Enjoy the Season

 

Holland in Summer

I have watched the photos on social media of my friends in the Northern Hemisphere being hammered by snow storm after snow storm this winter. It has made me reflect on my 15 winters in New York. I wish I could say that I missed a real winter but really I don’t . The first snow of the season is gorgeous and I have some beautiful memories. However I have too many snow shovelling , scraping snow off my windscreen in the freezing cold, garbage on side walks covered in what was now brown slush memories , to want to return to NY in winter. I always go in spring, summer or fall if I can now.

What I do know is that I made the most of the snow when I had it. I went skiing when I could (I am not a great skier by any means but I had fun) , I walked in the snow, my connect group would turn on the outside lights and grab our sleds at 10pm and sled down the huge block of land I lived on in Smithtown , LI until we were exhausted and freezing. I so remember a lovely afternoon living in Manhattan and my brother John visiting and sitting in the window seat of the huge Barnes and Noble on Union Square drinking coffee, reading books and chatting as the snow turned the city white.

So when I left real winters I knew I had enjoyed them – and hated them . I had taken the best out of the season.

I think it’s so important to enjoy the season you are in – the actual season and the figurative season. Too often – particularly as Western Christians – we are so looking forward that we forget to get the most out of today, this week, this month.

Single people want to get married, married people want babies, people with babies want them to be able to walk and talk , parents with teenagers want them to be independent etc etc et . Meanwhile we are missing the things God has for us right now.

In church life we are wanting the church to break through to the next level all the time and not allowing ourselves to rejoice in the current season.

Every season – even the tough ones – has gold to be mined and God to encounter.

If you can help the people, you are leading , embrace the season they are in we would have many more content people in churches. People who have learned the “secret of being content whether in plenty or in want “.

Years ago I made the decision to enjoy the single season of my life. This season has gone on way longer than I anticipated or wanted. However I am so glad I know I have enjoyed the season. I have traveled to some gorgeous places, made great friends and had incredible experiences in this season . The alternative was to be miserable – and honestly I just can’t stay there for too long.

In each season life and death stands before us – chose life people and enjoy where you are today!

(The photo above is from a fun holiday in Amsterdam in Summer – a beautiful city with beautiful friends in it )

 

7 Tips to Coping with Peak Seasons

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Peak seasons – we all have them – times when we are unusually busy. For me there are three times in the year that are the main peaks; the lead up to College starting, the end of College and Presence Conference. For me they are wonderful as we welcome new students, celebrate and graduate or attend an incredible conference. They are also stressful and tiring.

In the past I have been great at achieving much in these seasons, narrowing my focus to the tasks at hand and ignoring everything else. Which sounds brilliant and probably was good for KPIs but was actually pretty unhealthy for me. I would wind up exhausted, able to schedule a migraine and with a house that was a disaster. (Any previous flat mates or roommates will tell you it is true !)

So I have learnt in recent years a better way – and most of you probably knew this intuitively – but maybe some of you are like I was.

Seven tips for coping with the Busy Season

1.Pray

Keep praying – long hours are exhausting,and God understands the season, but spiritual disconnection is not the answer. Apart from anything else you need His strength and wisdom.

2. Exercise
Keep exercising – we all feel like we don’t have time when we are busy but the stress relief from my morning walk with an excited puppy is priceless

 3. Eat well 

If  you are a stress eater like me you will reach for the chocolate – and in moderation it is wonderful – but believe me too much of a good thing will mess with you. I now have a fruit and veggie box delivered which helps so much – there is always healthy food in my fridge . Plan ahead for busy times and shop. Otherwise you will eat fast food and feel awful. Your body needs to be working well at these times.
4. Sleep

Sleep as normally as you can. Try not to stay up late watching Suits- oh wait that is just me !
5. Have fun

Last night I got home after two huge days and the temptation was to hibernate in front of the TV. However my brother invited me to play a board game with the family and a friend. Did I feel like learning a new game? Not at all? Do I know my extrovert self would be better for some fun with people – yes. (See my previous post on Knowing Yourself ) So I got into it and for two fun hours could only focus on getting my men up a board game mountain alive and beating everyone else. It was so much better stress relief than allowing my life to narrow down to work and sleep.

