Monday, December 27, 2010

An Invitation to Rest

by Tracey Bianchi

Christmas has passed, but many of us are still cleaning up packages, running to stores to return gifts that didn’t quite fit and hosting company who well, let’s face it, still need to eat. Before we crash into another year, let’s take one more moment to reflect on the lessons we can learn from a teenage girl on a cold winter night.

The Christmas Story is dripping with estrogen. There is perhaps no other time of year when we camp out for an entire month on the adventures God placed inside the heart of a woman. And as Christmas gives way to our ordinary time we would be wise to linger a bit and consider two life and leadership lessons we can glean from Mary during Advent.

First, according to the angel who visited her, Mary “was highly favored.” In a moment of awe and splendor, overcome by the sheer exhilaration, terror and mystery of the angel’s visit, Mary was told that she had found great favor with God.

What would your reaction be if an angel stopped by to present God’s call on your life and proclaim God’s favor? Shock and disbelief would be my first thoughts, but if I consider this a bit longer, I find myself overwhelmed by an unsettling fear. A fear that I may not even recognize that angel or understand God’s favor. A fear that if an angel stopped to visit me I’d most likely consider it an imposition on my day, a wrinkle in my smooth schedule; an idea that haunts me as I recall that the book of Hebrews makes it clear we can entertain angels unaware.

My pace of my life is such that I am afraid I’d miss the divine moment.

So how did Mary live that she would have found enough favor with God to carry divinity in her womb? My hunch is that she was not one to crash through life with reckless speed, a Blackberry and enough caffeine to keep her talking from sunrise to sunset. Instead, she lived in such a way that she sensed poignant moments and stopped to take notice.

In Mary we find an invitation to slow down and rest, to fully listen, to engage every moment and to consider what sort of life-pace invites God to visit us. We also see that this woman had partners for the journey. Carolyn Custis James once noted that Joseph lined up behind Mary’s calling. His devotion to her and his desire to take on a social and economic struggle on her behalf was a powerful reminder of our invitation to support one another.

To fully live into God’s callings we must have friends, partners, supporters. Our lives, fully alive in Christ, will bring us to be these support systems for others as well as asking others for this same structure in our lives. Sometimes this means slowing down long enough to recognize when we need help and being wise enough to get over ourselves and ask for it.

As women and leaders we need to pause the multi-tasking, go-it-alone machines that many of us have become in order to tap into the divine, holy moments of our days where God whispers a call in our ear. As we enter this new year let us consider how to live extraordinary lives in our ordinary time.

Tracey Bianchi is a freelance writer, Women’s Pastor and speaker. Her book “Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet” (Zondervan) is available on Amazon.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Cup Runneth Amok

By Deborah Layman

Is anyone here old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan Show? It was the first variety show on TV. One of my favorite acts was the Plate-Spinner – the guy who would start a plate spinning on a tall, slender pole, and then add more and more plates spinning on poles – running back and forth to keep all the plates spinning. Can you relate?

What if I told you that I'm convinced there's a way to keep your plates spinning – to do everything you want and need and ought to do, while walking in peace – not stress – through your days? What if I told you that the first step to getting out from under your life and getting on top of it is not about time management or prioritizing or hiring a nanny, but is a physical fix?

The answer: Build Stamina. Literally.

To tackle your “to do” list with grace and efficiency, functioning at full capacity and giving 100% in all arenas, you have to strengthen your body, fuel it properly, and treat it right. It's the vehicle that carries you through the day from carpool to laundry to office to classroom to church to kitchen to bedroom and back again.

It's simple – Make up your mind and do what you know is good for you: Exercise and Eat Healthy Food.

Need to lose ten pounds? Twenty-five? Fifty? Lose them. If you're carrying around extra weight, it’s no wonder you feel tired and strung out! Start eating sensibly – any healthy diet plan will do – and stick to it.

