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Women Who Do Too MuchHow to Stop Doing It All and Start Enjoying Your Life
By Patricia Sprinkle
ZondervanCopyright © 2002 Zondervan All right reserved. ISBN: 0-310-24637-7
Chapter OneWomen in Frantic Search
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Are you always busy, yet never seem to get everything done?
Do you wake up frustrated and even angry, because you have more to do today than you can possibly accomplish?
Do you go to bed feeling guilty, knowing how much you have left undone?
Do you lie awake at night planning tomorrow, because you won't have time to think once you hit the ground running?
You don't have to live there; it is a matter of choice. In fact, it's the wrong choice. God has a better idea. It is found in the Hebrew word shalom, which we will talk about throughout this book. Shalom means all those things we yearn for: peace, wholeness, prosperity, success, well-being, health, and salvation.
This book is going to explain how we get ourselves into a place where we are too busy and overwhelmed to experience shalom, and how we can get out of our current ruts to live lives of grace, joy, and even leisure.
We will begin by considering where stress comes from and what remedies there are to deal with it. We will then explore how our dreams and yearnings-even those we have allowed to become buried beneath the muck of our busy lives-may in fact be God's dreams andyearnings for us. We will look at how to focus on what is important for us and pare down the rest.
At the end of the book I give a few tips for getting through busy days with far less stress. But don't turn to the back right away. If you do, you will just learn to be more and more efficient at doing what you don't want to do anyway. How do I know? I've been there.
Let's begin this journey with an incredible promise that makes sense of our lives.
LIFE IS A TAPESTRY
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the
Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans
to give you hope and a future."
This promise is a lot richer in Hebrew than in English. The Hebrew noun that is usually translated "plan" actually means an artistic design, and the verb is not "to have" but "to weave." In fact, this particular form is both a verb stem of "to weave" and the noun "weaver." Hebrew, a practical language, often omits unnecessary words, so the first part of the verse can be literally translated, "For I know the design which I, the Weaver, ... for you." Just as Jeremiah elsewhere describes God as a potter working us like clay, here Jeremiah presents God as the Divine Weaver, creating a pattern for our lives. Think of Navajo rugs, medieval tapestries, Persian carpets. That is what God intends our lives to be like-intricate, rich in meaning, and lovely.
Furthermore, this verse in Hebrew also takes pains to describe exactly what kind of design God intends to weave for us. God's design is not that we will be run ragged all day and exhausted at night. Rather, the word the NIV translates "prosperity" and the NRSV "welfare" is actually shalom! Everything that shalom means-health, success, well-being, peace, salvation, prosperity-is part of God's artistic design for us.
Finally, the design God is weaving for our lives includes a future with hope and expectation. Doesn't that sound great?
? How does my current life compare with God's
EXPECT A FEW RAPIDS
Don't think, however, that this book is about How to Spend the Rest of My Life Lazing by a Stream Eating Bonbons. This book is about finding God's plan for your life. Sometimes God's plan is a calm and placid stream and sometimes we have to shoot the rapids. Or, to return to our original metaphor, sometimes our life tapestry is quiet and pastel, sometimes it is complicated and vivid. The Divine Weaver plans so that each new part of the pattern enriches the whole.
As I write this chapter, I am in a particularly busy part of my pattern. Ten days after my deadline for completing this book, a moving van will take our furniture to Atlanta, where my husband will write grant proposals for nonprofit ministry organizations. Moving company representatives, exterminators, plumbers, electricians, and air conditioner repairmen march through the house to interrupt my work. Boxes-empty and half-filled-sit in every room. Friends call wanting one more lunch together. Committees call wanting one more meeting. Our realtor calls about problems with the contract on our new house. We have to buy a refrigerator and carpet before we can move in. Yesterday an editor called to say she needs the title for my next mystery, so her art department can begin work on the cover. A special friend I haven't seen in years just came to town to sing in an upcoming opera. And last month my mother-in-law's doctor called and said she can no longer live alone. We moved her in with us, and as soon as I send our furniture on its way, she and I have to detour by Tallahassee to choose the furniture she wants to keep so we can close her house.
She jokes that she has come to live at Grand Sprinkle Station. We certainly aren't a placid stream right now. But does that mean my life has slithered away from God's plan? Not at all. God is just giving me a new pop quiz on Surviving the Storms of Life. It has questions like,
Can you trust me with the little details in all this confusion?
Can you trust that all of this is part of my plan for you
right now, and I will make everything that is important
fall together without your needing to worry or becoming
over-stressed and exhausted?
Do you believe so completely that I am in charge of your
life that you can take time even in the busyness to spend
quality time with others, notice the glint of sunlight on
leaves, listen to a bird outside your window, or enjoy
one last glorious swim in your pool without thinking
of things you ought to be doing instead?
Will you remember to thank me for little mercies that
make these days easier?
Let me give you some examples of God's little mercies. One day I discovered I needed to get a paper notarized. I wasn't sure how that would fit into the schedule, but I am intentionally not getting stressed these days over minor details. That very evening we had a committee meeting at the house and when one of the committee members saw the paper lying on my countertop, she said, "I'm a notary. Why don't I take that back to the office and fax it for you?" Isn't that amazing? I've known her four years and never knew she was a notary.
When I brought to God the problem of trying to think of a mystery title while writing this book, I remembered twelve friends who love to read mysteries and are great with words. A quick e-mail got them racking their brains for a title for that book while I wrote this one. The title someone else chose is far better than any I would have thought of.
Now I have handed over to God the question of two stray cats we've been feeding on the front porch, a mama cat and a kitten. Will God find a home for them before we leave? Stay tuned.
God's plan for our lives is not that all the circumstances will be peaceful or even pleasant.
God's plan is that we will experience shalom in each of them and know that our future has hope.
So why isn't that the way life really is?
Practice the Presence of God
One way to look at our lives is as a tapestry. Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century lay brother, suggested another metaphor. Although he spent his lifetime humbly working in a monastery kitchen, he learned and taught others to do what he called "practicing the presence of God." His writings have been published in many editions in small devotional books by the same name. He tells how he prayed:
Sometimes I think of myself as a block of stone before
a sculptor, ready to be sculpted into a statue. Presenting
myself thus before God, I beg Him to form His perfect
image in my soul and make me entirely like
TRY THIS EXERCISE
Close your eyes and picture yourself before the throne of God. You are a stone and God is a carver. Ask the carver to form you in God's perfect image. Spend a few minutes trying to picture what the Divine Carver may be going to do with you and your life.
Excerpted from Women Who Do Too Much by Patricia Sprinkle
Copyright © 2002 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.