Stronger abs, learn a foreign language, the perfect hair do, teach your child to read, learn to juggle, reduce your stress, you name it… There are countless articles, books and blogs that will teach you how to do all of this and more in just ten minutes a day. In just six hundred seconds you can accomplish great feats. The only problem? If I take ten minutes a day to do crunches, listen to podcasts in French, flat iron my hair (who am I kidding, that would take a good 45 minutes) throw balls in the air, etc. I start running out of time to have conversations with my mom, pick my kids up from school, go to yoga, read my Bible, make dinner, kiss my husband, do laundry, work on my novel – the things I want to do and the things I need to do each day.
So how do we use our time best? There is so much in life I’d like to accomplish ranging from having organized closets and baking more chocolate chip cookies to attending Bible study and volunteering my time. There is no magical formula for how I allocate twenty-four hours each day, and no one to hold me accountable for each and ever minute. Is there?
Sometimes I feel pulled in a zillion directions.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “good is the enemy of best?”
It’s true. It is fun decorating for VBS and the windows in my house look so sparkly when I wash them and I feel stronger when I lift weights and my skin feels smoother when I give myself a facial and I can’t wait to read the next chapter of Eleanor and Park and, and, and... But are these things the best use of my time?
I’m not saying they are or they aren’t, because sometimes trivial things are critical and sometimes important things are meaningless. Who has God called you to be? What does He have in store for you today? Have you asked Him?
The thing that absolutely, positively has to happen for me each day is spending time in the morning with God. I read Matthew 19 yesterday. Verse 14 is about having a heart like children to enter God’s kingdom. God worked that in my brain and in my heart, about how important my kids are, which I knew, which I know, but today He really rubbed that into my very fabric.
I have a new novel that needs promoting, a tour that needs more dates booked, a hamper full of laundry and dozens of emails I need to return. But the absolute best use of my time was spent following God's nudge, and spending time with my kids. I watched The Princess Diaries with my daughters. I’ve seen it before and read the book. But my boys, who would never watch this, weren’t at home, and school starts soon, and we needed some snuggle on the couch girl time. As the new school year is lurking we were able to talk about the cool kids and the mean girls and people who like you just because you’re … fill in the blank. We talked about how the most important person for each of us to be is the person God made us to be. We recited the Eleanor Roosevelt quote over and over.
Today I was supposed to walk with a friend. I love her. She’s strong and inspiring and a great listener and makes me think. I was looking forward to spending ten times six minutes of my day picking her brain and pouring out mine while getting some exercise. But she had to cancel, and I ended up going to the park by myself. It was eerily cool for August, a storm was rolling in, but hadn’t hit quite yet. I ran faster than usual, invigorated by the wind, and listened to “Oceans” by Hillsong United over and over again begging God to give me ‘trust without borders’, spending time immersed 'in the presence of my Savior.’
It’s good to be intentional about our time. Like I said earlier, there are things I need and want to get done every day. But what if instead of filling every single ten-minute block of time, we spent some time letting God do His thing? Letting Him work ten minute miracles in our lives?
What can you do in just ten minutes? Better question, what can God do in just ten minutes? What is God urging you to put on your to-do list today and what is He urging you to delete from your calendar?
I’ve been praying a lot about it, and instead of goals for this year, God has given me a word – TRUST.
What? I called back to my Maker. A word. One? How can I possibly plan a year with one word? I am an organizer, a planner, a write-it-in-ink in my date book (preferably in colored ink to code the activity) kind of girl. I write out goals, lists of them with separate categories amidst the lists. What should I do with that broken relationship? Should I forgive? Should I reach out? Should I sever it? What about my writing? Should I continue my existing series? Branch out into something new? Focus more time on speaking? To every question I ask, God repeats the same answer again and again, “Trust me. Completely. One step at a time. Trust.”
I can’t help but think of the scene in Frozen where Elsa flees Arendelle. She takes one step on the lake and it freezes solid beneath her foot. She takes another step and the water beneath her second foot also freezes. Knowing the only path for her is forward she decides to run, trusting completely that the lake will freeze beneath her feet, holding her up, every step of the way.
That’s what God is calling me to do. To take one step while He holds me up. Then another, while He freezes untamed waters yet again. I long to see the path, the road, the route highlighted on Google Maps. But that’s not for me to see right now.
