One of life’s little luxuries for me is drinking tea–when I am taking time to actually taste it, that is. There are those minutes when I am in a hurry and gulp it down, without noticing the taste, other than that it’s wet. Those minutes are not a state of luxury for me; they are more of necessity. I’m thirsty; I gulp it down.
The moments of luxury come when I take the time to sip the beverage, hot or cold, and enjoy the taste of it. Those moments may come in relaxation, as when I’m sitting on the front porch watching the visiting bunny chow down the weeds and grass, or when I’m in the middle of some mental activity.
What makes the luxury is a sense of deliberateness, of making space for the enjoyment of the tea. In my mind I have a picture of pushing away my “to-do” list, however temporarily, for the sake of a quiet place of refreshment. That quiet place of refreshment both calms and revives me for what’s ahead. I guess you could call it my “adult time-out”.
While Americans generally don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on tea-drinking, the English and Japanese are known for the rituals they developed for tea time. I don’t know if they still keep those rituals or not, perhaps a reader could fill me in. I hope they do. The world goes faster every day. In such a world, you need to deliberately take time to slow down and enjoy some luxury. It makes life richer.
Since childhood I’ve had a perfectionistic mindset. I regret the day I picked that up. It provokes much needless anxiety.
But one day last summer I came across a technique to use against my enemy. Oddly enough it occurred when arthritis flared up during a humid, rainy spell, and I didn’t feel strong enough to fight against anything, let alone a dug-in mindset. My right hand and left knee complained loudly. A couple other body parts, in sympathy, felt tender/achy too. This, plus other concerns, upped my stress levels.
In search of something to take my mind off my achiness, I fell back on the childhood activity of coloring. The day before I’d bought an 8-pack of jumbo crayons, which are easier to handle when arthritis bothers my fingers. I took the crayons and a coloring book of nature scenes, put a bag of ice on my cranky knee, and settled back on the couch. I prayed to God about my anxiety and started coloring.
I discovered not only was I losing the stress but I was also gaining over perfectionism. In prior times, perfectionism would have demanded I use the “proper” colors, color within the lines, and generally destroyed my peace of mind. What was different that day last summer? I was able to keep my main objective in mind. What was that? To reduce stress and get my mind off my sore knee. As long as I did that, I was happy. I accomplished my objective and perfectionism took a back seat and shut up.
In the line of Sunday’s post, here, I am thinking about gifts you can give. These gifts don’t require money, don’t need wrapped, and can be given to anyone, anytime of the year. They do have a cost—gifts always do—these gifts require you to put your self on the back burner. What are these versatile, but costly, gifts?
Patience. It’s especially needed this time of the year. It’s in short supply, and therefore is more needed and more valuable. It costs a person to be patient, rather than grumbling, being obnoxious, complaining about how slow the cashier is, and practically pushing people aside to get to the head of the line.
Flexibility. Ok, you are doing last-minute shopping, you meant to get that special gift earlier, but circumstances beyond your control stepped in, and the special gift isn’t available online or in any store. What to do? Take a deep breath, and be flexible. Think of that in the broadest terms possible. Don’t think of it as a specific gift, look at it like this: what need or want did that gift fill? Can you get something else that will work? Flexibility is a gift you can give yourself as you give to others. To be flexible means I’m not demanding something be exactly the way I want it. If I can be flexible, I don’t get stressed out about a situation.
Compassion. I am not talking about sending money to charities here, but rather being aware of a individual’s need and stepping in to do whatever you can to help. Maybe it is giving that person money, or a gift card for food, or buying a whole turkey dinner, taking it to the person, and helping them prepare it. Maybe it is sitting down with the person and taking time to listen with your whole heart—not planning what you want to say, not judging what he or she says—but just listening. Many people in various circumstances need the gift of compassion expressed as listening.
Willingness to withhold judgment. This is hard for me. I tend to think I know everything about a person’s situation based on what it looks like on the surface. LOL! People are complex; life is complex; there’s a lot going on below, so it’s always best not to judge.
A break. Yes, give yourself and others a break. Remember that whether or not you get everything done when you want it done, how you want it done, whether your family members get along or not—your value as a person does not depend on any of those things. Your value as a person does not depend on what other people say or think about you. Your value as a person depends solely on the fact that God loves you. In His eyes, you (and everybody else) have tremendous value. His view is the only one that ultimately matters. Think along His view, and you’ll have less stress, more joy, and be able to give the other “gifts” on the list easier.
