You know the drill. Somebody asks, “How are you?” and you respond automatically: “Crazy busy!” “I’m exhausted!” “Running too fast.”And it’s no wonder! Between the breakneck speed of your job, the one million family activities on the calendar, the volunteer luncheon you signed up to host, the growing to-do list on your phone, and the workout you’ve been meaning to get to for weeksif you ever stopped long enough to think about it, you’d be curled up in the fetal position on the floor.Life these days. It’s exhausting, isn’t it?Ellen Miller gets itand she wrote Spread Too Thin just for you. Whatever stage of life you find yourself in, you don’t have to live it frantically. Written for women who care deeply and extend themselves selflessly, this 90-day devotional offers an honest look at the obligations that have drained us and then point us toward a more abundant life with Jesus. Through personal stories, practical insights, and classic Ellen humor, you’ll discover that it is possible to find hopeand even peace!throughout your harried, overcommitted days.
|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x (d)|
Read an Excerpt
Beware the barrenness of a busy life.
I am overwhelmed. As I write to you today from my home office, I have a half dozen men working downstairs, repairing drywall in our home that is only a year old. As the crew labors to perfect our walls, another crew is outside, making repairs to our irrigation system. This entails digging up our yard, purchasing new plants, and starting all over again. Did I mention this house is only a year old?
As I write to you today while overseeing contractors, I am making final edits to my book Lord, Have Mercy: Help and Hope for Moms on Their Last Nerve, which by the time you're reading this will have launched in April of 2017. I have never experienced writing a book while putting the finishing touches on another. I am thankful that the time management of this endeavor is coming together, but I'm finding the allocation of brain cells to be a challenge.
As I write to you today while overseeing contractors and editing a book, I'm also working on our company's three-year strategic plan. To do this, I must lead our executives through a well-structured process that requires me to work weeks ahead of them in order to keep the timeline on track. It's fun, but it's also difficult as I stretch myself and my team professionally.
As I write to you today while overseeing contractors, editing a book, and working on our company's three-year plan, I am also coleading a women's Bible study. This dedicated time of researching and reflecting on God's Word is like warm sourdough bread (with lots of butter!) for my hungry soul. However, I'm pretty sure it is also contributing to my sleep deprivation.
As I write to you today while overseeing contractors, editing a book, working on our company's three-year plan, and preparing for the next Bible study class, I am helping my husband, Steve, care for his mom, who will be released from the hospital today. In addition, I am preparing myself mentally and physically for our granddaughter's monthly sleepover. (One does not await eight-year-old Ava's arrival; this child is a ball of energy, so one must be ready!) The emotional, mental, and physical demands of supporting and loving my family play a pivotal role in my "overwhelmedness" (I know this is not a word, but it should be) on any given day. Nothing can zap me like their disappointment. Nothing can wilt me like an exchange that is anything but joyful and God-honoring.
I am overwhelmed today by the many commitments I have made and the many needs of our family. Some are very good — fulfilling, stimulating, and glorifying to God. However, some have led to my emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. And all would leave me completely depleted and spread too thin if I wasn't overwhelmed by something far greater than the busyness of life — the grace of God. Every day I'm humbled by his forgiveness, grateful for his counsel through his holy Word, and captivated by his love for me. Because of him I embrace the "overwhelmedness" of not just a busy, but an abundant life.
As we begin our ninety-day journey together, I have a question for you:
* Are you overwhelmed by living in a state of exhaustion, or are you overwhelmed by the grace and glory of God?
O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge.
One state leads to a life of scarcity — days that are a busy, unfulfilling blur. The other state provides a profoundly rewarding life, despite the distractions — even when a landscaping crew is digging up your autumn sage while in full bloom.
WE NEED A FIRE
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
Stepping into our rented casita in Santa Fe, Steve and I put down our bags and began touring the place. We had chosen this particular home for our mini retreat because it was cute and comfy, located in town, and walking distance to galleries and restaurants. But what had really caught my eye when I researched this property weeks prior was the large wood-burning fireplace.
To take the October chill out of the air, Steve made haste in building a cozy fire for us. Rummaging through the kindling stacked outside the back door, he carefully picked through the sticks and twigs to find those dry enough to easily catch fire. After arranging them in the fireplace, he struck a match, threw it in, and waited patiently. As the fire took hold, he placed dry logs on top, and a crackling blaze ensued. Dragging a comfy, overstuffed chair and ottoman closer to the fireplace, he helped me "set up my office." With my notebook computer perched on my lap and a cup of tea only an arm's reach away, I was good to go for an afternoon of writing while he went into town to scout out dinner.
The dancing flames, glowing embers, and I worked beautifully together throughout the afternoon, but only because we were prepared. We had both been kindled.
Living the uncommon life God has called us to is like building a fire. We have to be well prepped in order to get our flame going. Wet or green wood will not light, and logs that are not well seasoned will not perform to their highest function. And neither will we if our hearts have not been kindled by his Word.
