The Brevity of Life

Recently I was talking with a guy whose child has stage 4 cancer. He made a comment that stuck with me: “Sometimes you don’t realize that you are living in the ‘good-old-days’ until your life takes a bad turn. Looking back, I wish I had enjoyed life more and savored the moments, not realizing what the future held.”

I’ve thought about his comments many times over the last few weeks. I’m working to savor the little things.

Here are a few daily practices I’m trying to incorporate into my life to keep focused on what matters most.

  1. Sitting quietly for five minutes a day without distractions and reflecting on the blessing in my life. No TV. No phone.  Just me and Jesus.
  2. Gratitude Journal: In my regular S.O.A.P. journal I’m including a daily gratitude sentence or paragraph. I have so much to be grateful for and I need to recognize it and give thanks.
  3. Pray for God to help me realize the brevity of life, so that I may grow in wisdom. (Psalm 90:12) #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

Have you found any practices that help you to enjoy, remember, or savor the little things in life?

I am more aware of the how quickly the times of hand are ticking. I see the almost overnight changes in my daughters as they start and go through puberty. The summer has flown by and another school year is right around the corner.

I have one life to live.

And this life is short.

I am so grateful for this time in my life when I am able to work less and enjoy my kids more. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. #BecomingMary

Psalms 90-12 NLT

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

Psalms 90:12 NLT

 

Three Sources for Financial Advice

I’ve always been interested in financial management.  Even as a kid I used the envelope system and tried to get my siblings to listen to my lectures on money.  Financial management is systematic and strategic . . . and this woman loves systems and strategies!

As a Christian, here are three sources I lean on for developing financial strategies for my life.

#1. The Bible

By far, the Bible is the most important resource for advice on money.  Did you know there are over 2,000 verses about money in the Bible?   No, you won’t find specific advice on investing strategies, but the Bible gets to the most important thing – where the heart is in terms of finances.  Is my security in God or in my bank account?  Do I demonstrate love for others by how I share my resources?  Who does my money belong to?  Am I a wise steward of resources?

Jesus himself talked frequently about money  . . . so if it is important to Jesus it should be important to me.  I should be seeking biblical wisdom on how I deal with finances.  Fortunately, whether I am reading the Old Testament, the Gospels or anywhere else in the New Testament, I regularly come across advice on how to think about and handle money.

For example, if you are reading along with me through the Bible (this year I am using the Skövde Pingst YouVersion Plan in NIV – Click Here to Start!), yesterday’s reading included Psalm 49:16-20, which talked about not being jealous or greedy; wealth will fade.  I should focus more on gaining wisdom than gaining money.

  • 16-17: Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them.
  • 18 – 19: Though while they live they count themselves blessed— and people praise you when you prosper— they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life.
  • 20: People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish.

Psalm 49-20.jpg

 

#2. Dave Ramsey

I love Dave Ramsey.  I’ve never done his Financial Peace University classes, but have heard rave reviews.  He has simple, biblically-based concepts that have worked for me.  The resources I’ve used are:

  • Radio program:  I listen on-line; usually every day.  I love Dave’s advice and the inspiring stories of people who have paid off all their debt.
  • Baby Steps:  As outlined on the website and in his books.  Simple.  Clean.  Makes sense.  And it works.  I’m on Baby-Step 5 . . . and I want to sell my house and buy a new house with the equity to fast-forward to complete Step 6.  (But I have a lot of work to get my house ready to sell!)
  • Total Money Makeover book:  quick read, great resource.  And it works if you follow it!

 

#3. Joshua Becker

Josh spoke at my church several years ago about his journey and philosophy on possessions.  It was such a different concept than the consumerism that I was caught up in . . . and it made total sense.  I follow Josh’s blog www.BecomingMinimalist.com which has great insight on topics on minimalism, getting out of debt, becoming un-busy, decluttering, etc.

His blog as great reminders on getting rid of the things that don’t matter and focusing on what matters most.

I haven’t read any of Josh’s books yet . . . but have them on my to-read list.  If you have read any, please share thoughts.  Josh’s latest book is below:

Times of Refreshing

When I started this journey – and shortly after started this blog – my intention was to become like Mary.  To sit at the foot of Jesus and focus my energy and attention on what mattered most.  My walk with Jesus.  My husband.  My kids.  Serving others.  Loving others.

A year and a half ago I told all my clients I was quitting – shutting down that chapter of my life to find a new pace where I could be more balanced.  I felt strongly that God was leading me every step of the way.

But I still need to pay bills.  I still needed income.  The doors of another job opportunity opened and I walked through those doors.  I prayed for God to open the doors and they opened.  I never felt 100% peace in the decision . . . but I felt 90% peace.  And the doors were wide opened.  So I walked in.

It wasn’t a good fit.

So, why did the doors open?  I am not sure.  Maybe God wanted me there for a short season. Maybe it was to teach me once again that my “career” doesn’t define me.  That I need to find my definition in Christ.  Maybe it was to teach me to wait on Him.

Now that I have quit that job I can see even more clearly the importance of being still with God.  Listening for His voice.  And experiencing His refreshing.  And once again to focus on the things that matter most.

Acts 3:19:  Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (NIV)

Today’s Reading:

  • Joshua 13
  •  Joshua 14
  •  Acts 3:11-26
  •  Psalms 43

I kept my 2016 Resolutions . . .

