10 ways to stay sane this summer

I’m a master of excess, at squeezing in one more thing. I buy too many things, but if I rearrange enough times, and get smart about alphabetizing or nesting or arranging by size—or if I buy just the right containers—I can get one more thing neatly put away. I’ve found ingenious ways to use hangers ...

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I’m a master of excess, at squeezing in one more thing.

I buy too many things, but if I rearrange enough times, and get smart about alphabetizing or nesting or arranging by size—or if I buy just the right containers—I can get one more thing neatly put away. I’ve found ingenious ways to use hangers and boxes and drawers for more than they’re meant to be used for. I’ve worked and reworked my bookshelves to hold one more book… and another couple or three… and this one and, oh, that one too… and finally started reading on an iPad because there just wasn’t physical room in my house for more novels, and I could get a whole lot more books in such a compact little digital space.

I do the same thing with my time. There’s always room to squeeze in one more thing… a 15-minute gap here, or down time while the spaghetti is cooking, or a few minutes less of sleep. I can write cards or finish my Bible study or assemble a craft while watching TV. Read books while eating breakfast. Upload daily social media posts for a whole month in one afternoon while I watch a movie with my husband. Condition my hair while I shave my legs. Answer emails from the bathroom. Clean out the fridge while the bagel is toasting, and load the dishwasher while my lunch is cooking in the microwave. (And then reload it to squeeze in four more cups I found scattered around the living room after I thought I was finished.) You know the drill. You do it, too.

Our lives aren’t meant to be so full. And yet, well, summer happens and it often brings even more to do.

If you’re anything like me, the mere mention of the word summer induces stress-related hives. Honestly, my kids are old enough that summers now aren’t all that different for me than the rest of the year. But I think I suffer from PTSD, because summers have usually meant more appointments—camps, summer PE, drop-offs and pick-ups and practices and summer reading and complete chaos. Not to mention kids invading my space. (I work at home, so it’s a big change to go from everyone at school to everyone home, just one room away from me with the TV on, phones vibrating, snacks being consumed, Netflix shows eating up the internet bandwidth, and cars barreling in and out of the driveway.)

Given all the craziness, what would you say if I told you that you also needed to find time to pray?

It’s true, though. Prayer is the way our souls find peace. It is the one place we can find rest. We can take it with us. We can lean on it and allow it to help us stand strong and firm. We can let prayer soothe our anxieties, declutter our minds, and keep us focused on the big picture—keeping our eyes on Christ. Even if you can’t find the time you think you need to pray.

Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated or involved or time-consuming. Think of it as a radio playing in the background. If you can keep the lines of communication open, you will discover that you feel calmer, you remain more centered, and life feels a little less crazy.

Here are some tips to help you squeeze in a little more prayer time this summer (or anytime).

  1. Let yourself off the hook. Give yourself grace—permission to be less than perfect and permission not to dwell on your failings. This may not help you find additional time, but it will allow you to use whatever time you have more productively. There’s nothing to be gained by beating yourself up—especially if it takes up time you could spend actually praying.
  2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Maybe now is not the time to start a new reading plan or add two new prayer groups. Don’t give up the things that keep your faith strong, but consider temporarily lowering your goals—or changing them, adapting to your new schedule. Instead of quiet time every morning, shoot for three times a week, or have it after you drop the kids off at swimming lessons.
  3. Find ways to incorporate your kids. Do you enjoy working on your Bible study over a cup of coffee one morning a week? Make a study date of it—have them grab their summer reading and sip on a flavored lemonade or fruity tea alongside you. Or sit at a picnic table with your Bible or journal while they play at the park.
  4. Make a set of keychain prayers. Cut up some index cards (or buy a set of pre-made craft tags) and put them on a keychain. When you find yourself waiting in a pickup line, or killing time in between activities in the car, flip through the names written on the tags and offer up silent prayers.
  5. Try an app like First 5, which helps you start the day with a short devotion and Bible reading before you get out of bed.
  6. Download some podcasts. It’s easy to add them to your phone, and then you can plug in some ear buds and get inspiration from your favorite speakers and pastors while you go for a walk, sit and watch swim lessons, or mow the yard.*
  7. Whenever you have to wait, don’t waste the time—pray. Whether you’re in the checkout line at the grocery, waiting for a train to clear the tracks in front of you, or sitting on the sidelines waiting for a baseball game to begin, offer up a short prayer. Thank God for the life you have, for the people you’re with, for your awareness of His presence. For the sunshine, for the beautiful day, for the purpose in your life. You can pray about anything, but the quickest (and least private) prayers may be ones of gratitude.
  8. Think in terms of prayer symbols. Does your sister love McDonald’s sweet tea? Say a prayer for her whenever you drive by (or through) a Mickey D’s. Is your son a soccer fanatic? Pray for him every time you pick up a cleat or dirty soccer sock. Assign “symbols” to the people in your life, and let those prompt you to pray whenever you see them—whether you’re on the go or watching TV.
  9. Print this free prayer prompt calendar. Put it on your fridge to remind you to pray whenever you open the door for some cool air or to grab a popsicle.
  10. Remember that God is with you, wherever you are. Whatever you’re doing. There may not be room for one more thing on your calendar, but there is always room for Him. Every morning, before you head out, invite Him along for the ride. I promise you, He will say yes.