How much this scenario reminds me of Peter that night in the boat. Jesus held out His hand to Peter, coaxing Peter to walk on water towards Him, towards safety and light and excitement and joy. And as long as Peter was willing to trust that his next step across the sea would be held up, he walked. As soon as Peter looked down, away from Christ, as soon as he stopped trusting, he sank.
So, my goal for 2014 is to keep my eyes on Christ—to trust Him. And every time I catch myself looking elsewhere, listening to the wrong voices, believing things other than His truth, my goal is to turn my eyes back to Him. If I feel my ankles getting wet, or my calves damp or the hem of my skirt getting splashed, because I’m sinking, my intention is to return my focus to trusting Him, completely, before I go down.
When Elsa truly trusts the power she’s been given, she is able to build staircases in mid air faster than she can climb them. She can create spectacular castles and crystals when she lets go of her fears. I can’t wait to see what God enables me to do when I trust Him.
It’s not going to be easy. I’ll know that if I falter, the icy waters wait just inches below me. They will swirl and whirl and pull me down. But if I trust, fully trust, then I also know it doesn’t matter what’s below me or behind me or before me. It only matters that I do it with Christ. And if I do that, my footing will be secure and my path amazing. Yup, all I need is one word.
What about you? Do you have a word for 2014?
I’ve danced, run, played softball (abysmal disaster), and taken my share of aerobics, spinning and Pilates classes, but last week was the first time I’ve ever tried yoga.
I sat on a thin mat with my legs criss-crossed. The teacher began, “Go into prayer position with your hands folded in front of you and your eyes closed.” The room full of strangers wearing spandex pants and tank tops were posed to pray? Maybe I should have tried yoga a long time ago.
She continued, her voice a peaceful, deliberate cadence, “If you’re spiritual, say a prayer of thanksgiving, maybe for the lovely breeze coming through the windows or for some reflective time today, or you can dedicate this workout to someone or something special on your mind.”
I inhaled and exhaled and prayed. Not the kind of prayer I so often say – a ‘to do’ list of wants and needs and demands on God. No, a different kind of prayer -- the kind of prayer when I don’t talk at God, but with Him, and actually give Him a chance to be heard over the noise in my head.
Class continued with an hour’s worth of poses and movements stretching muscles I didn’t realize needed to be stretched. The instructor peppered the class with comments like, “If you’re feeling particularly stretchy, lift your left leg over and behind your right leg.” She didn’t demand we do the move, but gave us the chance to do something even better for our bodies, if only we’d give it a try. Much like God doesn’t force us to go outside our comfort zone, but He gives us amazing prospects, if we’re willing to strike a new pose.
“If you’d like to get a deeper challenge, pull both arms behind you and turn your gaze upward.”
Did she really suggest I look upward, if I’d like a deeper challenge?
God’s just waiting up there with an incredible opportunity, if only I’ll look up to Him. God wants me to stretch! God wants to stretch me!
And God wants to stretch you!
What is it that God has been challenging you to do, but either you let your agenda drown Him out, or you haven’t felt particularly stretchy, or you’ve felt challenged to the hilt already?
I know. Just like you, I’m ready to pull out my iPhone, tap the Notes App and show God the list of reasons I’m not equipped for His plan. I don’t have enough time, experience, strength, contacts, expertise, resources, money, Twitter followers etc. to execute His plan.
Moses was weak and nervous and stuttered. But God said “What’s that in your hand?” Moses answered, “A staff”. And all Moses needed to take on the powerful pharaoh of Egypt and free an entire nation was that stick. David was young, inexperienced and ridiculed by his own brothers. But, David didn’t need King Saul’s armor or sword or army to take down the biggest terrorist this side of the Jordan River. He only needed five small, smooth stones. And Peter? Jesus asked him to leap out of a boat in the middle of the sea and “Come ahead.” Jesus didn’t throw Peter a raft or scuba gear or water skis. Peter just needed his own feet to walk on water! Well, they needed a stick, some stones, two feet and … faith. Maybe all we need to be stretched is our faith and something as simple as a yoga mat.
We all have constraints. But God doesn’t care. Like my yoga instructor, He doesn’t demand we accept His challenge. But He knows if we step up, the blind will see, mountains will move, seas will part and justice will be done. His Kingdom will be a better place. We will feel invigorated, empowered, energized, peaceful and comfortable in our own skins, because we’ll be living out His plan for us.
How is God asking you to stretch today? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment on where your legs and arms and gaze need to go to get a deeper stretch. And when you’re done grab your mat and strike prayer pose.
Laura L. Smith