Friday, August 28, 2015

Isolation: Don't Go There (Five Minute Friday) #fmfparty

Isolation is not a pretty place to be.

Especially when you're in the dark.

Yet depression often forces us into exactly that place.

The irony is that we want to be alone, to crawl into a corner and hide from the world.  At the same time, what's best for us is just the opposite.

When depression strikes, I find it hard to think clearly.  My instinct is to pull up the covers and stay in bed all day.  Why wallowing in the bad feelings, letting them steal my day, sounds appealing, I don't know.  Well, yes, I kind of do.  That's the depression talking:  Be alone with me.

Wallowing in misery is the absolute worst thing to do, though.  I need to get out among people, or at least reach out by phone.  I need someone to remind me of the promises of God.  I need someone not to appease me by saying, "It'll be okay," but to remind me that God is still in control, no matter what's happening and where I am.

I can't do it alone.  I need God--His strength, His wisdom, His unfailing love.  And when I can't see Him, I need good friends to remind me that He is always, always with me.

I wrote this in five minutes in response to the prompt ALONE in Five Minute Friday.  Click through the link below to see more FMF.

Five Minute Friday

photo credit: step 2: contemplation via photopin (license)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What Keeps You Up at Night? (Book Review) #UpAtNight

So what does keep you up at night?  What is your worst fear?  What is that fear keeping you from doing?

I received a copy of this book, at no cost to me, for review purposes. I wasn't required to write a positive review, and all opinions in this post are my own.

New from Pete Wilson, author of Plan B, is What Keeps You Up at Night? How to Find Peace While Chasing Your Dreams.

Here's the synopsis from the publisher (W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson):
It's easy to feel paralyzed by uncertainty. We want our questions answered, our decisions affirmed, and our plans applauded. But life doesn't come with an instruction manual and rarely follows a straight path. How would your life change if you learned to lean into uncertainty instead of waiting on the sidelines for just the right moment or opportunity? 
The paradox of faith is that you can't activate it until you act on it. Trust compels us to move forward. If you don't, then you'll be left with a laundry list of unrealized expectations. You were meant to experience a life of abundance and blessing, not frustration and failure. 
Clarity only comes when we look back. So if you wait until you have clarity, you'll never find it. Instead, you must move forward even when you feel scared to death. That is when you'll be able to turn the fears that keep you up at night into fuel for your journey. 
If you want to experience a breakthrough in your life, then you must find a new cadence that will provide the strength you need to move forward in spite of your doubts, questions, and fears. The rhythm of faith is not hinged upon our circumstances but our willingness to surrender. 
In his most insightful work since the debut bestseller, Plan B, Pete Wilson provides a plan for living that will lead you to a place of peace that you've only dreamed about and a life filled with meaning, significance, and satisfaction.
I think we've all been there.  We're afraid to take the next step because we can't see the path ahead.  It can be hard to trust in and wait on God when He isn't showing us how the story ends, or even where it goes from here.  (I always think, "I'm okay with whatever You want, God, but I just want to know how it turns out!")  It's human nature to fear the obstacles that we see.  This is the situation that Pete Wilson addresses in his new book.

He reassures readers that we're not alone in experiencing these emotions, then he gives practical strategies for coping and moving forward.  I found a lot of truth in it.

