Implementing a few basic systems saves time, energy

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Cracking open a crisp new calendar with 12 months worth of life yet to discover is always one of my favorite moments of the new year.

Smartphones and digital calendaring options don’t provide the same satisfaction as pen in hand filling in schedules, appointments and plans.

While I do use a hybrid organizational system between the two worlds of digital and paper, it is still the hardcopy calendar and my endless lists that clear space in my mind to be able to think, dream and rest.

Decluttering

I’ve lost count of the number of years my goals going into a new year included simplifying life, creating more margin and decluttering at home and work.

But this year I’ve decided to surround myself with a team of friends and co-workers who have similar goals. We are working together to manage the chaos.

At the office and at home we are determining bite-size steps to declutter one drawer, one closet and one room at a time.

Streamlining routines

We also are streamlining systems in a way to avoid recreating daily, weekly and monthly routines multiple times. 

By slowing down one time to think through exactly what needs to be done on what schedule and then creating a checklist and/or routine with a timeline, there’s no more wasted energy.

Think of it like creating routine schedules and actions similar to brushing your teeth, getting ready for bed, etc. We do these things without thinking, without having to make new decisions.

One of the hardest areas to tame is always the pull and demands from others on our time. No matter how organized we may be, we can’t control every life moment.

We can continue working to create enough margin, however, so when those moments surprise us and we want to be available to help others or need to adapt to an unexpected situation we actually have room to adjust.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Wisdom of an Innkeeper

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Artwork by Vicki Love (used with permission)

The First Christmas (another perspective)

The weary couple at the close of day
hoped this crowded Inn was their place to stay.
Compelled by the expectant couple’s plight,
the innkeeper found them a room that night.

He ushered them into his hectic hall
When he heard God’s voice so still and small,
“Don’t birth my son in the ruckus place
Of noise and drink and want disgrace.
Is this a place to begin a life
that will change the world of dark to light?”

So the keeper of the inn did say,
“There is no room for you to stay.”
He turned the worn out couple away.

Then stepping outside his lodging place,
He whispered to the groom in haste
“There is a place where you can stay —
out back in my livestock stable hay.
Though not as warm as sleeping here,
it is distant from this dwelling of leer.”

“This is no place to birth a king
whose life will make the angels sing
Of love and joy and grace to all —
Don’t start His life in this reckless mall.”

Stark words he spoke, were not his own.
Where had his compassion gone?
This kind innkeeper had been used
to protect God’s son by his refuse.

The groom in livid anger said,
“I’ll take my bride to this unkempt bed
to birth a child alone this day.
But you, dear sir, will be known for all days
as he who turned the King away.

In great dismay by what he heard
The innkeeper left without word.

That night a savior child was born
in the silence of a manger lorn
With sheep and mules and cattle there
to gaze upon the baby fair

The groom looked at his bride and child
in this quiet place of peace and mild.
He understood the inn keeper’s will.
That put them in a place so still
so they could hear the angels’ thrill
and see the star above the hill.

If they were in the noisy inn
the angels’ song could have never been
heard above the party crowd,
the star obscured by a smoky cloud.

Now they both knew the reason why
the innkeeper had passed them by
This tiny king in their arms this night
Will never be found in the noise and blight
And bustle of a world that reeks
of a self excess — where egos peak.

Instead He is found in a silent night
Where angels sing and stars are bright.

As you seek your Christmas this year
Look not in the hustle and bustle so near.
Consider the innkeeper’s faithful ear

To God’s whispered voice,
which always speaks,
but seldom shouts or competes
with all the glitter, glitz and haste.
Find this Christmas in a common place.

By Michael Alan Tate, Leadership & Life Journal (originally published in 2004, reprinted 2018, used with permission)

Honoring veterans by living lives worthy of the sacrifice

The retired serviceman’s sincere, straightforward approach to his time in the military intrigued me. And the more I thought on his words, the more I realized the depth and intensity of what he was saying.

“When I’ve been in uniform throughout my career, random people have walked up to thank me for my service or buy my lunch,” he said. “There also have been times when applause broke out as I walked through a restaurant or an airport.

“While I appreciate their appreciation, what I really wanted to say was, ‘Don’t thank me. Don’t buy me lunch. Don’t applaud me. Just live a life worthy of living so my service and the sacrifices I made for you were not in vain.’”

Millions have served sacrificially

The U.S. military was officially established by Congress at the urging of President Washington in 1789. 

With hundreds of thousands of people serving in the early days and more than 2.5 million combined active and reserves serving today, my mind can’t quite grasp exactly how many individual people have dedicated their lives during these past 229 years. 

Each of those men and women served sacrificially. Many saw and experienced horrific events that they carried or will carry for their entire lives. Most choose to protect the rest of us from the worst of the details and are hesitant to even admit how heavy the load really is. 

In many cases, those who served are now sentenced to a life of attempting to manage post-traumatic stress disorder, continual nightmares and/or difficulty assimilating back into civilian life. Alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide rates among former military personnel continue to climb. Family relationships and friendships will never be the same for them. Some find a way to push through and quietly battle their internal demons while balancing a loving and caring relationship with family who could never understand. Some do better in isolation or at least by keeping a defined distance from others.

