Tag Archives: organized time

Keep a Quiet Heart

Keep a Quiet Heart is the name of one of my favorite Elisabeth Elliot books. The title comes from a piece written by a woman named Annie Keary who lived during the 19th century, a piece which is also used as the frontispiece for Elliot’s book. It is something I have kept coming back to repeatedly for the last almost twenty or so years. And lately it’s been more helpful than ever.  So I thought I’d share it here:Do Not Rush 001

 “I think I find most help in trying to look on all the interruptions and hindrances to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline, trials sent by God to help one against getting selfish over one’s work. Then one can feel that perhaps one’s true work — one’s work for God — consists in doing some trifling, haphazard thing that has been thrown into one’s day. It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted to think, it is the most important part of the work of the day — the part one can best offer to God. After such a hindrance, do not rush after the planned work; trust that the time to finish it will be given sometime, and keep a quiet heart about it.”   

Annie Keary 1825-1879

Another Day I Didn’t Plan

Quigley has some bumps on his head around his ears. He’s had them for a couple of weeks it seems and after several days of waiting for them to subside, or thinking they might be getting worse, and  then wondering what they were, and speculating all over the map, suddenly TODAY I decided they were getting worse.

In my examination I found what I thought was a blob of sap on his neck under his ear, got the mayonnaise to take it off, and discovered the hairs coming off with the mayo and underneath, very definitely a lesion.

So I called my hubby about taking Q to the vet. After discussion, Internet research, and more discussion, we agreed that’s what needed to be done. I called, thinking no way he’d get in today, but… they had an opening in an hour from when I called.

Quigley LOVES going to the vet. He gets so excited. He jumps up on the counter in the reception area, wants to smell everything, jumps up on the counter in the exam room, because he knows right where the treats are, or wants to help with the computer. He jumps up to greet strangers, as well…  He’d really like to get hold of one of those stethoscopes everyone seems to carry around.

Despite all that, everyone seems to love him. He’s very good about holding still for the doctor to examine him or the animal tech to take his temperature. If I could just figure out how to break him of the jumping up on people he’d be perfect.

Anyway, the bumps are not an allergic reaction as we’d thought, but probably the result of bug bites, maybe ants since we recently had a big problem with them, and/or bacteria. The lesion she said was definitely bacteria, so he’s on antibiotic for the week. At which time all the bumps should be gone.

Anyway, we got home around 1, I caught up on all the regular things I didn’t do, ate lunch and then just crashed, that no doubt the result of going to bed at midnight and waking up at 6… so I took a nap. 🙂

Energy Conservation

Yesterday I wrote to a friend regarding a crisis she was going through. For days — weeks, actually — I’ve been virtually wordless when it comes to responding to emails, writing blogs, and especially writing Sky. I have managed to put a few words into my journal, but nothing for others’ consumption. It’s been too jumbled. For awhile I could do little more than try to list what I’d done in a day and wonder why I felt that would somehow validate me. In fact, two weeks ago this same friend had written at length regarding the crisis, not just to me personally, but to a circle of friends. I read of her trials, which are great, and felt for her, and prayed for her, but I had absolutely no words of response. I sat there, staring at the screen, and nothing happened.

It wasn’t my time to answer.

I spent last week following the advice in the  books on introverts I’d recently acquired (finished one, almost finished with the other) about conserving personal energy — staying out of contact, resting, reading, napping, puttering, talking to the Lord. Resources are something He provides, even energy, and what I learned from reading was that sometimes He doesn’t allow you the time and solitude to recharge. Or maybe He does, but I just didn’t see it.

One thing for sure, I didn’t realize how important it was. We’re all given a certain amount of resources… time and energy being among them. I already knew that as a writer I need to guard my time, though that’s not always as easy as the Advisors of the World make it sound. Sometimes I can’t just give one thing primary importance in my life (well except for my relationship with God and the daily intake of doctrine), because I have many things that are important. They all “need” to be done as far as I can tell. And when I’m doing one of them, I find the energy to do the rest is being drained away. So if I decide to do the housework first and write second, too often the housework gets done, but not the writing. If I reverse the order, then the writing gets done but not the housework. I’ve done it both ways.

This whole issue of energy is what I hadn’t really considered. Or rather, while I’d noticed it, and gotten frustrated over my inability to manage it, I hadn’t really thought about managing it. I hadn’t thought — didn’t know — that there were ways to gain more energy apart from just going to sleep at night and waking up in the morning. The funny thing is, many of those ways were things I ended up doing anyway, then castigating myself because I was so “distractible” or so “lacking in self-discipline.”

