It’s become popular to choose one word to focus on for the upcoming year, especially among bloggers. Last year, I chose Extreme because I thought it was funny. Put the word “extreme” in front of something and it not only sounds silly; it sells. The book company my husband represents can tell you that. In fact, it’s so effective that I decided to change my title to include it.
I also chose Extreme because I’m pretty much an extremist. I loved having one child, so I had six. I did great with natural labor, so I had a baby at home. I got an extreme amount of education and then ditched my career to teach all my kids. I wrote a book in 3 months. I did an extreme diet for 8 years. I went from being an ardent feminist to being very traditional. Those who know me best are probably itching to tell you about my other extremes. There are some extremes I regret and others I don’t.
It’s against the rules to have two words or I would choose Extreme Encouragement. Why? Because I still think it’s funny and I really mean it. I want to be extremely encouraging this year. My goal is to encourage people every single day. I am having a great time trying to find new people to encourage. It’s not as much fun to encourage the people you know who are extremely annoying, but I’m encouraging them too. (Don’t worry if I’ve encouraged you; it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re annoying, but it doesn’t hurt to consider it, right?).
In the interest of being extremely encouraging, I started a new blog (of course!) solely for the purpose of encouraging others. I encourage authors and bloggers by linking to their sites and readers by giving them uplifting quotes, Scriptures, stories, and challenges. I recently shared with The Inspired Day‘s readers the power of one word to encourage others. One word can be extremely encouraging.
I was driving back to college after a visit home. It was much harder to be away from my family than I’d thought. After months of studying, I loved having my mom’s homemade cooking, being around to get teased by my dad, and seeing my brothers and boyfriend. I was sad as I started on the four-hour trip back on a desolate highway. My mom had put a plate of leftovers together for me. It was one of those nice, microwavable sectioned plates with a cover. I had it on the passenger seat next to me. I stared at it (I was not risking my life as there was no one else on the road) and saw there was a little slip of paper in one of the sections. I pulled it closer and through the condensation on the cover, I could read the one word written on it: Love.
I really bawled then. I wanted to go right back home, but at the same time, I was encouraged to keep going. I was loved. It was just one word, but it was so much more. My mom was showing me that everything she did for me was for love. This year, even though the one-word thing has gotten a little extreme, that’s what I want to do. Like the Savior who went to extremes for you and me, I want whatever I do to be summed up in one precious word: Love.
Do you have a word for the year? What is it and why?
P.S. I’d like to thank Melanie of Only a Breath for making my one-word button. She’s so generous and doesn’t she have a beautiful first name? 🙂
If you read my guest post on over-commitment, you won’t be surprised that I’ve been overwhelmed lately. My vacation was restful, but I returned home to a number of tasks I had put off until I got back. Another problem was that while on vacation, I fantasized about all the things I wanted to accomplish this summer. As I considered all my options, I had no idea what to do first.
Options for Prioritizing When You’re Overwhelmed
I thought about using Mark Forster’s the Final Version or Smart Pad to work through my to-do’s, but my anxiety wouldn’t let me. I thought about using Covey’s Quadrants, too, but I still felt the number of tasks to complete would be too large. I Googled “how to prioritize when you’re overwhelmed.” Mostly what I found was the usual advice–make items with a deadline a top priority, delegate when possible, yadda yadda. Nothing clicked until I found a post from Just Ask Kim (note: some cursing here) who said that we don’t have to decide the priority of everything:
Don’t worry about the rest of the list, it’s not even worth your time to number them. All you care about at this moment is knocking out #1.
She goes on to say that when we’ve identified our number one task, we have to focus on it like a laser.
Just One Thing
Kim’s post reminded me of a well-known Bible account, but made me think about it in a whole new way.
40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40-42)
I had always thought the lesson here was that Jesus is what we ought to be focusing on. Rather than trying to get things done, we ought to be spending time in Bible reading and prayer. This interpretation is very hard on poor Martha who is understandably concerned with eating! The traditional interpretation cannot be the whole meaning of Jesus’ words, however. Scripture makes it clear that we are not to give up working and just wait on Jesus’ return. Of course, our number one priority is always to serve the Lord, but isn’t that what Martha was doing? So what was the problem?
