Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Breaking Points

Last time I spoke about the Sabbath day, taking a day of rest from work.  I also mentioned what happens to me if I didn’t rest enough.  What I am sure you realize is that everyone has different breaking points.

My breaking point happens quite quickly.  I have to take a decent break every 4-5 hours and short break every 1-2 hours to maintain a focused state while doing mentally intensive work.  While working with my hands (cleaning for example), I have to take a 15 minute break every hour.  This prevents my energy/motivation levels from dropping during a regular day.  I actually use the time I am on a break to motivate myself to continue working hard at the task at hand. 

I am sure that from an outside perspective it looks like I am slacking off, but internally I am still focusing on the task I am busy with – I am just reflecting, planning and motivating myself for the next session of work.

However, even with these short breaks during a day, I still need 24 hours of unbroken rest every week to maintain my emotional and mental health.

There are some people who are able to work 10-12 hours without rest.  There are some people who can work flat out from holiday to holiday.  I am definitely not one of those people (as mentioned in the post about the Sabbath, and above).  So it really depends on the individual as to how much time they need to relax and reflect.

People relax in different ways too.

Some need to be among other people, in a social environment, to relax.  For me, spending time in crowds is more like work than relaxation, especially when I am expected to make conversation and I am not in a situation where I can just sit and listen.  There are only a handful of people who I am able to spend time with and feel relaxed afterwards.  Usually these are people who don’t expect me to entertain them when they visit – they have a way of creating their own entertainment.

There are people who relax by playing a sport, or getting some sort of physical exercise.  Well, for me, anything that get’s my heart-rate up is more like work than relaxation, and it drains my energy levels, unless I am doing it completely alone (like going for a walk by myself).

For me, the most relaxing thing is to spend time alone with my thoughts, preferably sitting on my bed with my diary, pencil bag and a non-fiction book.  At the moment my book of choice is the Bible.

When I get time to relax in the way that actually relaxes me, I find I motivate myself, my battery is recharged and I am emotionally, mentally and physically ready for what lies ahead.

I strongly suggest that you look at what really relaxes you, and do that as often as you need to.  But also remember, that not everyone will be relaxed by the same thing, so if you are the type of person who needs other people to relax, please look for people who relax in the same way as you, and leave those who need alone time to relax, well, alone *smile*.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Sabbath

Over the past few days I have been reading Exodus.  I am now on Chapter 37, and I have to say that the one thing that has really stood out for me while reading this book is the 4th commandment.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.” ~ Exodus 20:8 – 10

This commandment is mentioned quite a few times within the book of Exodus (see Exodus 43:21 and Exodus 35:2 for another 2 places it is mentioned).  It keeps coming up throughout the book of Exodus, therefore it keeps getting brought to my attention.

It is so important for us to take a break from work.  I know that if I am overworked a number of things happen to me.

Week 1: I feel my energy levels drop and I have difficulty concentrating on the task at hand.

Week 2-3: I become discouraged.  I no longer see the point in what I am doing and begin to wonder if it is all worthwhile, whether or not God really wants me in the place I am, or if there is something better out there.

Week 4: I have a full emotional breakdown and weep before God, begging him to let the rapture happen so I can be with him in heaven and get away from the seemingly pointless world I am living in.

At that time, God usually gives me rest.  He does something to allow me to rest and rejuvenate my spirit.  Most of the time that comes in a day where I am not expected to do anything except sit, relax and evaluate my life and plan for the future.

This weekend was different from the previous occasions.  I set aside time to rest and rejuvenate my spirit without waiting for my regular break-down.  From 12pm on Saturday until 12pm on Sunday I didn’t do anything work related.  I didn’t do laundry, wash dishes, clean the house, or anything.  I gave myself time to motivate myself.  By 12pm Sunday I was so relaxed and so motivated, that I actually HAD to do something with my hands, so I cleaned the kitchen.

How does this all relate to the Sabbath?  Well Jesus said:

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” ~ Mark 2:27

Our wonderful Lord knew, when he made us, that we couldn’t work continuously without rest, so he made it a commandment for us to take a break.