I kept my 2016 resolutions . . . but the results weren’t quite what I expected.

I had very high hopes for 2016.  For the first time ever, I was being extremely intentional with my life and I was making massive changes.  My main resolutions at the beginning of 2016 were to:

  • Make a career change
  • Read through the Bible in the year
  • Minimize my personal belongings
  • Cut out things that waste time and focus on what matters most

And for the first time ever, I really stuck to my resolutions.

I quit my company that I had had for years – I let all my clients go by the end of May.  I walked away from a large source of revenue in order to cut down on stress and give myself a less crazy schedule.

I read through the Bible and used the SOAP method to journal (most days) outlined in the Divine Mentor.  I just finished Revelation yesterday morning!

I did a massive purge following Marie Kondo’s supposedly Life-Changing Magic.

By the end of the year I was finally off Facebook after many attempts.

And I really thought 2016 was going to be amazing.  That with these massive changes I thought I would start 2017 a new person with a completely new life.

It’s been a little like our trip to the Dominican Republic – lots of planning but the outcome wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for.

I’m still trying to figure out my job – and how to use my strengths in my job.  I’m not used to not being the boss.  I’m used to calling the shots and making my own schedule.  The adjustment it much harder than I imagined.  And where I thought I was going to be changing the world on a daily basis, mostly I’m still trying to figure out how to maneuver the organization’s database.

And for all the purging and the massive garage sale we held in June, my house is still a mess.  This was my kitchen when I went downstairs to reheat my day-old coffee.  I am sure Marie Kondo would be appalled.  This wasn’t her vision when she said everything should have its place . . . and the magic didn’t seem to work on me.

DSC00239.JPG

I still struggle as a parent and a wife.  It is a daily struggle.  I fail and get back up.  Fail and get back up.

So what did I learn in 2016 . . . and what I am still learning?

  • The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.  And regardless of the color of the grass – whether it is green or brown – I’m what ultimately needs to change.  A change in circumstance can be a good thing.  But an internal change in me is what is going to make the difference in how I see and experience the grass, regardless of the color.
  • Having less stuff is freeing in ways, but it is also time-consuming and a never-ending process.  If you think my kitchen is bad you should see the pile of crap in my bedroom.  The lack of stuff or the accumulation of stuff won’t make or break me.  It is more about how I view my material possessions.  Am I living for stuff (whether it is the accumulation or the minimization)?  Or am I living for what really matters – God, People, Loving Others, etc?
  • Does God care about what I do for a living?  Yes, I think he does.  He cares about if I am doing my work (regardless of what it is) for his glory and that I am putting him first.  He cares if I am seeking his will and following it.  He cares about my priorities and what is in my heart.

Colossians 3:23 (NIV): Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV): Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 16:9 (NIV): In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

So do I regret making very intentional changes in 2016 and sticking to my resolutions?  Absolutely not.  Reading through the Bible in 2016 was the most serious spiritual discipline I’ve ever accomplished, and I hope it is just the beginning of a life-long dedication to daily Bible reading and application.

And for all the other changes – only time will tell how they shape my future and future generations.  I’d rather be intentional than not, but I also need to keep in mind that results might not be apparent for years to come.  And some actions won’t have the results I hoped for at all.

And as I kicked of 2017 with my morning devotions I read:

Philippians 1:6 (NIV):  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

A very comforting thought as I begin to prepare to write my 2017 Resolutions.  And even more so a reminder, that whatever I plan to do, I need to make sure the Lord is the one establishing my steps.

Minimalism

September 27 Reading (Yes, I’m already behind in posting!)

SCRIPTURE

  • Zechariah 4-6
  • Luke 12

For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Luke 12:23 NIV

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luke 12:31 NIV

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:34 NIV

OBSERVATION

Last Sunday at church the topic was on storing up treasure in heaven, not on earth.  So the timing of this reading is perfect.  If you want to hear the sermon click here.

This is actually a journey I’ve been slowly traveling for the past year or so.  Several things:

  • I want to literally “honor the Sabbath”. No work-work, no housework.  Which means I no longer have two days to clean the house (Saturday and Sunday). And to be honest, I can’t even get my house clean in two days.
  • Lifestyle change: Over the past twelve months God has led me on a journey of making a career change.  I walked away from a lucrative (though high-stress) company that I owned and joined the non-profit arena.  So, from a practical standpoint, I’ve drastically minimized my income.  We are now living paycheck to paycheck and something has to go.  We are planning to put our house on the market in the next six months.  Downsizing!
  • I started a purge this past summer based on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. It is far from done and the process has been far from perfect, but it is getting closer.
  • Several years ago Joshua Becker spoke at our church about “becoming minimalist” and it was very thought-provoking. I’ve started following his blog.
  • With my new job I traveled to West Africa this summer. They don’t have access to clean water.  Or basic medical care.  Or electricity.  And yet they are singing and dancing and smiling.  Bottom-line, these people are happy with so little and I’m usually complaining though I have too much stuff.  And $1 in the U.S. = $500+ in Togo, West Africa.  My money is much better spent on something that can save a child’s life than on the latest dust-gathering pretty knick-knack for my shelf.  For more about my trip, click here.

ACTION

This weekend: Take at least one bag to the Goodwill and spend at least an hour purging, not just cleaning.

PRAYER

Lord, please show me where you want me to store up Treasure in Heaven.  Open my eyes to where you want me to serve and where you want me to spend the resources you have given me.