Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Get Organized -- Day II

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3

This passage likens our life to a race with eternity with God being the end goal. As our example of persevering in doing God's will until the very end, we have Jesus, who endured the cross and raised to life again.

Imagine running a marathon with heavy weights tied to our ankles, wrists, and race and while carrying a suitcase full of junk. Sounds hard, doesn't it? True long distance runners don't want to be weighed down with anything. In a long distance race, they don't even carry water bottles with them, but pick up water as needed at special stands. Similarly, this passage tells us to throw off anything that would hinder us as we run the course of life.

In our race, sin is one weight we certainly don't want to be shackled with. As vitally important as it is to confess and turn from the sins that can dog us, however, that's not my focus in this article. I am thinking more of the things that hinder us. Some of the weights we carry around in life are not actual sin, but are hindrances such as misplaced priorities; worries; sorrows we have not mourned and dealt with; painful memories that, again, we have not resolved, indulging in habits that lead to poor physical conditioning, and the like.

For me, clutter can be a weight that hinders me in the race of life. So, too, can be disorganization. When I am disorganized and when I allow my surroundings to become cluttered, I spend way too much time doing things like looking for lost keys and papers, making up for deadlines and appointments I missed, regretting not having answered an invitation in a timely manner, having to to emergency cleaning before having people over, shoving clutter out of the way so someone will have a place to sit or eat or work, snacking too much instead of doing my work, over-booking my schedule, under-booking my schedule, etc.

When I am organized, I can handle the details of life efficiently and have more time to spend on my relationship with the Lord and with others. I feel better physically and emotionally and have more energy for activities that I love and cherish. I know where things are, and I can put my hands on them quickly. I can lend things easily, because I don't have to hunt for an hour to find something that someone needs.

For me, one hindrance to getting rid of clutter is attaching too much sentiment to things. We all enjoy some keepsakes. However, if we are too sentimentally attached to things, we can wind up keeping things that we don't really like simply because someone gave them to us. We can take the warm feelings that we have for a person or for a person's memory and attach them to an inanimate object.

Likewise, we can even hold on to things that make us feel sad, guilty, or depressed, rather than letting them go. For example, if we started a project some time ago and have yet to finish it, we may hang on to it rather than simply admit, "My priorities have changed. I don't want to complete that project." Every time we see the unfinished work, we will feel slightly guilty or uneasy. It would be more freeing to keep only those things we really intend to complete.

Similarly, we may keep an object out of sentimental obligation, even though the sight of that object only stirs up feelings of mourning or memories of painful events within us. A true keepsake might invoke bittersweet feelings, particularly if it belonged to someone who has passed on, but the sweetness of the memory should far, far outweigh the pang.

In the same way that clutter can weight us down, holding on to emotional baggage can lead to more clutter! When we drag around with heavy hearts, we are not as likely to make the kinds of focused decisions necessary to stay organized and clutter free. We allow our surroundings to become disordered.

That's not to say that we shouldn't feel sorrow or go through times of mourning. Only the most shallow of hearts lives in a hurting world and feels no pains of compassion. Additionally, we all must work through times of personal loss and suffering. We do no kindness to ourselves or our loved ones if we force ourselves to march along through life without taking time to deal with our feelings. When depression and anxiety rule us, however, we will become bogged down with life. We will feel weighed down, and we will drag through the race that the Lord has prepared for us. If that is the case, it's time to seek help from the Lord and from others so that we can be freed of these shackles.

Some people, through no fault of their own, will face a chronic tendency to feel sluggish or depressed or anxious. In such cases, it's still vital to seek help so that we can run the best race that we can.

The irony is that when we are in a funk, we feel like doing anything but organizing ourselves and de-cluttering our spaces. However, the longer we go without attending to these things, the more clutter builds up and the more scattered we feel -- which, in turns, makes us feel even worse. Sometimes, the cure for a long-standing bout of the blues begins with taking small, measurable steps to clear away the mess and to keep to a schedule.

Some practical tips are

1) Think about what things hinder you in your relationship with the Lord. What things keep you from running the course He's marked out for you? From the perspective of the finish line, are your priorities in order?

2) If you are a clutterer or if you are disorganized, think about why. Do you clutter because it seems easier to throw something down where it is than to put it away? Are you a closet perfectionist who figures that if you can't make it perfect, you won't do anything? Are you lazy at times? Afraid? Sad? Bored? Overly sentimental about material things? Imagine what your life would be like if you eliminated some clutter from your life and if you were more organized. Would you be happier? More productive? Would your family members be happier? Can you see yourself improving in these areas.

3) Are you convinced that adding a little order and structure to your household and to your life will accomplish wonderful things? Or, do you think it's not that important?

4) Tackle one chore over which you've been procrastinating.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

30 Days of Getting Organized:

Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up. A. A. Milne

I am not one of those people whom organizing experts call "born organized". The truly organized stay organized through the ups and downs of life. I, however, let life get me off track, so I need periodic times of organizing myself and my life.

In one sense, we can never fully organize life. Part of being like Jesus is being open to God's will in the moment. We can plan our days all that we want, but we must also be willing to stop and take care of the need of the moment. If we are too regimented in our organization and daily routines, we will miss opportunities to serve, as well as unexpected opportunities to enjoy life and the people we love.

