“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”Colossians 3:1-2
Have you ever heard the expression, “More money, more problems?” It sounds silly, but it tends to be true! I see so many people get caught up in having the house, the car, the clothes, the vacations, and the other stuff that is of this earth. Those things might bring joy to your life, but they can also each bring their own stress baggage, and let’s be honest…their joy is temporary.
The verse I listed at the beginning of this blog encourages me (and us!) to look to heavenly things, not on material things. It is about not getting caught up and coveting, being jealous, being focused on material things and taking our mind away from being a Christ follower. God does want us to enjoy what He gave us. Remember Judas questioning Jesus about Mary using the expensive perfume on His feet, which Judas inferred was a “waste?”. Jesus’ response wasn’t about the material value of the perfume, which was Judas’ focus. His response recognized her actions as an act of love.
Simplifying your life and living with intention are keys to following the path that God designed for each of us, but those two mindsets are not easy to attain. We all want to experience life to the fullest, and that desire sometimes leaves us with packed schedules, copious amounts of stress, and the constant nagging feeling that we are missing out on something or aren’t stacking up to what society has identified as “perfect.”
Why put yourself through all of that? As I said before, having the “perfect” life with everything you feel brings you happiness is fun for a little while, but that is not a lasting source of true joy for your life. God does want us to be happy, and He wants us to enjoy our time on this earth, but He also wants us to live a life that honors Him. And if we’ve placed things and experiences above the joy of following God’s path for us, we are depriving ourselves of the most perfect life we could ever imagine.
So how do you start simplifying your life? As I thought about my experience with this, the following three steps helped me simplify my life and LIVE INTENTIONALLY:
- Clarify what is important to you
- Set a plan around those priorities
- Have someone hold you accountable
With the help of a wonderful coach, Kathryn Tack, I was able to focus on the following three things that are most important to me (in this order):
- Faith – My desire to be a Christ follower.
- Relationships – My desire to invest time in my marriage, with my four children and their spouses, and with my new granddaughter, Opal.
- My work – My passion to help women believe what they do not see.
Since 2017, this plan has guided my decisions with clarity. My plan for keeping my faith my #1 priority has included a daily Bible study, prayer time, and relationships with other Christ followers. These action items have enabled me to focus on my number one priority.
However, my work through 4word had overtaken my relationships and moved into the #2 spot. I was STRUGGLING with simplicity. I was working close to seventy hours a week because 4word had exploded, a blessing from God about which I was ecstatic! I needed a plan to bring someone in to take some of the load off my shoulders, so that I could get my priorities back in line. In a startup operation like 4word, it’s always tough to get others to understand the need for investment in someone else, especially when you are able to take on a heavy load. But as you hit another phase of the organization’s growth, it is important to invest in the addition of capable team members to help share the added responsibilities of growth.
I soon reached a “too much” point with my 4word responsibilities and went to the 4word Board Chair with my plea to bring on someone who could help me lead 4word without running myself into the ground. My transparency and stress got her attention, and with the Board’s approval, I developed a plan for the kind of person I needed to bring in. I started to breathe a little easier as I saw a light at the end of the tunnel!
After beginning the search for someone in October of 2018, I was blessed to have Pam Johnson join me as COO of 4word in February of 2019. God’s timing was amazing as Pam accepted the role on February 4 and my first grand baby was born February 7, that same week! My shift to moving relationships back to being my #2 priority was in motion and it was the perfect timing. My granddaughter, Opal Sage Tucker, is the love of my life (I am actually tearing up writing this!) and I am so blessed to now be able to take time to be in her life and watch her grow.
Because of being honest about my situation, I was able to facilitate Pam coming in as 4word’s COO, which allowed me to put a plan around time with my husband, children and their spouses, and Opal without feeling like I am letting others down or not getting things accomplished that need to be done. That honesty on my part led to blissful freedom and reorganization of my priorities to their correct order. I encourage you, if you feel run down or completely burnt out, look at your current priorities. Are they in the right order? Or does something need to drastically change? Admitting that you need something to change is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of taking control of your life and desiring to live it well!
Now that I have my priorities in line again, we are focused on Chris’s position as an outstanding Management Consultant with A. T. Kearney. Because of our plan together, he is striving to travel less with his work. We actually have an agreement around the amount of average nights he travels each week. We are working together on keeping this goal in line!
Simplifying your life will often involve saying “no.” This is such an uncomfortable practice for many of us, because we fear declining things will negatively impact how we are perceived by managers, peers, and even friends. If you start to feel that fear, I encourage you to tune it out with this thought: “no” isn’t a forever answer; it can also just mean “no, not at this time.”
I love sharing this story about a time I stepped out in faith and said “no.” In 2012, Charity Wallace, Former First Lady Laura Bush’s Senior Advisor in the White House, and, at that time, a leader with the Women’s Initiatives at the Bush Center, asked me to be a mentor in Mrs. Bush’s Mentor Program with women leaders in the Middle East. This was so enticing and I was honored to be asked, because the opportunity tied to my passion to help women believe what they did not see, and it was in the Former First Lady’s program! However, at that time, my daughter, Annie, was struggling with gastroparesis.
I wanted to accept this opportunity so bad, but I knew deep down in my heart that this was an opportunity to honor my priorities and keep my daughter above a potential career boost. I said to Charity, “I need to say no at this time, because Annie is sick. However, I would love to do this when she is better.”
Little did I know that God would honor me living intentionally by giving me the chance to take part in this exciting program! Two years after I told Charity “no,” I had the opportunity to be a mentor through the Mentor Program at the Bush Center. Annie had recovered from gastroparesis, and I was able to pursue this mentoring opportunity with a clear conscience.
I have heard some women worry that once they start simplifying their lives, they may go too far and may end up living a “boring” life. If you are going to God in prayer and consulting with your most important relationships, I don’t think oversimplifying your life is a possibility! If you find yourself with more free time or less obligations knocking on your door, God might be preparing you for a new priority you haven’t even thought of. And now you’ll have time to focus on it.
If you are a woman in the workplace who wants her life to slow down and feel meaningful, I would highly suggest hiring a trained coach. This outside opinion can really help you whittle away at your current list of priorities and obligations and help you succinctly identify what should be on your Top 3 list. If a coach is a little outside your price range, apply for a mentor in the 4word Mentor Program! Our mentors are there to listen, provide options, and objective advice, all from a Christian foundation.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,”Titus 2:11-12
Is your life self-controlled, upright, and Godly? Or is it others-controlled, uptight, and lacking God’s peaceful presence? Make June the month you dedicate yourself to living a simplified life that is focused on intentionally living for God. It is a process I can promise you will be well worth the investment of your time and energy.