Thursday, July 28, 2011

Craving God

I sit and I stare at this picture. 

It reminds me that I'm hungry.  Not physically, but spiritually. Not hungry for the simple but satisfying taste of fresh bread, but for a simple yet transforming bite of the Bread of Life.

A fresh piece, just pulled from the loaf. Still warm. With the yeasty smell discernible and the ability to melt what it comes into contact with.

That's what I crave today. To be melted by God.  Into God.  To become infused.

I spend so much time resisting my cravings - cravings for too much of this, forbidden that, or a brand new one of those. I have to be careful not to automatically resist this craving too. Not to decide that I'll indulge it later. Or satisfy it tomorrow.

So as I stare at this picture I drop what I'm doing and reach for the scriptures. The book weighs in my hand like a dense loaf of sweet bread. I open and tear off a bite.

"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered."

I tend to think blessed are those who do not sin. And yet, this verse says blessed are those whose sins are covered. Who are forgiven.

Blessedness is never something I achieve but something I'm given. Something I'm privy to in Christ. Something I'm gifted with by Him.

Something I'm thankful for.

Something that calls forth in me a desire to please God.

I chew. I swallow, allowing the truth of the gospel to make its way into my bones. 

I invite God to come in and cover me. 

And I look back at the picture of the bread, hoping it will incite in me tomorrow the same craving it did today.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

She Speaks 2011

I'm back from the 2011 She Speaks conference where I spent most of last week. Thought I'd share some of my memories, lessons and experiences from the week.

1. Upon arrival at the hotel Tuesday, I ironed my white pants and managed to burn my left hand on the iron. I sat through dinner with Lysa TerKeurst, Holly Good, Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon with my fingers in a cup of ice. When all my ice melted, Holly gave me her ice water. That's a good friend.

2. Wednesday was my birthday. I spent all day in She Speaks meetings.  My girlfriends, however, lavished me with gifts.  Scented soy candles. A cute teal leather purse. Beautiful stationary gifts from Rose Lane Cottage. The coolest travel kit ever. Books, dinner and more. I turned 29 in case you were wondering. I turn 29 every year - it's tradition.

3. I picked up a copy of Logos Bible software.  Now I just have to carve out the time to learn to use it. I may get my pastor to help me with that. I showed him around TweetDeck this year, so maybe he'll show me around Logos. Do you use a Bible software program?

4. Led an intermediate-level speakers evaluation group.  I loved my group this year! I'm thinking I say that every year. PS. Between you and me, it's not exactly fun to have to critique someone's presentation skills when they've just poured out their heart in a message, or taught passionately from the Bible. I wanted to give them all A's.

5. I discovered it's possible to get by on 6 or less hours of sleep for several nights in a row, but it does nothing for your complexion.

6. I loved meeting women at the P31 authors book signing. Note to Self: It is hard to sign 50 books in a row while wearing a chunky bracelet on your writing arm. You can't get your arm on the table to hold the pen normal. And then your writing looks sloppy.

7. The prayer room. It's the best place in the whole conference center. I should have gone in there earlier than I did this year.

8. Met Ann Voscamp and heard her speak.  If you've ever read Ann, 'nough said.

9. I want a breakfast buffet like that every morning. Today at home I had just a protein shake.

10. I came down to the conference center on Sunday morning all chirpy-happy. I was chatting with  Zoe Elmore and Carol Davis. Life was good. AND, I was going home in just a few hours. Couldn't wait to see my husband and kids.

Then Wendy Pope came over and said she noticed in the parking lot that my back tire was flat. My mood went flat too. (Did I mention I'd already spent $1600 on car repairs this summer?). But the two bell hops took off their white button downs and went to work putting the spare tire on my car. Embassy Suites Concord has excellent customer service. 

Which is good, because I'll be spending my birthday with them again next year at She Speaks 2012.

Maybe you can join me - bring a chocolate cake that says, "Happy 29th, Rachel." And some Downy Wrinkle Releaser, please.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rescue Your Time Management

Today my friend P31 teammate extraordinaire Micca Campbell is spotlighting me on her blog in her series about the team leading up to next week's She Speaks conference.  Scoot over there to find out how I came to do what I do, and random facts like my current favorite TV show.

