The Pickle Jar

In my last blog I told you that this week we are going to discover how to make room in our schedule for the people who are most important to us. Well you may be wondering what that has to do with a jar of pickles. The basic principle of The Pickle Jar Theory is that all the urgent things in life will consume your time and there will never be enough time leftover for the things (or people) who are really important to you.

The Pickle Jar Theory consists on 4 components: a jar, some rocks, some pebbles and some sand. “Everything in the Pickle Jar Theory has a purpose. The pickle jar itself represents our daily life, what keeps us busy and how we divide our time and tasks during the day.”

“The sand represents all the phone calls, emails, social media notifications and other disrupting elements. The pebbles metaphorically stand for the jobs we’re confronted with every day and that fill our diaries. The rocks represent the important tasks in our daily lives.” (toolshero.com)

Learning to restructure your life to make room for the important things is possible, but it will take dedication, determination and effort. You will have to learn to make better choices and prioritize. If you spend hours on the phone, check email 100 times a day, and feed your addiction to social media, your jar will be completely full of sand and there will be no space for the urgent nor important things of life. Likewise if you spend all day putting out fires, completing the urgent tasks which confronte you, you will fill your jar with pebbles and there won’t be time left for the more important things of life. However if you put the rocks (things that are most important) in the jar first, there will be enough space to fit the pebbles and even some sand in the jar. This means that in order to fit the most important things in life in your schedule, you must decidedly allocate time for them first. If you try to do everything else, thinking or hoping that you will get to the important things later, you will NEVER have time left at the end of the day to include them.

So where do we go from here?

(You will need a calendar for this task. It can be paper or digital. You will also need something for taking notes.)

Step one:

Identify your rocks, pebbles and sand.

Step two:

Now let’s work on filling your jar! The first thing is to put the activities/people that you have identified as most important into your schedule. This may include (but not limited to) personal devotions, date night with your spouse, quality time with children or family, exercise, continued education, reading and personal care time. These appointments are non negotiable! (Make room for these activities and do not cancel them, especially for pebbles or sand.)

Step three:

Next is to identify a reasonable amount of time to dedicate to the pebbles, all the daily tasks that normally fill your day. Now add them to your calendar. (Suggestion: Make a game to see how quickly you can accomplish these tasks. For example, can you accomplish them in 1/2 the time you normally takes you. Can you shave 10-15 mins off of each task? Think of it like this…if you were going on vacation tomorrow and had to finish these tasks before you can leave, how focused would you be? I bet you could finish them more quickly than normal?)

Step four:

Allot a very meager amount of time for the activities which I call “time eaters”. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TV, and email. (Suggestion: A: Check email once or twice a day, no more. Check email only after you have accomplished the tasks you already have scheduled. Doing this will help you stay focused on the things you already have scheduled instead of becoming distracted with new projects. B: Schedule a very limited amount of time for social media. If you are a social media addict, you may try cutting back to 1 time a day and even then no more that 20 minutes. If your addiction is less serious, try cutting social media back to one time a week for 20-30 minutes. You will be amazed at how much time this frees in your day.)

If you are going to make time for family and marriage you MUST do so on the front end. Set your calendar and stick to it. If you don’t fill your time with the things that are important to you, someone else will fill your time for you.

What’s next?:

Now that you are beginning to make space in your routine for the things and people who are important to you, next week we will assess whether your actions reflect your priorities?

Go https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=v5ZvL4as2y0 to watch a demonstration of The Pickle Jar Theory.

Mulder, P. (2017). Pickle Jar Theory. Retrieved [October 19, 2018] from ToolsHero: https://www.toolshero.com/time-management/pickle-jar-theory/

Building Fences

I have a friend who serves in full-time ministry. Everyone loves her! She is ALWAYS available to friends and church members who need her and is a real advocate for those who are hurting and the underprivileged. She loves Jesus with a passion that makes others pale in comparison. However, while she is busy ministering to others, her husband and kids sit at home feeling neglected and second best. Not surprisingly, her marriage and family are suffering. The crazy thing is, even though her husband openly states that he feels unimportant and neglected, she is so emotionally focused on ministry, she doesn’t even realize the imbalance.