I believe that deep within us our hearts yearn for a gratifying life rather than a diluted existence of never-ending activity. Our minds and bodies long to be still and quiet instead of spinning in the constant state of motion that we allow. Our souls hunger for a revival, for the abundant life God has promised, rather than the daily drudgery of what we have accepted as normal and routine. But to live an abundant life, we must condition our hearts. We must light a fire of desire for something new, something better. And with that desire must come the careful gathering of the kindling of Scripture, the patient building of the flame of understanding, and the quietness of spirit to enjoy the glow of his glory.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
JOHN 10:10, NASB
Christ gave his very life, dying an excruciating death, so that you and I may have the opportunity and promise of an abundant life. The Father and Son paid a huge ransom for this great inheritance that awaits us here on earth and for eternity, yet we continue to live sparsely as paupers rather than richly as queens.
As you consider this gift of abundant life given to us through Jesus, take a moment to answer these questions:
* Have you thought about this rich inheritance that has been promised to you?
* Have you claimed it?
* If not, what lifestyle changes might be required for you to cash in?
It might be time to gather some twigs and light a match. When the truth burns within us, the abundant life begins.
My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.
Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
Steve and I are serial remodelers and builders. We love having the opportunity and challenge of breathing new life into old homes. One of our many houses over the years was a midcentury modern home built in 1960. This house was a complete throwback to another era; you could hear Frank Sinatra singing from the minute you hit the front door (and the stereo wasn't even on)! With walls of stone and glass, and multiple levels to deal with, this house was a wreck when we bought her. Oh, her bones were good. The floor plan and vaulted ceilings, along with the room sizes and proportion, were perfect. The old girl even sat on a gorgeous wooded lot. But her white stone walls had yellowed from thirty-five years of cigarette smoke, her single-pane glass made her drafty, and the kitchen was something out of, well ... 1960! She needed some serious restoration.
But then sometimes we do, too, don't we? We have good "bones" — we're good people at our core — but sometimes those bones get creaky, stiff, and even stressed to the point of breaking. Answering the demands of our family and friends can take its toll on us emotionally. We hear ourselves snap at someone we love dearly, be dismissive, or even give a sarcastic reply, and we think, Who said that? or What's come over me? When the edginess becomes a habit, we might think, I don't even like the person I have become. I know this because it has happened to me — more than once. Then I begin to feel guilty. And then I mentally berate myself. And then I feel like a loser. And then, well ... you get the picture.
It is in these moments when we're spread too thin by our own commitments and the demands of others that we must remember two things: First, we are sinners — we're gonna mess up, and likely we're going to feel bad when we do. And second, we're loved by Christ regardless of what we have or have not done. Even though we're getting older by the moment, just like our old girl in East Dallas, Christ has everything he needs to restore us to the beauty we were created for, if we'll open up the doors of our hearts and let him scrub us clean. The restoration of our emotional health begins when we stop to recognize those things that contribute to our emotional frailty. Our joy is revived in the simple things when we stop to acknowledge them and become grateful for them in the moment. Our passion for living is renewed when we decide to hush that constant hum of doing, thinking, and worrying, and instead listen to God's faithful promises.
As you consider your personal revitalization project, take a few moments to answer these questions:
* Do you see how being spread too thin affects your emotional stability?
* Have you ever thought, I don't like who I've become?
* What areas of your heart would you like to see restored or given new life?
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
PSALM 51:12, NIV
It took a long time, a lot of Scrubbing Bubbles, and an army of contractors, but we brought that classic home in East Dallas back to her original glory. Your restoration in Christ will bring you back to yours, too.
A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation ... you have to catch yourself doing it before you can correct it.
SENECA THE YOUNGER
It was likely a bit cool on that beautiful July evening in 2016 in Garrapata State Park, California. I can only imagine the crackling fire offered a cozy setting for the hikers who gathered around it. They had positioned themselves at a scenic spot, where Soberanes Creek meets another nearby waterway. To this day, it isn't clear if the two-by-two-foot campfire was built by one person or more; however, whoever was responsible must have watched with horror at the unintended consequences of their actions: Hundreds evacuated; two thousand homes in the path of the wildfire, with fifty-seven homes completely destroyed; more than one hundred thousand acres scorched; and one life lost in what would soon be known as the Soberanes fire.
The campfire was illegal. This the hikers had to know due to the serious and well-publicized drought conditions in California. But they ignored the warning signs. They wanted what they wanted — what they thought seemed reasonable — a lovely fire on a chilly evening.
