Happy day, my friends! How are you? I hear the birds chirping outside and I am feeling their excitement. I have found some new inspiration and it fits like an old glove. Are you familiar with slow living? It is a counter trend – counterintuitive, counterproductive, and countercultural.
All my life I have been romanced by busyness. Haven’t we all? And it has been a tease. Enough is never enough. It is time to turn and embrace slow living. I can’t wait to see what God shows me about elevating focus over frenzy. I have already identified 7 things I need to change. Does any of this resonate with you?
What is slow living and how can it elevate focus over frenzy?
In case you’re not familiar with the trend called slow living, let me introduce you to the concept. It is a movement which challenges the idea that busy equals successful or important. It elevates the ability to enjoy focused free time. It protests the frenzied lifestyle, and offers the stressed and depressed masses a healthier, more fulfilling way to live.
“Slow living refers to a lifestyle that encourages a slower approach to aspects of everyday life. It has been defined as movement or action at a relaxed or leisurely pace… However, slow living does not prevent the adoption of certain technologies such as mobile phones, Internet, and access to goods and services.”
I have spent decades at lightening pace. Am I better for it? Are my husband, kids, or grandkids? I have done many things, worn many hats, and spun many plates, but have I done any of it really well?
I am drawn by this idea of slow living. It’s back-to-basics approach, utilizing the technology we have to free us instead of entangle us, makes sense to me. And I’ve always admired people who are naturally inclined this way.
Here are 7 endeavors I expect to improve with slow living.
Frenzy says just get it done. Multitask if possible. Busyness is next to godliness, right?
Focus says worship God. Get somewhere and get still. Learn from Him.
“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”
My quiet time has been in dire need of an overhaul. This year, I’m giving it a slow living makeover. I ordered a new Bible, adopted a fresh system of recording praises and prayer requests, and committed to blocking the necessary time to go deep in communication with Jesus. He is my best friend, and I miss Him when I simply go through the motions and fail to really connect.
Frenzy says fast food! Drive through, take out, grab and go, eat on the run.
Focus says gather ’round. Plan, pick, purchase, and prepare whole foods. Nourish yourself and those around you.
To bring a slow living mentality to my mealtimes, I am going to sit down. I will converse with people or with God while I eat. The meal doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, understated pleasures are often the best.
I read some advice that has worked well for me in the past. It was to think about each bite and visualize what was required to get it on the fork. What did God have to do? Sunshine and rain? What else? What did the farmers, ranchers, or truckers contribute? I want to be more mindful, thankful, and satisfied with even the simplest of meals.
Frenzy says take the freeway! Honk and hurry, gotta scurry. It’s all about the destination.
Focus says slow down. Leave early and don’t worry. Enjoy the ride!
Slow living while I commute, means more scenic routes with more open windows and open roads. I want to give away the right-of-way and notice flowers in the median. I’d like to enjoy meaningful conversation, a good audio book, or uplifting music while I drive. The journey should be at least half the fun of going somewhere. I must plan accordingly!
Frenzy says fill it up! Schedule to the minute. Keep movin’ and groovin’, makin’ and shakin’.
Focus says guard your time. Give God room. Be choosy, be discerning, and keep your calendar with care.
I want my slow living calendar to have wide berths. I’m tired of one unexpected task making me late for everything else all day. Much of my schedule is dictated by my job, but my free time is up to me. I am going to keep open time, in pen, on my calendar. I will use it to do things I want to do, to catch up on things I need to do, and to be available for what God asks me to do.
Frenzy says I’m just too busy. Does running late burn calories?
Focus says your health is a priority. Raise your heartrate, lower your cortisol. Strive for balance – mind, muscle, and mission.
To attain slow living with my workouts, I must be intentional. I will not be cramming exercise into tiny open slots on my calendar. I want to strive for purposeful exercise using full range of motion. I will take time to breathe deeply and to stretch. I need to listen to my body. How many workouts have I hurriedly completed with no time left for a cool down? I feel those catching up with me already!