How many of us have had a similar experience? Either being the one to neglect family or being the one neglected! Rodney and I walked through this just after starting Hope House, we were so busy with “ministry” that we didn’t make time for us or our children. (I used the word “make” intentionally, because as we set our calendar if we don’t “make” space for self and family, we will never “have” time for them.)

In last weeks blog, we discussed the need to set boundaries when we are trying to prioritize family and ministry. I walked you through some steps to help you identify areas where you might need to establish them and I recommended a book entitled: Boundaries

When to Say Yes, How to Say No

By: Henry Cloud & John Townsend

In the book, the authors describe boundaries like fences on property lines. These fences place a physical boundary to help you and others to distinguish the difference between your property and their property. In life, these fences are invisable. We are the ones who have to tell others the location of our boundaries. Unfortunately, at times, we don’t even know where they are or even where they should be. In order to identify our boundaries for others, we must first identify them for ourselves.

The good news is, the first step to solving any problem is to realize that the problem exists. If you are asking how to prioritize family and ministry, then you are already thinking in the right direction and that’s a good thing!

Hopefully, by working through the questions in last weeks’ blog, you were able to identify areas in your life and ministry that subtlety (or maybe not so subtlety) make prioritizing family difficult.

So where do we go from here?

Once we have identified where your boundaries need to be established, the next step is to make them “visable” for others.

Step one:

While you are in the process of setting up your boundaries, I suggest that you developed a new habit. What I mean by this is for a period of time do not say yes to any new projects or commitments.

I realize that may be easier said than done. Saying “No!” can be scary, especially if you aren’t accustomed to saying it, so let me give you a simple phrase to practice. The next time someone asks something of you, respond with these words: “I will pray about it.”

If you aren’t ready for the big N. O., these 5 words can set you free! They can also buy you a little space until you can muster your courage to stand up for yourself and say no.

Now don’t lie, actually pray about it. But if you are trying to make space for your family and marriage, you already know that family and marriage are the priority and therefore your new default answer can NOT be yes.

Step Two:

Now let’s look at the areas you identified from last weeks questions and divide them into two categories: A) Ministries you are not in charge of and B) Ministries you are in charge of.

A) Ministries you are not in charge of:

As you can imagine, ministries you are involved in, but not in charge of will be much easier to eliminate from your schedule.

Here is the secret: Simply stop attending. Just don’t go. More than likely you will have someone ask you why, and responding with the simple truth should suffice. “I’m choosing to work on making my family a priority right now therefore I am cutting back on my outside activities.” Now, don’t be naive enough to think that everyone will understand. They won’t! But that is ok. Stand confident knowing that building your marriage and family are more important than what Sister Opinionated thinks.

B) Ministries where you are in charge:

This area can be a little more challenging to navigate and can ultimately take more time to restructure. If the commitment, responsibility or event is close to being fulfilled, by all means follow through with your commitment and then don’t re-enlist. If the responsibility is not close to completion, there are several things you can do. First, you can try to find someone else to take over your responsibilities. Deligation is key in growing any ministry and keeping your sanity. If you are unable to find someone to replace you, try restructuring the activity so that it requires less of your time. Ideas include: enlisting guest teachers & speakers, having participants take an active role in the responsibility of the ministry and finally seek helpers who can assist you complete part of your responsibilities. You CAN learn to delegate. But whatever you do, your goal is to eventually scale back your responsibilities and commitments to something manageable which makes room for prioritizing your family and marriage.

*Disclaimer*

Please understand, I am NOT suggesting that you quit all involvement with ministry. I am simply saying that you need to be certain that the areas of ministry in which you are involved are ones that God has called you to do and not ones that you got roped into by others.

