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Day One

Written by Lori Wilhite

There are a few occasions in life where I can expertly channel my inner Katie Couric.

First, when my kiddos get in the car after school. I pepper them with questions from the moment they click their seat belts to the second we pull in the garage. What did you do in class? What did you talk about at lunch? Was there any teen-girl-drama today? Did you hand in all of your homework? And on and on and on.

Secondly, when I’m with friends who are as entertainment crazy as me. I dig, and I dig. What is sitting on your DVR? What is the last show you binge watched? What’s in your ‘My List’ on Netflix? What are your top three favorite shows?

And, finally, when I’ve got someone in ministry cornered for a few minutes. I’ve got a full-tilt list of questions to rattle my way through. And I’m not the only one. My husband has a list, too.

Years ago when we were young, kid-free, and pretty new to ministry, Jud sat down for dinner with a respected pastor. And thus the questioning began. What is the best way to reach people in your city? What is your best leadership advice? How do you handle different leadership challenges? And then my husband went there … “I’m tired. I’m worn out. I’m overwhelmed. How do you do it all?”

That pastor set down his fork, looked across the table and said, “You need to grow up. Lead yourself, because no one else will.”

*gulp* Wow. Ok. That was a little harsh.

But, oh. It is so, so true.

In our years of ministry, no one has ever asked to see our calendars to make sure we aren’t overwhelmed. No one has ever popped over to our house to make sure we had some personal time with the Lord that morning. No one has come by the office, knocked on the door, and sent us home because we hadn’t had enough family time. No one is going to lead us. We need to grow up and lead ourselves.

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We’ve got to take personal ownership over our budgets, our boundaries and our bodies. We’ve got to take charge of our schedules, our spiritual lives and our self care. We’ve got to lead ourselves, because no one else will.

I get it wrong all the time. I overstuff my calendar. I throw on my workout clothes without any intention of actually working out. I say yes to things when I clearly should have said no. I leave my Bible neglected for too long. I don’t stop to rest and take time for myself.

But thankfully, His mercies are new every morning. Each day is a second chance to get it right.

As the great theologian Jack Bauer says, “Part of getting a second chance is taking responsibility for what you did wrong in the first place.”

So, today we can make new choices. Take fresh responsibility. Grow up a little bit. And lead ourselves.

Day Two

Written by Heather Palacios

According to the Center for Disease Control, a research study in 2014 concluded that across all races and ethnicities, the number one cause of death for American females is heart disease. Also according to the CDC, one of the top four ways to prevent heart disease is to stay active!  That is, to get moving! As women in ministry, we put so much time and attention into maintaining the “spirit” of our heart, but often at the neglect of the “organ” of our heart. The Bible says in Matthew 22 to love the Lord with ALL your heart. In my summation, “all” means the spirit and organ of our heart.

Since college, I’ve maintained an exercise regimen. When it comes to exercise, I’m convicted by the truth according to the Bible that my body’s a “temple” (1 Cor. 6:19.) And just like I wouldn’t walk into my “temple,” Church by the Glades, this weekend negligently smoking a joint, I don’t want to be negligent with my body, either. I’d like to share a couple of reasons that we need to continually move ourselves.

First, the Bible speaks to our physical bodies in many verses. We read in 1 Timothy 4 that workouts in the gymnasium are useful.“ Genesis 1 says, “God created man and said ‘it was good.’” And in Psalm 139 says, “He knit us together.” Combined, these teach us that God knew what He was doing when He created us. And since part of His creation includes muscles, joints, organs and tissues that need proper care so our bodies can function properly, we need to engage them in exercise.

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Secondly, exercise adds the energy we need to pursue the destiny and calling God has for us! Ultimately, God could have designed our bodies to maintain themselves without exercise, but He didn’t. Why? Because giving this responsibility to us not only helps us physically, but it helps us spiritually. When we exercise, we learn discipline, a lesson that transcends the physical part of our lives. Paul, one of the greatest missionaries, said, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

Exercise isn’t just for athletes. It’s for everyone and we can all inherit many benefits from it. Today, pray about how you can add this discipline to your daily schedule.

Day Three

Written by Mardia Lira

I didn’t grow up in a Christian environment. Actually, I couldn’t get close to God unless it was through a priest who would tell me how many times I needed to repeat the Lord’s prayer so my sins could be forgiven. I never owned my own Bible because the church said that not just anyone could interpret what it says so I had to wait until Sunday to hear what they would read for us that day.