*I don’t want to be obnoxiously self-promotional, but I’m part of an amazing lineup of women in an online summit scheduled for June 5-8. If I didn’t think it was going to be wonderful, I wouldn’t have said anything :-). The Journey Summit is free if you tune in live, or you can buy an all-access pass to hear all the interviews anytime it’s convenient. Learn more here.

The Journey Together Summit

Friends, Today, I am overjoyed to share a FREE online event I’m confident you’ll love: The Journey Together Summit, June 5-8. I’m joining hands with 34 leading authors—some really amazing women—with the sole mission of helping you discover new bravery. Whether you desire to be brave at home or at work, in your marriage or with ...

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Friends,

Today, I am overjoyed to share a FREE online event I’m confident you’ll love: The Journey Together Summit, June 5-8.

I’m joining hands with 34 leading authors—some really amazing women—with the sole mission of helping you discover new bravery. Whether you desire to be brave at home or at work, in your marriage or with your children, in ministry or in the mess of the day, dealing with a surprising life or just organizing it—this is the event for you. There is something for everyone with over 34 topics of fear covered (wait ’til you see them all!).

We’re also featuring an awesome line-up of authors who will give you practical, relevant and biblical tips for stepping into peace, purpose, and passion.

This is an event you won’t want to miss! Afraid you can’t “be there”? Don’t worry!

The 2017 Journey Together Summit is a FREE, VIRTUAL online conference!

You don’t have to travel—we bring the interviews to you! They’ll be broadcast over the web, so you can watch from the comfort of home.

What’s more? It’s FREE. Check out the lineup and see the agenda here. I can’t believe I get to be part of this.

 

So what are you waiting for? Join me and 34 other experts at the 2017 Journey Together Summit. Grab your FREE ticket today! And, if you can’t attend June 5-8, we have you covered. Get the All Access Pass and you’ll be able to watch the videos post-event.

I can’t wait to see you there! And I hope you’ll invite a bunch of your friends to join you. It’s a great way to initiate meaningful conversations and share this journey we’re on together.

Kelly

P.S. You can download my brand new e-book on prayer — for free — when you subscribe to my newsletter. Click here to sign up.

Revealing the Truth—interview

Just wanted to share this with you, if you have a little spare time and want to hear us talk about prayer. Rabbi Eric Walker is a great interviewer and a talented speaker—check out his show, Revealing the Truth, on Igniting a Nation right here....

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Just wanted to share this with you, if you have a little spare time and want to hear us talk about prayer. Rabbi Eric Walker is a great interviewer and a talented speaker—check out his show, Revealing the Truth, on Igniting a Nation right here.

Go ahead. Write, draw, color, doodle in your Bible. It’s OK (and I can help).

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to talk to a Bible journaling group about my book, Designed to Pray—specifically, the meanings of different colors and how those meanings can “color” and inspire your prayers. (If you have my book, the material came from Week 8.) Now, I’m not one who’s afraid to write in her ...

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A few months ago, I had the opportunity to talk to a Bible journaling group about my book, Designed to Pray—specifically, the meanings of different colors and how those meanings can “color” and inspire your prayers. (If you have my book, the material came from Week 8.)

Now, I’m not one who’s afraid to write in her Bible. I put the dates that I read or was taught a passage, the name of the person the verse makes me think of, phrases of other translations or word meanings for clarification, and so on. With my art background, you wouldn’t think I would be afraid to draw in my Bible, either. But the truth is, when it came time to get to work, I was intimidated. I looked at the works of art created by some of the other women there and was in awe. I didn’t have the right tools, I don’t know the techniques—and since my biceps tendon repair surgery last spring, I just don’t quite have the same control I once had.

But I’d already put together some traceables for the class to use—which are simply illustrations of some of the key verses from that chapter of my book. And I was there, and I had some colored pencils and a black marker with me, so I tried it.