Frenzy says talk fast. Be heard. Say what’s on your mind.
Focus says listen. Repeat what is said to be sure you understand. Pray about how to respond.
I can practice slow living all day long when it comes to my words because opportunities abound. I believe there is grace and wisdom in being the last to speak, and I want to embrace it. I have been convicted to speak fewer opinionated words and more truthful ones. I need to slow down and discern the difference.
My feelings are like a volcano. When they are triggered, words erupt. I need to keep my emotions in check and hold my tongue.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Frenzy says decide now. Go out on a limb, no time to waste. Grab the deal, make the trade, accept the offer.
Focus says take a deep breath. Don’t be pressured to make a quick decision.
I want to be characterized by slow living in my decision making. When I am faced with a decision, I want to sleep on it, pray about it, and seek wise counsel. I would rather miss an opportunity about which I was unsure, than to be stuck with one I despise because I made it in haste. The decisions I make affect everyone around me. I owe it to myself, and them, to take time to make careful and prayerful decisions.
Well, there they are – 7 ways to embrace slow living and elevate focus over frenzy – in print and already making me feel accountable. Slow living mandates that space be built into each activity to ensure time to embrace, enjoy, and accomplish it well.
There will be a learning curve. I’m certain there will be days when nothing goes as planned. Some days will still be busy. And that is ok. Slow living is a practice, something to pursue.
I believe I can serve God better with this mindset, but I also give Him full editing priviledged over my schedule. My prayer is that He will make me more effective at loving Him, magnifying Him, and lovingly encouraging His people.
What do you think about slow living? Do you feel frenzied or focused in the lifestyle you lead? Are there obvious things in your schedule that you’d like to elevate above the others? Would you care to join me as I settle into slow living?
“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
Have you ever wondered what God wants from you? Sometimes I get caught in that rut. As the saying goes, a rut is formed in the mud. I don’t want to be thinking in the mud. I want my mind and focus to be clear.
How to Get Out of the Mud and Clear Our Heads about What God Requires
Overthinking is the enemy of simplicity, and the gospel is simple. God wants a relationship with you and me. He has done everything to make that possible. But once it is established, what then?
God spoke to His people in the Old Testament through the prophet, Micah. He clearly stated what He requires.
“He has told you, O man, what is good—
and what does the Lord require of you,
but to do justice and to lovemercy,
and to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah 6:8 (emphasis mine)
Surely, He wants more than that. He wants mission work and tithing and sacrifice, right?
He wants our hearts to be willing to act when He prompts us, yes, but so much of what we feel we must do comes from our own imagination. If we read the above verse in context, we get a clearer picture.
“With what should I come before the Lord,
and bow down before God on high?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
“He has told you, O man, what is good—
and what does the Lord require of you,
but to do justice and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God?”
Fast forward to the New Testament. The Pharisees were the religious leaders of that day. They were so obsessed with pleasing God, that they turned the Ten Commandments into over 600. I’m sure anyone who observed their lives was impressed with their fervency.
Everyone, that is, except Jesus. He had some harsh words for them. He was unimpressed with all that they had set themselves on doing, because they were neglecting the things they had been told to do.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You tithe mint and dill and cumin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone.”
Matthew 23:23 (emphasis mine)
If I want to offer my service to God, out of the kindness of my heart – or even out of a misguided sense of duty, He will accept it. He will use it. But He will not take it in exchange for what He has already told me He requires. Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with Him by faith.
As the new year rolls around, I want to make sure I’m making the main things my main things. As I think about the goals I want to accomplish and the person I want to become, I will be keeping Micah 6:8 in focus. God has told me what is good and what He requires. He has made it clear.
My friend, do you have a relationship with God? Are you stuck in a rut wondering what He requires of you? First and foremost, He wants a relationship with you. He wants you to get to know Him in a personal way.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
From there, He will show you the purpose for which you were created. He will guide you into doing justice, loving mercy, and walking with Him in humble faith.