I didn’t have a spiritual life other than empty repetition of prayers, which I wasn’t sure went beyond my ceiling. And even though I had the best of intentions and tried to be a good person, I didn’t have a personal relationship with God. In fact, I didn’t know such a thing was even possible! I got involved in many charity events, and I thought that my good deeds would bring me closer to Him and that having good values was the same as being spiritual.

I learned that depending on others to seek God and read the Bible for me was like trying to get nourishment from the food other people ate. It didn’t produce life in me. It’s like trying to get life only by the Christian phrases our friends post on social media. Those are only appetizers. We can’t pretend to survive from those alone.

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Oh what an incredible day it was when I was introduced to Jesus, and I was told I could freely come to Him in prayer and read my very own Bible to learn for myself what He wanted for my life. I never knew that the Bible is alive and that it speaks to us time after time no matter the circumstances we are facing. No matter how many times we read it, thanks to the Holy Spirit that lives in us, we can learn how to make it our priority and have it speak to us. Creating a discipline of feeding our spirit should be as crucial as breathing. It should be personal and no one can do it for you.

John 15:5-8 in The Message translation says:

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”

Spiritual growth has nothing to do with your position. You are perfect and complete in God’s sight. Growing spiritually helps us to practice His principles. It’s through this process that who we are in Christ becomes more and more evident on a daily basis. It’s our responsibility to get fed so we can be transformed and be a reflection of Him.

I want to share with you a few practical tips that have been helpful to me when it comes to feeding my spirit.

Make an appointment with God. Make it your priority. If you schedule a special time reading His Word and seeking Him through prayer and worship, it will help to prioritize your relationship with Him.

Read and write. Mark your Bible. Have a highlighter nearby. Write and put a date on it when your feel God speaking to you.

Write your thoughts on a journal. After a while you can go back and see how much God has done in your life.

Listen to it. YouVersion has a lot of audio resources. Sometimes life is crazy. But you always will have time while you walk or commute.

Surround yourself with wise, spiritual people. Being accountable is important. Give them permission to ask you hard questions about yourself and your spiritual journey. Honest conversations with a good, intended heart always helps us.

Read a good book. Read it with a nice cup of coffee or your drink of choice. Or join a reading club to keep you accountable.

It’s our responsibility to get fed spiritually. It will maintain our focus on God, and it will strengthen our faith to face any situation.

Day Four

Written by Tammy Sabourin

“Mrs. Sabourin, can you please come pick up your daughter? As recorded on the school calendar, we have an early dismissal this afternoon for students.” The voice on the other end of my cell phone caused me to sit straight up in my office seat. Oh no! There was only a ½ day of school today! How could I have forgotten? I remembered marking it on our refrigerator calendar over a month ago. My poor daughter! What the school staff must think of me?

I grabbed my keys and bolted into my husband’s office on the way to our van, explaining the situation. “Oh hon, I’m sure she’s not the only child left there,” he replied, in an attempt to salvage any of our parenting dignity.

She was.

There she sat in the school office, all 6 years of age swinging her legs and smiling, much to my relief.  I’m grateful for the kind school staff that hadn’t made it a scary ordeal for her.  I was also thankful to them for not giving me an extra-dose of shame as I apologized profusely and hurried ourselves out the door.

It was a hectic time in ministry leadership for my husband and I. We were co-pastors of a church with a heavy weekday community services component, fresh out of seminary and wanting to make a good impression on our appointed flock. Long days at the office led into longer evenings, as we somehow thought the role of Pastor was to care for anyone and everyone. Home-cooked meals were turning into unhealthy, fast-food choices. We were overscheduled, overcommitted and overeating. And now we were starting to drop the ball on important family matters.

I wish I could say this incident was a rookie mistake, but in reality – 10 years later – the art of successfully managing a role in leadership, family and self-care still proves to be an ever-changing challenge. I have learned that focusing on self-management leads to better management of all other areas.  Here are some methods that are proving helping for me:

  1. Scripture/Scheduling Combo

It has become very real to me that self-management isn’t JUST about keeping a schedule. God has conveniently laid out evidence and attributes of what good self-management looks like through His “Fruits of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

In the face of eternity, my attitude and reaction amid the situation with my daughter and school staff may have been even more impactful than my actual scheduling blunder. To keep myself in check, I have listed these fruits on post-it notes at home on my bedroom mirror and also at my office in the church building. Scripture is often a beautiful reminder of the Holy Spirit’s constant work being done in me, helping to illuminate these fruits by His power.