I want to share a couple of passages with you.  It's hard to choose just a few.  It's even harder to isolate a paragraph or so, because every paragraph builds on the previous one.  But here are three that I especially like.  The first two are from the introduction.
  • Fear can inflict some ugly consequences on our lives.  It is perhaps the world's most pernicious thief.  It steals our joy in the present and robs us of our hope for the future.  It causes us to obsess over ourselves and our limitations instead of seeing all the possibilities that are available.  It keeps me from connecting with other people and prevents me from allowing myself to be vulnerable or trusting.  It erodes my faith and confidence, preventing me from daring to do what God has called me to do in this world.  It deceives me into crawling inside a box in an attempt to be safe when I was really created to take glorious risks in the wide-open air.
  • When I am struggling with the gap between my expectations and my present reality, I have to remind myself that fear is a visual impairment.  Most of us forget this, especially when we are in the grip of uncertainty, anxiety, or discouragement.  Our vision gets skewed by our circumstances, and we start to see things inaccurately.  Often, we see things that don't even exist!
The third is from the chapter on learning to wait.
Now, believe me, I understand that those of you reading these words who are in the midst of waiting for a miracle or waiting for a dream to be realized or waiting to be delivered from a dark, scary place probably feel helpless.  You feel as if you're doing nothing, but you're actually doing something very important.  In fact, this waiting--this attending to God--may be the most important spiritual work you could possibly do.  While you are waiting faithfully on God, you are also allowing your hope to grow up.  And if you can't be still and wait and hope--even when you have no reason to hope--you can't become the person God created when He thought you into existence. 
Spiritual transformation doesn't take place when we get what we want.  It takes place while we're waiting.
I like the conversational tone of Pastor Pete's writing, and I appreciate his honesty.  He's quick to tell readers that he's familiar with fear, too.  He's not speaking about what he's learned from books, but what he's learned from his own experiences and the experiences of people he knows.

Here are links for more information:
About the Author

Pete Wilson is the founding and senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Pete desires to see churches become radically devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to one another, and relentlessly dedicated to reaching those outside of God's family. Pete and his wife, Brandi, have three boys.

*If you click through my affiliate link and complete a purchase, I will receive a small commission.  Thank you for supporting this blog!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, August 21, 2015

Finding a New Me (Five Minute Friday)

I know it's been like, forever, since I've blogged anything except book and product reviews.  It must seem as though the blog has been on auto-pilot, and if you're still here, THANK YOU!

It's a new season in my life, and it fits well into the Five Minute Friday theme for today:  FIND.  So here we go:

It's a new season, a time of major transition, for my family and me.  With my son's high school graduation, we've reached the end of our homeschooling journey.  As he starts college, I'm realizing that I need to find my identity again.  I've been a homeschooling mom for 13 years ... now what?

Part of the transition has been cleaning out our school room.  We have years and years worth of books and papers and records and supplies.  It's overflowed into storage cabinets in another room, too.  Going through all of this has been a challenge (so much stuff!) but it's also been nostalgic.  When I see his first grade history book, I remember the fun we had with it.  It's hard to part with those things, but it's necessary.

Another part of the transition is cleaning up.  Housecleaning hasn't been my highest priority in these years, and our home looks lived-in--because it is!  I've kept up with the basics, but the deep-cleaning tasks have been neglected.  I'm trying to catch up with those.

I'm out of time already!   Can you believe it?!  Let me give you the short version of what I was going to write, okay?

As this is going on, I'm having to redefine my life.  Maybe refocus is a better word.  But God always provides and, as one door is closing, others are opening.  I've "stumbled upon" opportunities in ministry:  some short-term, some long-term.  (I've written about one of these already.)  Homeschooling has been wonderful (usually) and very rewarding (usually), but this is rewarding in a completely different way.

I'll have to write more another day!

Click this image for more Five Minute Friday.  If you'd like to participate but don't have a blog, you're welcome to write your five minutes in the comments at Kate's blog.

Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The More You Do, The Better You Feel (Book Review)

I know I've blogged about perfectionism, but I don't think I've written about its cousin, procrastination.  I don't procrastinate about everything, but as I tell friends, housecleaning is not my spiritual gift.

Don't get me wrong:  it's only certain tasks that I avoid.  Our kitchen and bathrooms are clean, the hard floors are swept, and the laundry is done.  Vacuuming is a whole other story.

This is part of the reason I accepted a copy (at no cost to me) of The More You Do, The Better You Feel:  How to Overcome Procrastination and Live a Happier Life by David Parker.  The other part is the author's premise that habitual procrastination leads to depression and anxiety.  I've tried just about everything else in the battle against those, and I decided that this approach was definitely worth a try.

First, let me give you the text from the back cover:
Are You A Human Ostrich?

