Monthly Archives: December 2015

Coloring, Mindfulness and Moms

God likes to speak to me as I pull into the driveway. A couple of weeks ago God said (very matter-of-factly), “Nicole, go back to hosting a dinner church.” This was not the first time God has spoken to me about ministry, about church and about what I needed to do (and, don’t worry, it’s not audible but rather its like a bold inner, intuitive voice). And while I do listen, I also find that when God speaks to me is as much about the conversation as the proclamation.

Ah, dinner church! We did a dinner church last summer during the month of July. I enjoyed it and thought about doing it again but could not make it work with my schedule. Also (and this is the bigger issue), we were not gathering many new people but rather people who already were connected to a church. Church people don’t need another church thing to do and honestly, neither do I – even though, I love to eat dinner outside in the garden at a long table under twinkle lights!  What I started wondering after the summer was if the place to have spiritual/life/insightful conversations with new people isn’t dinner church after all.

So, this was what my conversation with God was about. And the more I prayed about it, the more I turned the idea all around, I began to realize that the call was about meeting new people and engaging with them where they were. It was a call to build friendships and understanding and not about designing a program. It was a call to relationship. It was a call to create space for life.

A week later, I heard God speak again as I pulled into the driveway, this time God said, “Nicole, what about starting a coloring group?” Now, this caught me off guard. I had never thought about this before, but the idea was so good I immediately got excited about it. Later that week, I set up a Meet Up for “Empty Nester Women Who Color, Practice Mindfulness and Drink Wine.” I mean, why not? I am an empty nester so it’s a great connection and mindfulness meditation and coloring are both so awesome. So far I have 12 women confirmed, none of whom I know.

I feel both excited and a bit scared – like, what am I doing???? What if I “do it wrong”? You know, the usually voices who have nothing helpful to say when you step out and do something new.

But that’s OK – I am focusing on the possibilities. And, I do know what I want to come out of this – some new friendships, some new conversations and an opportunity to grow and learn. Happy New Year!

Simple Advent

2015-11-29 16.58.30My Mom is Mrs. Clause. She knew how Christmas should be done and she did it to the nines. This included (but was not limited to) decorations, gifts, food, lights. I loved it and when I married I tried to do the same. At first, I had it covered, but add in my work as a pastor, having a child, and the season of advent became burdensome and exhausting.

So how might we approach advent and Christmas in a lightweight and low maintenance way? Here are some of the things I have tried over the last five years.

Ask, “what is the most important thing I want to experience this holiday season?” Asking this simple question gets to the heart of the matter and moves us from what matters to others to what matters to me. While this might seem selfish, it is actually a question to help you create the life you want to live. Living in a lightweight and low maintenance lifestyle pushes us to take responsibility for our holiday season instead of just doing what we have always done or giving that responsibility to someone else. What matters to you?  Spend time there. 

Simplify gifts. Several recent Facebook posts have invited people to give only 4 gifts this year. The formula is: a book to read, something to wear, an item you need and one thing you want. I like this. You might want to adjust the formula but overall I think it is doable.

When I pastored a local church, I invited parents to give only 3 toys per child. This idea came from the number of gifts the Magi brought the child Jesus. Parents liked this since it was easy to say to a child, “Look, Jesus got three gifts and if it was enough for Jesus, it’s enough for you.”

Practice Your Faith. In the hustle of this time of the year it is easy to miss out on the deep spiritual significance of this time. As a pastor I remember how chagrined folks would be on a Sunday afternoon when, after skipping worship Sunday morning, they would run into me at Target. Yes, it is busy, but don’t miss out on the season’s deeper meaning.  The simple practice of lighting the advent candle as a family, reading a devotional and attending worship moves the season into a powerful place. Christmas has something to teach us about ourselves, our world and our God, don’t miss it because of shopping.

Christmas is a time to remember how blessed we are, no matter what our circumstances. My daily prayer to help me live into this is: “For what has been, for what is, for what will be, I am grateful.”   May you find this season to be one of wonder, light and love.