  1.  Find Support in Others

I have set up a monthly support system for myself, where I can freely ask for advice and invite others to speak into various aspects of my self-care, including self-management.  Leading and Loving It’s ConnectLIVE and ConnectLocal groups are excellent options for this.

  1.  There’s an app for that.

I am grateful for technology such as the YouVersion app that reminds me to start my day in God’s Word. The iTrackBites app is where I chart my daily food and water intake and also prompts me to be physically active. My cell phone is equipped with a voice activated note-taking option as well as a calendar app that includes pre-set alerts and reminders.

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  1. Give Me Grace

Finally, I’ve acknowledged that even with all of the above, there are still going to be moments where I mess up. That’s where grace comes in – not as an excuse – but as a beautiful component of self-management created for me by God. The love of Christ within us shines brightest when we show humility and allow our limits to point to HIS grace.

What scriptures and methods can you incorporate into your life to help you self-manage?

Day Five

Written by Cindy Beall

I can make a mean spreadsheet. In fact, it’s one of my spiritual gifts. Not only does it look pretty with all sorts of colors and shading, but the formulas I insert into each cell are, well, let’s just say accountants envy me. I love to discuss finances and insert said finances into one of my beautiful spreadsheets. I’m the disciplined type and stick to a financial plan.

But, it hasn’t always been this way.

Because I’m a sucker for a new car. Gah, just thinking about the new car smell makes me want to toss every bit of information I’ve learned from Dave Ramsey and rush down to my nearest Acura dealership to get a brand-spankin’ new MDX. But I have not done that, the purchasing of a brand new car…since 2014, that is.

See?

Budgets. They are not what you typically want to talk about. Many people think they are restrictive and don’t allow spontaneity. They feel like a burden and the removal of all things fun. But I would argue that budgets are not restrictive at all but instead bring freedom. Because what really restricts is living above your means which eventually equates to debt. And debt is nothing but bondage.

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We can want to be financially free and think we are if we don’t have rules and regulations to guide us, but the truth is, we need guidelines to help us stay within healthy parameters. We must deny some things to get better things, and financial freedom takes sacrifice. We have been taught that there is no way around debt. We’ll always have a car payment or a house payment. We’ll never be able to afford this or do that. That’s simply untrue. With planning and sacrifice, financial freedom is possible. It just takes a lot of sacrifice and dying to self. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

So, how do we budget ourselves so that we can be financially free?

  1. Pay with cash. It’s so much harder to spend cash than it is to swipe a credit or debit card. Use cash for eating out, coffee, clothing, groceries. When it’s gone, it’s gone. You wait until the next month when you have cash again.
  2. Eliminate debt. Debt strangles us. It does not have be that way. Get intense about it and get it out of your life. Can’t figure out how? Cut things like cable TV, eating out and going to get coffee for $4 a cup. You’d be surprised how fast your debt goes down when you have a plan.
  3. Have a rainy day fund. Save, friends. Things will go wrong in our lives. Murphy will become a guest at your house at some time. Emergencies will occur. You must be prepared for things that you don’t expect to happen. (And I’m not talking about an accidental trip to your local boutique or car dealership. Ahem.)
  4. Be a good steward. As Christ followers, tithing to our local church is something we get to do. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Do you know how good it feels to give to someone else? Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than receive. Oh, what truth that is! Look for ways to grow in your generosity. Set up a line item in your budget that allows you to bless someone unexpectedly. And get ready to have some fun!
  5. Learn new lingo. We must be careful with the things we say that can elicit responses from our children or people within in church. Saying things like, “I can’t afford that” or “Wish we had the money to buy that” speak volumes and not in a good way. I know this well because I used to say those things. Now, when my son asks for a combo meal from Chick-Fil-A when we are just fifteen minutes from home, instead of saying that we can’t afford it, I simply say, “My allowance is gone” or “The eating out budget is gone.” I’m telling him something entirely different. It’s not that we are broke or can’t afford it, it’s that we have used up that line item in the budget.

I think we could all use some self-awareness when it comes to our finances. Be honest with yourself. If you’re a spender, know your triggers and be accountable to someone who wants you to succeed in this area. If you’re a saver, don’t use that as an excuse to hoard or remove generosity from your life.

The last thing we need as ministry leaders is a burden around our necks due to our finances. Spend some time with your husband today and evaluate your finances. If you already have regular conversations about this and are unified, then awesome! If not, start today. It’s never too late to make a change.