Do you stick your head in the sand at the thought of dealing with a task that seems boring, complicated, or unpleasant? Do you pay your bills late because the last time you balanced your checkbook was more than six months ago? While working on a task do you keep thinking you should be dealing with a different task?
  • Is your living space messy and your life unorganized?
  • Do you clean up only when family or friends will be visiting--only to let your place fall back into untidiness after they've gone?
  • After you've cleaned for visitors, do you tell yourself "it doesn't count!" because you weren't doing it for yourself?
  • Have you stopped having visitors over because you're ashamed of your mess?
  • Do you worry you'll feel embarrassed if the landlord, a plumber, or a repairperson needed to visit your place?
  • Do you constantly compare yourself to people who seem to "have it together?"
  • Does your habitual procrastination leave you feeling depressed and anxious?
  • Do you know the 25 characteristics and behaviors of the human ostrich?
  • Are you concerned that your child or someone you care deeply about is becoming a habitual procrastinator?
The Solution To Your Habitual Procrastination Is Here!
  • Learn the golden rules of overcoming procrastination.
  • Stop falling victim to the downward cycle of procrastination and depression.
  • Stop feeling overwhelmed and immobilized with fear by learning how to effectively cope with your tasks and responsibilities.
  • Become a "do"-er by learning easy to use and highly effective new tool - The J.O.T. Method™.
Much of this book is based on the author's own experiences.  For example, near the beginning of the book he tells about reviewing his journal.
It became clear to me that I was on to something:  there was a definite relationship between my problem with procrastination and the depression that I suffered from.  Oddly enough, while procrastination is usually seen as a symptom of depression, I observed that procrastination was causing my depression.  As I began thinking about this relationship, I realized that I needed to look a bit more closely at procrastination itself.
I could definitely relate to this next passage.  When I put off the vacuuming, it's usually because I feel as though it's going to take an hour--though I know that it really takes ten or fifteen minutes.  When I look at a messy room, I'm overwhelmed with the thought of cleaning the entire room.
In the past, my mind filled with gross distortions that usually involved how much time and energy my tasks would take to accomplish.  These distortions were comparable to large and seemingly unmovable mental boulders that I'd placed in my path.  How could I get past that first boulder?  It seemed impossible!
By gathering information from other habitual procrastinators, Parker gives a broader description of the problem and its symptoms.  Then he presents the method that worked for him and that I think will work for quite a few of us.

The J.O.T. Method (J.O.T. stands for Just One Task) starts at the very, very starting point.  Its baby steps allow even the worst procrastinator to get started on "recovery."  I think that getting started in itself brings a sense of accomplishment and hope, and those encourage us to continue.

I didn't start the J.O.T. Method at its most basic, but based on a few days' trial, I found that it worked.  I also noted the time next to each item, so I could see just how I was spending my time.  (We do the same sort of thing for financial expenses, so we can see where the money is going.)  That helped me to see how much time I "wasted" in front of the computer--not checking and answering email or blogging, but playing games in excess.  It also helped me to see that some things interrupted my to-do list and delayed my progress, but were actually more important than anything on my list.  For example, I'd never taken into account the little things that sometimes take half the day:  making important phone calls, writing cards to friends in hospitals, and so on.  I'd also never taken into account the non-work things that are the most important:  spending time with my son, for example, isn't on my to-do list, but it's a tremendously valuable use of my time.

I thought that The More You Do, The Better You Feel got a bit wordy at times.  But you can skim or skip the first five chapters if you're not interested in the psychology, then jump directly to Chapter 6, which begins the "Into Action" section.

The end of the book includes a chapter about how to help a procrastinating student.  I think this would be very useful for parents who are frustrated with a child's habitual procrastination!

For more information, see the website for The More You Do, The Better You Feel.  You'll find information about procrastination, an author bio, a book preview, a link to purchase an autographed copy of the book, and more.

The following Amazon link is my affiliate link.  If you click through it and complete a purchase, I will receive a small commission.  Thanks!  Note that books purchased through Amazon will not be autographed.