Organized Living

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I recently read an article about a prominent U.K. scientist who says he has proof that there has been no global warming over the past 15 years. That information could have earned him a Nobel Prize. Instead that award is hanging around Al Gore's neck.

Why did he choose not to share this information? In his own words, this scientist admitted that an overall lack of organization, and his poor record keeping and office-tidying skills had contributed to his reluctance to share data with critics, which he now regrets.*

Regret. Disappointment. Poor decision-making. The list could go on.

Sadly, for many of us, we are in the same boat as this scientist. Our lack of organization keeps us from the life we want to have. Or the dreams. Or the rewards.

It doesn't have to be that way. God never intended for us to live our lives in disorganized chaos. But that's how we live, and all the self-help, follow-these-steps, do-this-program type books that fill shelves upon shelves in the bookstores won't help us straighten up. Why not? Because it's not about the how of organization, it's about the who - Who God is, Who you are, and Who God's called you to be.

Not that I'm out to diss (or is it dish?) those wonderful people whose heart and passion is to help others become organized through the books they've written. I'm not. I love those books just as much as anyone else! The problem is that these books only focus on the external circumstances and don't delve into the internal understanding of the problem.

Let me explain in a way that we may all be able to relate:

Have you ever watched TV shows like What Not to Wear and Clean Sweep? Those are two of my favorites and I never get tired of watching them transform people's lives, wardrobes, and houses into something almost magical. The problem with these shows is that they only help fix up the outer/external appearance of the person or their home. They don't really help these people deal with the inner, heart issues that got them on the TV show in the first place. When you're watching the show it seems like these people have their act altogether now. But what if you were to visit them 6 months to a year after they were on the show? Would they really look or act the same, or would they have gone back to their old habits?

I'm sure we can guess what happened to them. Although their outer appearance got a makeover, they skipped the internal makeover that would allow them to keep their transformation going. Odds are they probably went back to their old way of dressing or filled their well-decorated house with new clutter.

It's the same with organizing our lives. It's not about how-to clean out the clutter in 5 easy steps. It's about realizing that organization starts on the inside of the messy person -- me and you.

Although we may have messes we think we'll never dig out from under, I want to encourage you that it doesn't have to be that way and I want to show you why. Over the next several weeks, I'm going to post what I believe are the true answers to an organized life. There will be no quick-fixes, no easy tips; just truth from God's Word that will offer us the hope we need to straighten out our lives, and maybe even a drawer or two!

I hope you'll join me as we take on this adventure. It may cause you to see things in a new light, but I promise the results will be well worth the journey. Are you with me?

* quoted from Fox article

Stuck? Some things to think about...

Friday, February 05, 2010

I noticed him just as my car tires became trapped in the mix of compact snow and ice. He heard the twirling of my car tires, looked up at me and smiled. I was the exact reason he was out there in the middle of the road, at the T-junction of the main street and my one-way lane: he was shoveling snow and making it easier for people who traveled down this slush filled path to avoid outcomes like the one I now found myself in. No one asked him to do this noble task, no one expected him to either. It was simply one man's desire to keep others from being in the not-so-fun, sometimes traumatic situation known as "stuck".

As I jostled my car back and forth trying to set it free from its ice prison, I couldn't help but wonder what prompted him to get out there and spend his precious time clearing an area that was "no man's land", that part of the street that didn't belong to anyone nor was anyone's particular responsibility. What was he thinking? Why was he doing that? It seemed that answers such as, "He's a nice guy" or "He's German and that's what they do", weren't sufficient. Yet I couldn't think of a better answer myself and certainly wasn't about to go up and ask him, so I decided to let things be and just enjoy of the benefits of his efforts.

After liberating my car and running my errands, I came home and started shoveling my own little area of responsibility - my driveway. We both worked diligently with nothing but a few house distances between us; the only noise emanating around us came from the metal on our shovels as it scraped against the pavement, clear signs of success for our work. With each stack of snow I shoveled and piled elsewhere, the realization of what this man was doing finally dawned on me.

1. He was thinking beyond himself. I was content to shovel my driveway and then head inside. This guy, however, saw the larger picture and the needs of others, and decided to act. He probably finished his own drive and then asked himself, what else needs to be done? what else can I do? Then he was willing to go above and beyond his own responsibility and do it. What would the world look like if we all did the same? I think that so many times when we are stuck in our own dire situations we don't stop and take the time to think of others. The thing is, that's exactly when we need to stop focusing on ourselves and focus on others. There is no better time to think beyond ourselves then when we are stuck.
2. He understood we all need to help others avoid getting stuck. If you've ever been stuck, then you know how hard it is and how much more difficult it can be to get out. That is why it is so important that we help those who are going down similar paths. We know where the pitfalls are, what the signs look like, and how to best avoid them. We also know how to get out of that "stuck" situation. God never wastes a hurt and He will use our hurts so that "we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." (2 Corinthians 1:4). Sometimes a simple word of encouragement or just letting someone know you've been down that same road so that they don't feel alone is all that is needed.
3. Whether he realized it or not, he was exemplifying the heart and character of Jesus. None of us really deserve to be free from our "stuck" positions in life, but because of Jesus' death on the cross we no longer have to be bogged down in our sinful nature. He paid the price so that when we are at the crossroads or on the verge of becoming stuck, we don't have to worry because a clear path has already been made for us.

