indeed.

But when I think about it in more detail, I realize the fact that he knows his limits is what allows him to keep the plates spinning. I don’t always know my limits and end up adding one plate too many. You can probably hear the plates shattering now.

I also realized that even though the entertainer manages to keep the plates spinning, he can never take his eyes off the plates nor stop tending to them. If he turns his attention anywhere else … crash.

Instead of attempting to spin all the plates at once, it is better to take one plate out at a time, do whatever needs to be done, put it back in a safe place and pull out another plate and continue on in this pattern. Yes I know. All the males out there are rolling their eyes and thinking, “Well, duh! We’ve always known this. What took you so long to figure it out?”

And I guess in general men do have more of a handle on this than many women.

But at the same time I’m not describing being one-track minded to the point where you have to complete the entire project in front of you before you can even begin to think of another project or assignment. There does have to be an ability to ebb and flow between projects, assignments, relationships, work, home, church, etc.

Instead of multitasking — where we work on several tasks at the same time — we should manage our tasks — where we organize our tasks, prioritize them appropriately and focus on the one at hand at the moment — while also making the best use of all of our time.

My editor, Bob Terry, describes it as redeeming the time. If we are organized and prepare appropriately, then we are always ready to work on what’s next and avoid wasting any segments of time.

I may always face the temptation to return to multitasking when life gets overwhelming, but the newfound freedom I’ve found in not multitasking is certainly addictive.

Because I can actually look away from the spinning plates now, I can see the big picture much more clearly (Matt. 22:37–40). The clarity forces me to think carefully before I agree to take on a new project (Col. 3:23). I can better judge the time I have and actually see the boundaries.

And think about the change a newfound ability to focus will have on my spiritual disciplines (Ps. 46:10). God is teaching me so much. I’m excited to discover what’s next.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Obsessed with efficiency, finished with multitasking and striving to always redeem the time

That’s basically it in a nutshell — that’s me. And I need your help to figure it out.

Stressed, clock, time, too much to do

Too much to do, not enough hours

How would you advise me in my attempt to trade multitasking for singletasking (read about it here)?

What are some tips for being efficient in our everyday lives as well as when we are supposed to be resting, relaxing and/or unplugging from the routine?

—Jennifer Davis Rash

 

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Preparing to be prepared

being preparedWhen his truck’s gas tank nears half full, my father-in-law can’t rest until he finds a gas station to fill the tank again. He likes a full tank of gas.

I’ll admit I’ve teased him about this obsession for years — even as I’ve prayed myself to a gas station many times while driving on fumes.

He likes to be prepared and knows what it is like to be on alert for a mandatory hurricane evacuation out of South Florida. A full tank of gas can change everything for the better in the midst of trying to flee north on I-95 with thousands of other cars.

I’m guessing that most Alabamians and north Georgia residents have a different perspective about a full tank of gas and other emergency supplies since the Jan. 28 weather catastrophe. I know I do.

It seems that everywhere I go, someone is talking about how he or she has put together an emergency kit for the car, is now leaving extra toiletries and clothes at the office or has worked out a new work-from-home plan when bad weather is predicted.

It is smart to learn from difficult experiences and develop plans for similar issues that might happen in the future. We now have firsthand experience of what is needed to be prepared, at least to some degree, and we certainly should not be taken off guard again.

But I wonder how long the memory will last and how prepared we will stay.

Staying up-to-date

Will our emergency kits be up-to-date a year from now? How about two years from now, especially if we don’t have to use the kits in the next two years?

Think about your first-aid kit or other emergency kit you once put together. Do you know where it is? Have you replenished its supplies lately? Are there fresh batteries in it? Will the kit work if there is a true emergency?

And while this year’s extreme level of winter weather for Alabama has given us plenty of time to think about being prepared, we also can plan to freshen up our kits annually around this time.

After all, February is now Disaster Preparedness Month for Alabama Baptists. It not only is a great time to review our personal emergency plans, but it also is a good time for churches to host activities for church members and the community related to the theme.

Disaster Relief funds

Church leaders might also use the annual observance as a time to review their disaster plans and appoint a few members of the congregation to serve as point people for any disaster-related situation that might occur.

Two good websites about this topic are www.sbdr.org and ready.gov.

Be sure to check out the annual Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) offering resources at the sbdr.org site as well.

A $1 offering from every Alabama Baptist church member once a year would allow DR officials to maintain and upgrade necessary equipment in an ongoing fashion and allow them to respond immediately to a disaster rather than having to wait for funds to come in after a situation arises.

It also is a good time to consider signing up as a disaster relief volunteer. There are several ways you can serve, and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions provides training opportunities throughout the state. The sbdr.org website is the best place to start. You also can call 1-800-264-1225 and ask for Mel Johnson. Be sure to tell him I suggested you call. I need all the brownie points I can get!

No matter what is right for you, your family and your church, at least think through a few aspects of being prepared for the “what ifs.” It will relieve a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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