A Word on Wednesday: Busy

Remember the days of land lines actually attached to a wall. Remember trying to call someone dialing just seven digits, and getting a jarring, repetitive, static-y tone?

Busy. Try again. Still busy. There was no way to leave a message. There was no way to send an email or text. There was no way to reach the person in that moment at all. And, this was annoying. The “brr brr brr” echoing in the receiver was a frustrating sound, a dead end.

busy

Busy is a word from Old English, bisig, meaning “careful” or “anxious.” Later surfaces of the word are from the Old Dutch, bezich, meaning “continually employed or occupied, in constant or energetic action.” The notion of “anxiousness” has drained from the word since Middle English.

Indeed, today, we wear busy as a badge of honor. We are so busy with our work, with our families, with our hobbies, with everything. We view our colleague’s calendar to set up a meeting and see her’s is stacked with blocks titled “busy” sometimes double booked.  This is a stamp of importance, so many meetings to attend!

Presently, the adjective, means actively and attentively engaged in work; not at leisure, otherwise engaged. For example, he couldn’t see any visitors because he was busy. It can mean full of or characterized by activity: a busy life.

In the case of the telephone line, not immediately accessible. We begrudgingly accepted the phone line was busy. The person on the phone was present in another activity, just a step away from a wall. We heard the message that they couldn’t be reached. 

I, too, am busy. With the day job, with my family, with my book clubs, with my church, with my hobbies. I mistake activity for leisure, when often times, I am just filling time to avoid genuine rest. I choose to fill my calendar with group outings and volunteer meetings. I choose to be busy. I boast about how busy I am and therefore unable to accept visitors.

I send out a signal to the world, “brr, brr, brr. You can’t reach me.” I feel I send this message to God as well. Too busy to hear His voice, to live His will. It is a challenge to be still. To be open. To be reachable, receptive. When I fill every hour of every day, I do not yield the joy of spontaneity. Scheduled to the brim, I just go down the list bouncing from one activity to the next.

At times, I grow uncomfortable in stillness. It feels more natural to be engaged, busy. I am a Martha in Luke’s Gospel, busying myself with seemingly important tasks. In the bible story, Jesus visits the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to his teaching while Martha busies herself serving him. Martha was bothered by Mary’s lack of assistance.

Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

The one thing that is necessary is to listen to His teachings. I wonder, if when the time comes for me to hear Him, will He reach a busy signal. I hope to leave enough room to answer the call.

A Word on Wednesday: Worth

To know your value is to know your worth. Time and money are the quantifiers of modern life. How you choose to exchange these resources is the summation of what you consider valuable.

worth

As a preposition, worth is what is good or important enough to justify. For example, advice worth taking or a place worth visiting.

As a noun, worth is first defined as excellence of character or quality as commanding esteem: women of worth. This definition reminds me of Psalm 46:5 “God is within her, she will not fail.” If as a woman, she truly believes herself to be a vessel of God, she would not settle for less than she deserves.

Furthermore, worth, the noun, is defined as usefulness or importance, as to the world, to a person, or for a purpose. Worth is value, as in money.

As a woman, who has settled for enough, I strive to stand straighter in command of my worth. Considering worth in a quantitative measure is easy; I can easily perceive a value of goods, services, and experiences purchased. Worth is having an equal value. This vase is worth twelve dollars.

Qualitatively, knowing what is worth my time, is less straightforward. I always found opportunity cost to cast doubts on my decisions. If I spend my time doing this, I cannot spend that same time doing something else. We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, but we don’t know how many days we have left.

From knowing one’s own worth, one can decide how to use their time. Socializing with friends is worth a couple hours of my time. Reading two books a month, is worth the slices of time captured in afternoons, evenings, and lunch breaks. Minutes on the treadmill is worthwhile. The day job is worth the bulk of my weekdays. Time with family is never wasted.

When someone else is doing the measuring, one can present a confident sense of value and request the equitable rate of exchange. This is important in negotiations. Related, what is worthwhile? What will it take to repay one’s time, attention, interest, work, or trouble?

“She is worth far more than rubies and pearls.” Proverbs 31:10

A Word on Wednesday: Gracious

If I am to hope to be anything in this world, I hope to be gracious.

gracious

Presently, an adjective, pleasantly kind, benevolent, and courteous. Characterized by good taste, comfort, ease. Merciful or compassionate.