We cannot expect that, in the end, our good will outweigh our bad and He will be pleased. He has given us His Word so we will know what He wants from us. He isn’t interested in accepting our offering in place of what He has said.
Are there things you need to get right with Him as we head into this New Year? Maybe some efforts to abandon and others to embrace? The time is now to get out of the mud and clear our heads about what God requires.
“Thus says the Lord of Hosts: Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion, every man to his brother.”
We are in full-swing holiday mode at our house. How about you? Are you having a large family get-together or are you looking forward to a more intimate celebration this season?
In Part 2 of An Illusion of Joy or an Infusion of Joy?, I said I’d get back to you with some ideas to pull everybody in without adding more stress to your schedule. The pressure of the promise has stuck with me and I’m here to make good on it with six simple and fun Christmas games to try at your gatherings this year.
Silly games bring laughter and make for merry memories. With just a small bit of preparation, these games have gone over huge for me. Most of them are available on the internet, but here you have them in one spot, tried and true and highly recommended.
Paper plate overhead draw
What you need: Pens and cheap paper plates (1 of each per participant. They don’t have to be cheap plates, but since they aren’t holding food, they can be!)
How to play: Each person puts the plate on their head. You lead them through drawing something simple. The plate stays on their heads until the end. We most recently did a snowman. It went something like this. I said: “Your snowman is made of 3 circles.” I paused while they drew 3 circles on the plate, on top of their heads. Then I continued, pausing between each instruction. “There is a top-hat on his head”. “He has 3 buttons down the middle circle.” “He has 2 eyes.” “He has 2 stick-like arms.” “He has a carrot nose.” “He has 3 fingers at the end of his left arm.” “He has a scarf around his neck.” “He has 4 fingers at the end of his right arm.” “He has a crooked smile.” “There is holly on his hat.” The jumping around is intentional. It is difficult to re-find a place when you cannot see it. That is the fun. When your instructions are done, everyone gets to take their plate off their head and see their masterpiece. Pass the plates around and have everyone vote on the best, the most impressionistic, the most realistic face, or whatever categories you want to include.
Behind the back paper rip
What you need: One piece of paper per person
How to play: Each person stands holding a piece of paper behind their back. The instructions are simply to keep the paper behind their back and rip it into a Christmas tree. You may want to set a timer for added pressure, but it isn’t necessary. It is harder than it seems. (You may, or may not, want to add the caveat that folding the paper and ripping symmetrically, which makes it significantly easier, is not allowed.) At the end, have everyone show their masterpiece and take votes on best, most unique, smallest, etc.
What you need: One copy of the Item List for each participant. (Click the picture below for a ‘copy & paste’ printable version of the Item List. Feel free to change it up to suit your group!)
How to play: This is a Scavenger hunt each person conducts in their phone. The list assigns points per item and participants tally their score for whatever they can find. Examples might be ‘a contact named Mary’, or ‘a Christmas song ring tone’. Whoever has the most points is the winner. You can decide whether to make it a timed exercise or not, depending on the savvy of the crowd you have. You can also pick a few items and require the winner ‘show and tell’ to prove their win.
What you need: A bag or two of marshmallows
How to play: Divide up into pairs and have partners stand across from each other. This is run just like a water balloon toss, but when one partner tosses a marshmallow, the other must catch it in his/her mouth. We have done this many ways: ~ Large marshmallows are worth 2 points and small ones worth 1 point. Partners strategize how they can reach 14 points the quickest. (Go for small and easy, or risk the harder catch for a chance to earn more quickly?) The team with 14 points in the shortest amount of time wins. ~ Set a timer for 30 seconds and the team with the most overall catches in the allotted time is the winner. ~ Start with the partners close to each other for the first toss. Each team who makes the catch takes a step back while those who do not sit down. Each successful catch requires a step back, enlarging the distance between teammates. The last team standing wins.