So for this part I want to encourage all my readers to take a break once a week and do whatever you find rejuvenates your spirit, and what better way to rejuvenate your spirit than by spending part of that time by building your relationship with God.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sleepless Nights

I am sure we all go through nights when we simply cannot fall asleep.  I have moments like that myself.  More often than not I lie in bed for 15min to 1 hour before I eventually fall asleep, and it varies from night to night.

There is a verse in Psalms that David wrote to indicate he also had sleepless nights, and it tells us how he dealt with them.

On my bed I remember you;  I think of you through the watches of the night.

~ Psalm 63:6

I didn’t realise until recently that I do the same thing that David did when he couldn’t sleep.  I think about God.  I pray for people I know, I thank him for the blessings I have received during the day, I talk to him about my troubles and I meditate on his awesomeness.  Eventually I fall asleep, content, and more often than not I wake up refreshed in the morning.

This is a short post, but I urge you to remember God when you cannot sleep, just as David did.

Matthew 6:33

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” ~ Matthew 6:33

Some time ago I was reading through the book of Matthew and this verse stood out for me.  I recommend reading it in context (from Matthew 6:25-34).  The passage speaks about not worrying about your needs (food, clothes, etc.) because God cares about you and will provide for your needs.

As I read further though, it became apparent to me that there is a “string” attached to the “Do not worry”.  Jesus tells us to seek first HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness.  HIS, in this case, refers to God.  So, in my mind, Jesus is telling us to put God and Righteousness above all else, then we do not need to worry about worldly things because God will provide for us.

This does not mean that we have the right to be lazy and not work to earn our living, it rather means that we should not neglect His kingdom and His righteousness in our daily lives and God will provide us with opportunities to have our needs provided for.

This really hit home when I realized I wasn’t spending as much time with God on a daily basis as I feel I should be.  There are times when I don’t even find the time to read the 3 chapters of the Bible that I want to read on a daily basis.  There are times it feels like my life is rushing by…

I am one of those people who NEED 8 hours of sleep every night.  I am also one of those people who take at least 1 hour to fall asleep.  This means that to wake up at 6am, I have to go to bed at 9pm.  Add in the time I am at work, it means that I am only at home and awake 4h30m (and that is if I don’t visit Mark, or have functions on in the evenings).  Most of the time I am at home I am cleaning, doing laundry or other household tasks.

So where does a person find time for God?  Since I value my time with God as my number 1 priority in life, I would like to say that I find an hour of my time for him every day, but that is not always the case.

I’ve tried to wake up early to spend time with God in the morning.  That does not work because if I don’t get a good night’s rest, I oversleep.

I’ve tried to take my hour lunch to read God’s word during lunch time, but there are days when work is so busy I don’t take a full 1 hour lunch break.

Then I try to spend my 1 hour with God in the evenings, but sometimes I am so tired by the time I get home that I just flop into bed and go to sleep immediately.

Therefore I know full well how difficult it is to put God’s Kingdom first in the modern world where everyone get’s caught up in the rat race.  The best solution I have at the moment is to split the 1 hour with God up into 3 parts… 15min in the morning, 15min in the evening and 30 minutes during lunch.  Then make sure that you at least spend 5min at each time with him, more on the days when you can do more, but never less.

Since I started putting God first in my life, a lot of things have changed, for the better.  I am more financially stable than I have ever been, I have a wonderful God-fearing boyfriend (Mark), I am happier than I have been in a long time, I am mostly stress-free and I have amazing friends.

So just remember the verse:

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” ~ Matthew 6:33

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Listener - Wooden Heart

Below you will find a “Poem” that has been put to music.  The composer is called The Listener.  Mark introduced me to the band and I gave him the CD for Christmas.  LOVE IT!!!  I advise reading the poem after watching the music video.
I have put in bold some of the lyrics/words that really stand out for me.
Listener–Wooden Heart
We’re all born to broken people on their most honest day of living
and since that first breath... We’ll need grace that we’ve never given

I've been haunted by standard red devils and white ghosts
and it's not only when these eyes are closed
these lies are ropes that I tie down in my stomach,
but they hold this ship together tossed like leaves in this weather
and my dreams are sails that I point towards my true north,
stretched thin over my rib bones, and pray that it gets better
but it won’t won’t, at least I don’t believe it will...
so I've built a wooden heart inside this iron ship,
to sail these blood red seas and find your coasts.

