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Restless – Part 4

November 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

This is part 4 of a larger conversation about what happens when I let my life get out of control and all the ways it impacts me. If you are anything like me, chaos creates a feeling of restlessness and a desire to disappear for a while. So this short series is just a way for me to share some of the things I’ve learned that I need in order to stay sane. So far we’ve talked about routine, about creativity, and about relationships. I’ll tell you right up front, I don’t want to write this next one. But here it is – one of the worst things that happens as a result of the chaos is that my health goes down the tube.

Poor health. When the seasons of chaos come, I lose motivation. Which usually means that I lose any kind of discipline. So my health is often one of the first things to go. I don’t eat well, I’m not sleeping enough, and I certainly don’t exercise. So the chaos is literally killing me. I’m too tired to think about exercise and my life is so busy that convenience food becomes my primary option. So I’m sluggish, I’m not thinking clearly, and I’m definitely not doing my best work. It’s a frustrating cycle that’s hard to break. The chaos of doing leads to laziness in my personal life.

What I’m doing about that:

So, like I said yesterday, it seems like every one of these things comes down to an ability to be disciplined, to say no to some things, and to be intentional with the time I do have. For me there are three parts to this:

  • Eating – I am admittedly a picky eater. I could live on Mexican food and cereal for probably the rest of my life. So I’m learning to change that. My wife blends up (juices?) all kinds of things that I would never eat. It tastes horrible. But the good news is that I don’t have to eat them. I can drink them. It’s not a magic cure-all, but it’s helping.
  • Sleeping – My wife and I were in bed before 10pm the other night for the first time in a long time. But we’re trying to make it happen more. By getting our family on a good schedule, we can be intentional with our evening times to play with them, read with them, put them to bed, spend some time talking together or watching TV, and then getting to bed. And that’s really important because of the next thing.
  • Exercising – So we realized that the only way this was going to happen was if we found time to exercise in an already busy schedule. We realized at some point that pretty much the only time we had free was time that we used to be asleep. So we’ve been getting up lately at 5am. I know, it’s crazy. But it’s working. We are able to get a full workout in BEFORE any kids wake up and before we start into our day.

As painful as it is to start doing these things, I can see that these habits have the potential to be life changing. There are obviously tons of studies about the link between eating, sleeping, exercising and our attitudes and overall life enjoyment. Most of us try to avoid this simple truth – I know I do. But if you find yourself in a funk or the chaos is killing you, it may be time to face the painful reality that the health of our physical bodies is directly tied to our emotional well being.


Restless – Part 3

November 27, 2013 — Leave a comment

Today is part 3 of a short series. My goal is to share with you what happens when my life starts to get chaotic and I start to feel like running away from it all. So each day I’m trying to say “Here’s what happens to me” and then secondly “Here’s how I try and fix that.” (Part 1, Part 2)

So today I want to talk about one of the results of chaos in my life:

Shallow relationships. When chaos abounds, friendships and marriages and families suffer. You and I default into “DOING” rather than “BEING” and pretty soon we have forgotten that we are relational people and not machines. If all I’m doing is working or going to meetings (which aren’t relational times, let’s be honest), or meeting deadlines – then I start to suffer, and so do those around me. Relationships are like roots to a plant. The deeper they go, the more nourishment and life they provide. But if they stay shallow then pretty soon the plant starts to dry up. I find the same thing is true with me.

A couple thoughts on caring for relationships: 

  • First, my marriage: I don’t want a normal marriage. I want a crazy awesome, life-giving marriage. For my wife and I to have a great marriage, we need time together to be humans. Adult humans. We love our kids, but we loved each other first, and we’ll love each other after the kids are grown and gone. So that requires us to go on regular dates. Anything less than twice a month and I start to feel distant from her. We also know that about once a quarter or so we need to get away for at least a night together, without the kids. And at least once a year we want an extended vacation alone together.
  • Family: As a family we have gotten into the routine of Friday nights as our “Family Fun Nights.” It’s a celebrated routine in our family. We protect that time like crazy. It’s usually pizza, a movie and popcorn. But sometimes we get creative, we go out, or we just play games. But it’s vital to our family to connect. On Saturday we try not to schedule much either. It’s generally reserved for resting, doing not much around the house, or occasionally going on an adventure to a park or hike somewhere.
  • Friendships: If I go for very long without doing something with some friends just to laugh and eat and have fun – I start to become less than human. And I’ll confess, of these three types of relationships – friendship is the hardest one for me to make time for. It’s the one that usually gets cut first.