I have no clue who this man was, where he lived, or why he felt led to help others. I just know he did. He may not know what a huge impact his efforts made, but I know that I am thankful for him. Each time I turn onto my street, I know that my chances of getting stuck there are less likely. And while the physical benefits are helpful as long as the snow and ice stay on the ground, the lessons he taught my heart will linger much longer.

What I Learned

Monday, February 01, 2010

I tore open the package, anxious to get to the contents inside. I had waited 3 weeks for this to arrive, and now the time had come. As I pulled out the 3-ring binder, a feeling of delight overwhelmed me as I realized that in my hands was the 2-year program that would help me fulfill my dream of becoming a writer. I read through the table of contents and dreamed of all the great stories and articles I would pen as I learned the necessary "essentials" towards becoming the next, great American novelist. I couldn't wait to get started, and excitedly began the first lesson.

Twenty-six months later I uttered a sigh of relief as I clicked the "Send" button of my email and handed in my 50th, and final, lesson of my writing course. Don't get me wrong, it was an insightful course that helped me see that writing is more than just a few good ideas, a blank piece of paper, and a nicely sharpened pencil. No, writing - and writing well - is so much more.

But that's not all that I learned over that long time span. God showed me a lot about myself and about reaching my goals, things that I know I will carry with me for a very long time. I thought I might share them with you here today:

1. Discipline is necessary. Yes, it's that ugly word rearing it's head again, but unfortunately, it's true. I had to discipline myself to glue my rear to the chair and work. The work wasn't just going to produce itself magically, no matter how many times I prayed that it would! I had to force myself time and time again to work on a lesson and do what was required of me. There were many times I wasn't always that disciplined, but on those occassions when I allowed myself to be disciplined, there was great reward. No one likes discipline, but discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments. As author Jack du Brul wrote, "There are a lot of people who would love to be authors without the slightest idea of how much work is required. Discipline is the key." It doesn't matter what our dream may be; if you and I want to get reach it, then we have to learn to embrace discipline because only discipline will get us from where we are to where we want to be.

2. Sacrifice is required. This one was a huge struggle for me. I didn't want to sacrifice my time, my joy, or my opportunities sitting behind a computer trying to complete a lesson every other week. I can't tell you how many shopping trips, lunches, or get-togethers I had to miss out on because I had to write. Not to mention the reading, TV watching, and scrapbooking that I wanted to be doing! But I sacrificed. Why? Because "one doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time'' (Andre Gide). If I had dreams of hearing Oprah announce my name and my book as her next book club read, then I had to sacrifice those pleasures and work. Was it wanted I wanted? Of course not! Did I enjoy it? No! But in the end, the sacrifice paid off and now I can enjoy all those things that I formerly turned down without guilt and with much more joy!

3. A fruitful harvest requires faithful service. There were many lessons that I had to dig deep within myself to produce an answer for a required assignment. I can't tell you the number of hours that were spent just sitting there trying to think of something to write! I remember one evening I was working in my office and Clint was reading a book next to me. After 10 minutes of just sitting there he asked me, "Are you going to do anything besides sit there?" My reply? "It's not that easy dear!!" I could have written anything and turned that in, but how would that have benefited me in the long run? If we want to see a fruitful harvest with anything we endeavor to do, then we MUST be willing to give it 100% effort. Yes, I might have wasted time trying to write the "perfect" dialogue or character analysis, but I know how to do that well now and maybe somewhere down the road, that will pay off because anything worth having is worth working for. Do you want to see a dream fulfilled? A marriage improved? A goal reached? Then prepare yourself to WORK.

4. Finally, never give up. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to give up and I almost did! I had too many lessons left to complete before my deadline and I was miserable trying to finish them all in such a rush. When there were more lessons for me to do than there were days on the calendar, I put my hands up and said "I'm done!" I honestly didn't feel like doing it anymore and I wasn't sure that it would ever really pay off anyway. But my stubborn husband and expectant children wouldn't let me drop out. What many of us fail to realize is that like discipline, endurance is a word that may have to learn to add to our vocabulary. Sadly our emotions can lead us to believe that we can't continue what we're facing and if we're not careful, we'll let ourselves be deceived by those emotions until our thoughts fester in agreement with them and our actions have no other choice but to follow suit. Then we find ourselves giving in and giving up. I can't tell you how many times towards the end that I had to glue myself rear to my chair (yes, I know I've said that already but I want to really make a point here - not a visual, but a point!) and tell myself, "Come on Liana, just one more time!" And each time I said it, I got through one more lesson until the golden number came up. I know it's easy to want to do it - but please, DON'T GIVE UP!! As Paul said in Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." It's true! How do I know? Because right around the time I was wanting to give up, I received an email saying that one of my articles had been accepted for publication! If it can happen for me, it can happen for you too!

I may not know what it is you hope for or where you are on your journey to reach it, but I do hope that the lessons I learned can help you take another step down that road today. It will take discipline, sacrifice, effort, and endurance but I know you can do it! You may not think you can, but as Henry Ford once wrote, "Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right."

I believe in you and God does too, so go for it!!