As you’ll see in my photos, these are not great works of art, nor do they need to be. But I got to see first-hand what so many people have already discovered (as the current trend can attest). It was fun. I like paying special attention to certain key words. Offering my scribbles as a form of prayer. Letting the words, the meanings, resonate in my soul as I spend time in this book that has changed me.

So I want to offer this set of 12 traceables to you (free even if you don’t subscribe to my newsletter; this link should take you directly there). Print them and then trace them into your Bible or a journal. Embellish. Change them. Or just trace them as you thank God for what He’s saying in those words.

And if you just don’t have it in you to try this, consider printing them to use as bookmarks. That works, too.

As you can see, I just used my NIV Life Application Study Bible, which I love love love. Right after I had my surgery last year, I got to review the Beautiful Word Bible —a great choice if you want to buy a Bible just for this, because it has wide margins and some verses already illustrated for inspiration.

Click here to download, and please share them with anyone who might be interested. Now go, and never hesitate to write in your books. Make them your own!

 

 

You, my child, are my favorite!

I have one younger sister, Kerry. Our dad, who loves us completely and totally and with an unconditional love, has a standing joke when we call: “Is this the pretty one or the smart one?” After all these years, it still makes me laugh, and depending on how I feel that day, I give him ...

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I have one younger sister, Kerry. Our dad, who loves us completely and totally and with an unconditional love, has a standing joke when we call: “Is this the pretty one or the smart one?” After all these years, it still makes me laugh, and depending on how I feel that day, I give him a different answer. We both know he thinks both of us are pretty and smart. My dad has found a way to always let us know we’re special to him. If you would ask Kerry, she’d claim she’s his favorite. I, of course, know better. (Because I’m pretty and smart.)

One night, when my friend Sandee and I were talking, she said, “Don’t you ever, sometimes, imagine that you are God’s favorite—just for that moment?” At the time, I couldn’t say that I did. I wasn’t important enough. I didn’t know Him well enough. The only thing I knew was that I was jealous. I didn’t even know I wanted that special distinction until I heard her talk about it.

And yet, in spite of my actual qualifications, God looks at me and says, “Is this the pretty one or the smart one? The faithful one or the prodigal? The one who’s with Me all the time or the one who just found her way back?” And whatever the answer, it doesn’t matter. He already knows. He holds out His arms in welcome and says, “You, My child, are My favorite.”

How can that be? It makes no sense to us, particularly as women who are conditioned to compare ourselves to others (usually finding ourselves lacking in the ways we measure up). We’re too fat, too short, too insecure. We’ve become conditioned to expect the reward to be commensurate with our abilities. If we’re talented, we will succeed. If we’re pretty, we will find a man.

It’s a short step to apply that concept to “if we’re faithful, God will like us.”

God wants us to be more like Him, but He takes us just as we are—and multiplies what we have into something more. I love color and words and design. To me, there’s nothing more exciting than hearing people’s stories about God, but I’m an introvert. So God has filled my life with clients who have become friends and provided opportunities to talk about Him. He’s used my love of design and writing to allow me to tell people about Him without having to stand in front of crowds on a stage. Of course, He’s given me opportunities to do that, too, because He sees potential even when I do not.

Romans 12:6-8 says, “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”

See? He doesn’t want to make you into something you’re not. He wants to make you into the most-fully-you possible. Don’t shy away from that. Figure out what you’re good at, what you love, what you need, and embrace it. It is only when we fully express ourselves, pouring it all out for Him, that we become fully alive. When we operate from that place, God becomes visible. Removes obstacles. Relieves fears. Opens doors.

And shows Himself to be more than we ever hoped.


Pray with me? Heavenly Father, as we’re starting a new year, help us embrace who we are—who You made us to be. Let us relinquish control and let You lead. Help us to humble ourselves and step back to let You shine. You can take what meager things we have to offer and make something spectacular. You’re the one who can change lives—but we pray that You will use us as instruments of that change. Thank You for the individual, personal, unique gifts You have given to each of us; help us remember that they’re all gifts from You, and one person’s gifts aren’t better than another’s. Let us be content in the way You made us and know You love us just as we are. Help us to love others with the kind of unconditional, generous love You show us. And let us believe that we are all that You say we are. That we are pretty, and smart. That we are loved. That we are yours. No matter what we do or don’t do, no matter how outstanding or inadequate our abilities are.

Together, Lord, we will do amazing things. Thank You for letting me walk with You. Amen.


This is an excerpt from my book, Designed to Pray, with a new prayer added. 

Dreaming in purple

As we head into the new year, most of us spend some time thinking about the past year and dreaming about what the new year could be—what we want to accomplish, what we hope for those we love, and how we will rededicate ourselves to spending time with God. Today, print this coloring page and ...