In practice, gracious living is its own reward. When we live in love with compassion and mercy, we experience peace and goodwill. Living graciously means having consideration for the feelings of others. It embodies living with humility without bragging or flouting processions or accomplishments. Gracious people have empathy, are thoughtful. If you wish to have a gracious home, be welcoming.

Living in a state of gratitude fuels a gracious aura. Above all else, remain poised with composure through all you encounter. Remember, if God brings you to it, he will bring you through it. Said another way, keep calm and carry on.

Gracious has its roots as a word to sum up courteous, pleasing, kind and friendly. It exemplifies enjoying favor, agreeable, obliging. Originally, from 1250-1300 Middle English, gracious from Old French and prior Latin: grātiōsus, equivalent to grāti (grace) and ōsus (ous). Translating to filled with God’s grace. 

“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.” Psalm 145:8-9.

A Word on Wednesday: Outcome

Goals are what we set out to do. Outcomes are the result.

outcome

I got a little discouraged this past week.

On the first full week of 2020, I got a bug. A wipe you out, interrupt your sleep, feel so bad you can’t concentrate, motivate, or do anything but try night time cough syrup, then get through the day job with Day Quill. Evenings were brief interludes with soup in a mug sipped with propped pillows lounging on the couch with comfy clothes.

It got so bad, I didn’t want to be around anyone, not even myself. I was borderline depressed by my lack of energy. My mind still wanted to get on the treadmill, mingle with friends, sit at the writing desk. You get the idea. All my good intentions timed with the new year fell by the wayside. My body said, “Too bad. You need a rest.”

By Saturday, I conceded, I wasn’t going to recover without intervention. I went to a walk-in clinic, got a script for a zpac and advice for Mucinex. I had more soup, more rest, and did some reading.

Hopefully, the bug is on its way out and I can get back to the business of 2020 goals and make measurable progress toward outcomes!

Outcome, a noun, a final product or end result; consequence; issue. A conclusion reached through a process of logical thinking.

Setting goals and resolutions is nothing new and I’ve had success. This year, I treated myself to a leather-bound, Zig Ziglar planner. The Performance Planner: A Personal Management & Goals-Achievement System is a beautiful tool. It breaks down goals into action steps. It has plenty of instruction on how to set and achieve goals. It is a planner where you pencil in the dates and breakdown the weeks into time-chunks to discipline yourself to make progress.

I love it!

It is different than other planners, and apps I have used in the past. It is executive, sleek, and loaded with inspirational quotes.

A common mantra in business is “that what gets measured gets managed.” Taking stock weekly, then daily, prompts me to measure actions that can amount to outcomes. The thing to remember is one can only control the input, not the outcome.

Two of my big goals for 2020 are: 1. Gain exposure for my writing; and 2. Open myself up to a big writing project that becomes a passion.

Action steps for the former are to blog weekly, pitch from my pile of completed poems and essays, participate in literary events, and connect with other writers. Action steps for the latter are to practice daily devotionals, read widely in desired genre, and walk regularly without music to clear my head. With the planner, I can schedule these activities.

Ziglar’s weekly reminders are to 1. Each weekend, schedule projects and activities into your calendar for the next week; and 2. Each evening or early in the morning, list your highest priorities for the day and cross off when complete.

I leave you with the following note from Ziglar, “Action is key, but direction and loyalty are paramount.”

 

 

 

 

A Word on Wednesday: Focus

Focus: to limit distraction. Let everything not import blur in the background.

focus

As a verb, focus is to direct one’s attention or efforts. The verb originated in 1775 in optics, to bring into focus. It became a figurative in 1807. It began as a use in photography in 1864.

One of my tricks to mentally focus is to set a timer. I use my phone. Most often, I set it for forty-five minutes. I find I have trouble focusing for longer than that. I generally, do three or four sessions of focus in a work period. After the timer goes off, I get up, walk around, use the bathroom, check social media, get a glass of water, or a snack. I allow myself these breaks so I can reach peak concentration in the disciplined time periods.

It is amazing how much work, one can get done in less than an hour of dedicated attention.

My focus timer also serves as a race clock. Remember how we are all given the same twenty-four hours in a day. Why is it that some people seem to get so much more done? I believe it comes down to focus. Some days my planner is so chocked full of must dos, that my should dos and want to dos have to be squeezed in. With my focus timer, I can race the clock to achieve what I set out to do.

