What are you doing for you today?

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. ~ Carl Sandburg

I am in my sixth decade. It’s taken me this long to fully comprehend that

  • It’s not weakness to ask for help. 
  • It’s not selfish to spend some of the money I make on me (instead of the house, family, friends or charity).
  • It’s OK to say no to events and requests that I feel no connection to.
  • The world won’t end if I neglect some of the chores or hire help to get them done.
  • It is possible to shut off the ringer and ignore my email without dire consequences!

Society is riddled with guilt. We feel guilty for not calling home often enough. For not cleaning house on Saturday. For not sending birthday cards … or agreeing to chair that committee … or – you fill in the blank. Yet the Bible tells us there is no condemnation – no guilt (Rom. 8:1) because we are no longer under the law (Rom. 5:8) but under grace.

Grace gives us freedom and favor. It is our divine connection to limitless peace and joy. But we won’t enjoy our blood-bought freedom if we keep ourselves bound to all the laws, rules and strictures that family, friends and our own upbringing dictate.

That thing about Saturday cleaning? Every Saturday – without exception – my parents had us kids out of bed and cleaning by 9 a.m. Walls, floors, mirrors, sinks, toilets. Dust, mop. sweep, scrub. EVERY WEEK. Hindsight says we must have had the cleanest house in three counties! And the most boring Saturdays ever.

It took a long time to break away from the condemnation that if I didn’t do that every Saturday, I wasn’t a good housekeeper. Grace allows me to make my own rules for cleaning and clutter control. I do it now because I like to see neat and clean, not because it’s a rule.

What ‘rules’ persist from your childhood? Have you broken free?

Here’s another one. Some people I know go to visit their relative at the nursing home for hours every day. I felt guilty for only going every other day. And condemned because I knew I shouldn’t feel that way … but I did. Then I resented the patient because of my own internal conflict. What a mess.

How do we cope with doing things we don’t want to do? Grace. Every (other) day, on the way to the nursing home, I affirmed out loud: Your grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). I prayed for grace to be patient, grace to be comforting, grace to smile and be sweet when all I wanted to do was turn around and go home. Grace is from the spirit; feelings are all flesh, and usually very selfish (but that’s another message).

Taking care of ourselves while taking care of others is, admittedly, a balancing act. Too much of us and all those selfish tendencies grow out of control. Too much of caring for others – at home, at work, volunteering or whatever else we are committed to – and we lose our peace. We run down, wear out and become ineffective. Resentment builds to our breaking point.

Ask for Help

Trying to be all and do it all is wrapped up in pride. “I can do it myself,” said the Little Red Hen. The first thing you should do is ask God for help. He can strengthen you and give you wisdom. Colossians 1:11 says we are strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. Did you get that?

When you don’t think you can handle another request (or demand), God steps in to strengthen you. He provides the patience for you to work through it, and He tops it off with joy in your spirit while you’re in the middle of the project, job or chore. Here’s the best part: He wants you to ask Him for help with everything: your hair, your meal plan, your schedule. There’s nothing you do that He doesn’t want to be involved in. After all, He lives in you.

Next, don’t hesitate to enlist other people. I’ve decided to give up a dinner out each month so I can have someone clean my house. She does what she does best while I do what I do best. We both win. If a project at work is too much, find someone with the skills you need to help out. Become a delegator instead of a do-er.

That said, sometimes the other person’s needs are legitimate, such as health issues. It becomes a ‘season’ in life to provide the care they need. God’s grace steps in to strengthen you and enable you to do what you never thought possible. Lack of sleep, administering meds, monitoring diet (and a dozen other chores) that were never part of your skill set or life-plan suddenly are.

The first rule of care-giving is ‘take care of the caregiver’. Ensure your patient’s safety and well-being, but don’t be afraid to admit to yourself and them that you need time away. Enlist help from family members, friends or agencies who provide care services. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to take care of them.

Buy it for Yourself

There was a long time in my life when I didn’t buy anything. Oh, I got groceries, clothes and school supplies for daughter, paid bills and did what I needed to do to keep the household running. But I didn’t do much for me. We accept the need for frugality at some seasons of life, but it shouldn’t last forever. Again, balance is the key.

God says He gives us richly (in abundance) all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). There’s that joy again, grace from God to receive pleasure without guilt. Grace will empower you to find just what you’re shopping for. Favor will get you the best deal.  Grace will even make you walk away with nothing (“Guess I’m just not in the mood to shop today.”) because there’s a better deal coming your way. Learn to trust God with your shopping list, too.

I know some women who resent their husbands for never buying flowers or remembering birthdays. Why? If you want flowers, buy them yourself and enjoy the beauty they bring to your home. Get a small gift that you want (instead of exchanging one you don’t) and thank your husband for his generosity. Go to lunch with friends. Give yourself permission to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Every man should … enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God (Ecc. 3:13)

Think of it this way. God promised that seedtime and harvest would never cease. You’ve sown into the lives of others, taking care of myriad responsibilities that needed done. Don’t deny yourself the harvest God wants you to have. Just keep it balanced. He also says own no man anything (Rom.13:8). Don’t go into debt for trinkets; be wise.

Say No with No Excuses

Have you noticed? Everyone has an agenda and they try to talk you into their grand plan. Join this committee. Help with that event. Give money to their favorite charity, whether it is yours or not. Yoohoo! It’s their plan, not yours!

With one more letter, P-L-A-N becomes P-L-A-N-T – a growing thing that requires great amounts of time and energy. It sinks roots into your schedule and turns into that mustard tree Jesus talked about, big enough to shadow the rest of your life.

When people ask for your help, make it a habit to say, “Let me think about it. I’ll let you know.” That gives you time to really consider whether you want to commit to the project or event. If you decide yes, ask God for the grace and wisdom you’ll need to fulfill the commitment.

However, if your instincts tell you it’s not for you, don’t hesitate to say no. You don’t need to make excuses. It’s your life, your time, effort, energy and dollars. Keep your commitments consistent with your conscience and your own goals. Don’t get sucked into someone else’s plan.

Practice Planned Neglect

Some of the ‘stuff’ we’re supposed to deal with is just that – stuff. Ask yourself, “What if it doesn’t get done?” Are there dire consequences? Remember my Saturday cleaning? I’ve discovered that if I pick up every few days, the cleaning can happen less often and it’s OK. (Sorry, Mom.)

Decide on the priorities for your day. Do what needs done and let the rest of it slide. If it bothers you in a day or two, go do that task and cross it off your list. There’s a lot of stuff we do that can be neglected or done less often. Relax. Breathe. God will help you keep your priorities straight and provide grace to do what needs done. He’ll also give you wisdom to know what to leave alone.

Turn it Off

All of it – the phone, the computer, the TV – all of the connections that pull us into the world’s woes. We’ve forgotten the value of quiet and peace. Of meditation and appreciation for our surroundings, without the need to be doing something. We are all so busy, there’s little or no time for quiet reflection. Sit on the porch swing and watch the clouds float by. Take a relaxing bubble bath. Sip a cup of hot tea with some gentle music in the background. Read a book, one that makes you feel good. Do something that blesses you.

Seek peace and pursue it, the Bible says. You can’t be peaceful if you’re stressed out and tired. Ask God to show you how to simplify your calendar, delegate tasks and bring balance to your life. Life as you know it might end, but the new life you’ll create will be so much better. You’ll be energized and able to offer your talents to others without resentment. So, what are you doing for you today?

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