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As we head into the new year, most of us spend some time thinking about the past year and dreaming about what the new year could be—what we want to accomplish, what we hope for those we love, and how we will rededicate ourselves to spending time with God. Today, print this coloring page and let yourself dream by writing your dreams, hopes, and prayers in the sections around the coloring image. If you’ll share some of your hopes in the comments below, I’ll pray with you.


PURPLE: With the energy of red and the integrity of blue, purple (also called violet) represents imagination and dreams, a link between the physical and spiritual. Ambitious and self-assured, violet shows creativity and imagination, inspiration and originality, and traditionally has been used to depict royalty.

Ruler of All, Your originality and creativity are unending. You’ve given me the ability to dream big and without limits. But no dream I have will ever fulfill me if You’re not the One inspiring it, the driving force and the creative energy behind it. Help me to see that You really are in all things. Just as purple is the combination of these two colors, You are both the passion and love of red and the stability and strength of blue. You provide imagination and desire. Help me dream, Lord, with the magnitude and vision befitting of a child of the King of kings. Let Your dreams for me become my own. And provide all that I need to make them come true. Amen.

(Purple info excerpted from Designed to Pray.)

Everything you could possibly ever need

Well, maybe it’s not an entirely exhaustive list :-). As you think about what you will study, how you might adjust your prayer life (journaling habits, Bible study, and so on), and what you hope to accomplish this year, I thought it might be helpful to give you a list of some resources that are available here ...

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Well, maybe it’s not an entirely exhaustive list :-). As you think about what you will study, how you might adjust your prayer life (journaling habits, Bible study, and so on), and what you hope to accomplish this year, I thought it might be helpful to give you a list of some resources that are available here on my site.

Prayer Prompt Calendars—every month I create a new calendar, roughly centered on a random theme. By subscribing to my monthly e-newsletter, you will receive the link to download each calendar as soon as it’s ready. Print this and hang it on your fridge, tack it on the wall by your computer, or keep it in your journal or Bible to help you jump-start your prayers—and hopefully, along the way, expand your awareness of the importance of prayer and the needs all around us. Here is this month’s calendar for you to check out (without subscribing)—hope you like it enough to sign up to get new ones every month!


Designed to Pray


Praying Upside Down


A to Z prayer cards*—print these free downloads and use to help incorporate learning into prayer time with your child…or just for yourself!


Wallpaper downloads for your phone on computer—currently, I only have one design available, but hope to create more soon!


10 Ways to Love” printable—a list of scriptures to remind us of what’s important—how to show love in our daily life. Available in gray or in white.


*If you’re not already a subscriber, you’ll have to sign up for my newsletter to access these.

 

Why you need to go buy a newspaper right now. (And not for the kind of reason you’re expecting.)

This week, to prepare for leading the group study of my book, Designed to Pray, I did one of the exercises from the book. It sounds simple—but I’d never actually physically done what I ...

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[I am not debating any issues or discussing either candidate or their followers, so please don’t be afraid to read on.]

This week, to prepare for leading the group study of my book, Designed to Pray, I did one of the exercises from the book. It sounds simple—but I’d never actually physically done what I suggested.

The basic idea is this: Take a newspaper and a marker. Go through the paper and write your prayers on top of the news stories as you pray.

That’s it. Sounds simple enough, right?

But let me tell you: It was powerful. Not because of me—at all—but because God is in it whenever we genuinely seek Him.

If you’re anything like me, you are troubled by this election. And for me, it’s not just the election or the candidates or the issues. My turmoil is all tied up in my beliefs about what Christianity is or should be and how we, as Christians, are called to represent God. It’s concern about how we’re acting, how people outside the church have come to view Christians, whether we’re living what we believe, etc. It’s complicated and discouraging. I can get so worked up so easily. These are big, big picture thoughts with long-ranging implications. Sometimes it feels like it’s all just too much.

But this exercise put things back into perspective.

Especially because I happened to write the words in red marker (just as the words of Jesus are often printed in red). My prayers are not the powerful part of this. It’s the image, the physical and tangible representation, of God’s ways and God’s power and God’s promises having the final word.

It’s about stepping back and realizing that God is bigger than these issues.

It’s about praying with an open heart, one turned towards God, that helps me see something less personally and more from God’s perspective.

It’s about taking our prayers away from the “I wants” and turning them into “thy will be done.”

It’s about remembering that, whatever happens, God is in control. He has overcome the world already. He is victorious. Nothing is too large that He cannot stop it. Nothing is too complicated that He cannot fix it. Nothing we or anyone could do will ever thwart the good and perfect will of God.