Jesus tells Martha that she is worried and upset about many things. Boy, can I relate to that! How about you? I’ve been worried and upset about the many things that I need to get done, or even that I’d just like to get done, and it isn’t a pleasant feeling. Like Martha, I can get mighty crabby. So what’s the answer to Martha’s and my dilemma? Just pray more? You can never pray too much, but you’ve got to get to work, too! What struck me as similar between the Just Ask Kim’s comment and Jesus’ response to Martha is just one thing being needed. My aha moment was this:
When we focus on more than one thing at a time, our productivity, peace, and patience will be diminished.
My Experience With Just One Thing
A couple of years ago, I wrote about my decision to quit using a to-do list for all but the time-sensitive tasks or things that I would otherwise forget. I remember that time as one of the most productive and peaceful of my life. I started using a typical to-do list again because I was starting a new job (that I no longer have) and figured that I had so much to do that I had to use a to-do list. Looking back, I can see that I didn’t do myself any favors. When I wasn’t using a comprehensive to-do list, I focused on just one thing at a time. I didn’t worry about what I would do after I finished a load of laundry or get upset when my husband made a request that wasn’t on an arbitrary list. I just went about my day doing the one thing that was needed at the time.
I have been re-experiencing the benefits of focusing on just one thing and I can’t rave enough. My productivity, self-discipline, sense of well-being, and family relationships have improved dramatically. Before you decide to give it a try, you might want to consider the following:
- Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you ignore your calendar or time-sensitive to-do’s. Checking your calendar will be one of the “one things” you do.
- Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you chuck your routines or your schedule. In fact, I’ve been better able to stick to my routines as I’m not thinking about all the other stuff I have to do.
- Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you have to throw away your project lists if you need them.
- Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you can’t delegate. You may recognize one thing that needs to be done and can decide to assign it to your child as a chore or ask for personal or professional help in completing it.
- Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you can’t plan. Again, planning may be the one thing you are choosing to focus on.
- Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you don’t work on goals or projects with a future deadline. Again, it’s one of the “one things” you will focus on.
- Focusing on Just One Thing means that you do not worry about what you’re going to do after the one thing you’re doing. The only exception to that is if you’re planning. Otherwise, enjoy your meal, your conversation, your family, and even your work without the angst about what comes next.
- Focusing on Just One Thing means you do not have to prioritize your to-do’s. You don’t even have to write them all down! Just ask yourself what the “one thing” is and do it–even if that’s checking your list of tasks you would otherwise forget. It’s not necessarily doing the most important thing, because who knows what that is? Barak Rosenbloom blogged about this low-stress approach to using a calendar on Time Natives.
- Focusing on Just One Thing means that you’re open to something else taking over as the one thing: your child gets hurt, someone comes to the door, or your husband needs you.
- Focusing on Just One Thing means you are sensitive to the Lord’s leading. As I’ve been focusing on just one thing, I have heard the Lord saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.” What a blessing to know that I’m not too distracted to hear Him for a change!
Are You a Mary or a Martha?
I used to think Mary was the “spiritual” one and Martha was a control freak. Not anymore! Mary has learned the blessing of focusing on just one thing and Martha needed to learn it. Which one are you? Do you know any Mary’s?
If you give Just One Thing a try, I’d love to hear your experience!
I thought I was done with my series on contentment that begins here, but the Lord had more to say to me about it.
I just returned from a homeschool speech and debate tournament with my oldest son. How strange it is to watch your child agonize over others’ evaluations of him as you once did. I remember the feelings of frustration I had in being praised and criticized for the very same aspect of my speeches. I remember feeling like I wasn’t as good as my teammates who had taken home trophies when I did not. I remember feeling so low at times that I considered quitting.
Don’t get me wrong. I think speech competition (and even the constructive criticism I received) prepared me for what I do today as a speaker. I was driven to improve and I learned to use discernment about the feedback I received. (Just because a judge says it, doesn’t make it so.) But competition can also confuse us; I know it does me.
When I watch my son debate, I just think, “Wow!” I am unable to be objective about how his speaking skills compare to others’, because I love him so much. To me, he isn’t better, just beloved.