6. Clean your House /Bed room 
Keep your house in vaguely good shape – and make sure the washing is done. I am convinced one of the keys to life is a stack of clean underwear and clean sheets – somehow if I have both of those all is well with the world.

7.Laugh 
Keep laughing – don’t take it all too seriously – this season will pass and the next one is coming. Even in the midst of very tough times there are things to laugh about which will “do you good like medicine” . (This is from a girl prone to getting way too intense – it doesn’t really help anyone )

I know it is all very basic – however it took me a while to learn.
What do you do in peak times?

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7 Tips to keeping Sabbath

So we established last week we need a  sabbath – but how do we do it ?

The Old Testament has chapters and chapters about keeping Sabbath – keeping it holy – and most of it describes how to not work. When the law around Sabbath is introduced in Exodus 20 as part of the Ten Commandments, it says “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” and then goes onto say “Six days you shall labour and do all your work but the seventh day is a sabbath to The Lord Your God on it your shall not do any work”

If Jesus went explained say Sabbath was made for mankind – and thus kept it as a pattern to follow .However it seems we are really good at working and not so good at resting.

So here are my tips – most of them I learnt the hard way from doing the opposite

1. Chose a day that works as your Sabbath – if you work at a church – in whatever capacity Sunday does not count as a Sabbath – it is a work day. For a long time I had a Jewish like sabbath – 5pm Friday till 5pm Sat. It made me leave work on time on Friday night and gave me till Sat night service off.
2. Don’t spend time with people you are pastoring or leading- that is work . if you are with people you work with and you make a pact not to discuss work.
3. Turn off your work emails – none of us are that important that people need an instant response.
4. Don’t answer work calls (unless it is your boss – and if they are a good boss they won’t call on your day off unless it’s an emergency – every rule has exceptions- emergencies are just that- emergencies!
5. Don’t respond to work texts – I once had to say to a student after repeated texts ” I will get to it tomorrow I am having a day off” – she responded well and hopefully I modelled something for her
6. A new one I am going to try this year – disconnect from social media – the world actually doesn’t need to know how you are spending your day off ! You don’t actually need to know what everyone is doing or saying on your day off- a break from all the noise of social media cold just instantly make our sabbaths holy !
7. And most importantly – spend some time with God and some time alone and/or some time in nature or some time with people who refresh you !

I really don’t think Sabbath can be optional for those of us wanting to do a long journey and do it well. If you want to go hard and burn out – the fastest way to do it is to work 7 days a week! Occasional busy seasons require it- but a lifestyle without a day off is not sustainable.

Those are my tips – what are yours – help us all out and post a tip that has helped you keep the sabbath holy !

First Blog of 2014 – Rocks and Days Off !

Margaret River

As we are racing into a New Year many of us feel the need to set goals and revisit dreams and vision. I have set goals for 2014 – however more than anything I am feeling the need to make sure the “big rocks ” are in place before I worry about anything else .( from Stephen Covey http://www.scc.k12.wi.us/District/Big_Rocks_Stephen_Covey.pdf

When it comes to thinking about 2014 I am challenged again to make sure I have a Big Rock in place called Sabbath. I also promised I would write about this in an earlier post. Top Ten Boundary Tips 

When I first came back to church as a 19-year-old, we were all about freedom and not following the law. We threw out anything that we thought was vaguely legalistic. Somehow in my mind that included any concept of a Sabbath. We were going hard or going home, there was time  to sleep when we were dead – we were young , zealous and actually pretty stupid.

I actually managed to live like this for quite a long time .  Then at the end of one year I felt totally exhausted and my normal vacation time did not seem to work its magic. I felt the Holy Spirit come and convict me that I needed to make sure I kept the Sabbath if I wanted to finish the race well  and feeling good and in good health

I read the verse where Jesus says  “Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). This got me thinking in  a new way and caused me to make a major lifestyle change.

If the Sabbath was made for man, then we must need it. We must need at least one day off during the week to rest and rejuvenate. Jesus fulfilled the law but Sabbath, although contained in the law, predates law. It is a creation ordinance. God rested on the seventh day setting in place a pattern of living. Then to reinforce it , Sabbath is part of the 10 Commandments and the law.  (Interestingly as my Pastor, Phil Pringle recently pointed out – we are totally fine with a moral code based on most of the ten commandments – but not all of them, in 21st century life we struggle to take a day off.