But even as I’m writing this, I see that I’m making it more clear-cut, more “me in control” than it actually is. I’ve been told all my life that a routine is important, that self-discipline is important. I’ve been told a lot of things. I don’t disagree that establishing a routine is a very useful practice. But sometimes God doesn’t allow that. I’m coming to think that sometimes God brings us to a place where He wants all our attention. This morning I was reflecting on the fact that, so far as we can tell, Jesus didn’t really have a routine. Moreover, when people came to Him with a problem or a crisis (Jairus comes to mind) instead of dropping everything and rushing to the dying girl, the verb indicates he meandered. He stopped to heal a woman.  He took His time. Or perhaps I should say, He followed the Holy Spirit’s timing.

Pastor Bob has taught in recent years that he no longer believes that all of the “miracles” that Jesus performed were based on His deity… for example, the fish with the coin in its mouth that He sent Peter to get to pay the tax. I guess I’d always thought that He made the coin right then and put it in the fish’s mouth for Peter to find. Pastor suggested that He was simply so in tune with the Spirit’s leading, that He knew a fish that had picked up a coin in the sea would “happen” to be there at the same time as Peter was. I like that. It makes sense and it fits more with God’s ways as I know them than just to create a coin and stick it in the fish’s mouth out of the blue. If He was going to do that, why didn’t He simply draw the coin of out thin air? And how many times does God lead us into the exact right place at the exact right time?

We’re to be imitators of Christ and being in tune with the leading of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis is one of the ways we do that.

Which, it seems, is how I wrote this post. I had intended to write about some of what I finally had words to express to my friend yesterday and somehow… never quite got to that. So I’ll have to save that for tomorrow.

Be More Productive

Last Saturday, I pretty much had my day to myself. I went to the store, did some housework and spent an inexplicably long time making a card; also working on my stamp collection. Finally around 3pm I forced myself to go into the office where I checked my news blogs and email… and wrote in my writing journal: “I don’t know why I can’t seem to concentrate, but I can’t. Arg! My brain feels like oatmeal. I want to go iron or bake a cake, not write… what is wrong with me????”

So I tried again, and instead found myself Googling “why not more productive.” That brought up a slew of articles on being productive, all with the same tired advice I’d read a thousand times before. (Many of which also included solicitations of the “buy our inspirational DVDs and become more productive in just two weeks” nature) But then, just as I was ready to give it up I stumbled onto the blog of Aaron Swartz  and his post  HOWTO: Be More productive.

It starts out,

“With all the time you spend watching TV,” he tells me, “you could have written a novel by now.” It’s hard to disagree with the sentiment — writing a novel is undoubtedly a better use of time than watching TV — but what about the hidden assumption? Such comments imply that time is “fungible” — that time spent watching TV can just as easily be spent writing a novel. And sadly, that’s just not the case.

Well THAT got my attention! (And I love the word “fungible.”) As soon as I read it I knew the truth in it. Time at the start of the day is much more useful than time in the afternoon when one’s system is taking that “post-prandial” dip. (I like “post-prandial,” too) 

To be more productive, Swartz concludes, one must recognize the fact that the quality of any given period of time is not the same and learn to work with that reality in an efficient wa. For example, “it’s easy to start working on something because it’s convenient,” he says, “but you should always be questioning yourself about it.” Does this really need to be done now? Is there something more important you could be doing? Since I often do question myself about that, this was only marginally helpful — especially since even if I agree that there is something more “important” I just keep doing whatever distraction I happen to be pursuing. Still, it’s nice to have the concept reinforced.

He also suggested pursuing several different projects at the same time , thus having things to do in accordance with the different qualities of time throughout the day. I liked that because I think maybe… just maybe… some of the things I do in apparent distraction could actually be preparatory for writing. Card-making is not something I have to force myself to do, like ironing, so it’s fun, relaxing, my brain is occupied with non-word related tasks and it might just be a good activity for the subconscious to be wrestling with the writing task I seem to be ignoring. (Which lines up with other things I’ve read about writing)

Other suggestions he gave were to make a list of things to work on, integrate the list with your life, make your time higher quality, and ease physical and mental constraints, all of which were familiar but good to be reminded of. And then we got to “Procrastination and the mental force field.”

The real productivity problem people have is procrastination. It’s something of a dirty little secret, but everyone procrastinates — severely. It’s not just you.”

Really? It’s not? 

