Airplane oxygen masks are a two-step process

I’m not a huge fan of airplane travel, mainly because it’s far less expensive to drive, but sometimes you have to fly. Like when I went to Ireland a few weeks ago. I couldn’t drive to Ireland (well, I could try, but I don’t think I would succeed).

As I sat and listened to the flight attendants run through their little spiel about airplane safety, I smiled when they got to the place about securing your own oxygen mask first. I was traveling with two other people on the way to Ireland, and I had laughingly joked with my sister-in-law that I’d need to make sure one of my travel buddies had her oxygen mask on if we crashed.

That’s the rule with oxygen masks

First, you secure your own and make sure that you are breathing. Then, you help the people around you, children, the elderly, or generally distracted (but totally adorable) traveling companions. It’s a two-step process. First, take care of yourself. Then, take care of those around you.

Exodus 18:17-18 Always PeachyThe problem I usually have (when I’m not flying on an airplane) is that I skip ahead to step two without doing step one. I tend to want to take care of everyone around me first before seeing to my own needs. I want to help people, and I don’t want myself to get in the way. But it’s too much for one person to do alone, and I exhaust myself. (Exodus 18:14-18)

I’ve spent years telling myself this fact over and over again, but only recently did a new way to think about it occur to me. Using airplane oxygen masks correctly is a process.

A two-step process for an airplane

In an emergency situation on an airplane, you can’t just randomly try to help everyone around you. You’ll be in the way of people who are trained for that situation, and you’ll do more damage than you prevent. You’re supposed to stay seated. The best way for you to help those around you is to first take care of yourself.

That goes against my personal programming, but if I don’t first make sure that my thoughts are clear, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be of help to anyone. The truth is, if I don’t take care of my own needs first in that sort of situation, I won’t be able to help anyone around me.

If we accept that concept on an airplane, why can’t we accept it in our everyday lives?

A two-step process for life

Instagram Airplane MasksI’m talking to myself here. I run myself ragged for the benefit of others. I wear myself down and work my immune system to its lowest point for the sake of those around me. It’s how I’m wired. But I need to start looking at taking care of people as a two-step process.

If I want to help others, I need to take care of myself first. I need to sleep, to eat properly, and take care of my physical and spiritual needs first. Granted, that doesn’t mean I completely ignore people who need help, but before I work myself to exhaustion helping the helpless, first I need to make sure I’m strong enough to be of service. And this isn’t just something I’m making up. This is a biblical principle! (Ephesians 5:29-30)

As Christ-followers, we are called to serve others but not at the cost of our relationship with God or our physical health. Life is a balance between being a good steward of what God has given us and giving sacrificially so that others can share our blessings.

Wearing yourself out helping others may be a noble concept, but it’s not practical or healthy. And it’s not what God intended for us. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) If you really want to help others to the best of your ability, first take the time to make sure you are taking care of yourself.

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Even Jesus needed a vacation

I don’t know how to rest. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, so the last thing on my mind is taking time off. But people weren’t made to run 24/7, despite what we tell ourselves.

As you read this post this morning, I’m heading home from a week-long vacation in Estes Park, thanks to some very dear friends who let me stay in their wonderful little cabin. I needed rest so desperately.

Rest looks different for each person. Some people need activity and socializing. Others need structure. For me, rest involved not talking, not wearing real pants, and watching cooking shows and nerdy movies for a week. After about three full days of that, I felt a bit more human. (If you’re an introvert, you totally get this.)

Everybody needs to rest. Everyone needs to take intentional time to refocus and refresh and restore themselves, and for a Christ-follower that means spending some real one-on-one time with Jesus (you know, in between cooking shows).

Even Jesus had to rest. So how did He do it? That’s what I asked myself as I started off on this journey. How did Jesus rest? And I thought I’d pass along what I learned from Jesus.

Jesus got away from the crazy

Matthew 8:18Jesus was the most popular guy in every town He visited. Crowds flocked around Him to hear Him speak, to be healed, to see Him. Can you imagine being surrounded by thousands upon thousands of people every moment of every day? I would self-destruct.