It actually take faith to take a day off. It takes us letting go of one day of earning potential or one day of sometimes much needed paid or unpaid overtime to get the job done . It takes us trusting God that he can take care of our needs as we rest. It is letting go of some control and doing what God has set in place. As particularly western culture screams at us to work harder -particularly in a post recession world where there is more work, less money and less job security – a day off can seem foolish.

For those of us in ministry it takes trusting God with our people and our projects that He will actually be Lord as we rest !

For those who are high level lay ministers and hold down another full time job – it means making sure that you don’t commit ourselves beyond our ability to keep rest in place- no matter the desire to build the kingdom.

As you consider 2014 do you have Sabbath in place – a day of rest ? God created it for you , you are not superwoman or superman you cannot work without rest. Carve out a day off a week and see the difference.

Next week – Tips to keeping Sabbath – things that I have found work for me and maybe will for you!

(Sabbath and Vacation time are precious to me- the photo above is from a recent family trip to Western Australia- that is a my breakfast and dinner view from the place my sister took us to as a Christmas present for 3 nights in Margaret River- so blessed)

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Emotional Multitasking – not always easy but essential, especially at Christmas

Christmas

 

I have had an unusual week – as I am sure many of you have- it is the festive season and it all gets a little nuts.

On Monday I was reading and praying at the wedding of dear friends. Yesterday I was at work, followed by a divorce mediation meeting I am part of as a Pastor. After that I picked up my Mum and sister and went into the city to see the gorgeous Christmas lights on St Mary’s cathedral  you see above.

Today I was in strategy meetings till lunch, then a church staff Christmas party and then I came home to prepare for a funeral I am conducting. Then I will perform the funeral for a good friends of mine’s brother who died too young – and later this week there are more Christmas parties  to go to and a 50th birthday – all the while doing my best to support my friend who has lost her brother and my friend who has lost her marriage.

It’s not always this extreme – but it often is like this for many of us in any type of ministry. We have to learn the art of what I am calling for lack of a better term ; emotional multitasking . It can feel very unusual as we have to slip from one emotional state to another sometimes in a matter of moments.

I remember being at a College celebration dinner while staff members who are very close to me were loosing a beautiful baby girl.  It felt very bizarre to be at a party at that time. Chatting it over with another staff member, the very talented and wise Simon Ray, and he reminded me of Rom 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn” – I had never realised I may have to actually do these things at the same time. I had to rejoice with the students who had graduated and mourn for the loss of a baby girl. It was a very strange feeling!

Some of us in ministry will be walking alongside some people in very challenging situations while still trying to enjoy our families Christmas.  We cannot allow the ministry we are doing to rob us or our families of the joy we have. We have to be able to empathise and support while still fully engaging in our own families.

I have a few thoughts on how to do it – please feel free to add to it in the comments and help us all

1. Pray a lot – give the situations to God and trust him with them

2. Learn how you process and do it.  I verbally process so I will talk about how I am feeling with a few close friends (See my earlier post on friends   )

3. Know the state of your heart –  when it is getting overwhelmed – take some time out, even an hour in a café or on a beach to refresh

4. Don’t feel guilty about the joy you are feeling- enjoy what God has given you.

5. Be in the moment- really feel what is going on in that moment  – good or bad. It is part of being alive to feel. If you shut down your feelings you will become a shadow of yourself.

6. Understand that dealing with high emotion is stressful even as a support person – do the normal things you do to deal with stress -sleep, eat well, exercise , laugh etc etc

Let the dialogue on this begin- looking forward to your wisdom …..