Usually when I find myself ready to run, all I have to do is look at how much time I’m giving to my relationships to see a primary source of my restlessness. It’s funny how each one of these things seems to come down to that whole routine / schedule thing. But it does. Spending time with my wife, with my kids, or with friends requires me to be intentional with my time. When my schedule is too chaotic, all these things suffer. Sometimes the greatest thing we can do for ourselves is to learn to say “no.” No to opportunities, to overtime, to invitations or anything else that takes away from our relationships.

Tomorrow, a word about health.



Restless – Part 2

November 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

Yesterday I confessed that I sometimes get in these weird seasons where I feel restless. In part 1 of this short series I talked about how routine can help us break free from the chaos that makes us want to quit. Today I want to talk about creativity.

I need to be creative. Just like I crave routine, I crave opportunities to create. If all I’m doing is playing catch up, or running from one meeting to the next, meeting one deadline after another, then I get frustrated and go into a funk. I need space in my life to think. Literally. I like to have time just to dream, to draw, to build something, to write or to play music. My soul needs these times. In Genesis it tells us that God made us in His image. And when it tells us that, the only thing we know about God at that point is that He is a Creator. I believe you and I were made to create. Whether it’s a pie, a symphony, a bookstand, a novel, a photobook, or a company – we were made to start things from scratch. Whenever my life is too busy to create – I want to run away and open a bait shop.

So here’s how this works out in my life:

As a teaching pastor, every 7 days I have to deliver a fresh, entertaining, compelling, inspiring, life-giving message. Unfortunately, those don’t drop out of the sky. Trust me, I’ve prayed for them and it never happens. So in my world, my particular vocation requires me to be creative. So part of my routine (again, see the “ideal week” from yesterday) is that every Monday I carve out time to be creative as it comes to my message. I have found that I have to be crazy regimented in this. I don’t even open email on Monday until after lunch. I don’t go to the office like normal. I go to places that inspire me. I think there’s a belief out there that creativity is something that happens on its own and that routine or structure stifles creativity. I believe that couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe that creativity thrives in constraints. It thrives with a deadline, with a budget and with a schedule. So creativity gets a slot in my weekly routine.

Now, outside of what I do vocationally, I have found that I need to be creative in other ways too. So for me that means an outlet like writing, or woodworking, or music or working outside. Those are probably more spontaneous in nature in that I leave myself room week to week decide what I want to fill my time with. But whenever I find myself feeling restless, one of my checkpoints is this creative outlet. Am I having time to think and dream? Am I crafting something, or giving birth to a new idea? Is there anything that is inspiring me? If the answer is no, it’s time for some changes.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Relationships and the impact they can have on our restlessness.


Restless – Part 1

November 25, 2013 — 6 Comments

Sometimes I feel like running. Not really running, I almost never feel like actual running (people that do are borderline crazy). But sometimes I feel like getting away. And it’s not because there are problems I’m running away from or anything like that. It seems like I go through these weird seasons where I just get restless. I long for something, and I often don’t even know what it is. And in talking with others lately, I’ve seen that maybe I’m not the only one dealing with this. So over the next few days, I want to share a few ways I’ve learned to deal with the restlessness and how it impacts me most.

So the first thing I notice is this: I need routine.

When my life feels chaotic, even if it’s because there are so many opportunities coming my way, I feel like running. I crave routine. I’ve found that when my schedule is full of “extra” stuff, I lose the joy of the day to day. I know there are some that hate anything feeling routine – but for me, routine is somewhat of a safety net. Routine allows me to plan my week instead of my week happening to me. One thing that has helped me here is to design an “ideal week.” The ideal week is a calendar I’ve created on paper (written down!) that plans in times of focused work, times of meeting with people, and times of rest. Together with my wife and kids, we’ve determined how many nights a week I should be home in that ideal week as well as how we should spend my “off” time.

That sounds good, how do I do that? 

I’m glad you asked. A friend taught me to divide my week into 21 equal zones. The ideal week has at least seven zones that are free or open, with no work related obligations. Of those seven, at least three should be consecutive. So the 14 remaining zones can be (note, that doesn’t mean that all 14 HAVE to be) divided up for work related stuff. Within my ideal week I’ve got time set aside for my most important work, other time set aside for my most important recurring meetings, and still other time that is set aside as “open for appointments.” If you are married, make sure you work on this together with your spouse. Those seven zones away from work are really important times for family, for dates, and for whatever gives you life.

Do I always keep an “ideal” week? No. That’s why sometimes my life devolves into chaos. But I usually find that when life feels chaotic the first place I need to look is my calendar. Lately, that’s meant canceling plans, postponing meetings, or doing whatever I needed to do to reduce the noise and the chaos in my life.


So I start with routine. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about one aspect of that routine – practicing creativity.