Happy New Year!
Scripture references: I Corinthians 13: 4,5, Romans 3: 23,24, John 3:16, Romans 5: 6-9, Philippians 4: 6-8
As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.
People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them The Keys, by Mike Bechtle, is a book I would have liked to have read years ago. That would have saved me considerable frustration, with myself and with others. It explains some things I’ve wondered about for a long time (like why I can’t come up with a quick reply in a conversation).
As the title suggests, this is not a textbook (read “dry and boring”) type of book. Instead, Dr. Bechtle uses personal illustrations, humor, and stories to make his points about dealing with difficult people, whether they be family members, co-workers, bosses, or others you spend time with regularly. You know—those people who just DRIVE YOU CRAZY!
Some points which jumped out at me are:
You can’t change other people; you can only change yourself. You can influence other people, but it has to be their decision to change.
Change comes slowly, whether to you or the other person. “Crazy people” learned those behaviors over time, so it takes time to change.
Crazy people may drive you crazy, but they are still human, still made in God’s image. The craziness isn’t all there is about that person.
The “old-fashioned” virtues of kindness, humility, patience, and gratitude are still needed as you deal with your crazy person.
Set boundaries and be prepared to sound like a broken record to defend your boundaries. You will need to defend them.
A person’s basic temperament—whether introverted or extroverted—doesn’t change, so don’t try. To try just puts a lot more stress on the relationship, and neither one of you needs that.
What you can’t change, you can often adapt to.
Be proactive, not reactive. Dr. Bechtle suggests ways to give thought to situations, and then act upon what you’ve considered, instead of having a “knee-jerk” reaction. This one point alone made the book valuable for me, a person who tends to react, but wants to move away from that tendency.
Thoughts lead to emotions, which lead to behaviors. A change in thought patterns means a change in emotions, which means behaviors change.
There is quite a difference between expectations, and expectancy. Expectations about people often lead to bitter disappointment; expectancy means you are operating from a position of hope. You know there are no guarantees that your crazy person will change, but there’s the possibility.
This book is about relationships; it’s really about the importance of faith and hope in relationships with difficult people.
People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them The Keys is one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read about personality and relationships. It’s a book I’ll read again, probably soon; this time, to take notes.
I just returned from a “time-out”, a mini-vacation.
I didn’t go far, only upstairs to the porch. I took my ice tea, a pen and a book of word search/sudoku puzzles. I did word searches, listened to the birds, admired the trees with their green leaves-turning-to- gold, and enjoyed being able to “get away from it all”. Later I took a short walk towards the woods. After that it was time to close the car windows and while I did that, watch the stars and planets come out as the afternoon slowly turned to evening.
I came back from my mini-vacation feeling refreshed and relaxed—the way my body feels after a massage—only this time, it was my spirit.
I’ve come to realize I need to be outside for at least 20—30 minutes a day, every day. It doesn’t matter whether I do anything or not. Driving somewhere in the car doesn’t cut it; no, I have to be in nature: walking, mowing grass, sitting in a chair reading or doing puzzles, or simply appreciating God’s creation. It gives me perspective and calms my nerves.
Some other things I discovered I need to do every day:
something creative—write, take pictures, color, bake, or rearrange decorations
something for someone else
take time to think of God—His greatness, His kindness, His caring. I call this “dwelling on the Lord”. This may also take the form of reading devotionals.
OK, so I’m curious: Is there anything you’ve found you must do every day for your well-being, a non-negotiable for your life?
Since arthritis grabbed my attention a few years ago, I’ve been searching for materials which bring faith in God into the equation. I bought one booklet, but kept looking.
Recently I came across Chronic Illness—Walking By Faith. After reading an online excerpt, I realized this 31-day devotional by Esther Smith is more what I had in mind, so I ordered it. Esther Smith was diagnosed with lupus and hypermobility syndrome; she knows what it’s like to live with chronic illness. She knows how one day you can be fine, and the next day you can barely function, or are somewhere in between. She knows how people say you look fine, but you know you’re not. She knows how symptoms can vary from one day to the next, or even from one hour to the next hour.
Esther writes with compassion and empathy, tempered with a dose of reality. While you won’t find quick answers or guarantees of healing, you will find much encouragement.