(THis is my last blog for 2013 – going on annual leave on Friday for 2 weeks- will be visiting family in Perth and Adelaide for Christmas and New year -lying on the beach, reading lots of books, eating festive foods – as well as tasting some excellent wines from Margaret River and the Barossa Valley I am hoping ! Keeping my boundaries strong and going off line for my vacation. So won’t be back till on the blog till around Jan 9. Thanks for coming on this crazy adventure in 2013- be back in 2014 – have a Happy and Holy Christmas – and a fabulous New Year ! )

 

 

 

A Time to Question

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So on Wednesday Night we had Christmas D Group (which half way through turned into a little surprise wedding shower – but that’s another story – suffice to say that as it was D group we snookered the guys into a shower, games and all – too funny) and as usual there was the over and above abundance of yummy food and wine that you see above.

Instead of a message we did some reflective questions – and it made me realise again how good it is to stop – even in this crazy Christmas frenzy and reflect. Somehow when I lived in NY this was easier – the cold weather makes for more time inside, watching the Christmas tree lights twinkle , seeing It’s a Wonderful Life one more time, wrapping presents and reflecting. In the Southern Hemisphere it is not so conducive to pondering – we are rushing round shopping in the heat, going to drinks on decks and coming home and jumping in the pool!

No matter where you live – it is good to look back on the year that has been and ask yourselves some questions . Here’s the questions we used.

1. What was the highlight of your year ?

2. What was your greatest challenge ?

We have had a monumental year in my group- a 30th, a 40th, a 50th and a 60th, one long service leave, one 3 month Europe trip, one first child to school, one change of school, one Masters almost complete, one Presence Kids Event Managed, one major change of work direction, one finalist in a short film competition  in LA – and an engagement and a wedding next Monday. It was so wonderful to reflect on these things that we have journeyed through together.

(Funnily enough the highlight was often the greatest challenge as well . To make something a highlight in our lives frequently means it involves a mountain to overcome. )

So as this year come to a close, in among all the Christmas parties and family fun -why not stop and reflect on the year that has been. See the hand of God – see your personal triumphs – see the areas you need to work on.

If you are really brave ask some extra questions

Is my pace sustainable ?

Where do I need to make adjustments to achieve my goals ?

Anyone have any other good questions you would like to throw in to help us reflect ??

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Celebrate – go ahead it is Festive

Graduation

 

At this time of year I feel like I am constantly at an event celebrating something – the photo is from the Graduation Dinner at C3 College – the traditional lift photo you take on the way up to the venue with the students, in this case the gorgeous Charlotte – it was Monday night and it was very festive.  We had a Last day of College event and we have a Graduation service on Saturday night followed by a staff College party on Sunday Night. We have definitely celebrated the end of College.

And so we should. Whenever some-one achieves something – we should not rush by it. But we should stop and enjoy the moment. We should celebrate with them – Ecclesiastes encourages us to rejoice with those who rejoice .

The size of the achievement should determine the proportion of the celebration. For this reason at the end of a College year we do multiple celebrations people have had a significant transforming experience and so we need to mark the event properly. If we rush past it we also devalue the work God has done in their life at College.

We need to find out what is the best way to celebrate.  The party, the dinner, opening a bottle of champagne is fantastic but some-times it requires more thought.

Sometimes the best way to celebrate with our team is to give them a day off when they have worked really hard. After every conference or big event we take time in lieu. A day to recoup and recover, a different kind of celebration that values the sacrifice of time that has been made. It rarely covers all the time – it does allow for a pause and reflection on a job well done. It also allows for rest and recovery – essential for running this race.

Too often in church life , especially in churches with big vision , we launch for pulling off one huge event to the next without stopping to effectively debrief and then celebrate. What happens then is that people feel devalued and they burn out.

The debrief is also crucial – what did we do well, what could we do better, what did we learn – all questions that need to be answered. People need to be heard as well – their viewpoint is invaluable. (will write a whole blog on this I think)

Running onto the next event may seem like the overwhelmingly urgent thing to do. However if you want to have  team that is happy and healthy for the long-term – pause, celebrate and debrief.

As some-one who was celebrated this year on two continents just for reaching a significant age, I know how incredible it felt to have people communicate that they value who you are what you have done.

Life in ministry can be so intense and full – but I see Jesus going to weddings, eating with people and celebrating the holidays ! When he was born it was celebrated with a star, angels and three wise men with expensive gifts.

Go out of your way to find things to celebrate and life will be festive and the people you love will know you value them !!

What do you celebrate that you would like to share with everyone?

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