Read below for more about me and something that might help you. Because as much a it sounds all about me today, my blogging really is more about you. I want us both to craft a happy, productive life that honors Christ.

So here goes more about me first. I am a highly extroverted, fun-loving, creative non-conformist. I'm also the sociable baby-of-the-family who got used to everyone else taking care of life's responsibilities while I played.

But alongside my fun-loving free-spirit, I have a drive to create, to teach, to inspire and to succeed. I have a strong impulse to live intentionally and to hear God say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." 

So that means I have to work at developing efficiency, punctuality, responsibility and productivity. After all, time is money they say.

Oh, I should also mention that I love to learn. I'm continually reading and studying. 

Given my personality and info-junkie nature, I can easily spend all day online conversing, socializing, and reading here, there and everywhere about this and that.  That's enjoyable - and there are way worse ways I could spend my time - but there's got to be a balance. I've also got to write, teach, work, cook and create. I need to produce, manage, maintain, parent and steward.

I recently found a tool that can help me see and achieve that balance. It's called RescueTime. It monitors how long I spend doing tasks on the computer like emailing, or writing in my word processor. It marks how long I spend on FaceBook or other social sites. It monitors how much time I spend shopping online. And it will even track for me, to a degree, how I'm spending my time off the computer.

It sends me reminders and shows me daily reports of how I've spent my time. And the best part is all of this is, it's done with little to no tacking effort on my part!

This free little tool has upped my efficiency nearly as much as learning to make daily to-do lists. But the difference between RescueTime and simply making a to-do list is it helps me see how all my hours were spent. Some days I get to everything on my to-do list but still waste a lot of time without realizing it. Other days I might not complete my to-do list, yet I worked productively all day on things that matter so I need not feel guilty about the unfinished list.

RescueTime helps me see this.

I'm loving using it. Even knowing that it's there "watching me" prompts me to be a little more productive. If you'd like to try it, follow this link to RescueTime. That's my referral link. The basic program is free to download. And the upgraded program isn't very expensive. I've been using the upgrade.

Give it a try and see what it does for your productivity.

Think about it, what have you got to lose?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Sound Night's Sleep

I loved reading all the comments yesterday!  There are some good tips in there.
Yesterday's winner of It's no Secret is Denise J.  Congrats, Densise, please send me your address.
Here's two more tips to help us get quality sleep. These are well-known, but often ignored.

Control the lighting. Our bodies are designed to respond to the setting of the sun by slowing down and resting. Instead we turn on bright lights and stare into lit screens for hours after dark.

As the evening wears on, dim the lighting. Put the computer away an hour before bedtime. Turn off overhead lights and the TV. And if you read before bed, use a small lamp or book light. I've got many of the lights in my home on dimmer switches.

Need help waking up gently?  Do the reverse, let it grow gradually brighter in your room. If your windows have closed curtains at night, look into an alarm clock like this one. I have something similar and it lets me set it to gradually dim until it goes out at night, then it gets gradually brighter before hitting full-on at my set wake time. I like that much better than a jolting buzzing alarm. (bare windows have the same affect)

Relaxing Sounds. Play relaxing music in your bedroom. I have a small stereo in mine that holds 2 CDs. It will play one, the other, or both back to back and then cut off. I switch out the CDs every few weeks but most of my favorites have ocean sounds. The sound of water and waves is research-proven to induce relaxation.

Lots of people sleep with a fan on for white noise to quiet their mind. I have a ceiling fan that's on all but the coldest of nights.

Note, sleeping with the TV on is not quite the same.  Unlike the constant rythmic sound of a fan whirrling or waves rolling, the sound levels on TV shows and commericals rise and fall. So do the light levels in the room when your TV is on. While you may remain asleep through that, your body is often registering those changes and your rest may not be as deep.

There are places online to find soothing sounds. Need to generate some white noise? Try Need help falling asleep? Pzizz is an interesting concept to check out.