If you have trouble kicking off an exercise program, start walking. It's the easiest way for a busy woman to exercise because you can do it wherever you are – in a neighborhood, around an office park, on a country road, on city streets. Start slow if you need to and work towards walking farther and faster. Your body will be capable of more as you build your stamina.

I reclaimed my body a few years ago, and I won't let it go again. I wish I had started years earlier, but I was, I thought, too busy to exercise and, goodness, I had to eat that piece of pie because I needed fuel just to make it through the day! Thirty pounds later, I was not feeling my prettiest or healthiest. I made up my mind one day when I looked in the mirror and heard myself whine, “I want my body back!”

Now I've learned that exercise builds energy and fresh air clears my mind. I feel healthy and I accomplish more with less angst and more satisfaction.

I realize it’s less than a week before Christmas, and not necessarily the most ideal time to start a new regimen, but it's a good time to think ahead to the new year. So get ready to shine up those vessels, sisters, and be mindful of what you put in them. A strong, healthy woman serving the Lord can do a lot of good.

Deborah R. Layman, a native New Yorker, is a writer, producer and marketing consultant based near Birmingham, Alabama. She is the mother of three grown sons and has a reputation for being opinionated and bossy, but it’s for your own good. Read her blog at

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Truth About Busyness

By Suanne Camfield

We’re just so busy.

In all the years I had known her, the answer was always the same.

“Why don’t you guys take some time out, just for the two of you?”

We’re just so busy.

One day it dawned on me that we’d been having the same conversation for eight years. The ugly truth was that there was always going to be another project to tackle, another sports team to coach, another ministry to lead, another box to check off the infinite to-do list.

At the time, accepting this truth: how we lived a perpetually busy life was what mattered—and preaching it to my friend wasn’t that difficult because my own life wasn’t moving at such a lightening-quick pace.

But, as you know, leaders get antsy when they’re not in the throes. Over the years, my pace has continued to swell. This fall it turned into a full-on sprint when I went back to work for the first time in almost nine years. Always running a step behind, I feel like I never give my full attention to any one thing. Paradoxically, I’ve never been more energized by my God-given calling. The ping-pong match between passions—family and living out my influence—is maddening.

So I’ve been searching (somewhat desperately, borderline neurotically) for someone a few stages ahead to flip me the magic pill. I grab women’s hands across dinner tables, I plead with them on the phone, I stare them down in church hallways and I beg them to tell me they’ve figured out how to make it all work.

And, more directly, to tell me that I will too.

But none of them will say the words, because they know the truth I spewed at my friend years ago: There will never come a day, no matter how old or seasoned we get, when our boxes are checked, when our kids don’t need us, when we are void of God’s passion to make a difference; when we kick up our feet and finally declare, “Whew, I just can’t quite find enough things to do.”

Strangely, the non-answers have been reassuring. They teach me that God transforms our hearts in spite of the chaos, maybe even because of it. I’m clutching the wisdom of those who have gone before me, like soaking in Nancy Ortberg’s acumen of cultivating a well-ordered heart; like learning from a Thai missionary (via blogger Helen Lee) that balance can be viewed over a lifetime, not days; like shifting perspective by ingesting Mary Byers’ epiphany of rejecting balance and instead holistically integrating the people and passion in our lives. If you haven’t yet read this issue of FullFill™ on Balance (because you’re so busy), can I encourage you to click through right now and take a peek? ADD LINK TO MAG HERE.

Don’t get me wrong, given the choice, I’d still pop the magic pill. But rather than striving to perfect that which is elusive, I’ll instead choose to engage the process, accepting the messiness that is life, asking questions of those who know better, making corrections when I fail and doing my best to honor God and the people in my life along the way.

So tell me friend, what are you learning about juggling life?

Suanne Camfield is a writer, speaker and manager of the FullFill Blog. She is also a member of and blog editor for the Redbud Writer’s Guild ( You can read her musings about faith, life and writing at her blog