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

Considering a fresh start?

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 9.02.37 PMWho doesn’t love a fresh start? It might be buying a new house or car and enjoying the freedom from repairs (at least for a few weeks). It might be cleaning out the pantry, joining a gym and beginning a new healthy lifestyle.

And then there are natural fresh starts that allow us to breathe in the excitement that comes with new opportunities.

Transitioning from high school to college was one of those moments for me. It was a chance to reinvent myself without all the baggage of the past 12 years. New interests, new experiences and new people to meet allowed me to figure out more of my potential and what opportunities lay before me. And believe me, I grabbed hold of everything I could juggle in my arms and tied strings to my belt with the things I couldn’t. I threw myself in deep and swam through the endless hours of academics, activities and achievements.

Following college graduation I committed to a short-term missions assignment.

Diving in deep

For the next two and a half years, I swam even deeper — growing in my faith like I had never before experienced, developing life-changing relationships and refining my intense desire to serve others.

Next came my transition to The Alabama Baptist (TAB). What started out as a short-term job to get me through Beeson Divinity School at Samford University turned into a beloved career. Now, 20 years later, I look back and realize I’ve been swimming so far and so deep that I can no longer see the shore. I am one with the sea — but not just with TAB, in all aspects of Alabama Baptist life. I love this people group and am honored to be one of them and serve them.

But even with the depth of my love for Alabama Baptists, are there moments I’m tempted to bail for a fresh start? Absolutely.

The weight from dealing with daily life issues year after year, the frustrations that lie continuously beneath the surface, the disappointments, the unmet expectations, the exhaustion from carrying each other along the journey — they are real.

Holding on to the rope

It isn’t any different than the decisions all of us face in life.

It may be a difficult choice in your personal life. It may be in church life — to revitalize the dying congregation or plant a new one. It may be in the workplace or volunteer role — to dig deep to find freshness in a long-term position or make a change which guarantees new energy.

It isn’t that one answer is necessarily right and one is wrong; it is about determining what is best despite the cloud of emotions, exhaustion, etc., that might be tainting our view.

Sometimes life gets so marred down that escaping to a blank slate seems like the only way to survive. And in many cases, that truly is the best move to make.

But we also should evaluate if gaining some relief, taking a break or making a specific adjustment would release us from the lack of enthusiasm, loss of love or hopelessness we might be feeling. After all, fresh starts are a never-ending desire and it won’t be long before that which is new is old again — complete with its own heavy luggage.

What makes the most difference, whichever decision we make, is to hold on to the rope that connects us to Christ. I may be battered from being pounded in the storm and continuously tossed up against the side of the rescue boat but I hold on tight, knowing with confidence He won’t let go of His end.

We may need a fresh start sometimes. But what we need even more is the consistency of a God who doesn’t let us go — a God who works in both our current situations and our fresh starts.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Clearing the clutter starts with me

By Jennifer Davis Rash

It’s that time of year again — time to start fresh, set new goals, attempt to improve.

Clutter

Could this be the best year yet? Or at least could I be the best me yet?

I’m sure going to give it a shot, starting with answering these questions adapted from www.ampersandphotoblog.com:

•What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

•What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your relationships this year?

•In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

•What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

•For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

•What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

•What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

•What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?

Working with these questions related to our relationship with God and others should help keep our focus properly aligned. It is certainly a different approach from setting goals such as adapting a proper eating plan, exercising more and kicking bad habits. Those are good goals to have and most of us should still try to achieve them, but think about the true joy we could experience and impact we might have by primarily focusing on our relationship with God and others. What if we really could take all of our spiritual disciplines to new levels?

What is the spiritual discipline I want to make the most progress in this year? Prayer.

What am I going to do about it? Practice it more, read about it more and seek God’s direction through His Word.

I’m a doer naturally. When I see a need, I take care of it — whether it’s my responsibility or not. I enjoy helping others and serving in areas that are sometimes neglected.

I’m also a problem-solver. If something needs taken care of, then I’m your gal. I rarely hesitate. I simply take care of it.