What’s next?:

Now that you are beginning to establish some visible boundaries for your marriage and family, next week we will discover how to make room for the people who are most important to us.

Until then, may God guide you as you live Under His Shadow!

Psalm 91

Prioritizing Family in Ministry

Let’s face it, Ministry is often exhausting! And while it CAN be extremely fulfilling, It can also suck the life out of you, your marriage and your family.

The first thing that I’ve learned about prioritizing family and ministry is this: Prioritizing means learning to say, “No!” (Yes!, you heard me correctly.) If your family is going to be priority, there are some things that you will not be able to do. Therefore learning to say no is an essential skill to master.

Like many of you, my husband and I started out sprinting this marathon. We were always busy! For years we were the first to arrive at church and almost always the last to leave. We were there every time the doors were opened. (And I’ll tell you, those doors were opened ALOT!) Six days a week there was something that we were in charge of or required to attend. Saturday began with sunrise prayer, continued with neighborhood Kid’s Club and included worship practice and evening bible study. To top that off, for a while the church actually met in our home, so when there wasn’t “ministry” to do, we were cleaning up from a meeting or preparing for a meeting. After all that ministry, there was barely enough time to do the basic necessities like grocery shopping, cooking and laundry. And we certainly did not have time for enjoyable activities, fellowshipping with friends, neighbors or family or resting. During those years most all of our activities and conversations revolved around ministry and as you can guess, our marriage was suffering.

So here is the deal, the only way to prioritize family and full-time ministry is to learn to set boundaries! Repeat after me! “It’s ok to say No!” Now believe me, I understand that you love The Lord and want to serve Him. I also know that 20% of the people always do 80% of the work. And what I’ve come to believe even more is, there ARE people perfectly capable of doing many of these things. However, because we always volunteer or think that no one can do it as well as we can, they never get the opportunity to try. Beyond that, it’s ok to just let some things go undone.

There is a great book that someone recommended to me several years ago when I was struggling with this very thing. I have read it & listened to the audio several times over the years. I think it might be helpful for you too. in fact, I think I might revisit it again as I prepare for my next blog.

Boundaries

When to Say Yes, How to Say No

By: Henry Cloud & John Townsend

Believe me, I know that setting boundaries is not easy, but it does get easier with practice! (We’ll discuss how to do that more another day.)

So where do we go from here?

Step one:

Identify some areas of ministry where you might need to set boundaries. In order to do that, prayerfully ask yourself the following questions.

1) Am I currently involved with any aspect of ministry that I do not believe God has specifically asked me to do?

2) Am I currently involved in any part of ministry simply because someone coerced, obligated or guilted me into doing? Am I involved because others think I should be? Am I involved because others will think poorly of me if I’m not in charge or don’t participate?

3) Am I involved in anything that is sucking the life out of me, my family, or my marriage?

4) Do I enjoy something, but it is taking up way too much time and energy? Am I spread too thin?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you most likely do not have proper boundaries set to protect you, your family or marriage.

(If you answered “no” to all of the above questions…well then this blog is probably not written for you.)

Step Two:

Now make a list of the areas that came to mind when you answered yes to the above questions.

These are the areas where you need to set boundaries!

What’s next?:

Now that you have identified the areas where you need to set boundaries, next week we will look at how to actually make that happen.

Until then, may God guide you as you live Under His Shadow!

KD

Psalm 91

Do You Trust God?

The Lord said to Abraham, “Go from your people and your fathers house to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1 NIV)

If I had known the road that lie ahead, I’m not sure that I would have had the courage nor the willpower to say yes. As it is, God left out the details (after all what is important is following Him in obedience, not what we have to give up, nor walk through to do so.) In leaving out the details, He actually made it a little easier to say yes. But I assure you that following God is never easy. It seems as if He is always asking us to do something that thrusts us out of our comfort zones; something that is just beyond what we are capable of or comfortable with; something we can’t do without Him.