I am susceptible to the distraction of social media and instant messaging. I am always looking for tips to improve my focus. Please share in the comments.

A Word on Wednesday: Zeal

Awake, awake to love and work. This directive for living is the title of a Christian hymn, by Geoffrey A. Studder-Kennedy.

It is a perfect anthem for the start of a new year. Whatever you set out for 2020, do so with zeal.

zeal

The noun zeal is fervor for a person, cause, or object. It is eager desire or endeavor, enthusiastic diligence. With this passionate ardor one can enjoy any pursuit.

Zeal is a church word from the Greek zelos. It also derives directly from late Latin, zelus. It can roughly translate to zeal.

Presently, we think of zeal as a description for joyfully carrying out an action, with zeal. Someone who has a zest for life can be said to exhibit zeal. As an adjective, one can be zealous — full of or characterized by zeal; ardently active, devoted, or diligent.

As I consider my hopes for the new decade, the roaring twenties, I am conscious to pepper my actions with joyful intent. To fully invest my time and efforts. In short, I aim to be more zealous. Perhaps this enthusiasm will become contagious and together, with my tribes, we can achieve big work. In any regard, being zealous is sure to make the days more full.

As you go on to pursue the new year with zeal, consider the first verse of “Awake, Awake to love and Work:”

Awake, awake to love and work!
The lark is in the sky;
The fields are wet with diamond dew;
The worlds awake to cry
Their blessings on the Lord of life,
As He goes meekly by.

A Word on Wednesday: Joy

‘Tis the season of frantic preparation to manufacture joy. At our house, the halls are decked, the presents are wrapped, the spirits are stocked, and the anticipation of a houseful of guests has commenced.

By this third week of Advent, we are ready to light the candle of joy. We await ultimate news of the angels singing our Savior is born. On Sunday, the pink taper in the wreath will be lit.

joy

Joy, as the emotion of great delight or happiness, is out of reach for many. Spiritually, we are awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise. Practically, we are overpaying for an evergreen tree, missing loved ones past, working undesirable hours, using our credit cards, over scheduling ourselves, and searching for perfect gifts.

In this context, how can we choose joy? I believe, it is not in the preparations, but rather in the experiences.

Attend a Christmas concert or pageant — look at the joy in the faces of the performers. Turn the radio dial to holiday music and notice the bright and beautiful outdoor lights on your drive home. Notice the man in the Santa suit, and pause to remember a time when you believed. Bake just one handed-down goody recipe and remember the family member who made it for you with love. Write out cards or post a greeting on social media. Display the Nativity scene, or the nutcracker collection, or Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Joy is an expression of glad feeling, festive gaiety, or a state of happiness. We picture it loudly. Yet, we can rejoice quietly as well. Enjoy the early darkness in the evening with hot cocoa or apple cider. Cuddle with your softest blanket and watch your favorite Christmas movies.

Biblical joy is beyond the happiness offered by this season.  It is more than an emotion. It is a state of being that finds its source in God. Biblical joy is gladness and contentedness flowing out of God’s mercy.

Christians have joy, because they anticipate a time when Jesus comes to the world. While, we acknowledge joy on Sunday, Christians also know to carry joy throughout the year.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines … Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk, 3:17-18.

A Word on Wednesday: Faith

Faith isn’t something we feel; it is something we trust. It is one of the gifts God gave us.

“God gave us faith, hope, and love,” 1 Corinthians 13:13.

faithful1

Faith, as a noun, is a belief that is not based on proof. It is confidence in a person or thing. Faith can mean a belief in God or anything such as a code of ethics, standards of merit.

One day, my teenager told me he finds it awkward to be growing up in a Christian family, because he is an atheist. This was not a shocking revelation. Or even unexpected. Teenagers rebel.

Yet it takes faith to believe in the absence of God just as it takes faith to believe in the presence of God.

I cannot prove to my son that God exists. I am not a theologian. I also struggle to be evangelical, to bring additional believers to know God. I could waste my time presenting evidence. But, of course, there is no proof that there is a God, only indications and signs.

My child cannot prove that God doesn’t exist. Though, this aspiring debater sure likes to try. And, there are plenty of ways to demonstrate the lack of a spiritual creator.

