Somewhere around the age of 41, I got confused. I began to question aspects of my faith tradition. I became curious about my life choices and where I sit in the advent of middle age. I wondered if what I do in the dailiness, in the hiddenness of homemaking and mothering, matters. This is a normal, developmental passage for us as we move beyond the younger self, enter a chrysalis of sorts, and emerge for the last half of our lives with greater clarity, authenticity, and wholeness.
These middle spaces, the times when we are in transition from one life stage to the next, can feel confounding, upending, vulnerable. It is how the followers of Jesus felt between the crucifixion and the resurrection. Unsure. Wondering about their faith. Grieving. Wanting hope but from where? Are the rumors of new Life real?
Two were walking on the road to Emmaus. They were processing all that happened surrounding Jesus’ death, hoping that He had been the answer for redemption, and trying to figure out fact from fiction. They found themselves in the middle of a story where the old ways were done and the new ways hadn’t been revealed yet. They were in the middle of personal crisis.
The Scripture tells us that Jesus drew near to them and went with them. At this point, these two people didn’t even recognize Him. Jesus asked them questions with curiosity. He listened well and patiently. He spoke kind truth to them from the Scripture. And that evening when Jesus accepted their invitation to stay with them, He fed them. And that is when they knew who He was. He was “known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Just like those ancient followers, we don’t always notice Jesus’ presence in these challenging middle years. We wonder if He has abandoned us, our marriages, our children, our needs, His promises. We are unable to see the Resurrection power and the life that is in Him in our dailiness. We are walking our dusty roads of shame, of shattered hopes, and wondering if there is Hope along these paths. We walk the road of Emmaus like so many other believers have.
But even if you do not recognize Him, Jesus is drawing near to you. He may be showing up in His creation, in a song, in the wisdom from a friend. He doesn’t always show up in obvious ways, but we can know that He is with us. Invite His nearness. Rest in it even if you can’t see it or feel it today. He wants to feed you, to nourish your soul as the Bread of Life, broken and given for you just as He did for His disciples.
In the hardest moments of the past few years, as I have walked my own dusty roads, wondering if Jesus is near, if my faith is true or if my pilgrimage is in the right direction, I take the tangible step to show up at church. Every Sunday the weary, the broken, the needy walk down the aisle to cup their hands to receive the bread, dip it in the wine, and return to their seat having been fed by Grace. This is the beauty of a liturgical church, the pinnacle of our worship is the humility to receive Him by grace.
Communion is a precious visual reminder to me that He is with me, feeding me, and nourishing my soul. A walk in nature is another way that I look around and can see that God is surrounding me with His beauty, His peace, His healing. Sometimes I find Jesus on my yoga mat when the leader is reading Scripture, speaking truth, and rubbing my neck with oil. I find Him at Panera over a cup of hot tea as I talk with other women about their journeys and looking for the ways that God is showing Himself there.
Jesus hasn’t abandoned us. Even if we can’t recognize Him. He is drawing near, listening, offering His presence, and feeding us. Your dusty roads are filled with the presence of Christ. And this is comforting truth for the middle years.
Last week, I shared with you that the best ever solution to overwhelm is to write out a brain dump. Our minds were not created to hold all the important life details + reminders up in our heads, but instead, our brains are made to be a focusing tool to generate ideas, come up with creative solutions, problem solve and take action. To live a life of rest, our minds need to live free without keeping so many tabs open, because the brain thinks that if it isn’t written down, it has to remind you. All the time. Our mental energy gets overwhelmed and depleted.
We make a brain dump in a bullet journal/notebook. But what happens next? The brain dump must be reviewed. Daily and weekly. The habit of review keeps our action lists, plans, and projects in front of us. We must keep our notebook and calendar always open for quick and easy reference. The reason why our plans fail is that we don’t implement processes to support them!
We begin with the habit of checking our calendar in the mornings:
- We recognize our “musts” for the day which are appointments, teaching/homework, and preparing dinner. These are the non-negotiables.
- We plug in 1-2 things from our brain dump that are “next action steps”. In other words, if you wrote “buy school supplies” in your brain dump, the next action step is to print out your buying guide.
- Then we check to see if we have some “batch work” that we can fit into our existing day. Batch work are written tasks on a big Post-It or index card of to-dos that are the same. Phone calls, errands, online research, social media. Working in batches allows our brains to focus well on one task a time and makes us more efficient with our time and energy.
In the late afternoon or end of the day, do another review of your day:
- Finish checking off completed tasks, move tasks to the next day that you didn’t finish, and review the calendar for the next day to make sure you are prepared.
- Respond to any emails and texts that take less than 2 minutes.
- Choose more “next action steps” for the next day. Make sure that you are moving any appointments or to-dos that you received from emails or texts to your calendar!
Finally, you must schedule a Weekly Review.