Honestly, I can’t begin to see what good could possibly come from so many of these situations. But what I do know is that no one on earth is perfect. Our leaders can fail. Our fellow Christians can fall. Our faith may waver from time to time.

But God remains on the throne. He is always God, and always good.

So let me encourage you, before this election (or anytime after), get a newspaper, even if you have to go to the store just to buy one. You can do this mentally with online or TV news, but I don’t think anything can replace the act of writing over the news. It gives us a way to feel as though we’ve regained a little bit of control. It lets us see that, no matter how important these events are, God is greater.

And right now, I think all of us could stand a little bit of peace in our souls.


Here is the actual excerpt from the book.

How to Pray When the World Overwhelms You

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world. —John 16:33

Call me an ostrich, if you will, because I spend more time with my head buried in the sand than above it. When I read or watch the news, my soul withers. My heart hurts, and sorrow overwhelms me. Not all news is bad, of course, but that seems to be what is always emphasized. I need to remember—and maybe you do too—that although we will face all kinds of horrific things, devastation does not get the final word. God does. He triumphs in the end, and we have to hold on to that truth, whatever horrors or evils we witness.

DIRECTIONS: Pick up a newspaper and a magic marker. As you skim the stories, let yourself feel anger or grief, sadness or righteous indignation. But don’t let yourself get bogged down by despair, because God is bigger than every single one of these stories. Take your marker and pen your prayer right over the stories. Heal her. Bring hope. Shine Your light. Help me not to despair. Reveal Yourself. Restore. Renew. Fix it, Lord. Show mercy. Bring justice. Redeem lost time. Thank You.

(Taken from Week 7 Day 3 of Designed to Pray)

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Need a little hope today?

Just wanted to send this little reminder today… when you’re struggling with something, large or small, take a minute to pray. The very act of prayer is motivated by hope, and it will make a difference. If you need specific prayer, please send me an email (kellyostanley@me.com). I’d be honored to pray for you....

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Just wanted to send this little reminder today… when you’re struggling with something, large or small, take a minute to pray. The very act of prayer is motivated by hope, and it will make a difference. If you need specific prayer, please send me an email (kellyostanley@me.com). I’d be honored to pray for you.

Inspired by Kevin Bacon to connect the dots in prayer

I took a humanities course during my freshman year of college. As much as I now love to read and write, discussing classic literature right after lunchtime made me especially sleepy—warm classroom, full tummy, and the lack of sleep caused by the near all-nighters I pulled regularly as an architecture major. But one day the lesson woke me up because my professor was ...

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I took a humanities course during my freshman year of college. As much as I now love to read and write, discussing classic literature right after lunchtime made me especially sleepy—warm classroom, full tummy, and the lack of sleep caused by the near all-nighters I pulled regularly as an architecture major.

But one day the lesson woke me up because my professor was describing stream of consciousness. Developed by a group of writers in the early twentieth century, it was meant to express the flow of thoughts and feelings in a character’s mind. It relates to the way one thought triggers another and then another, and before you know it, you’re in a whole new place. I thought, Finally! That’s what you call the way I think!

If “stream of consciousness” sounds too fancy, think about “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” It’s a game based on the concept of six degrees of separation, which supposes that any two people on earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. In this game, people challenge each other to find the shortest path between an arbitrary actor and Kevin Bacon.

You can put this thought process—the concept of making connections and seeing how interrelated we all are—to work in your prayers. Because we’re all connected, one way or another.

DIRECTIONS: Write the name of someone important to you in the center of the page. Who or what is connected to that person? His or her children? Businesses? Relatives? Spouse? Draw lines from the original name, connecting them to others. Thoughts of one child might make you think of someone else’s child. Draw lines between them. Praying for one friend’s marriage may remind you of another couple who needs prayer. Diagram the trajectory of your prayers, noticing the parallels and intersections.

Look below at two samples—one centering on my pastors and best friends, Nathan and Peggy, and one centering on a concept (in this case, marriage). Experiment with different starting points and see where your mind takes you. Click here to download a blank worksheet or just start mapping your prayers on a blank sheet of paper.

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Designed to Pray coverThe exercise above is from Week 3 | Day 3 of my new book, Designed to Pray: Creative Ways to Engage with God. I hope you’ll take a minute to check it out. It’s a different kind of book. Whether you’ve been praying for a long time or are just beginning to, this eight-week adventure will infuse passion and creativity into your communication with God. Filled with daily activities—everything from coloring pages to writing prompts to doodling—it’s an innovative way to start viewing God, the world around you, and your faith with a new perspective.

This website and its content are copyright of Kelly O'Dell Stanley  | © Kelly O'Dell Stanley 2017. All rights reserved.

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