I decided we will agree to disagree. Just as teens believe they do not need algebra, they still learn it. My teen will learn about the Christian faith. I believe, when he is thirty, he’ll need to draw upon his basic mathematical education for deductive decision making. I also believe, he may find a time to draw upon his teaching of God to garner hope, joy, and peace. And, yes, I hope he will find faith.

My faith has been affirmed. That happens. Evidence is attributed to support the belief. I have felt God most strongly witnessing birth, death, and loving celebrations. I also feel him in watching the work of the faithful to aid fellow man.

I have never held the belief that God didn’t exist. Yet, my faith has meandered. There was a time my views were agnostic. Did it really matter if there was or wasn’t a God?

At present, I am an affirmed believer. I ask myself, if God doesn’t exist, what exactly is the point of life. It is easier to live in faith and try to follow the teachings of Jesus, than to live without faith in pursuit of happiness.

 

A Word on Wednesday: Journey

Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest travel season of the year with 42.5 MILLION people traveling. Expect delays.

journey

We all know it is about the journey not the destination. In this regard, we talk about journey as a verb, to make a journey, to travel.

The action of journeying speaks to more than the logistics of packing, flights, trains, and way finding. It isn’t about the accommodations or the companions.

To peregrinate is to hold a mindset of growth. The state of movement, progress.

It is one thing to physically roam from destination to destination. It is another to have a journey of personal development. A faith journey, from nonbeliever to believer. A love story, from strangers to soul mates. A quest, from meager to mighty. The growth, from novice to expert. Sometimes the journey is backwards, faithful to agnostic, lovers to adversaries, healthy to ailing.

The verb journey is derived from mid-14c, “travel from one place to another.” Also, from Anglo-French journeyer, Old French journoiier “work by day; go, walk, travel.” Also, from jorunee “a day’s work or travel.”

Journeying it is about both the smooth sails AND the bumpy roads. One does not arrive. One travels from state to state. All the while appreciating the ride, gratefully accepting the crooked line.

Journeying is movement. Yet, to enjoy the ride requires deliberate presence in each step.

A Word on Wednesday: Gratitude

This is a month of thanksgiving. Despite the origins of the holiday. Presently, we pause, we feast, and give thanks.

There are no gifts to exchange. There is no music. Decorations are subtle earthy tones coupled with luscious reds, oranges, and yellows. The kitchen brings comforting aromas of family dishes brought out just this one time a year.

Social media suggests calendars and prompts of things to be grateful for each day. It is the quiet time before the bustle of the Christmas season. It is a reason to celebrate gratitude.

During Lent, I read, “A Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp, learn more. A small group of women reflected on the transformation that could come from listing, actually writing down, daily things to be grateful for. Voskamp writes like a poet; her, sometimes flowery, chronicles of gratitude challenge us to see the world through a lens of awe and appreciation. Her words stay with me even though practicing gratitude preceded reading “A Thousand Gifts.”

My pastor preaches radical gratitude year round. About three years ago, I started gratitude journals.  Each day, I list three things I am thankful for. This is not as holy as Voskamp’s but is effective in changing mindset.

Gratitude

From the good night’s sleep, to the sunshine, to the steady paycheck and health insurance from my day job. From the report cards highlighting my children’s achievements, to the YMCA where I get to work my body, to the meals I eat and do not have to make. For the opportunity to cook for my family. For the garage that keeps my car free from the icy snow. For the time in my office with its muted pink walls. To the mobility and freedom I have in a body that is healthy. To the cheesecake I bought from a fundraiser. For the likes on my posts.

The list goes on. And on. And this keeps me positive. It has trained my brain to see the gifts rather than the disappointments.

Imagine if I kept a list of all the things that go wrong: every red light on a tight schedule. Storms that shut down power. Furnaces that break. Kids that get fevers. I won’t go on, but I realize fixating on these things would bring me down. These things can be turned to gratitude.

Grateful to slow down on my way to work. Grateful for candles and flashlights in the dark. Grateful for repair men that work on call. Grateful for Tylenol, warm blankets and snuggles. The shift in thinking makes the difference in well being.

While it is great to have a season, a holiday, a gathering of thanksgiving. It is greater to have an attitude of gratitude as a way of constant thought. A steady diet of appreciation.

Gratitude, a noun, the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful. Give thanks every place you go. This mindset is a gift you give yourself.