Time To Slow Down So I Can Go Faster

As I sat down tonight to write, I saw the date of my last post here on my blog, and I was a bit surprised at how long it has been. 37 days!  I would ask if anyone missed me, but I might be afraid to hear the answer.  I guess we will see what happens when I drop this post!

slowdownThe last month and a half has been very busy.  In truth, 2017 has been busy!  It seems like almost every day I crawl into bed with that “Where have you been all day?” feeling.  Come on, I can’t be the only one!

The last three weeks have had work training me in Chicago twice and now I am away again to a company retreat and meeting.  It seems like this year all of the training was crammed into a very tight little window.  A lot of time away from work and home.

Tonight I sit in a hotel room alone.  Over the last month I have spent several nights in hotels, and for a few of them I was fortunate enough to have my wife and son with me, but tonight is not one of those nights.

I had my “social” time that we are encouraged to participate in so we can get to know each other and network to exchange ideas and best practices, but I am that guy who steps away from the crowd before things get “really fun” in order to go back to my room for something more productive.

With all of the training I have been to lately, I have been inundated with a boatload of information that has resulted in being motivated to get all kinds of action plans together in order to be a better manager and improve countless processes.  The amount of stuff I have before me makes me feel that old weight of performance-based anxiety settle in on my shoulders.  I don’t like that feeling…

Also with all the time I have been gone, I have felt the longing for time in my home and with my family.  To be apart from them is wearying to my bones, and with Jessica already away at school, I only have two of my three favorite people to be with in the evenings.  I want to give them my full attention, and that workload is something I have been struggling to put behind me when I walk in the house.  Not as successful on that front as I would like to be some evenings…

Also, on the outer edges of my mind has been this feeling of missing my time with my friend Ray doing a Bible study, sharing life, and kicking each other in the teeth when we need it.  We have both been experiencing an uptick in stress lately, and those times we get together to share and do a little life as men really helps us.  We did have a meeting a couple of weeks ago, but my travel has taken that off the table this week and last…

So, tonight when I got back to the room and got comfortable, I fired up the laptop to do what I usually do when I am alone in a hotel room.

I work.

Yep. Party guy am I…  I usually take these opportunities to settle in and get some of the stuff done that has been hanging over my head and catch up a little.  My family is not here for me to engage with, so I might as well take care of some of the stuff piling up at work to reduce some of the stress, right?  Isn’t that a mature thing to do?

Well, tonight I chose to write instead.

Writing is something I love to do.  It helps me clear some of the cobwebs from my mind and get some  thoughts in order.  My wife can tell you that I am one who thinks out loud, and dumping out my brain from time to time to see what might be stuck in the corners is a very good thing for me.  Writing helps me do that, but I have not been very good about it lately.

With everything going on, I had pretty much decided that I was probably going to say goodbye to this blog. Probably not forever, but for a time at least.  I just don’t have the time to build a readership and develop this thing into the ministry I hope it could be one day.  It takes time to write, and I just have not had the time to devote to doing it well.

That is part of the reason I started to post pictures to my Relentless Growth Facebook Page instead of here every day.  I thought I would just let this page fade away.  Nobody would probably miss it anyway.  If I can’t do it well, then why should I bother?  Might as well quit.

That thought went through my mind when I opened up WordPress tonight.  What was I doing?  Is this a good use of my time?  I could be working!  It’s not like that pile of stuff is going to go away on its own!  Then I remembered a pic I saw the other day:

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It became clear to me that this is a fight I need to stay in.  Not necessarily because there may be twos of threes of people who might read this and be encouraged.  Right now, it is because I need it.  I need this little break from my work thoughts so I can shake out those corners of my mind and set some things straight again.  I need it to because my priorities may be getting out of whack!

I need this time to slow down and examine some of the stuff I am working through in order to get the right perspective for moving forward again.  It’s like I learned in one of my classes last week:

“When I slow down, I go faster.”

I need the slow down to keep me from burning out.  I need the slow down to take me away from work.  I need the slow down to be a better husband, a better father, and a better follower of Christ.  Those are the things that matter the most to me on this earth.  They are so much more important than a budget, a  process, or an action plan.  They are the things that keep me centered.  The things that keep me FOCUSED.

This little break tonight is part of my Relentless Growth.  It was a nudge from God to hunker down for a second and let the battle rage around me, but not be in it for a little while.  Time to sit and think about what is important. Time to acknowledge the gifts He has given me and see where the priorities of my life need to be.  Time to see that this is a time that I hear Him speak into my heart as I write.

I’ve neglected this too much lately.  I need to do it more often, and I am going to start scheduling it into my week somewhere.  There must be time to do this because God doesn’t seem to want to take this desire to write away from me.  He apparently wants this door to remain open.

So, as for you, Dear Reader,  I guess I am back.  Not sure what the schedule is going to look like for posts, but I am going to be here again on a regular basis.  Not daily, but regularly.  If you feel like subjecting yourself to my thoughts more often, then come over to the Facebook page for Relentless Growth and “Like” it for a daily dose.