don’t let these waves wash away your hopes
this war-ship is sinking, and I still believe in anchors
pulling fist fulls of rotten wood from my heart, I still believe in saviors
but I know that we are all made out of shipwrecks, every single board
washed and bound like crooked teeth on these rocky shores
so come on and let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember
I am the barely living son of a woman and man who barely made it
but we’re making it taped together on borrowed crutches and new starts
we all have the same holes in our hearts...
everything falls apart at the exact same time
that it all comes together perfectly for the next step
but my fear is this prison... that I keep locked below the main deck
I keep a key under my pillow, it’s quiet and it’s hidden
and my hopes are weapons that I’m still learning how to use right
but they’re heavy and I’m awkward...always running out of fight
so I’ve carved a wooden heart, put it in this sinking ship
hoping it would help me float for just a few more weeks
because I am made out of shipwrecks, every twisted beam
lost and found like you and me scattered out on the sea
so come on let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, just some tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember
My throat it still tastes like house fire and salt water
I wear this tide like loose skin, rock me to sea
if we hold on tight we’ll hold each other together
and not just be some fools rushing to die in our sleep
all these machines will rust I promise, but we'll still be electric
shocking each other back to life
Your hand in mine, my fingers in your veins connected
our bones grown together inside
our hands entwined, your fingers in my veins braided
our spines grown stronger in time
because are church is made out of shipwrecks
from every hull these rocks have claimed
but we pick ourselves up, and try and grow better through the change
so come on yall and let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, were just tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Energy Drainers

There are times in a persons life where you have to take an audit of relationships, goals and possessions.  The audit is especially necessary when you are beginning to feel your energy levels are low.  What is draining all your energy?

An elderly lady living by herself in a huge house may find that maintaining such a large house is her energy drainer and she decides to downsize to something smaller.  Suddenly she seems to have all the energy of her youth again.

Sometimes you just need to let go of possessions that are controlling you.

A middle-aged man trying to climb the corporate ladder may feel he has no energy to do so because when he was younger all he wanted to do was be a mechanic, but his father pushed him into a management career path.  By changing careers and accepting a lower salary he no longer feels drained of energy because he is doing something he enjoys.

Sometimes you need to let go of the goals other people have set for you.

A teenager keeps trying to build up her friendship with someone, but that person isn’t trying in return.  The teenager pushes all her energy into the friendship, but the person on the receiving end is a black hole.  The teenager makes the tough decision to stop trying and focus the energy on other people who are more receptive.  By dropping one energy draining friendship, the teenager gains more, less-demanding friends and is happier.

Sometimes you need to let go of relationships that demand more of you than you receive in return.

With the above example, I still encourage you to be Christ-like.  Don’t write off the person completely, just stop putting all your energy into the relationship.  If the person who is receiving the friendship comes to you, receive them with open arms (like the prodigal son in the parable).  Never stop loving them, just stop wasting energy on them.

The question is, what are your energy drainers?  Where can you cut back? 

When something becomes a burden it is time to move on.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sailing with Mark

Here are a few of the photographs I took while sailing with Mark.  Of course I didn’t take my phone out on the boat (which is a Hobie Cat).
Mark and his boat – about to start offloading it from the trailer
Let the setup begin!
Mark and his boat, ready to go!
The boat in dock, while we drink our water.
Mark and Chris getting ready to go out (this was after the first trip where I went out with Mark)
Mark and Chris on their way back in.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beautiful little church

Last year I went with Mark to a choir function.  There was a beautiful little church on the guest farm outside Bloemfontein where the function took place.
Here are the pictures:

The photo above is of Mark (right) and his cousin (left), with Mark’s car.
And the photo below is of Mark with his guitar (he is busy shaking a shaker)
All the photographs where taken at a guest farm in South Africa.

How to lead a happy life

Life hands us lemons, so make lemonade, life might be a cactus, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit on it, and your attitude not your aptitude determines your altitude.  These are just some quotes that we hear regularly.  Basically it all comes down to accepting responsibility for yourself and your life.

A friend of mine once it explained it like this.  A 3-year old is running around the house.  He trips and falls and hits his head on the coffee table.  A parent might say “Naughty coffee table for hurting Jimmy”.  Even though it may make Jimmy feel better, it wasn’t the coffee tables fault for hurting Jimmy, it was Jimmy’s fault for running around the house.  A better response would be “Jimmy, you need to be more careful when running around the house.”

