Patience and Peace

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every efforts to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

Life is full of ups and downs. I used to naively think that once I got to a certain point in life, there would less downs, but I have to come realize that, well, this just isn’t true. See, life is not predictable. It is not stable. It ebbs and flows without much warning. If that surprised you, I’m sorry to be the one to break the news. But, stick me with me because I have much better news for you!

I know the importance of staying (or trying to stay) joyful in all circumstances. In trying to accomplish this difficult “task,” I have tried to focus on being patient and peaceful. Patience for what is to be and peaceful for what is now. And, then, I heard a lesson that turned this a little on its head.

Paul writes in his letter to Ephesus that they (and, really, WE) should “live a life worthy of the calling” (v 4:1). In order to do so, they (and, again, WE) should be humble. Gentle. Patient. Forbearing. Peaceful. The two “P” words stuck with me because I have been focused on them for myself. But, then I realized this truth:

It’s not about me.

You see, my life is not my own. I should be much more focused on others than I am on myself. I should be focusing on patience and peace, but not just for myself. Instead, I should focus on demonstrating these traits in action towards others. Besides, we can’t escape the fact that if we focus on others, we are less focused on ourselves…which means we are less worried, less self-centered, less selfish. All good things!

Friends, as we go through life’s ups and downs, perhaps we can try to be more patient with others. And more peaceful. And also more humble and gentle and forbearing. Knowing that if we focus on others, placing them above ourselves, we will be living a life worthy of the awesome calling we have received. As we are more likely to experience the patience and peace we were seeking to begin with.

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Top Ten Travel Tips

#10 Leave in plenty of time. Whether you are driving to the airport or your final destination, leaving enough time for traffic, breaks, etc will lower your stress. When we’re in a rush, we start to have crazy thoughts like, “Everyone get out of my way…this road was made just for me!” And, then, road rage starts to hit us. Or, like me, you may be stopped by airport security asking if you are okay to fly because you have run through the airport like a mad woman and your asthma has kicked in. #DoNotLetThisHappenToYou
#9 Pack light but be prepared. There are LOTS of good reasons for this. While you do want to be prepared for whatever and wherever your travels might lead, packing too much can be a pain. Literally and figuratively! It can be exhausting and frustrating to lug around tons of heavy bags. And, it’s always good to leave space in your luggage in case you want to bring anything new home with you (like all those free books you get at a conference or the new cowboy boots you just HAVE to buy once you’ve arrived in the southwest).
#8 Bring your own snacks. Anyone with kids knows this is a must; however, I think it’s a must for adults too. This will allow you to cut down on expenses and stops, and can also help keep you on track health-wise. Come on, we all tell ourselves calories don’t count at the holidays, but…you know they do. And why waste calories on fast food and gas station snacks when you can save them up for your mama’s home cooking? And now, it’s so easy to buy individually packaged snacks or buy in bulk and divide up into little baggies. So, really, no excuses!
#7 Have some cash handy, but not too much. It’s hard to believe there was a time when everything was paid for with cash. Since credit cards and debit cards have become the norm, we often neglect to make sure we have cash on us. Even though most places can take cards (even some toll roads!), you can never be too sure. Plus, instead of using a card for a dollar here and a dollar there, you can manage your budget and keep your checkbook balanced a lot easier when dealing in cash. BUT. Don’t carry too much cash because you may be at risk of, well, being robbed.
#6 Be very careful about public computers and public internet. Even though I had my laptop, I decided that using the hotel computer would be handier. Big mistake. My email was hacked, my contact list stolen, and hundreds of loved ones were told I was in a foreign country with no money to get home. Thank God no one sent a western union! The moral of this story is to be very careful about using public computers. Be as sure as you can that they are as secure as possible and don’t decide to do your banking at the local <insert the name of a cheap hotel chain here>. (Hey, I stay there too!)
#5 Don’t leave gifts in your car. Yep, I’ve done that too. And, yes, they were stolen. Sigh. If you are spending the night in a hotel as you’re driving to your destination, make sure you bring everything of value inside. I would even be cautious about leaving too much in the trunk unless you must.
#4 Check the weather for your destination. This will help you as you prepare for packing and making plans for your visit. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, if you are traveling to the northwest, midwest, north, or high altitudes…you are at risk for some wintery weather. Make allowances for that.
#3 Speaking of money, set a travel budget. Know how much you are going to spend so that you don’t get caught up in vacation mode and the holiday spirit…and overspend. Have you ever seen the King of Queens episode where the lead characters go on a vacation and as they are overspending they find out their house needs a major repair? They spend the rest of the time pinching pennies while at their dream destination. Don’t let that become you!
#2 Make reservations. Early. Whether it’s plane tickets or hotel reservations, do your homework to get the best rates and make sure you book early. I heard that booking on Tuesday afternoons can reward you with the best rates. I tried it and found it to be true. But that may just be me. :)
#1 And the number one travel tip I have is…when trekking by car, and nature calls, stop and use a hotel lobby bathroom. Select one in a nice area, and you are sure to find a clean, safe restroom…almost guaranteed to have no line!

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Five Tips for Managing Holiday Stress…

Stress is a problem for many people year round, but there is something about the holidays that tends to cause an increase in stress for some. It makes sense because, well, there’s a lot more to be stressed about. Dealing with travelling, too many meals where we eat too much, spending more money than we typically do, being around family more than we usually are…it can all add up to negative stress, also called distress. But, what is a person to do about all this stress?

Here are a few tips:

1)    Don’t set your expectations too high. Rid yourself now of the illusion that your holiday season will be perfect. While the mantra is “peace on earth,” there surely won’t be peace everywhere you go. Traffic will abound. Irritated shoppers will surround. And there is no doubt that at least a moment or two of your holidays will be spent frustrated about something or the other. Just accept it.

2)    Speaking of acceptance, accept that things won’t go perfectly as planned. Even if you have what you believe to be realistic expectations, things still won’t be completely smooth. And sometimes those things are beyond our control. For example, I recall one Christmas when a Christmas gift I was hiding in my car was stolen. I was so disappointed, but I had to accept that the gift was not the focus of the season. And the person who did not receive that gift was okay with it too.

3)    Don’t over-do. Instead, focus on a few areas that you can really enjoy. For example, it’s likely that most churches in your area will have Christmas events. Don’t try and go to all of them. Instead, choose one or two that you are most interested in, and plan on those. Same with gift gifting and charity work. You can’t do it all or give it all, so decide now what is most important and focus your time and attention on those things.

4)    Along those same lines, make sure that you schedule down time. Nights where you and your family have no plans except to spend time at home. Maybe that will involve sitting in front of a fire drinking hot cocoa, watching a Christmas movie, decorating cookies or a tree, or simply sitting quietly while listening to your favorite Christmas tunes or reading that cherished Christmas book. Whether or not you live alone, you can benefit from time alone. If you live alone and feel lonely during this time of year, intentionally plan to spend time with others. Even if you are away from family and/or friends, you can get involved in a local church or volunteer to surround yourself with others.

5) And, above all, spend time focusing on what really matters this season. This needs no further explanation!

Many blessings for a joyous Christmas season,

Laurel :)

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