For more information about living in financial freedom, check out the following resources:

DaveRamsey.com
Stewardship.com
Financial Peace University
The Total Money Makeover
Retire Inspired

Day Six

Written by Linda Seidler

Overwhelmed, exhausted and defeated?

Or refreshed, energized and empowered?

Do any of these resonate with you today?

They have with me. About 10 years ago, I was at a place in ministry where I could physically, mentally and spiritually feel the overbearing weight of the first three words above. I was overwhelmed. I was exhausted. I felt defeated, and I was ready to throw in the towel. Although I knew that God had called my husband and me into ministry, I was at a pinnacle moment where I could’ve quit it all and headed in a new direction.

It wasn’t because I wanted to stop helping people come to know and love and become disciples of Jesus. It was because I was weary and weak and worn out and worn down, and I needed to learn how to protect myself and create boundaries and margin to continue on.

And maybe that’s you right now. Your schedule is on overload, and your mind is on overdrive, and if you don’t get some relief quickly, you might just pop like a balloon. You’ve allowed yourself to buy into the misconception that you need to be all things to all people and that your “calling” requires you to work continuously from day to night because if you don’t do it, then who will? And as you read this, you are wondering if there is a way to manage and sustain this pace.

Let me assure you, there is a way.

And the way starts with you, is managed by you and is maintained by you.

The “way” begins with you making the decision to say, “I will no longer run myself to exhaustion. I will learn to block out time on my calendar exclusively for family. I will put a schedule in place each week that enables me to both lead and love it.” But you have to make this choice. I can attest to you that no one will do this for you.

And let me remind you that you are NOT a disappointment if you can’t accomplish it all. You are NOT a bad person because you can’t get to every baby shower. You are NOT a failure because you don’t have the stamina on Sunday to serve in kids’ ministry and greet everyone in the congregation before service and stay afterward for the potluck dinner!

News Flash: You are not perfect! You are an imperfect person serving a perfect God in the midst of a church of imperfect people.

So let’s take a look at the “way” we can protect ourselves as we lead the charge in our marriages, families and ministries:

1 – Identify Your Priorities & Non-Negotiables.
You’ll always have time for the things you put first.

    • You can’t do it all because life has limits, so make a decision now what is a priority and non-negotiable.
    • Look at your marriage, family and ministry and identify those areas that you are not willing to sacrifice and imbed them into your schedule, and put it in pen on the calendar.
  • Intelligent people think about what needs to be done here and now. Fools are always dreaming about faraway places. Proverbs 17:24

2 – Narrow Your Focus.
Release yourself from the idea that you have to do it all.

  • Identify and live out your passion. What is your primary role? Do you love children’s ministries? Are you gifted in preaching? Are you in full-time mom-mode right now?
  • Assess your life and see what can be eliminated (don’t you tell me that it’s your husband and kids!).
  • Do NOT respond to everyone or everything that calls your name. Invest in one like you would like to invest in everyone.
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…and he will direct your paths.

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3 – To Function Best, Schedule Times of Rest.
Sometimes we get so busy sending weary people to Jesus, we forget to go to Him ourselves.

  • Assess your current situation. What emotionally drains you? Where are you overloaded? Do you take on too much? Is it important to be at church for 8 hours or can you accomplish the task being at home for the day?
  • What fills your emotional tank? Be sure to pre-schedule time to refill your tank with activities that add life to you.
  • Pay attention to times during the day when you function best. Are you a get-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn girl OR are you a night-owl? At what point during the day do you need some DOWN-TIME?
  • Get your mind focused on something that inspires you. Read, listen to music, take a walk, schedule a lunch with a friend, go to the movies.
  • Relax and unwind and do NOTHING. Not sure if you caught that—do NOTHING!! It is okay NOT to do anything. It is okay NOT to completely fill your schedule.
  • Come to Me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Day Seven

Written by Liz Sarno

I love to shop. I am an expert bargain hunter and enjoy the thrill of finding deals on pretty much everything. I can make a little money go a long way and really enjoy wandering around a store for an hour or so finding the best deals. The few times a year that I am blessed to have extra spending money – my Birthday, Anniversary, Valentines Day, Christmas – I usually squirrel it away so that I can shop here and there when I get the urge, over the course of a few months rather than blow it all at once.

(Except for the time I found that perfect pair of boots and spent it all in 5 minutes, but that’s another story.)