We do this in life.  We blame everyone else but ourselves for our misfortunes.  We might say “Nobody likes me, I have no friends” and we blame others for not liking us the way we are, never looking deeper than the surface of the situation to try and find the reason nobody likes us.

When we have troubles, it usually means there is an underlying problem that we are not addressing, or we are not wanting to address.  Instead of sulking about not having any friends, shouldn’t we rather be looking into ourselves and trying to figure out why? What am I doing that is causing people to hate me?  Do I smell bad?  Is it because I am always negative about everything?  Is it because I am always unhappy?

Another example:  “I hate how fat I am” – instead of sitting around all day, do something about it!  Get checked out by a doctor if you think it is a medical problem.  Eat fresh fruit and vegetables more regularly.  Get some exercise.

My point is, stop complaining about everything that is bad in your life and figure out how you can fix it.

CHALLENGE:  Write down everything you don’t like about yourself or the situation you are in where you feel it wasn’t your fault and take the responsibility for your own happiness.  Pick one thing on the list and brainstorm ways to fix that problem.  Even if that way is to forgive the person who wronged you and move on from it, then do it!  Don’t hold onto problems.

Some might be more difficult than others to fix, “I want a boyfriend” for example.  Try to figure out what can be improved about yourself to help find a boyfriend.  In a case like this you need to become the right person to find the right person.  So figure out what you want and learn to be that yourself.  Do you want a confident, positive man?  Then you need to be a confident, positive woman.  How can someone else build you up if you can’t build yourself up.  Do you want to date a hot athlete?  Then you need to be a hot athlete yourself, start jogging!  I can’t stress enough – you have to be the person you want to attract!

No matter what happens in your life, the one thing you can control is your attitude about it.  Learn to control your attitude and you’ll ultimately live one of the happiest lives out there.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Priorities and Goals

Over the past week, I have been doing some major internal reflection.  I have been thinking about what is most important to me, in the form of a top 10 list.  I would like to challenge all my readers to do the same if you haven’t already. 

Write down 10 (or more) things that take the most priority in your life.  I didn’t worry about putting them in order at that time, I just brain-stormed for things I enjoy, things that make me feel fulfilled, and how I would spend my day if I could spend it however I wanted to.  You can also include things that you feel the world around you is pressurizing you to make your priorities.

Afterwards I went through the list and asked myself:  Is A more important to me than B?  Is A more important to me than C? and so on until I had put them in order of most important to least important.

Here is my final Top 10 List:

  1. God
  2. Family
  3. Pets
  4. Health
  5. Home
  6. Friends
  7. Garden
  8. Hobbies
  9. Learning
  10. Career

Everybody’s list will be different with different priorities, there is no right or wrong list, this is because we are all individuals and each one of us is fulfilled by different activities.  One person may feel fulfilled by having a day sitting on the porch reading, another person may feel fulfilled by a day out in the wilderness on a mountain bike.  Mark, for example, feels fulfilled when going sailing or working on his car, so his car is quite high on his list.

The point of this is to figure out what you enjoy and do it.  One thing that makes me feel more fulfilled is doing housework, believe it or not I enjoy doing laundry more than having coffee with a friend!

After creating this list I started working out some goals for the year that will make me feel fulfilled in each of my 10 priorities.  Here they are:

  1. Read the whole Bible
  2. Get married
  3. Buy a pet dog (Beagle or Cocker Spaniel)
  4. Eat three meals a day and get 15 min of exercise a day
  5. Buy a house
  6. Have 3 best friends
  7. Start a vegetable garden
  8. Hobbies:
    1. Cross-Stitch – finish a major tapestry
    2. Lego – buy the cargo train for my Lego city
    3. Sims – Reach family generation 5
  9. Learning:
    1. Sewing – Learn to sew (and sew a few skirts for myself)
    2. Etiquette – Research and practice Victorian etiquette
    3. Reading – Read a book a month
  10. Career:
    1. Become a senior programmer
  11. Other goals:
    1. Run in the rain!
    2. Go on a nice holiday.

Some of these goals may not make sense to many people, but these are what I want to get done this year.  What are your goals for the year?

I’d love to read your priorities and goals so feel free to email me or post them as a comment!