Each two-page devotional begins with a Scripture verse, followed by a reading relating to the verse. The devotionals end with questions for reflection and an action prompt, whether to pray for renewed faith, or another suggestion.
I am a week into this devotional, and am glad I found it. I recommend it to anyone fighting a battle with chronic illness who wonders where God is, if He knows, or if He even cares.
Years ago I bought an 11×8½ spiral notebook with a photograph on the cover of a creek running through woods. I decided that notebook would be my “Favorites” notebook. On the inside I wrote, “Favorites—things I liked when I saw them”.
My “Favorites” notebook starts off with the poem “Refuge” by Lew Sarett, and is followed with passages by Faith Baldwin from her book Living by Faith, and Robert Traver from Anatomy of a Fisherman. The notebook includes other poems; bits and pieces which stuck out as I read different books and articles; newspaper clippings about nature, history, movie reviews; song lyrics, and people stories—people following their creative muses, and people acting in commendable ways towards people and animals.
I have a few scrapbooks, too, but those I meant to keep in order, and that order got lost in the shuffle of the years (and never taking the time to sit down and arrange photos properly). Most of the scrapbook pages are faded, and not appealing to work at. Somehow it’s easier and more pleasing to me to keep my favorites notebook going. Plus spiral notebooks are meant to be written in, so I can add my thoughts to something I read. The scrapbook pages are not good for writing on.
I found a surprising benefit to keeping a favorites notebook: when I’m in a bad mood, my nerves are on edge, or my spirits are low, taking the time to look through or work on the notebook improves my disposition, calms my nerves, and raises my spirits.
One day last week I was perturbed that I had yard work to do. Usually I enjoy being outside in the warm weather, but not that day. I think the reason it bugged me is that I wanted to do some writing on the computer. But a look at the tall grass and weeds around the shoots of the peony bush confirmed I needed to spend time trimming and weeding.
At the moment the tug-of-war between the two activities escalated in my mind, the thought came, Give the trimming and weeding half-an-hour. If you don’t want to do anymore, that’s fine, you can quit. You’ll have been able to make some progress on it, anyway. But give it half-an-hour.
With that thought, along with a prayer for God to work on my attitude, I grabbed the grass shears and set to work. An hour-and-a-half later, I stopped, happy to have a nicer-looking front yard as my reward.
Since then I decided to use this tactic with other tasks which I need to do but don’t want to do. A half-hour is long enough to allow for some progress but not so long that a lot of time is tied up in a project I don’t want to do in the first place. At the end of thirty minutes, I can reevaluate where I stand. I can either continue, or quit and do something else.
“…the women…found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” (Luke 24:1-3) (NIV)
Although I didn’t go to church often when I was growing up, I knew Easter Sunday was the day Christ rose from the grave. I didn’t connect that fact to anything else in my life–it was just a “religious fact”. Christ came; He died; He rose. The tomb is empty. That’s good–but what’s that mean?
Years later, that empty tomb–that knowledge I have by faith–gives me hope. The empty tomb gives me hope because Christ was (and is) too big to be held by it. If He is too big for that, He is certainly big enough to handle any and all of the problems I have now or ever will have. He is not at all bothered by any of my problems. He is not fretting about what to do. He has it under control!
The empty tomb gives me hope because it means Christ is living. If He is living, I can reach Him through prayer. I have access to all His comfort, all His kindness, all His understanding of me. He can give guidance, ease my fears, cancel my worries.
That is what the empty tomb means to me now. It takes faith.
The younger human has been spending more time sitting on the couch. That’s where she was awhile ago. Knowing her lap is soft and warm I jumped onto her lap. She was talking and listening to a long device. She held one end to her ear and the other end to her mouth.
Sometimes when she was listening she sighed and seemed stressed. The older human asked if she was “on hold” (whatever “on hold” is, I don’t know). The younger human said, “Yes, I’m on hold”. I snuggled up closer to her and nudged her hand with my head. She got the message and started petting my head. I started purring. She made comments about how nice it was to pet me. I noticed her stress level went down (cats notice that kind of thing) as she continued to pet my fur. I realized I gained a new job: help the human stay calm when she’s “on hold”.
I have a lot of jobs—no wonder I need my beauty sleep! 🙂
I'm Joanna, a busy married mum of two beautiful boys aged four and three. I'm sharing my experiences as I navigate the wonderful world of motherhood! Mistakes, routines, mum / life hacks, cleaning, beauty...little bit of everything!