The Left / Right Game
This is one of my favorites. There are two versions here. The first one is short, sweet and secular. It is good for an office party, or for a gathering where religious content is not allowed. But I prefer the Nativity version, which is the second picture. It is a fantastic way to share the Christmas story with everyone at your gathering. (Click on the pictures below for copy & paste printable versions).
What you need: At least 1 wrapped gift. I would suggest 1 gift per 5 participants. It does not have to be expensive.
How to play: Everyone sits in a circle, close enough to pass the gifts. You read the story. Every time you say the words “Right” or “Left”, the present(s) get passed to the person to the “Right” or “Left” of whoever is in possession. When the story ends, the person or people holding the gift(s) wins it.
This can be a fun way to do a gift exchange. We had a party where everyone brought a Christmas mug. Everyone carried the one they’d brought to the circle and left with the one they were holding at the end of the story.
What you need: Antler headbands, rings, Rudolph noses (optional)
This one might take a bit of preparation if you don’t have Reindeer Antlers on hand. I found mine at Party City for $1. If you have a crafty teen in your life, I’m sure they could rig some up for you. Some people can work wonders with pipe cleaners and others can make anything with duct tape!
How to play: I have 2 pairs of reindeer antlers, so we play this game with 2 teams. Each team picks one of their members to be the reindeer, who wears the antlers and stands at least 5 feet from the rest of the team. Their teammates take turns trying to toss rings onto the antlers. The team with the most wins. (The reindeer is ABSOLUTELY allowed to duck and dive to try to catch the rings!)
Each participant can make their own ring by cutting the middle out of the plate they used in game 1 (Paper Plate Overhead Draw). Or the rings can be made in advance with pipe cleaners. I upped the ante this year by purchasing blinking Rudolph noses from the dollar store and using glow sticks as rings. We turned out the lights and played by the Christmas tree.
Our family has been doing Christmas game night for several years now. My husband and I purchase an array of small denomination gift cards as prizes and organize the games. This is our Christmas gift to everyone. It is low stress, and we avoid the mall and the dreaded pressure of shopping for perfect presents all around.
Everybody always shows up, and with 5 adult kids and their significant others, all with jobs and some living hours away, that says something. We enjoy the experience of playing together. In fact, we held this year’s gathering a couple weeks ago because it was the only night on the calendar everyone could make it and no one wanted to be left out. It is one of our favorite nights of the year!
These games I have listed are our favorites. We also play a Christmas version of Bingo, do word games, relays, Family Feud, and others. The competition is surpassed only by laughter and our face muscles are always sore the next day from smiling so hard.
My parents recently had a family party and we played games there too. Some of our winnings were translated to a dollar amount, which will be donated to charity in our names. I thought that was a great idea!
What do you think? Will you introduce any of these six simple and fun Christmas games to try at your gatherings this year? Do you have any other favorites you’d like to share?
Have you ever left the mall with spontaneous purchases? Do you wonder why you bought those items? Or maybe the opposite is true for you. Do you work in sales and struggle to meet your quotas? These things may seem out of your control, but don’t get down on yourself just yet!
Please keep reading, my friend. Understanding buy buttons will make and save you money! This information can give you an edge over other shoppers and retailers this holiday season and forever!
I recently had a conversation with Elizabeth Wickham on her bleuwater blog post about the depth of character, both fictional and real life, that is created when wants and needs are defined and understood. She writes about thought-provoking subjects. If you don’t already follow her, you really need to check out her site! This post about buy buttons was prompted by the discussion she and I had in relation to her article.
Understanding buy buttons will make and save you money
What are buy buttons?
I am using the term “buy buttons” for this post. The phrase for the idea might be coined by me, but the concept is certainly not. I learned these principles in a sales class I took decades ago. It has been so long that I don’t remember the exact terminology used, but I have banked (pun intended) on this information for many years and utilized it repeatedly to both make and save me money.
Buy buttons are the triggers which prompt you to open your wallet. They are wired to the needs and wants you have, both physical and emotional. Let’s back up and differentiate between needs and wants.