I do mine on Sunday evenings. Late Friday afternoon or Saturday mornings would work well too. Treat yourself as the Mother Professional that you are, and make space for this planning time. There is no use in making great plans and creating a vision for your family if you aren’t going to implement processes that help you execute them! Tools like bullet journals/notebooks and daily planners are incredibly helpful because they help us visually execute the plan.
My weekly review takes place in my bedroom with the door shut. If you have many younger children who are needy, you may need to leave the house for an hour or two. It doesn’t take long:
- Check your calendar for the next two weeks and add events to your brain dump list.
- Figure out their next action steps and write them down on your “next actions list” that you can use during the week as a reference point for adding one-two items a day on your calendar.
- If there are things on your Brain Dump List that you don’t need to take action on anytime soon, move some of them to a “Someday/Maybe” list and refer to it once every few weeks to see if you want to take next actions on them.
- Take out Post-Its and write down batch work items on each one for phone calls, blog, errands, social media, etc.
The key to a fruitful week is to work your plan.
Bullet Journals/Notebooks and calendars aren’t meant to stay tidy, beautiful, and decorated. They are meant to serve you and your priorities. Write all over them! Enjoy them! Don’t allow perfectionistic tendencies to cause you to serve the tool by keeping it nice or not using it, but allow the tool to serve you.
Our priorities are lived out on the pages of our calendars. Where you actually spend your time and focus is where you spend your life and energy. Our goal as women is to live well so that we can love well. These are tools and actions that can help us live the way we want to and the way we are called to. We don’t grow in our ability to manage our lives to be show-offs or feel amazing about productivity or gain identity from our accomplishments, but we grow in these areas so that we can love and serve better, with peace and greater rest + freedom.
(This was a synopsis of the Facebook Live that I did today of Dealing with the Brain Dump: The Daily/Weekly Review. So hop on over to listen if you would like to hear more details and see my bullet journal, files, and ask questions!)
Overwhelmed. I have lived in that space many times, waking up with a sense of dread, not being sure what my day holds, and feeling the strain of many responsibilities. As mothers, we all know this word rather intimately, don’t we?
We have days and maybe even years living in a chronic place of feeling overwhelmed. Many factors may contribute to those feelings like sleep deprivation, hormones, health issues, perfectionistic personality, lack of boundaries, strained relationships, frustrating finances, and fear. Our response to overwhelming situations tends to be either anger and control, becoming a drill sergeant to try to quell the anxiety storm, or shutting down to deny that our challenging situations exist and we turn to escapism with our phones, the internet, manic cleaning, mindless shopping, and overeating.
There is another kind of overwhelm that most of us live with that we don’t realize. It’s the mind that is constantly humming with ideas, to-do lists, and a vague sense that we are forgetting important things. We feel consistently scattered and distracted, balls drop, and we never feel fully present to the ones we love. Our brains are on overdrive and we can’t seem to remember why we walked into the next room or what we were about to ask someone. We are overloaded.
How do we want to live in the dailiness with our families and friends? Present, engaged, peaceful, creative, and proactive. Living with an overwhelmed mind keeps us from these things. But I have found a simple solution that helps bring us back closer to where we want to be.
This summer I read the book Getting Things Done. The author David Allen teaches that our mind continues to work on anything that is an undecided state. Our brain thinks that when it knows we are to do something that it needs to remind us of it all the time until it’s completed. Our minds are made for having ideas, not for holding them. They were designed to be a focusing tool, not an organizational system, “brilliant at recognition and terrible at recall.” He says that to get clear on your life and work towards getting current and creative, your mind has to be freed from all the lists and ideas so that it can live in the present moment, aware, open and creative.
“The bottom line is that when you use your memory as your organizing system, your mind will effectively become overwhelmed and incompetent, because you are demanding of it intense work for which it is not well equipped.”
The best solution for overwhelm is to get everything out of your mind and onto paper. A good old fashioned brain dump. Everything from problems you see in the house, to things you know you need to order, to projects, ideas, birthday or holiday brainstorming. Anything and everything that is clogging up your amazing mind.
A brain dump doesn’t require any fancy tools. A pen and a spiral notebook will do. It may take you a few minutes or a few hours, and you might return to it over several days. Your brain now feels so happy that it can rest, receive new thoughts, think clearly, and engage well! The point right now isn’t to process the list or make decisions, but to get all the mental clutter out.
I have a busy little brain. It has always believed it can do more and keep up with more than it really can. It’s freeing to find simple solutions to help it rest, get clarity, and work the way it was made to with receptivity, creativity, and engagement. Building a routine of getting everything down on paper has made me feel more relaxed, present, and free.
If you would like to hear my broader thoughts on this topic and more practical ideas for facing the truth of your day and what to do next after your brain dump, come listen to the Facebook Live I did this week on “How to Deal with Overwhelm in Your Everyday Life”. I believe that God is inviting us to learn about how He created our brains so that we can live well within their design. And when we live well, we have the opportunity to love well. And that’s ultimately what life is all about.