It's easy to sit in judgment of the guilty party, but I'm afraid we often operate from a similar mindset. We desire, strive for, and sometimes even convince ourselves that we deserve more, while ignoring the warning signs that our actions are scorching the abundant life intended for us. When we become overly focused on accomplishing our personal, familial, and professional goals, we can unconsciously adopt negative attitudes, wayward thinking, and bad habits that rob us of peace and joy. The foundational motive of the goal — the original spark of happiness — gets unwittingly displaced by selfishness that leads to damaged relationships. Or it is replaced with day-to-day busyness that leads to exhaustion. It's like the campfire — we intend the outcome of our goals for good, but getting there can lead to an aftermath of personal and spiritual destruction.
This heart condition often leads to barren living. It produces an anxiousness that we allow to slowly creep into our psyches and that later becomes our basic mode of operation. This anxiousness is the tinder for a fire that will not light us up, but will, over time, burn us out. However, searching our hearts objectively opens a path for the Holy Spirit to come in and help us identify and extinguish this flame of destruction in order to claim and live the fulfilling life Christ has promised — a life filled with mornings in which we awaken with contented hearts that have finally tamed unbridled cravings; a life in which anxious, restless nights are replaced by the sweet spirit of peace that only comes from walking in faith. Does this sound like a heavenly dream? It's actually yours, if you want it.
Here are some "heart check" questions for you today:
* Are there warning signs in your life, such as rocky relationships or a health condition, that you have been ignoring?
* Can you identify wayward thinking or bad habits that consistently rob you of joy and peace?
* Is an anxious spirit affecting your daily interactions and thoughts?
* Have you called on the Holy Spirit to help you with this condition of your heart?
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
If the hikers responsible for the Soberanes fire are ever identified, they will likely face charges of negligence and possibly manslaughter for the devastation they wreaked. Let's not ignore our own warning signs. Unintended consequences can rob us of the abundant life.
HUNGRY FOR MORE
I recently learned a new word: insatiable. That's me.
Many of us would probably not describe ourselves as having a ravenous need or a persistent yearning for more (although I did just buy a new pair of Nike tennis shoes that are so comfortable and cute, I have convinced myself that I need a second pair).
But, as Americans, many of us lean to the side of materialism and ladderclimbing — investing more money and time than we should in the pursuit of acquiring external things and professional advancement. This is a common issue we must work daily to counter to prevent our desires from becoming an insatiable appetite for more. It's this mindset and behavior that is a threat to experiencing the life Christ has promised.
Many years ago I met a child who had been diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome. One of the debilitating symptoms of this genetic disorder is an endless feeling of hunger. My heart broke for the little boy who had just finished his meal but sat weeping because he was still so hungry. His parents had fed him, but the little guy's mind could not register that his tummy had been filled.
How often do we approach life in a similar manner? We enjoy our current jobs, but we have an endless hunger for a promotion. Our boss has just given us a wonderful review, but we're already pining for the next bit of recognition. This endless striving feeds our frantic life. So often we're deceived because a rewarding, satisfying life is disguised as a buffet of "more."
But unlike my little friend, our condition is not associated with a malfunction in the hypothalamus; ours is a malfunction of the heart. Our Father has fed us everything we could possibly need and more, but we often feel or act as though we're starving. Our insatiable appetites drive us to the end of a rope, where we lose sight of the things we do have that are good and meaningful and eternal. And where there is an absence of gratitude for our blessings (including but beyond material things), there is no lasting peace. To claim our eternal inheritance, we have to let go of the worldly things we've grasped so tightly and cling to his unending devotion, perfect peace, and promises given to us by trusting that he knows better than we do about those things that are truly good and perfect for our lives. Sister, sometimes that corner office or relationship with that particular guy is not what's best for us. Trust God — he knows the disastrous outcomes we cannot see and has blessings in store for us that we cannot even imagine.
Let's do a quick gut check on our insatiable appetites:
* Do you find yourself thinking obsessively about how you can get ahead?
* Do you think a prestigious job, a different social circle, or a nicer neighborhood will "fill" you?
* Are you convinced that something, some person, or some achievement will bring you the joy you lack?
The world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.
1 JOHN 2:16
This heart condition that causes us to be spread too thin has also been called lust and gluttony. Feed your appetite and cravings with eternal nutrients, not empty temporal snacks.
Excerpted from "Spread Too Thin"
Copyright © 2018 Ellen Miller.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Enjoyable and witty, fun to read and insightful I really enjoyed this devotional. The stories and topics she writes about are down to earth, real life stuff. Ellen gives hope for balancing life and all the "stuff" we have to do. She has experience in multiple areas like raising children, being a working mom, wife, and much more. I was able to relate to many of the things she wrote and found myself encouraged and refreshed from reading the daily devotionals. This little devotional is a great way to start the day, or I kept mine on the bathroom shelf for a quick read on occasion (maybe I shouldn't say that, some people think it’s weird to keep books in the bathroom). I loved her humor and style, and I look forward to reading more of her books. I loved her humor and style, and I look forward to reading more of her books. I was blessed with a copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network. I was not asked to review it positively. All opinions are my own.