Bottom line: Unless we have very young children in the home waking us, it's probably in our power to get better rest. We’ve just got to make it a priority and stop giving it last place on our list. It really comes first as the beginning of the day.

It helps to recognize that rest is God’s gift to us – one through which we can give honor back to Him.
Need more convincing? Want to develop of theology of sleep? Try this article.

Sweet dreams tonight.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Getting Rest

Welcome if you’ve come over from my devotion published at P31 today. Pause and go read it if you missed it. As promised, here’s six practical tips for better rest.

1) Declutter your bedroom. Begin this today – finish it as soon as possible. Work on it section by section this week until you’re done.

What you’re thinking when you nod off affects your sleep, and your mood when you wake up. If you are surrounded by stuff, projects, things that need sewing, things that need cleaning, things that need putting away, things that need giving away, things that belong downstairs, when you lay down you are going to feel like there is so much you still need to do. When you wake you will feel already behind. (Translation: you will feel self-defeated and guilty about resting.) Get that stuff out of your resting space!

2) Strictly limit what comes into your room. This is how you hold the line once you’ve decluttered. Let your bedroom serve a few main purposes: relaxing or sleeping, dressing, and intimacy with your spouse. You may be surprised at how much decluttering can help with that last one. It’s not that you can’t read in bed or wrap a present on the bed sometimes but don’t make your home office in your bedroom. Or set up your crafting business in your bedroom. If you have no place else in your home to do such things, figure out how to put it all away or out of sight at night. That will signal your brain that creative/work time is over.

3) Pray. Spend sometime unwinding with God. Pray through stressful issues from your day – turning your troubles over to Him. Give Him thanks for blessings from your day – reminding yourself He is good, powerful and trustworthy. This is how you turn laying down to sleep (or a warm bath before bed) into a spiritual discipline. Drift off with your worries released and your mind centered on Him.

4) Keep a notebook by your bed. If to-do type thoughts come to you while you are trying to fall asleep, or trying to pray, jot them down and then let them fall from your mind. The paper will remind you tomorrow. You can also jot down things that come to you as you pray. Or write down a few things you are thankful for from that day to jumpstart your prayer time.

5) Give yourself permission to invest in your rest. Do you like it dark? Get lined curtains. Put your bedside lamp on a dimmer switch. Sleep better when cool? Invest in a programmable thermostat that automatically makes it cooler at night but brings the temp back up in time to wake. Is it time for a new pillow or mattress? We spend 1/3 of our lives asleep. Think about how quick you are to go buy something you will wear once to a special event!

6) Exercise. As a small little shoe company would say, just do it. What ever time of day works for you. Whatever exercise works for you – even a 15-20 minute brisk walk around the neighborhood works wonders. Just do it several times a week. You will rest better.

So, which of these do you need to do? Got any strategies that help you unwind for rest? Post a comment and be entered to win a copy of my new book It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know. Tomorrow I’ll announce the winner, post more tips, link to some articles, and share some specific products that help me rest.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Home Gym Workout Spaces

Yesterday I mentioned creating an inspiring space to workout at home. I realize not everyone has the space or budget to do what most of these people have done, but we can draw some inspiration from their rooms. And I've included a few simple set-ups here.

Even if you have no extra space or exercise machines, you could create a small spot like the one above. Or a cute workout basket to set in the corner where it will serve as a motivator and reminder.  It could include:
  • a favorite aluminum water bottle
  • a soft hand towel for wiping off your face
  • a pack of gum or mints
  • a pedometer
  • a water spritzer bottle for cooling off
  • a yoga mat
  • a pair of 3 or 5 lb. hand weights or some exercise bands
  • a favorite workout DVD
  • a {chocolate} protein bar
  • some fitness magazines
Looking for a book to read on the exercise bike?  Try mine: It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know.
    Do you workout at home?  Any of these home gyms catch your eye?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

5 Ways to Enjoy Exercise

The winner of four SPF 50 copies of It's No Secret is SueBE.  Congrats! (and send me your addy)

When I asked y'all on July 4th to name something you'd change about the way you live your life, more than a couple of you said, "I'd learn to like exercise more."