Lately though, I’ve noticed a different pattern in my life. I’ve gone on quite a few shopping expeditions, where instead of buying anything for myself I’ve spent my money on gifts for my family. I realized that I would pick out some things I liked, then systematically put them all back and replace them with things for my husband and kids. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but after a few trips where I went home with nothing for myself I realized something. For a few months I had decided that I didn’t need anything and it was more important to be a blessing to my family, so I talked myself out of doing something for me. It is better to give than to receive, this is true, but it’s also ok to take care of ourselves.

While being a blessing to my family is actually a good thing, I had to remember that it’s important to treat myself every once in awhile, too. When I thought about it I also realized this had carried over to other areas of my life as well. I didn’t watch my favorite television show because I was “too busy” writing Bible school curriculum and it needed to be done. I didn’t go to coffee with a friend because I had too many other things on my plate, and couldn’t make time for it. I had almost started feeling guilty about doing anything for myself, and that’s not ok!

It’s a common trap for women in general to put everyone and everything above ourselves, especially for us mommas, let alone women in ministry who have the added pressure we put on ourselves to take care of everyone in our lives first! We feel bad if we want to go to Starbucks for an hour to sip a latte and read a book, because we should be utilizing our time to help others. We feel guilty buying ourselves something special because we could’ve used that money to do something for someone else. We don’t treat ourselves because we think we should be spending our energy on everyone else around us. We feel like we have to justify doing something just for us.

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One day Jesus was asked what the most important commandments were. He gave two. In Mark 12:29-31 in the Message, first Jesus said to Love God with everything we have, then He said Love others as well as you love yourself. Notice Jesus didn’t say love others MORE than you love yourself, just love them as WELL as you love yourself. Taking care of yourself, treating yourself, or doing something for you is not bad, it’s not selfish and you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. How can you love others as well as yourself if you aren’t loving yourself at all?

What is it that you enjoy, that you haven’t taken the time to do for yourself? Is it a trip to the gym, the mall or the coffee shop? It is treating yourself to a walk outside by yourself? Is it reading that novel that you’ve been eyeing on Kindle? Is it taking the time to go get a manicure or a haircut?  Don’t allow guilt to rob you of the joy of taking care of you. Treat yourself this week!

Day Eight

Written by Kaylee Zentai

I spent a lot of years in a sea of depression. Waves of feeling like I would drown would come and go, followed by seasons of blissfully floating and soaking in the sun. I had always sensed that this wasn’t normal – that this wasn’t the life that God wanted for me – but I was too afraid to do anything to fix it or to even acknowledge that there was anything to fix.  After eight years of denial, I finally hit my rock bottom and made the decision to do something about it. I began seeing a Christian counselor to address my depression and it was the most terrifying yet life-giving thing I have ever done.

I vividly remember the first few minutes of my very first session with my counselor. I admitted that I was nervous. When she asked why, I told her that, while I knew I was broken, I was afraid to find out that I was more broken than I was aware of and that I would be unfixable. I’ll never forget her response as she gently smiled back; “But don’t you think that the God who created you knows how to perfectly fix you?” And with that I dove into the journey of rescuing myself.

I don’t know what kind of sea you may be swimming in. Maybe your sea is one of depression like mine. Yours may be a sea of isolation, shame, fear, anxiety or addiction. While it may feel like you are drowning, there is hope that you can take steps to rescue yourself and begin swimming to safety. So what do those steps look like and how can we best implement them?

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Admit your brokenness.

The first step in rescuing yourself is that you have to acknowledge that something is wrong. You will never be able to start swimming to safety if you don’t first accept that you’re drowning. This can look differently, depending on the issue. For me, I had to admit to myself that what I was dealing with was more than just a tough season or a bad mood. It was something much more serious. We can’t ignore our challenges and expect them to get better.

Have the courage to begin swimming.

The process of rescuing yourself can be terrifying, even in the safest of environments. Wounds can be reopened and you might discover things that shock you to your core. When these things begin to swell, hold on to this verse:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

A few months into my journey, I thought I was making great progress, but then something was uncovered that brought back the feelings of drowning. I was blindsided by it and I felt discouraged. Instead of giving into that feeling, I stood firm. I refused to let that wave set me back and rob me of the progress I had made. Because God is with us always, we don’t have to be afraid to discover these things, to find out how deep and wide our brokenness may reach. We can courageously begin to heal with the help of God.

There isn’t any one best way to start taking those steps towards recovery. For me it was finding and meeting with a Christian counselor. We started meeting weekly (although there were a few times we met bi-weekly), but the frequency has lessened based on the season. For you it might be finding a mentor, confiding in a close friend, or joining a group. Whatever route you choose, do it courageously with God and in time your sea will begin to look like a puddle.