Needs are things you must have to survive. These are basic but crucial. Examples of needs would be air, water, food, shelter, and a means by which to obtain them. New shoes can be a legitimate need, if you must wear them to work and your old ones have fallen apart.
Most of what people call needs are actually wants. Anything over and above what is needed to survive is a want. There is not necessarily anything wrong with desiring more, nicer, and newer things, but be honest about what they are. Needs and wants are too often confused. You might think you need a new pair of shoes to match a new belt, but that is a want if you have other shoes to wear.
Where are your buy buttons?
Your buy buttons lie in the areas where you are most likely to make spontaneous decisions with your money. They are where your wants feel most like needs. Below are 5 pressure points upon which buy buttons may be found. The order of their importance varies from person to person. You may favor one or a combination of them. As you read, try to identify where yours might be.
The buy button of urgency has a time sensitive component. Do phrases like ‘last-chance’, ‘limited-time-only’, and ‘1-left-in-stock’ quicken your pulse? When you decide to sleep on a purchase decision, do you lie awake all night wondering if you missed out? If so, you have a buy button which is triggered by the perception of urgency. And you’ll want to hurry because, today only, I’m waiving the membership fee on the Back Porch! (Just kidding, it is free to follow this blog, so please subscribe!)
If you simply cannot pass up a bargain, then you probably favor this buy button. A great deal is prey of the bargain hunt. Do you get a rush from haggling at a garage sale or using double coupons? Are you giddy about clearance racks and bargain basements? Does it bring you joy to find out you paid less for something than your neighbor did? Then you have a bargain buy button.
Do you pursue things that make you feel safe? You know you tend toward a buy button related to security, if you value things like solid construction, high safety ratings, and gadgets for emergency preparation. Your fences are sturdy and you have the best home alarm system you can [almost] afford. If you are consistently willing to go over budget on purchases to include the newest proven safety features, you have a buy button related to security.
You might suspect this buy button is a main one for you if you like to have the best. Does it make you happy when people admire the things you flaunt? Are you motivated to purchase items more for the prestige of ownership than because you are excited to use them? Are you drawn to things that are advertised as ‘rare finds’ or ‘one-of-a-kind’? If terms like ‘unique’, ‘custom’, and ‘elite’ catch your attention, the buy button of prestige is one of yours.
Are you sentimental? Do you hold on to the past and enjoy refurbishing old things? Will you invest in quality workmanship which should stand the test of time? An activated sentimentality buy button will compel you to pull out your money to remember the good ole days or to create something unforgettable for the future. If antiques and nostalgia are precious to you, and you can’t put a price on making memories which will last, you have a sentimentality buy button.
Knowing about buy buttons can make you money
When you sell, you can rely on buy buttons. Whether you are trying to resell a single item you have, or you own an entire store, knowing about buy buttons can make you money. Once you identify a customer’s buy button, you can tailor your pitch to steer them toward a product that will trigger it. You make the sale and they feel good about their purchase. It is a win-win!
Let’s take a gym membership for example. If you work the sales desk and a potential customer mentions living in the gated community across the street, you should find out more about that. Do they live there for prestige? For security? Those would be the most likely assumptions. But don’t assume!
I live in a gated community. And believe it or not, my input on that decision was driven by bargain. The house was the most affordable in the area which met the needs of my family. If you were trying to sell me a gym membership according to the prestigious club or the secure facilities, you would not likely get my money. I don’t quicken toward either of those buy buttons. But, if you could convince me that you have the best prices in town, you might hook me. And that brings me to my last point.
Knowing your buy buttons can save you money
I love a good bargain. I have a daughter who is hopelessly sentimental. I have a son who enjoys prestige and a husband who wants his family to be secure. We know this about ourselves, and it has saved us money!
When you know your buy buttons, you will realize when a salesperson is pressing them. Also, you will understand your compulsions and be able to anticipate and manage them. Exercising power over your buy buttons will save you money.