He goes on to define procrastination:

To the outside observer, it looks like you’re just doing something “fun” (like playing a game or reading the news) instead of doing your actual work. (This usually causes the outside observer to think you’re lazy and bad.) But the real question is: what’s going on inside your head?

I’ve spent a bunch of time trying to explore this and the best way I can describe it is that your brain puts up a sort of mental force field around a task. Ever play with two magnets? If you orient the magnets properly and try to push them toward each other, they’ll repel fiercely. As you move them around, you can sort of feel out the edges of the magnetic field. And as you try to bring the magnets together, the field will push you back or off in another direction.

That’s exactly how it is! Exactly what it feels like. And the more you try to go toward it, the more it pushes you away. I will go into the office to work, not be able to find the pen I want, go off to the desk in the bedroom and suddenly be doing something that has nothing to do with writing.  And just as with the magnets, which will NOT sit together no matter how hard you push, you can’t push through the mental force field on sheer willpower.

And what causes the force field?  Swartz cites two major factors: whether the task is hard and whether it’s assigned. By hard, he means it can be a problem that’s too big. Or too complicated. Or both. Yeah.

He offers suggestions there, too, but I already do almost all of them. The cool thing for me was having it all validated. All my notions about being productive he labels as myths: “that time is fungible, that focusing is good, that bribing yourself is effective, that hard work is unpleasant, that procrastinating is unnatural… that real work is something that goes against your natural inclinations.” No, not at all.

If you’re trying to do something creative that’s of worth, says Swartz, the real secret is not to shut down your brain and just DO IT, but the opposite: “to listen to your body. To eat when you’re hungry, to sleep when you’re tired, to take a break when you’re bored, to work on projects that seem fun and interesting.”

And not to condemn yourself for doing any of it.

Which sounds a lot like the freedom we are to enjoy in Christ that I’ve been blogging about previously.

If you want to read the full article, it’s here.

Secular Legalism

So, to continue my analysis of where I’ve been, the day after I wrote the journal entry I posted yesterday I got up early — about twenty minutes to 7 and went into the office, got focused about 7:20am  and worked for 45 minutes. Then I went to Wikipedia to find out about the Year of Jubilee and from there began reading Chuck Norris’s website. There was a link to it. Apparently he has a “Friend of the Jews Man of the Year” Award, and that’s what caught my eye. It had nothing to do with anything I was doing, but I’ve been a Chuck Norris fan for decades — used to watch all his movies, and even Walker, Texas Ranger until it got too cornball to watch.

Ahem. So. I got distracted. Most likely because though I read through all my notes and cards, I ended up more confused than ever. All I seemed to do was generate more questions and arrays of possible answers, as I detailed in an earlier blog post. That’s really okay, and really pretty much the way it always is when I’m writing, but I tend to forget that. Instead of waiting patiently for things to open up, I get agitated and start blaming myself. Instead of relying wholly and moment by moment on God, it becomes  my responsibility to wrestle all  this stuff into order and come up with a solution. And because I’m spending my time on that and getting nowhere, home duties are undone and now I can condemn myself for those as well.

It’s all a big… test? No, more of an obstacle I think. God’s withholding progress for His reasons, which are good and are not all about me,. But the withholding is also a form of training.  To remind me to see all deviations from what I had planned or hoped as coming directly from God’s hand, reminding me that it’s not My plan or my kingdom but His. That He is God, not me. I’m the servant. I’m reliant on Him.

And it’s when I have to wait that I forget that. (okay, I probably forget that even faster when I don’t have to wait). I think I’m not reliant on Him, but that He’s relying on me to do my part. (yuck!) He is not relying on me. He’s either doing this book or He’s not and I must await his direction. Patiently, without agitation, anxiety or self-flagellation, fully confident He has all under control. Including me. It will come when He’s decreed and all my thrashing and turmoil and self-condemnation won’t change it.

Recently in Bible Class we were warned against the cosmic systems’ attempts to insert legalism into our lives/souls. Satan’s prowling about like a lion, looking for someone to devour in this way. Legalism is where you want to do it your way. You have your own plan and you’re going to follow that. I would say there’s a lot of legalism and religious tendencies in all of us that He has to reveal and strip away. This whole fixation I have on working and accomplishing, not wasting my time, on making the right choices, being disciplined… plus the cloud of frustration and guilt that comes over me as a result of it all… It’s disgusting. It’s debilitating. It’s certainly not freedom. I believe it’s secular legalism… It’s not God I’m really striving to serve, it’s my idea of what is “right.” Working and accomplishing and not wasting my time and making right choices, being disciplined all seem right. But they’re mostly about me. And they’re very much about slavery.