Before I log off tonight, I just want to take a minute and say thanks to those who do encourage me to write.  My wonderful wife, Tammi, is chief among them, and I know she sometimes feels she is keeping me from doing just that. (She is almost always right, but not on that one!) I appreciate your words, and I hope mine encourage you in some way as well.

So, goodnight all!  I will see you here again!  I think I might go read my book before bed!  Work will be there tomorrow!

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New Year, Fresh Fail…

failSo, a couple weeks ago I sat down and wrote a blog mentioning some goals I have for myself this year.  Now that we are 11 days in, I thought it was time to give a report:

So far, this year is a fail.  Let me tell you why.

  1. Writing at least 5 times per week? – Try this is the first time since January 1.  Doing the math on that I am only about, well, 10 days behind.  Need to work on that.
  2. Reading my Bible every day? – Well, better on this one.  There has been at least a few minute look into it every day, but I have not been the scholar that I have set out to be this year thus far.
  3. My health? – Well, we all get that holiday bulge, right?  I haven’t gained a lot, but I need to get that focus back if I am going to make positive change with a declining poundage!
  4. Me as an employee? – Depends in what you are looking at.  I have been VERY busy, but it has all been in handling the urgent things that have been coming up.  Most of the important work I feel I need to get done has been pushed aside.  I’m busy, and people are happy, but this is building in the background…

So, yeah. Not where I wanted to see myself 11 days into the year.  The thing to remember is that I have 355 days left in 2016 to turn it around! (Thank you, Leap Year!) There is no reason to let it get me down.  It’s just a reminder to keep the focus where it belongs.

Where does it belong though?  If I’m just focusing on these things, it will get very easy to be busy doing these good things, but in the end I could miss out on the best thing – seeing God at work in them.

The Bible is so great in how it tells us where we need to keep our focus in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life.  Solomon tells us about amazing, wonderful things that he was able to experience, and in the end it was like chasing the wind.  The Proverbs repeat over an over how important it is to keep a wise focus in our actions.  David tells us in the Psalms that in the middle of war, turmoil and family squabbles, all He really needed was God in His life.  Paul tells us that he doesn’t want to live his life in a way that is like just batting at the air.

All the things that we get busy with are not bad things unless they are pulling our focus from God.  Yesterday our Pastor talked about the importance of abiding in God.  Abiding in Him is what we are called to do.  The thing is, we get hung up on all the stuff that we are doing that are good things that will bear fruit, but the truth is that NOTHING WE DO will ever bear fruit.  That comes from God. He is the vine that brings life to the branch and in the life is the fruit.  Apart from Him we can never bear fruit.

We can live busy lives, but if we are not RELENTLESS about living in a way that keeps our focus on Him in our business, we are wasting time, energy, and maybe even our witness. Ouch.  None of us wan that, so what can you do?

Take time at the end of the day today and think about the things that kept you busy.  Ask yourself if God ever came to mind in those moments.  If He didn’t, maybe it would be a good thing to ask Him for a bit of forgiveness for shutting Him out or at the very least ignoring Him.  Then, take note of those moments and make a commitment to take control of that moment the next time and give it to Him.  Ask Him in that moment what He is trying to teach, what the eternal value of the action is, how your action or attitude might be modified to bring glory to Him in it.  Maybe you just need to ask if you should be doing it at all!

The new year is always going to bring fresh fails, but a RELENTLESS year is going to take those failures and use them to grow closer to God.  Even in the crazy times!

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Tomorrow I Am Dropping a Load.

d0e3072a5eb59ceacee00b148c090c0cDo you ever get that feeling that you are carrying too much? That feeling like you have a heavy armload of something too important to drop, but you can’t find a place to lay it down? Before long, you can’t even move because of the weight of the load and the fear of dropping it paralyzes you.

You don’t get that feeling? Oh. I guess that it’s just me…

Lately life has had a lot of stuff going on for our little family. The weight has been heavy, and the spots to set things down are few and far between. To complicate matters even more, we seem to pick other things up along the way. Yep. Gluttons for punishment, we are!

Why do we do that? Well, I can’t answer for my family, but I can answer for myself. I think it is based on two things that are very different, but both lead to the same thing – a worn-out Tom! Why yes, I did plan on sharing, so here we go!

FEAR

Of what? Failure. Disappointment. Loss. Hurt. Damaging a relationship. Career suicide. Watching someone else go through pain. Being seen as “not good enough. Take your pick. Some days it is one or two of them. Lately it has felt like all of them at once at least once a week.

What do I do about it? Well, I have tried worry. That hasn’t worked out very well, even though it does seem to be the “go-to” method for most of us. I have found that all it does is make the fear worse. I’ve also tried thinking about other things. Surprisingly, the head in the sand approach will only work until you take your head out to get a breath, and then it all comes crashing back on you again.

HEROISM

What? How can heroism be a bad thing? Well, I think one of the reasons I have been so heavy-laden lately is that deep down, I want to be the guy that can come in and be a hero for someone. I hear of a problem, and I want to step in and take care of it. It sounds noble, but I am coming to understand something. Helping people is not a bad thing, but needing to help people might be.