One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. – John 13:23
I have heard a number of teachings on John’s reference to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Most of them emphasized that Jesus spent more time with John and as a result, was closer to him. I can’t deny that. But I don’t think that John was emphasizing that he was better, just beloved. The most amazing thing about Jesus for John was that He loved him.
When I am tempted to be discontented about not being better or my children not comparing to others, I want to remember this: I am the disciple that Jesus loves. When He looks at me, He sees what I see when I look at my son. Wow.
What do you think? Does Jesus spend time considering which of us is better?
I’m having a cranky day when I’m wondering why I bother to:
- Write what few people read
- Clean when it gets messed up again
- Buy things that are broken right away
- Be kind when I don’t get kindness in return
- Teach my kids when the lessons seem quickly forgotten
- Work toward my goals when almost no one cares what I do
I’m sick and tired, thus I am vulnerable. At these times, I hear the voice of my enemy saying, “Why bother?” He knows well how I depend on encouragement from others. When it isn’t there, he knows how to turn my funk into a fiasco. When he is done talking, I want to go back to bed and forsake writing, homemaking, kindness, parenting, and working forever.
But the same question that I asked myself I have to ask my enemy. Why bother? If I were an insignificant woman, why would you spend your time and energy trying to talk me into giving up? Jesus breaks into the discussion.
“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” – Matthew 4:10
We bother because we are serving the Lord. He reads every word we write and He sees us cleaning, returning kindness for evil, teaching the resistant learner, and achieving His purposes for us. He likes it all.
So why do we bother listening to any voice but His?
I remember my missionary sister-in-law talking about having a personal relationship with Jesus soon after I met her. I didn’t really know what she meant.
I believed in Jesus. I heard about him in church. I’d read a little about him in the Bible. Certainly, I’d prayed in His name. Was that a personal relationship? I didn’t know.
Now I do. Having a personal relationship with Jesus is not much different than having a personal relationship with someone else. Do you have a personal relationship with me? Many of you do. But if you only believe that I exist, you’ve only heard about me, you’ve read a little of my words, or you’ve used my name in conversation, that isn’t a personal relationship.
If you want a personal relationship with me or with Jesus, the first step is the same: talk! Jesus isn’t a celebrity surrounded by body guards, too busy to talk with you (thankfully, neither am I!). I remember the thrill of getting a response to an email or letter I’ve sent to someone famous. While we can’t be sure of getting an answer from a celebrity, we can be sure that Jesus will answer us when we communicate with Him.
The second step in establishing a personal relationship with Jesus is to listen. While Jesus doesn’t have a Facebook page, a YouTube account, or an email address, He does have a great way of communicating with us. He wrote a best selling book that tells us how He feels about us, His tips for living our best life, and His plans for our future.
Talk to Jesus in prayer and listen to Him by reading the Bible and you will have a personal relationship with Him. That relationship, unlike going through the motions of going to church or trying to look good on the outside, is what can change your life! If having a personal relationship with me can help you have a personal relationship with Him, let me know. I am glad to pray for you, point you in the right direction, or respond to your comments.
The word 'intolerance' has become synonymous with hate and no wonder. Unspeakable crimes against humanity have been committed as the result of it. But I believe there is another side to intolerance.
What many people don't know is my mom was intolerant; she refused to put up with backtalk. As a result, our home was free of the parental disrespect that has become so commonplace today.
My friend, Sharon Rohrbach, was also intolerant. She couldn't sleep at night thinking about the babies being discharged to homes that weren't equipped to care for them. Sharon's intolerance led her to start Nurses for Newborns, a foundation dedicated to protecting some of our most vulnerable citizens.
American women were also intolerant. They couldn't abide the injustice of the denial of their right to vote. Many of our foremothers worked tirelessly to gain suffrage.
I'm thankful for my mom's intolerance that taught me to respect authority, for Sharon's intolerance which taught me to be concerned for at-risk newborns, and for a heritage of women's intolerance that gave me the right to vote.
But I am most thankful for our intolerant God. While it is true that He could not ignore our sin, it is also true that He could not tolerate the consequence of that sin–our eternal separation from Him.
What is the difference between this kind of intolerance and the kind that gets all the press today? The former is motivated by love.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life. (John 3:16)