We need to remember Jesus, who, on his way to raise a little girl from the dead, stopped to meet the need of a woman who had been bleeding for many years. Then, he went on and gave the girl her life again. Wherever Jesus went, crowds followed, every person of which had great need. How did Jesus meet interruptions with poise? I personally think it was because he ordered his life on earth by one foundational principle: He came to us in the flesh to seek and save the lost and to bring glory to the Father. To do the Father's will, he tells us in the book of John, is his food and drink. Because he had a unifying principle, he knew when to stop and when to move on to his larger goal. What might have looked like a chaotic situation to others was fully in Jesus control. His unifying principles and his ultimate faith in the Father gave him peace and order and poise in every situation.

Often, we organize for the wrong reason -- or, at least I do. I get serious about organizing when I feel that my life is or has recently been beyond my control. Then, I start organizing in an attempt to make life go more smoothly, safely, and comfortably. In and of themselves, there's nothing wrong with those goals. In fact, they are nice by-products of organization.

However, I can take it too far and want to take control, rather than surrendering to God's control. When we take this too far, it can lead to anxiety, because we will never be able to order our days just the way we envision. There will always be the unexpected in life -- either in terms of challenges or surprise joys.

Likewise, the wrong motivation for organizing ourselves and our homes and our lives can cause us to start trying to organize other people in an attempt to protect our ordered world. When we are too push about this, we cause strife in relationships, as well as a feeling of uneasiness in ourselves when we can't make people fit into our agenda. If we have children in our home, it is our job to help them become organized adults, and, along the way, we will have to do some organizing for them. However, once people are adults, we cannot and should not expect that their lives will always fit neatly into our own day planner.

So, why be organized then? Here are just a few reasons I think about:

1) God is a God of order and beauty, and we are made to reflect his image.
2) We are stewards of the things God has given us: life, family, home, eternal life, the gospel, etc. In order to be the best stewards possible, we need to lead thoughtful and organized lives.
3) Being ordered does help us fulfill our responsibilities more easily.
4) Being ordered does add peace to our family, to our households, and to us. It reduces stress.
5) Being ordered allows us to take care of the daily necessities of life and also to focus on the big picture.
6) If we are organized by principle and habit, our lives will likely be better able to handle the unexpected. For example, the woman whose house is generally neat and clutter-free can take an afternoon or two to help a relative with a new baby and not get completely thrown off track. She can easily put the little surface disorder that accumulates during those two days to rights. The woman whose house is a deep mess will only fall that much further behind when she takes time to help someone. She will find it harder to set to rights any disorder that has accumulated atop the general mess of her home.
7) If we keep our homes in order, God's word will not be blasphemed. Titus 2. People are drawn to a home which is basically ordered and peaceful, but they are not drawn to chaos.

Whether you are born organized, or, if like me, you have to work hard to keep things in order, come alone with me as I explore this topic for the next thirty posts. We'll be looking at organization from the heart, as well as following practical exercises.

Today's exercise:

1) Where are you on the scale from being too inflexible with your scheduling and organization to being too lackadaisical? Where do you think the right balance is? Spend some time thinking or even writing about that.
2) Where is your Bible and a notebook and a pen? Do you have a set ready to carry with you when you need to? Do you have quiet time materials in one place in your home so that you can read and pray? Set up a space for your quiet times with God and also fill a bag with spiritual materials to take with you to church, a study, on a trip, etc.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A Quiz:

NURTURE: to feed and protect: to nurture one's offspring.
to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster:as in to nurture promising; to bring up, train, educate; to nourish; to promote the development of; to cultivate

Here are some questions to spur our thinking about how we can nurture our families. This is not a test. These are just questions that are helpful to ask oneself:

1) If I am married, how prepared was I to become a wife(and mother, if applicable)? What have I learned during my years of marriage? Of motherhood? Am I passing practical skills and also my heart for my home along to my children? What about to young ladies outside of my home?
2) If I am married, what do I need to learn now to be a better wife and mother? Whether I was prepared to step into the role of a keeper of the home or whether I wasn't, how can I improve? Are there older women and peers I can look to as role models? Do I know someone who has a gift for nurturing others? How does she do it?
3) If I am not married, what do I need to learn to either serve God as a single woman or to prepare myself for marriage and family? How can I nurture families around me? What children in my immediate family, extended family, or outside my fammily can I become a "favorite aunt" to? Do I have a gift for seeing good in others, even if it seems hidden, and do I have a way of encouraging others to flourish?
4) Am I warm and nurturing by nature? If so, how can I grow even more in these qualities? If I am not a natural nurturer, how can I learn to be more nurturing? Some women have to work harder at this than others do, but we can all grow in this.
5) While men and women may express the quality of nurturing differently, they are both called to be nurturers. How am I training my sons to notice the needs of others and to influence others?
6) Do I nourish my husband? Do I love him, respect him, and bring out the best in him? Do I see and encourage his best qualities? Do I follow his lead and work with him, rather than pulling against him? Am I positive or negative in my conversation toward him?
7) Do I nourish my own spiritual life? Do I have set times for prayer and reading the Bible? Do I take time to be quiet with the Lord? Do I nourish my physical health and appearance -- not obsessively, but in order to feel my best? Do I nourish my mind and heart?