Millions of our fellow Americans stood in the gap for us in past years. Millions more are serving right now or are within days, weeks or months of taking their turn to serve. They have protected and continue to protect the freedoms and way of life we enjoy as U.S. citizens. 

Do we take those sacrifices for granted?

But how often do we really think about the sacrifices so many have made for us?

Military families are typically the best at honoring those in service, caring for those returning and being sensitive to the reality of the situations. And most of us likely have a family member, at least an extended family member, who has served at some point.

It is good to honor those who have served on Veterans Day. We also remember those who died in service on Memorial Day. Most often the 4th of July includes a shoutout to our current military and Lee Greenwood’s famous “God Bless the USA” is sung with sincere gusto.

But outside of those three holidays, how often do we remember the men and women who fought and in some cases died for our freedom? Do we actually grasp and respect the concept of true freedom?

Are we living lives worthy of all those who sacrificed for us? 

Are we making the United States better because we are citizens? 

Responsibility of citizenship

And for those of us who are believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, do we fully grasp the sacrifice He made for us? 

Are we living lives worthy of Him? Do we allow His love and grace to shine through us as He describes in Matthew 5:14–16?

Does our faith journey showcase the fruit of the Spirit outlined in Galatians 5:22–23 — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?

Being an eternal citizen of heaven along with our current citizenship in the U.S. both bring great privilege and blessings and with both come great responsibility. 

—Jennifer Davis Rash

How we define ourselves

 

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March 16, 2018; Charlotte, NC, USA; Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett during the first half against the UMBC Retrievers in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Spectrum Center. (Jeremy Brevard—USA TODAY Sports)

No excuses, no whining — Coach Tony Bennett of the University of Virginia Cavaliers calmly and respectfully gave props to the UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) team and coach for taking care of business.

“We got thoroughly out played,” Bennett said in the March 16 post-game interview about the Retrievers’ historic upset of the top-ranked Cavaliers. UMBC won 74–54 and became the first-ever No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s tournament.

Hats off to UMBC

Definitely the Cinderella story of this year’s March Madness, UMBC’s victory was the unlikely event that put the school on the map despite losing the next game in a nail biter to Kansas State on March 18.

Thousands of us became Retrievers’ fans, even if just for a weekend, and cheered for the obvious strength of character, pursuit of excellence and never-give-up attitude brilliantly showcased by this honors’ university team.

Our hats off to Coach Ryan Odom and the UMBC Retrievers.

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(Jennifer Davis Rash screen grab of UMBC’s Twitter page on March 18, 2018)

Making history

And on the other side of the court, kudos goes to Bennett in the way he handled the historic loss in the first round of the tournament.

“[This was] a historic season in terms of most wins in the ACC. A week ago we’re cutting down the nets and the confetti is falling,” he said March 16. “And then we make history by being the first one seed to lose.

“It stings,” he said. “I told the guys, ‘This is life. It can’t define you. You enjoyed the good times and you gotta be able to take the bad times. When you step into the arena, the consequences can be historic losses, tough losses, great wins, and you have to deal with it. That’s the job.’”

Bennett not only showed good sportsmanship, but also a well-rounded perspective on life — and he modeled this for the young men on his team as well as a nation of basketball fans watching it all play out.

That one moment

“It can’t define you,” he said.

How often do we allow one moment to define us — good or bad, win or lose — rather than the sum of all the moments, and how often do we do this to others?

In the movie “Sully,” Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, played by Tom Hanks, says, “I’ve delivered a million passengers over 40 years, but in the end I’m going to be judged by 208 seconds.”

He’s referring to the true story of his forced water landing on New York’s Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009, when he saved the lives of all 155 aboard U.S. Airways Flight 1549.

In the end Sully’s legacy was untarnished and he was catapulted into American hero status but for about 48 hours he wasn’t sure how it would play out.

When life-changing moments occur

Every day we all move through our routines, doing what we are called and trained to do, making decisions to the best of our abilities (at least I hope we are all giving our best). And at any moment one of those decisions, or even a routine task, could put us in a win or lose situation.

Some moments are minimal and cause few waves but others are monumental and change life for everyone involved.

How the leader leads when those times come sets the tone for all who are following, and how the team responds influences the level of dignity, perseverance and value each individual maintains on the other side of those moments.

Summing up the slices

But they are still separate slices among an entire lifetime of countless slices. If we define ourselves by that one great achievement, then that is likely all we will ever be. And if we mark ourselves as a failure because of that one historic loss or bad decision, then we certainly won’t have the strength to move past it.

We must take the good with the bad, the wins with the losses, and learn from each experience. And in all situations we can hold on to the promise from 2 Corinthians 12 that in our weakness, the power of Christ is made perfect. We merely need to trust Him to work in and through us.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Seeking a renewed prayerful heart

Prayer

During this past holiday season, my uncle shared a bit about his recent journey through an in-depth study of prayer.