When Jesus got tired (because He did), He made time to separate Himself from the noise and chaos of the crowds. He got away. (Matthew 8:18)

Jesus spent time with God

Does that mess with your head? Yes, Jesus spent time with Father God, even though Jesus Himself is God. Don’t try to make sense of it. It’s not something our puny brains can understand. Just realize that Jesus took time (frequently, according to Scriptures) to talk to God, to be quiet with God, to listen to God. So we probably should too. (Luke 5:15-16)

Jesus connected with His inner circle

Jesus had best friends. He loves everyone, and He loved all His disciples, obviously. But there were three (some people believe four) guys who He just enjoyed spending time with—Peter, James, and John. And when Jesus was seeking God’s will and needing support, He turned to those three men. (Matthew 17:1Matthew 26:36-38)

You may be an introvert who needs your space, but that doesn’t mean you should become a recluse. God puts people in your life for a reason. Granted, that doesn’t mean you are required to spend every waking moment with those people, but you shouldn’t cut yourself off from human contact. God didn’t create us to be alone.

Jesus took care of Himself

This is one of the funniest moments in the Bible for me. Can’t you just imagine the storm? The disciples were just minding their own business when a massive storm kicked up on the Sea of Galilee, and they all freaked out. They went running to Jesus, and they found Him asleep. (Mark 4:38)

Dude, Jesus must sleep like I do. When I’m out, there’s not much that can wake me up.

The point?

Jesus was intentional about resting, so why aren't we?Jesus took intentional steps to rest. He made it a priority because He was human too, just like us. So if Jesus was intentional about rest, why aren’t we? Do we think we can do more than Jesus?

Sure, this week has been great, but I can’t just drop everything and run away to the mountains for an entire week whenever I want. You probably can’t either. So that means I need to learn how to integrate these strategies into my daily life. That means I need to start seeing myself and my goals from a more realistic perspective.

Rest is something we all need, so it’s something we can be intentional about. I don’t know about you, but I’m taking steps to make sure I rest. That way, I can always be at my best, and I can always be available to do what God has called me to do.

Sometimes you just need a break

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Good evening, lovely blog readers. First off, let me just thank you all for continuing to read my ridiculous compilation of random thoughts. I’m so blessed to have so many people who like to read my writing, and I’m thankful to be able to share my point of view with so many different people.

You may have noticed in the last few days there haven’t been as many posts as normal. Before anyone started worrying, I wanted to just let everyone know that I missed a few days due to some unplanned things that happened. And I just haven’t been able to get that momentum back (hey, I’m being honest here).

So I’ve decided for the next few weeks to take a bit of a hiatus. I’ll do my best to get some blog posts out, but taking a break is sometimes good for us. And, frankly, I could really use the next few weeks to work solely on New Name: The Destiny Trilogy Part Three. I’ve got 75,000 words left to write on it, and I really want it done before the end of the month. I managed to crank out 11,000 words today, so if I can get to similar daily word counts in the next week or so, I can definitely make it. But that means I need to devote all my brain power to getting that done.

I’m hoping you all will forgive the absence. There’s tons of stuff to read on here, and I just put in a search feature. So search for your favorite Bible verse or topic, and I bet I have a blog post about it. And I’ll be back regularly in a few weeks, and I’ll probably be in a much less stressed frame of mind.

Blessings to you all. Thanks again for all your love and support and encouragement. 

Never overlook a small blessing

I am easily distracted by shiny things. Or by cute things. It’s like my attention is full and focused, and I’m running at 110% capacity. And I’m stressed out because things aren’t going my way. Or I’m worrying myself into a nervous breakdown because I have too much to do. And without intervention, I send myself tumbling down that dark, isolated tunnel of anxiety.

But if someone comes along and shows me a cute puppy (like what happened yesterday), all of a sudden, life gets better. Or at least, life seems to get better. Because, hey, I’ve got a cute little puppy to cuddle. How bad can life be?

I was kind of upset at myself later. I mean, what kind of goofball gets in a better mood just because of a puppy? It didn’t change my day. It didn’t change the amount of work I have to do or extend the deadlines on my late projects. Does that make me superficial? To change moods so rapidly for such a silly reason? Or is there more to it?

My coworker's adorable little Yorkie/Cocker Spaniel puppy

My coworker’s adorable little Yorkie/Cocker Spaniel puppy

Today’s verse is Zechariah 4:10.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.

Something God is teaching me more and more every day is that He is just as present in the small things as He is in the big things. Granted, I know that. But as I’ve said before, there’s a big difference between knowing God is there and living like it.

When I get stressed out and anxious about the stuff going on in my life, I’m not looking at God. He’s not my focus when I’m worrying. My focus is myself when I’m worrying.