Could be annoying

I’m also full of ideas — to an annoying level sometimes. Inviting me to a brainstorming session will guarantee lots of ideas floating around, but it also may mean that I’ll just go ahead and solve the problem while we are sitting there, thus leaving no reason to review the list of ideas.

Sure this helps account for my need for efficiency and means I am a really hard worker, but as one of my mentors frequently reminds me: “strength overdone becomes weakness.”

Spending time in prayer and seeking God’s direction about the issue before me is where I need to improve. It’s too easy for me to make the decision quickly and go with it.

One particular area in front of me is how I can be a better church member and help our church leaders make some important decisions that lie ahead of us.

Sharing, serving

Some of the moves that need to be made are obvious, but others are not.

How can we as a church family grow and develop in the best way to help our members deepen their relationships with Christ as well as advance the gospel through praying, giving and going?

How can we serve and offer areas of service without overwhelming our members, whose lives are already packed with activities at all levels?

Is it possible to actually break the 80–20 rule that we so easily accept — 20 percent of the people doing 80 percent of the work? And does that apply to giving and going as well? What about praying?

What if every person who walked in the front door of the church came to truly worship God and grow as an individual believer? What if the appearance on Sunday morning wasn’t because of a cultural obligation or to be seen or for purely social reasons?

What if we all emptied ourselves and allowed God to fill us? What if we listened to His guidance and followed in obedience? How amazing would our church services be, and how amazing would our service to the world outside the church be?

And while the go-getter in me wants to push the masses to embrace the same vision, I realize I must start with a time of prayer.

I have to clear the clutter from my own heart and mind and settle all of this within myself before I can ask others to consider a similar path.

Finding freshness and balance in the new year

By Jennifer Davis Rash
Managing editor, The Alabama Baptist

OK so we are almost three weeks into 2011 and right on target to start slacking on those New Year’s resolutions — or maybe this is the year we prevail, and those resolutions are so going to be met.

Either way, I always love the start of a new year. We are forced to clean up after all the Christmas festivities, allowing for an opportunity to do some deep cleaning and reorganizing as we rearrange our household settings minus the Christmas tree and various other decorations. The lights, garland, bows and ornaments all come down and are stored away for their 11-month slumber.

Closets are cleaned out and organized, making room for all those new clothes and accessories. Cabinets and pantries are scoured and purged of those naughty sugary foods in preparation for a renewed emphasis on healthy eating.

A fresh area is arranged and a renewed commitment is made for devotions and Bible study. A cute new workout outfit is purchased because that in itself is motivation enough to get us moving — at least the first two days of our new exercise routine.

Our bodies feel rested because we’ve had more sleep in a week than we got most months before Christmas. And for a few days leading up to the new year, life in general slowed down.

Then there’s the countdown, “Auld Lang Syne” and cheers for the new day that marks the new year. We eat black-eyed peas and greens, hug our loved ones tightly and jot down a list of goals we want to achieve in the year ahead.

We are refreshed, resolved and ready. I love it — new energy, determination and reason. But I’ve not yet figured out how to make it last. Before long, the stresses of life creep back in, fatigue attacks and motivation decreases.

Sure there are moments of renewal here and there, and various points throughout the year allow for adrenaline-induced energy. But how can we keep this fresh feeling — spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally and relationally — longer? Is it possible to truly manage life in such a way that most days can be characterized this way, and do I dare say this is my New Year’s resolution for 2011?

I’m not sure where this will lead, but I do want to attempt to live a healthy life in all areas with freshness and balance. I also want you to come along with me on this journey because one thing I do know is that I can’t do it alone.

Once a month for the next 12 months in The Alabama Baptist newspaper, I will address the various areas of life that tend to be targets of New Year’s resolutions and introduce features we will publish on those topics. I will do this in my new column, Rashional Thoughts (I couldn’t resist the name). I also want to learn from you and hear what suggested topics you have (respond to this blog or e-mail me at jrash@thealabamabaptist.org).

Watch out, 2011. We are going to be ready this time.