I don’t know where you are today, if God has asked you to Go, Stay Behind or Return, but what I do know is that God is faithful and He will never leave nor forsake you. He has a good plan and everything works together for good and for His purpose. So today- as you sit in that place where God has asked you to trust Him, you have a decision to make. Will you trust Him?

Will you trust Him when He asks you to do something difficult? Will you trust Him when He asks you to do something that no one else understands? Will you trust Him when your bank account is empty? Will you trust Him when you feel alone? Will you trust Him when life doesn’t go as you hoped or planned? Will you trust Him when He doesn’t do what you want Him to do?…when He answers “No”…when it seems impossible…when others reject you…when you feel that no one cares?

Abraham had a choice-many times God asked him to believe in faith, to follow, to trust, to obey. Like Abraham, today God continues to ask us the same question. “Will You trust Me?”

KD

A New Direction

For over 6 years my writings in this blog have been little more than me processing life, this life that I have lived safely and extravagantly Under the Shadow of God’s protective wings. Some blogs have fallen on deaf ears, others were beloved by many and still others encouraged friends walking similar roads. Sometimes I wrote often and at other times sporadic, but the goal of practicing writing has always stayed before me. Since 2012 I have practiced vulnerability by exposing glimpses of the secrets that hovered safely in my mind just out of others’ sight.

Over the years, many of you have encouraged me to write a book, and while that remains one of my life goals, I can’t imagine what it is that I could actually write about that would be “book worthy”. Then there is the little detail, that I know NOTHING about writing a book. But there are many things that God has asked me to do over the years that I knew nothing of before I started. So if and when He tells me it’s time, I suspect He will show me the way.

I was inspired recently by comments friends have made to me, that perhaps my blog could serve a higher purpose. One comment was by a young missionary, the other a new friend stateside and the other by someone who has “been in the ministry” for many years. Each story was slightly different, yet all were agonizing over the enormity of the task that God had set before them, their struggle to fill the shoes which God had call them to wear and the weight of it all.

I too find myself in a new place, wearing new & heavy shoes. For the last several months, since moving from Mexico back to Tennessee, I have struggled with identity. As I seek to figure out who I am in this new season of life, I remember the words of a dear friend who challenged me to ask a different question. She encouraged, “It is not who you are, but Whose you are that really matters!” And she is right! So much of ME has been wrapped up in being a missionary that I somehow lost sight that BEING GOD’S is all that really matters. Weather I find myself in Mexico, Honduras or East Tennessee, the only location my identity is dependent on is continuing to live Under the Shadow of HIS wings.

Like an arrow aimed at a target for the first time, I now have a direction, other than “practice writing” for this blog.

I’m not sure this blog will really change much, but rather my focus has changed. Instead of writing for me, I’ve decided to write for you. To my friend who left comforts behind to be a missionary and struggles with just wanting to throw in the towel & go home, this blog is for you. To my friend who at God’s leading used her retirement to start a new business, and just wants to hear Jesus say, “well done” this blog is for you. To those who have faithfully served the Lord through good and bad times, this blog is for you. To all my friends (new, old & yet to come) who have made the choice to follow God when all those closest to you thought you had gone crazy. You guessed it…I’m writing for you!

I know what it’s like to take the risk and follow God when no one around you understands. I know what it’s like to be afraid of failure on one hand and desperately want to quit on the other. I know what it’s like to cry out in prayer reminding God, “I am still here!” Be encouraged and know YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Ministry, and quite frankly life, can be a lonely place. So as I weave my stories, I will try my best to connect with you and remind you of God’s faithfulness. Even when you don’t understand and even when you think that He has forgotten you, He holds you as the apple of His eye. The fact that you are reading this blog is His way of gently reminding you that you are not forgotten and you are not alone.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

“…I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” – Joshua 1:5 ESV

Be encouraged today friend, The Lord has great plans for you!

KD