I’m only thinking about what I can accomplish. I’m only thinking about what I can do in the time I have or with the resources I have available. I’m focusing solely on myself and what I can do in my own strength. And that’s the not the way I’m supposed to live.

I have access to the greatest wealth in the universe. I have an all-sufficient, all-powerful, all-knowing Father who wants me to ask Him for help. And I’m foolish to forget it so often.

I’m completely convinced that God sends small things to stop us in our tracks in those moments when we’re stressing out about something. On those days when the anxiety is overwhelming, have there ever been moments when something funny has happened? Or something cute has come into view? If you think about it, I bet there has been. Maybe it was something that just made you stop. Maybe it was something that took your eyes off yourself and your own issues for a fraction of a second.

In those times when you’re drowning in stress and sorrow, when you get the chance to think about something else for a little while, don’t push it away. Don’t assume it’s not worth your time. Don’t see it as a waste of time. Look at it like a gift.

I got to hold a cute little puppy for a few minutes on a frustrating Thursday afternoon, and once I gave her back (reluctantly), I was in a much better mood. Why? Because I’m a terrible person? Or because I’m not dedicated enough to my job?

No. For a few minutes, my job didn’t matter. My deadlines didn’t matter. My performance didn’t matter. And I just got to stand and hold a beautiful, sweet little creature that my God made. And it helped me put the rest of my day in perspective because I stopped making my day the center of my world.

Give yourself a break. That pile of paperwork will still be sitting on your desk when you come back. But what I’ve learned about being a workaholic is that the longer you work, the less effective you are. People weren’t created to work 24/7. Some of us try because we’re gluttons for punishment or because we have this weird idea in our silly brains that running ourselves into the ground will please God (that’s a lie, by the way).

Stop pushing so hard. When a little thing comes around that makes you happy, take a few minutes and enjoy it. Then go back to what you were doing, and you might find that your focus is vastly improved.

Don’t overlook the small things. Sometimes small things bring us the greatest joy in life.

And if you’re stressed out at work, let me just say that getting a puppy is the best thing you could do. Because, seriously, who could be stressed out when you look at that face?

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Remember the God who’s on your side

I don’t do this very often, but this morning I just needed to be reminded who God is and what He has promised to those who follow Him. And all I could think about was Psalm 91. I know I posted on it earlier this week, but reading the whole thing this morning really lifted my spirits.

I hope that if you’re in a place right now where you’re facing fear or challenges or a situation that seems hopeless, that you’ll remember the God who’s on your side. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Psalm 91

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

The old house at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Everybody needs a safe haven

I don’t like admitting that I need help. Admitting that I need help is showing weakness, and I never want people to think I’m weak. Similarly, I don’t like admitting when I need to rest. I’d rather live in denial and push forward until I collapse instead of being proactive and planning for the need to slow down every so often.

That’s probably my pride and my stubbornness showing through.

But realizing that you need to rest doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. No one has super powers. None of us can push forward through life without needing rest or at least a quiet place to recharge. If we try it, we’ll burn out. And once you burn out, lighting the fire again is ten times as difficult.

I’m just coming off one of the busiest weeks of my year, and as I lay awake in bed this morning, my brain was buzzing with everything else I have to do. April is so full, part of me is scared to even look at my calendar. And May is worse. It’s all great, wonderful things. Tremendous opportunities. Fun challenges. Exciting events. But it does take time and energy and emotion, and at the moment, not yet recovered from National Sales Meeting, I can’t imagine being ready for any of it.

The old house at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The old house at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude

A river brings joy to the city of our God,
    the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
    From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos,
    and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
    and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
    See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
    He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.

 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress.

I need to read this Psalm every day. I need to remember everything in this Psalm every moment of every day and maybe twice a day in the stressful times.

Needing a refuge isn’t weak. Everyone needs a refuge, a safe place to go when life gets too crazy.

I’d been away from home since very early Sunday morning, and I walked through my door last night where my roomie was waiting for me. She made dinner, and we watched The Desolation of Smaug and ate pasta. I could relax and not worry about tomorrow and just be.

I’m so fortunate to have a safe place I can go, but not everyone has that. So where do you go when you don’t have a comfortable couch with an awesome roomie?

Maybe it sounds clichéd to talk about resting in God, but that’s what we need to learn to do. That’s what I need to learn to do, especially in those moments when I’ve overworked myself and I don’t have time (or the ability) to run home and hide in my basement with a movie and a cup of tea.