When I overextend myself by helping people at the expense of my responsibilities, I am not making a wise choice. Instead, I might be robbing someone of a chance to grow and do new things just so I can revel in their adoration of me. (Was that too much?)

So, how do I stop this? What can I do tomorrow to drop a load that I never should have been carrying? How can I just let go and feel that release?

Look at who should own what I am carrying. – Some of the stuff that I carry is not mine to carry! Some of it I should be carrying, but maybe I am carrying more of it than I should. Is it that the other person is not doing their part, or am I just trying to take it onto myself for one of the two reasons above? When I figure out whose load I have, it is time to drop what is not mine and let that person have it back. It might take some apologizing, and grace, but I have got to let it go.

Look at what I am carrying. – Is it even worth carrying? I’m not going to make fun of “preppers”, but I am thinking that a drop in the DOW over oil prices should not make me start putting a bunker in my back yard tomorrow night. Some of the load just needs to be set aside because it is only impacting my life because I have refused to set it down. Bitterness, hurt feelings, concerns about the future. So many things that I cannot impact or influence. Do what I can, but drop the rest of it.

Look at what I might pick up. – Should I take this load on? That e-mail that might have had a snarky tone? The request for something that is simple enough for the person to do for themselves? Is it something that needs to be done? What do I expect to get out of it? Is it an option or an order? The ultimate measure of whether or not it should be done – will it bring God glory?

The last few days have felt quite heavy, but I am in a spot right now to drop the load. I want to live my life in a Relentless way, and that means I can’t carry everything. I just want to have what God wants me to have. He had asked me to take His yoke and pull with Him. If I am keeping my focus on God and what He wants, I will see more clearly what I should take up.

How about you? Are you carrying too much? Are you feeling a load on your shoulders that is slowly pulling you down? Stop. Take an inventory. Give it a hard look and see if you are carrying things that you shouldn’t and let them go. It is easier to fight the battles that come along when you aren’t carrying things you don’t need, and every day is a battle.

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Stress Level – High

thThis past weekend my daughter graduated from high school.  Friday we rehearsed, Saturday we did pictures and graduated, and Sunday we had the Open House.  Sounds simple, right? A nice little three-day operation…

NOPE!

It was a good two weeks in the making as we painted the house, did a bunch of yard work, decorated a barn, bought a bunch of food, and took care of a lot of other details as well.  We had some much needed and appreciated help from our parents, and our friends, and without that help, we would not have been able to pull it off.  We cannot thank them enough for how they all came to our aid by making food, helping with set-up and tear down, filling bowls, running grills, and so many other things I cannot even begin to remember them all right now.  On top of all of that, things were very busy at work for both of us.

In a word, we were stressed.  I don’t mean just a little bit, I mean staring at the ceiling at 2am stressed because you are wondering if you have bought the right amount of relish to feed a couple hundred people that you think are going to show up, while you are hearing some of them say they aren’t going to be able to make it, and wondering if you have hedged your bet just right to come out okay between those that can’t come and those that you didn’t expect to come!  Throw a national holiday into the mix and that makes it even more unpredictable. See!  I’m twitching just thinking about it right now!

I hit a wall last week on Thursday and reached out for help from my friends for some prayer support.  They came through for me, and I wrote a little about that here.  Friday was a better day, but even though we were in a pretty good spot by Friday afternoon for the open house, I still went into the weekend feeling the after-effects of too much anxiety over all that we had needed to get done.

I began my day today feeling tired, wishing for a day at home.  I just wanted one day to be able to catch up on a few things that I had to let slide while we did party prep, but I had to go to work.  Not long after I got here I got a notification on my phone from my Bible app (learn more about that here) that a friend had posted an image.  I looked it up and found this:

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Verse image from my friend Mike W.

 Yes.  That was a good thing to see.  A promise of God’s peace that I can claim.  A simple statement of faith in God’s power to get us through the times that the stress dial is turned ALL THE WAY UP!  Keep your mind focused on God, and you will be able to face things around you with His perfect peace, not because the problems will necessarily go away, but because that trust in God just makes them pale in comparison.

I wish I had experienced more of that over the last couple of weeks.  I probably would have been nicer to my wife and kids, and I definitely would have been nicer to be around at work.  I might have slept better too!

You see, as wonderful as the promise of Isaiah 26:3 is, there is an unwritten opposing promise in that verse as well.  Allow me to paraphrase the verse to show what I mean:

“You will allow a stressful turmoil into the one whose mind is not stayed on you, because he does not trust in You.”

That’s kind of the spot I was allowing myself to live a lot of the last couple weeks.  My mind was not on God, but was on the stuff that I had to do.  It wasn’t necessarily that I did not trust God, but I definitely was not seeking His help in keeping my head right as I dealt with the stuff that had to be done under my power alone.  There is a word for that kind of thinking, and I think the Bible likes to use the word “foolish.”  Yep.  That word works better than any other I can think of.

Relentless Living means disciplining myself to look at my circumstances through the filter of God’s presence in my life.  There are days that I lose that perspective, but it is imperative that I don’t let my mind wander from Him, my trust in Him, and His perfect peace.

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