I have a few suggestions to help you with that. But first, let me state for the record that I understand your plight. I'm not one to like exercise for exercise's sake.  So here's what helps me.

1) DO WHAT MOVES YOU.  Find a type of exercise you enjoy - or at least that you don't hate.  Hate push ups, weight lifting and crunches, but like to dance?  Forget Jillian Micheals and sign up for Zumba.

What did you used to love?  Ice Skating? Riding your bike? Bowling? Badminton? Swimming? Try that again. Who says you can't do tap or gymnastics past age 21?  I do. You can too. And try new things. Experiment boldly. You might discover you enjoy pilates or kickboxing, water aerobics or surfing. Many studios and gyms will let you take a trial class  for free.

2) LISTEN TO THE MUSIC.  Music is a main way I motivate myself to work out.  I look forward to listening to music I love, and moving to the beat. If I put on my iPod I will work out harder and faster without feeling like I'm working any harder.  Plus, I enjoy the time once I get going.

If you don't have an iPod or MP3 player, get one now. If the technology intimidates you, have a friend or teen  help you learn to use it. And load it with fantastic fast music you love - great Christian music and favorite songs from the decade you came of age. Those songs will get you moving.

3) PAIR UP.  A walk around the track or park goes much faster when chatting with a friend.  Find someone at roughly your fitness level and make a pact to meet twice a week. Walk, jog, bike, rollerblade, hit a tennis ball. Or plan to take a fitness class together. Your friend not only serves as diversion from the exercise but also as an accountability partner. 

Personal trainers work as well. You don't have to be buff or want to get buff to use a personal trainer. You do have to pay, though. Friends are free, and usually offer better conversation.

4) DISTRACT YOURSELF. While I tend to work out harder and faster with great music on, I work out longer without noticing if I watch TV while on my treadmill or on my gym's elliptical machines. My gym has TVs and I have one in front of my treadmill at home.

I also frequently read books, novels, magazines or the Bible while on a cardio machine. I can only go but so fast while reading, but I'm always amazed at how much time has passed when I look up. I've even taken my laptop to the treadmill to read blogs while walking. And I sometimes do my quiet time on my treadmill. Two birds, one stone.

5) UTILIZE BEAUTY.  Set up an inspiring workout space in your home or yard. Go someplace beautiful to walk or hike like a park, or a wooded trail. Drink in the views while you warm up your muscles. Pray while you're at it. I like to walk the beach and jump the waves.  It's hard on my toenail polish but easy on the eyes and great for everything between my heels and waist.

And don't underestimate the power of a cute new workout top either.

What exercise do you love, or what helps you to love exercise?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Giving away 4 on the 4th - do I smell coconut?

Happy Independence Day.  Around here the 4th is a day that involves lots of watermelon, sunscreen, lemonade, time at the beach or pool, and dinner on the grill.

Only, I'm running a little low on the sunscreen this year ...

Earlier this week I put a box of my books in the car to take to the post office.  Then my daughter climbed in and set the beach bag on top of the box.  Unbeknownst to us, her can of sunscreen spray leaked in her bag, and into the box, and onto the books. Ugh.

But my mess is your opportunity!

I now have four copies of It's No Secret that are able to stay out in the sun 50 times longer without burning! I've wiped them off and all is fine except that the liquid sunscreen caused the ink to smear a little on some of the pages inside. Everything is still entirely readable, and not all pages are affected.

So if you have a small group or book club looking for a late summer or early fall read  - here's your chance to get 4 copies of It's No Secret free. If you're not in a group, here's your chance to get yourself a copy of the book free and give away the other three copies to friends.

And if you love the idea of reading at the park, beach or pool but never do it because you worry about your books getting messed up - these come guilt-free and outdoors ready!

To enter to win all 4 Coppertone-graced, autographed-for-you copies of It's No Secret just post your answer to this:

If you could change one or two things about the way you live your life, what would they be?

That ought to get you thinking. I'll announce the winner on Wednesday - please make sure I can contact you if you win. And let me know if you answer but do not wish to be entered to win.  Happy 4th!