Finding rest in God can be difficult because it requires a change of perspective, and when you’re exhausted anyway, expending the effort to change the way you see the world seems like too much trouble. But the truth is, my safe haven isn’t safe because of my movies and my hot tea and my comfy chair and my awesome roomie. My safe haven is a refuge because it helps me slow down and remember who God is.

That’s the key to resting. It’s not being lazy. It’s not being weak. It’s slowing down enough to regain the right perspective on God, and when you do that, you’ll get the right perspective on everything else.  Remember who God is. Recognize what He’s done for you. Realign your thinking to match His. And you’ll be amazed at how refreshed you feel afterward.

So where is your safe place? Where can you go to slow down and remember who God is? If you don’t have a place like that, you really need to find one. Life won’t slow down, so you have to.

Shoveled versus unshoveled at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God saves people who rest in Him

Have you ever sacrificed rest for productivity? You needed to get something done and even though you really needed to recharge before you started it, you plowed ahead anyway? How did that turn out? Were you as productive as you could have been?

I do this more often than I’m comfortable admitting, and even though I usually do accomplish most everything on my to-do list, most of it wouldn’t quality as excellent. And in other situations, especially at work, when I need to revise something over and over again, I get really frustrated. Not at the project, not at the person asking for revisions, but at myself.

Performance-driven perfectionist, remember? If I don’t get something perfect on the first go-round, I can manage, if I can fix it immediately and exceed all expectations. But if it goes through a second round? Or a third round? Or a fourth round? My brain can barely handle it. And if I’m trying to do all of that when I haven’t rested properly, I can pretty much guarantee I’ll hit the irrational level where I convince myself that I’m not any good at what I’m doing.

But when you’re busy and stressed and overwhelmed with things that need to get done, how can you step back and rest? Won’t that make it impossible to accomplish anything?

 

Shoveled versus unshoveled at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Shoveled versus unshoveled at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 30:15.

This is what the Sovereign Lord,
    the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
    and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.

This is the part of faith that I have the most trouble with–not believing but accepting. I always feel like I have to do something. I can’t just sit and wait for God to act. I need to be the one with the initiative. I need to be the one driving the project. I need to be the one making the decisions. But that’s not how God works all the time.

Sometimes He does. Sometimes He wants you to get off your blessed assurance and do something, but not always. And I’m working on paying more attention to those times.

I’ve had the privilege of growing up around so many wonderful Christians, the hardcore dedicated believers who love Christ with everything they are. As a child, I remembered marveling at what God could do through them, and I wanted to be one of those people. And like the crazy person I am, I always take everything one step further. I can’t just meet expectations, I have to exceed them or I’m not happy. I can’t just perform well, I have to perform perfectly or it’s not worth it.

As a result, I run myself ragged. I do everything. I’ve gotten better about it in the past year or so, not saying yes to everything that comes around and actually consulting with God about what I agree to do. And it’s helped. But I still hit those exhausted moments where I really need to rest. And I don’t.

I don’t know where we get the idea that God needs our help. I’m not sure where we got that. Why do we think that God can’t accomplish something unless we run ourselves into the ground? There’s some ridiculous part of me that thinks if I’m enjoying life I’m not working for God hard enough, and that’s a lie. No, this life isn’t permanent for us, and, no, this world isn’t our home. But God put us here, and there are parts of this world and this life that He gave us to enjoy. So why don’t we? Why do we stress ourselves out? Why do we deny ourselves rest?

Our salvation doesn’t come through anything we have done. We aren’t saved by anything we can do. And I’m not just talking spiritually. That’s true in our everyday lives at work and at home and at school. The only choice we need to make is to do follow the Bible, to do what Christ would have done, to live like He did. And God opens the doors for us. We don’t have to wear ourselves out worrying.

Granted, we need to willing to work. We need to be willing to get our hands dirty and go where God tells us and do what He says when He says it. But He already has a plan, and it’s a good plan. So why do we try to take over? The only thing our taking over will accomplish is to confuse things because we can’t see the big picture.

Trying to tackle a huge job when you’re already exhausted will lead to disaster and emotional meltdowns, and that’s not how our lives are supposed to be. God didn’t create us for that.

So, whatever you’re facing today, sit back. Relax. Trust God and rest. Really, truly rest. It’s hard. It’s harder than anything I’ve ever had to do. But God saves people who rest in Him. You’ll find strength in quiet confidence in Him. He’s got a plan, and it’s a good plan. So let Him work it out.