Organizational Simplicity

2015-12-01 10.33.01Over the years I have tried all kinds of life & work organizational systems. I started with a Franklin Covey planner. I loved that paper planner. I had the big one and I used it for everything in my life but, it was especially key for leading a local church. Sermon ideas, meeting agendas, dreams for what we could do, plus all the necessary names and dates made it my “work Bible.”

As technology changed, I did too – I had the Palm Pilot, various Microsoft programs, and eventually my Apple calendar and David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) system.

I feel I am a productivity junkie and if something will help me get things done, I am happy to try it out.

Currently these are the best tools I have found:

Way of Life App – This app enables you to track activities that you’d like to cultivate – I track (among others) eating right, exercise, prayer. What I like is that I can set it up quickly (I use the pay version so I have unlimited items but you can start with the free version to try it out). What I have found is that tracking habits I want to cultivate grows them in my daily life. Now I floss, get up earlier and do daily reading because I track it.

Any.DO App – This app enables me keep a running list of work and personal tasks. The interface is fresh engaging (although when it calls me “princess” I do want to gag). I have used it for a couple of years and find its the best of the group.

Focus@will – This is an app that enables you to focus on your work through music. I used the free version for a while and found it worth the money so I upgraded recently. I make use of it at work to keep me focused but I also use it in the morning when I write and I have noticed a huge difference. (If you decide to sign up, let me know and I can get a free year for referring you!). I mostly use the “Baroque Piano” but I also am fond of the “Oct Beta Test” which is more techo music.

Action Day Weekly Planner: Each week I take my tasks from Any.DO and put them into my weekly calendar. I also write down my appointments so I can see everything together. This is the perfect combo of both electronic and paper for me as it lets me see everything in one place. The Action Day Planner is available through Amazon and comes in two sizes. After two years of the smaller one, I am making the leap to the larger one this year. I like that there are blank pages in the back – this enables me to put schedules, goals and projects in one place.

A Daily 3 by 5 Card: Each day, I look at the many things I could do and pick the three things I will do. I write them on the card that I leave on my desk, usually on top of my open Action Day Weekly Planner. This 3 by 5 card is actually the key to my productivity because it gives me a daily focus. I invested in some nicer cards and a Levenger folder to hold the cards so it is extra fun to use.

What simple tools make you more productive?

Train Trip Day 3

11/24/15 7:30 PM

12247155_10153347280583865_4110046340310252772_nUp at 5:30 AM and found we were almost in Kansas City – I opened my room’s drape to see the glowing red sign proclaiming, “Jack Stack BBQ.” I knew exactly where I was!

The conductor let us have a “fresh air break” at the trainstation and I paced back and forth by the train trying to wake up. Sadly, there was no bbq smell to enjoy. As we pullout out of the station, I pour a cup of coffee and got to writing.

It was a beautiful morning. Open fields, farmhouses and snow. Lots of snow. Dogs and horses, donkeys and emus. Only saw one Starbucks but saw hundreds of abandon homes in sad and beautiful states of decay.

I reread what I had written and tried to not get too caught up in trying to “fix” it. My time this week will be more enjoyable if I spend the bulk of it writing, not fixing what I don’t like. I am halfway done with a new chapter and am finding the committee in my head is quieter. Ate my lunch in my room and keep writing.

12246797_10153347282703865_6490883575727232364_nWe got in to Chicago by 3PM and I wandered around uncertain where to go and set up my computer for the 5 hours I had until we boarded the next train. Walked around upstairs and saw all the fast food, which did not look good at all.  I ended up finding that I had access to the Metropolitan Lounge where you get free coffee, wifi and lots of comfortable seating. There is even a Christmas tree in here.

Spent till 6:30 PM writing about the Eucharist and reading about the Maker movement. Read a magazine and confirmed yesterday’s suspicion that I hate magazines (they say nothing new). We board at 8:30 PM.

The new train has a different room set up.  There is a toilet and fold up sink which means the bed is not very wide.  I ate some pretzels and watched the first episode of The Royals. My attendant doesn’t make up my bed so I figure it out (mostly) and had a much better night’s sleep.

A good and long day.