He’s in his 70s and has been a believer for a long time but the experience of the past two years has renewed his joy and restored his heart in a way he said he has never felt.

I couldn’t help but be captivated by the emotion and authentic sense of closeness to our Lord he expressed.

The freshness of the Word as he reads Scripture, the new authors he has discovered and the books on the topic of prayer he has read have all given him a renewed excitement for communicating with God.

Assessing prayer life

As I processed what he shared, I was challenged to evaluate my own prayer life and asked myself questions such as:

•What does prayer look like in my life?

•Do I honestly and sincerely pray for every situation or person in which I say I will pray?

•Am I able to truly put concerns in the Lord’s hands first and then follow how He leads or do I try to help in my own way first and then pray as a last resort?

•Do I slow down to watch how God works in the situations going on around me?

•Am I in tune enough to notice what God is doing and how He uses us if we are available?

•Do I thank Him and praise Him even in the storms?

•What about the concept of praying without ceasing? Is that really possible? What does it look like?

Seriously, have you ever tried to pray without ceasing? It is hard work.

I experimented with the concept one day, praying for every face I saw, every name that popped in my email inbox, every voice I heard on the phone, everyone that came to mind.

And wow was I exhausted at the end of the day.

Granted, I didn’t pray long prayers but even spending the energy to pray for every single person and situation that passes through your day is an interesting exercise.

It definitely keeps you from fretting over unnecessary items, forces you to weed out frivolous thoughts and conversations and makes you aware of the many, many needs around you.

It also made me aware of just how many things I fail to pray for on any given day.

So as I’m making my goals for 2018 and hitting the ground running following the holidays, I’m working to keep focused, sincere prayer among my “must do” items each day — and remembering what Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 3, “only God gives the increase.”

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Peace amid the sparkling lights

DSC_0251May you truly experience peace, hope and love from the One who is Peace, Hope and Love on this Christmas Day and every day … “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV).

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Reflecting on marriage

Jason and I mark 19 years of marriage tomorrow (July 12). I remember poring through so many books and articles on marriage that first year and trying to do everything exactly right to have the perfect marriage. What I didn’t understand early on, what actually took years to understand, was that I couldn’t manufacture enough of the tips and how-to suggestions to develop a marriage like what was in my head. It wasn’t something I could control. It would take total sacrifice for Jason and seeking God above all else (and vice versa on Jason’s part). While I finally understand marriage in itself is a lifelong learning journey, I would like to share some of what I have discovered along the way. More about sacrifice can be found below and a little on forgiveness can be found by clicking hereJ and J 2-14-16

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When my nephew, Jared, was a little bitty thing, he would get all over his brother with a consistent reminder, “It’s not all about you, Jacob!”

The boldness of his approach and the intensity behind his words always made me smile, but the clear truth behind his appeal has stuck with me since the first time it rolled out of his mouth.

The key to strength in any relationship points back to whether the two parties are going to be self-centered or other-centered. This is true with friends, co-workers, all formulas of family relationships and especially in marriage.

“It’s not all about you” was the focus of a recent article in Relevant magazine, “Marriage Isn’t About Your Happiness.”

An excerpt from the article by Debra K. Fileta says:

“Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you. It’s about love — which is something we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving — and then doing it all over again. … Often, we’re choosing ‘personal happiness’ over real commitment, over real love.

“They say marriage teaches you more about selflessness than you ever wanted to know. … Because at the heart of it, real love is all about sacrifice. About the giving of yourself, in ways big and small.”

It’s about sacrifice

I agree with Fileta. Real love truly is all about sacrifice.

The seasons where my husband, Jason, and I focus sacrificially on each other at the same time bring such great blessings and richness to our relationship.

When one or the other decides to be less other-centered and more self-centered, frustrations mount and life is more strained.

And the times we decided to focus on ourselves rather than the other — simultaneously — it basically led to confusion, insecurity, disappointment and pain.

Being married long enough to have a variety of seasons (19 years tomorrow) also has given us the opportunity to truly start learning and growing in the process. And we both agree we prefer the sacrificial model hands down.

I do know that putting Jason’s needs before my own and sacrificing for him in big ways and small ways brings tremendous fulfillment and allows me to demonstrate real love, true love.

And I learned through the precious five and a half years we fought alongside our niece, Belle, in her cancer journey that the purity of the love received in return is worth all the pouring of yourself into another.

Ultimate model

It seems so obvious to me now but it took years for me to get to this point. I’m not sure why because we were given the ultimate model of sacrificial love to follow — Jesus Christ.

It seems silly to not figure it out sooner. The example is so powerful.

But if you, like me, struggle to focus entirely on Jesus in everyday life, then how much more will we struggle with giving of ourselves to ordinary humans?

My friend and colleague, Grace Thornton, reminds me often that we are to desire God first, before ourselves and anyone or anything else. And from that place we are to let our lives flow outward.

“His heart is for us to know Him,” Grace says, “making that the entire goal of our life and then trusting Him no matter what happens.”

—Jennifer Davis Rash