Here’s a quote from a class from several months ago that I recently found: 

Unrealistic expectations toward self invariably produce frustrations that distract us from the word and destroy the true focus of the Christian life: occupation with Jesus Christ, NOT self.

And another. 

Never put yourself into a position where you feel you have responsibility and accountability toward man.

And “man” includes self. I do this all the time. I make myself responsible and accountable to my self. My goals. My standards. And half the time those goals and standards are ridiculous…

So how do I get out of this? I asked the Lord. Do I just have to wait for you to do the work?

Yes. But I believe He has been doing it.

And this post is already way longer than I’d anticipated, so I’ll save the first of the two articles He led me to for tomorrow…

My Kingdom Versus His

Things have been happening, lately; mostly inside. I don’t mean inside my house, but inside my thinking. Since I haven’t really been able to get a handle on it, I haven’t been writing about it. But last Sunday I read an article that really blew the doors off, so much so that, though I felt freed, I was not really sure how my newly acquired perspective fit into everything. Nor was I sure it was going to last. I’m still not sure, but things do seem to be falling into place.

For awhile now I’ve been wrestling with the sewer. The icky feeling. The self-condemnation for being slothful, undisciplined, impulsive, distractible. I’ve written about it here. I didn’t really know why I kept having this issue and finally asked God what was wrong with me.

I think He answered, but it’s been a process. He was already showing me even before I asked. Thus I’m going to go back to an entry I wrote in my journal last week .

29 March Monday 9:09am  I’m in the sewer again. All anxious, condemning myself, confused, frustrated. I’ve put myself in a damned if you do/damned if you don’t situation. As I set this down, I see that I”ve had wildly unrealistic expectations for this day. I wanted to get up, make muffins, clean the house and work on Sky, all before I leave at 10:20 to take Mother to the Oncology Center for her treatment. In each of those scenarios, I imagined myself as relaxed, pursuing the objective without distraction or worry, as a believer in Christ should. But I was also, I realize now, imagining them all happening at the same time. Get up, do the morning routine while making the muffins and cleaning the bathroom, one giant integrated process whose separate steps were intermingled… or maybe it was just an alternate dimension thing where things were just happening simultaneously.  

The reality is, there isn’t time to do all that. My morning routine ensures a limited amount of order and cleanliness, but it seems when I make that my priority, the writing doesn’t get done. Conversely, when I make the writing my priority the routine doesn’t get done, the house grows very dirty, laundry and ironing pile up and suddenly I have even more that is demanding I do it. Which is kind of where I am now. Today, just to catch up with the routine I have sheets to fold, clothes to iron, the floor to sweep, vacuuming, clean the bathroom, wash the muffin tin and hang out the towels (all of which have been put off and put off). I also need to go to the store, preferably before noon, since this is another task that was put off and now I don’t have food for lunch. After all that, I’ll be too tired to write and will just dink around again. If I write now, though, I’ll be too tired to do the housework when I get back — or at least too tired to make myself do what I won’t want to do. And the piles will just get bigger

So I have defined the problem. Both the house and the writing are important. How do I decide? If I go with emotion, I’ll pick writing and be upset about the house. If I go with “responsible thinking” I’ll pick the house and be upset about another day of no progress on the book. So what do I do, Lord?

Hmm. It’s arrogance that wants to control everything, isn’t it? Arrogance that wants my way even though that way is delusion. It’s me seeking MY kingdom instead of His.

And in my kingdom, one is required to do two things at the same time, be in two places at the same time and violate strictures of time and space. My kingdom involves the magic of traveling 100 miles in one hour while driving at a constant speed of 50 mph. In my kingdom you must do all required things, or disaster will befall you. What that disaster is, you aren’t allowed to know, only that it’s coming. Also, you must choose the correct thing to do if you insist you can only do one thing at a time. Choosing the wrong option leads off into that blank space at the end of the map where dragons will eat you.

So. In seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness (which is sane and sensible, unlike mine), I have only to stay in fellowship and seek His guidance, choose whatever option I’m led to choose and forget  the others for now. Which, weirdly enough suddenly seems to be housework. Okay then. I will now ignore the clamor erupting at the back of my head about my calling and how I should be ignoring all the accumulated domestic tasks so I can work on the book. I will go with my choice and trust that God can set me straight if I’m wrong.

 Or at the very least pick up the mess. And definitely save me from those dragons at the end of the maps.

Tomorrow: the blog on how distractedness may not be such an awful thing for writing after all… And a spot on description of what trying to work on the book has felt like of late.