I have developed self-talk in relation to my primary buy button. When I pass bargain counters and clearance racks, I remind myself that if I didn’t need those items at full price, I don’t need them at their sale price either. If I purchase an unwanted item worth $100 at a sale price of $5, I didn’t save $95, I wasted $5. Knowing my buy button has saved me an inestimable amount of money!
What are your buy buttons?
Have you learned anything about yourself? What triggers your buy buttons? Do you understand some of the curious purchases you’ve made? Have you thought of new angles for selling products to others? How might an understanding of buy buttons make and save you money?
“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”
Hello, precious person! Welcome to the back porch. If I were to give you a cushy reclining chair right now, with a pillow, and a soft blanket, would you be likely to fall asleep? As much as I’d love to provide a nap for you, I’d rather talk to you about why you’re so tired. You’ve surely heard the saying:
Sharing tools to help you sleep, night after night, will serve you better in the long run than giving you a few minutes to nap right now.
I’ve had some sleep issues and as I’ve worked to resolve them, I’ve discovered a few tricks. But first things first.
There is one most important ingredient for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep.
It is my belief that if this one thing is missing, even if the rest of the recipe is flawless, satisfying sleep will elude you. That most important ingredient is peace.
Peace is a must for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep.
Do you struggle to sleep because you feel vulnerable? Anxious? Angry? Confused? Conflicted? Helpless? Hopeless? Are you subject to every whim of the media, politicians, bosses, teachers, and other voices who can’t agree with each other, let alone impart understanding to you?
Please hear me right now. None of them created the universe. Not one of them knows what tomorrow will bring. None of them, even less all of them, will ever bring you peace.
“I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
The only way to have true inner peace, is to be indwelt with the Prince of Peace.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Any other suggestion is a sham. Call me simple, call me dependent, call me whatever you like. I won’t lose any sleep over it because Jesus is my peace. And I would love nothing more than to see you relaxed, able to sleep, and resting in His peace as well.
There are many counterfeit means of peace being touted out there – alcohol, drugs, relationships, wealth, notoriety, what else can you think of? People hope that when they achieve what they’re striving for, they will have peace and be able to relax. They’ll rest then. I’ve heard people say they’ll sleep when they die. But even that is an unrealistic expectation.
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…”
And all of this fails to mention that it is almost impossible to achieve our high hopes and gallant goals if we can’t sleep. Without rest, we lack the energy we need to reach for our dreams, let alone succeed in them. So many people are running on empty and jumping from disappointment to disappointment. Is that you? Would you like a complete reset?
Jesus is the Source of peace.
Friend, how can anyone sleep without peace? How can one have peace without forgiveness? Is there a way to forgiveness without confession and repentance? Jesus wants to wipe your slate clean. He would love to set your feet on His path to purpose. A reset from Him is the only way to have relaxing rest and satisfying sleep. And the amazing news is that He literally died to give it to you.
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
If you haven’t accepted the salvation that Jesus freely gives, none of the other tricks I’ve learned will solve your sleep problems. There can be no true rest or enduring satisfaction of any kind apart from Him. I believe that to the depths of my soul.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
If you do not know this peace, but would like to – or even if only your curiosity is piqued, check out this post. It contains more detailed information on the Gospel of Peace. You can also contact me via the ‘Contact’ button on the top of the page or using the comments section below. There is a saying, which is oh-so true, which says:
With ALL of that said, even Christians have trouble sleeping. We know Jesus. We possess inner peace. We have confidence in God’s plans and the brightest hope for the future. So why are we… why am I… lying awake at 2am?
I’ve been asking myself this question and praying for wisdom about it. I’ve tried some things which did not make much difference. But there are 5 habits I’ve worked to hone that seem to really be working. Please join me back here Friday to talk about them.
In the meantime, if there is anything I can do to help you with this one, most important ingredient for relaxing rest and satisfying sleep, let me know. The 5 tricks I have discovered are all dependent, and built upon, a foundation of peace. It is imperative to have this piece (this peace!) firmly in place before we move on.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.”