Productivity Planning

Day 63-

What a week! I started to work less at my traditional job in preparation to start my new job. My soul needs to rest. I also need to pick-up the pace of my photography business. I have far too many goals and ambitions to fit into each home business day. If I am not careful I will become anxious over my to-do list instead of allowing my soul to rest in the midst of creativity and productivity.

I rested yesterday. I spent the day with my birthday girl, who turned 4. Because it was my focus to be with her and to be present, I had near to nothing on my goal list. I ran to her beck and call. I laughed with her and hugged her often. I felt refreshed after making it her day. 

Today I was back at it. The morning was crammed full with tasks on my to-do lists. I maintain to-do lists in my mind for my new job, my business, my side hustle idea and my personal goals. I am well aware that the bullet points on my written to-do list are greater than I can accomplish in a week. I also know I could be quickly overwhelmed and start to worry that I wouldn’t accomplish enough during these two hours without children in the house. 

In order to stave off my overwhelmed mind for as long as possible I divided up my work. For the first hour I decided to focus on my photography business. I caught up on emails and planning only for my business. Once these tasks were complete and I went to the budget. Editing finished up my hour. I worked until everything for my business was complete. The next hour was for my new job. I have deadlines for two certifications I have to complete so I need to be focused. This morning I gave it my all for one hour.

I did get overwhelmed, but not until later. I had left a few home things off my to-do list and when I remembered them in the afternoon I felt anxious thoughts rising. My good friend (like a little sister) was my go-to and she brought me back to God’s plan for my life. I helped me cut off those thoughts, refocus and press on. 

Knowing my soul needs to rest, I need to find tactful ways to rest as well as to be productive. This afternoon I took time to study for a test while I watched a movie with my little one. She is thrilled when I am close by even when she wants to do her own thing. It brings rest to my soul to be near her for such extended amounts of time. 

Intervention: Continue making to-do lists, but schedule the time for each one or groups of them in each category of my life. Once the time or task is up, let it go until next set-time. I know this isn’t realistic every time, but on set-aside days this will be helpful. 

P.S. I grocery shopped online and picked up my order at the store for the first time today too! Life changing? We will see!

-ST

Date with God

Day 51-

My brain won’t turn off. I obsess over the next best thing. It’s no joke. I go to sleep planning my next project and wake up having dreamt about it. Annoying for sure. My mind has to be busy. No wonder I’m tired. If I’m not anxious about something I am moving at top speed to the next thing.

I have realized this while looking for a new job. Thankfully, I think I’m nearing the end of this process. I was beginning to obsess about job postings. I was writing and rewriting my resume. I have so many versions of my cover letter I’m not sure which one went to whom. Since I began to back off on my job search, my mind went to the next thing.

On Tuesday I was finally on overload. I couldn’t keep anything straight. I needed what I call a “Date with God”. In college I began to take dates with God. My friends were going on dates and I wanted to as well. I took God out to coffee shops or out to dinner. These dates became essential for my soul health.

I carved out time in my schedule and today I went on a Date with God. The plan during these dates is to study God’s Word, to journal, to pray and to stay until I feel released to leave. I can’t quite explain the release, but a lightness of sorts descends over my body, my mind and my heart. I breath easier and leave refreshed. 

The topics of my Dates with God have always different each time. I start with an idea of a topic and pick a passage to start reading. I pray for God to lead me where he wants me to go with him. Today’s topic started on bringing my burdens to God. I wanted to process my stress over leaving one job and finding another one. My date started in Psalm 55 which my pastor taught on it this past week. 

God moved my heart towards him and took me to Psalm 56:3-4a (Message Version)

When I get really afraid I come to you in trust. I’m proud foo praise God: fearless now, I trust in God.

During my date my fears, which propel my mind and my heart to run in circles, quieted. I rested my tired and overwhelmed soul. I slowed my pace, refocused by putting my fears into God’s hands, and returned worship to my tongue. God was gracious to be present and linger with me as I went through this process with him.

Here is the prescription for a Date with God. 

  • Find a place where there are no other distractions. For me, it is a coffee shop. Bring money for the coffee or the treat you want. This is important. This is not a time for worrying about calories. It is a time to bring enjoyment to this experience. If you are saving money, you can go somewhere free. I have driven up mountains and sat in my car enjoying a view. I have sat in a park with my water bottle. I have walked on a path or even sat in my favorite chair in my house. I prefer a coffee shop because I can zone into my date easily.
  • Bring the stuff you want. I have worship music on my phone with earphones. The music is just loud enough to drown out the world around me. You don’t have to buy music to have this experience. Spotify, Amazon, Pandora and YouTube all have free playlists with amazing music for your dates. I bring a journal, my Bible, my Bible study stuff, a pen I love to write with, and my computer if I want to write after. You may need tissues for tears. There is no shame in tears. They can be healing and God-given.
  • Time is important. Schedule it and keep it safe. This is hard to do. I recommend carving two hours for your date, if possible, so you don’t feel rushed. You won’t be bored. You might be released in a shorter time. You may also need to post-pone the end until later that day. That’s okay too, but don’t cut yourself short. If you only have 30 minutes, give it to God. If you can choose to linger, give him all the time he needs to restore you.
  • Be present. Pray for God to center your mind on what you are there to do. Slow your mind and be with him. Sit at his feet and stay there. The only time it has been hard to sit with Jesus is when I stubbornly avoid repentance. If my heart is right with him it is easy to sit with him. I hope this is true for you as well. Breath, exhale and listen.

I’m leaving my date now. I feel released. I feel joyful and peaceful. I am so grateful I took the time for a Date with God today. I hope you can start to incorporate Dates with God into your life as well. Blessings on your day.

-ST

Food Shame

Day 47-

I eat in light of my emotions. It’s true. I justify something I’m working on avoiding (sugar/carbs) by telling myself my body just used a lot of energy on whatever I was stressed about. I will even look at my watch to see if my heart rate is up so I have evidence of these calories I’ve burned. My watch has yet to support this idea. 

I do not taste food as well as others appear to and the taste bud test in anatomy lab confirmed it. Sinus surgery two years ago decreased my ability to taste even more. This leaves me to wonder why I still reach for chocolate or a buttery something when my mind is heavy. While keeping an anxiety journal, I realized my need for food comes from the desire to fill my anxious emotions.

Let’s be honest. When my day at the hospital is stressful I want coffee or dark chocolate. I would prefer something sweet over salty unless it is buttery. When I am overwhelmed at home my coffee pods are easily accessible. I rarely take a nap, unless I am working the night shift, so I just reeve up. In the moment, I probably think the caffeine has little effect on me other than calming me down. Let’s face it. My heart rate may not actually know what a resting state should be.

In 2019 I started exercising 5 days a week. I go early in the morning. Other than one cup of coffee, I do my best to wait until noon to eat. Some days I am genuinely hungry or hangry and I eat a preferred, healthy breakfast. Either way I get on with my morning. I worship, listen to God’s Word, focus on gratitude and fix my attention on something other than my worries. I love mornings and usually my morning routine carries me until noon.

By the afternoon, my focus starts falling apart with the busyness of a day of work, the long zoned-out hours of editing photos in my office, or the house which never seems to stay picked up. After my planned lunch, I can eat. By mid-afternoon, I choose, more often than not, to eat for my mood. Carrots rarely make the cut. Dark chocolate is welcome anytime. 

Food is more functional for me more than enjoyable, and I have enough food restrictions to be annoying. Food shame used to come quickly. Last year I realized my poor eating habits first came from not eating because I was worried about what I ate, to eating everything I said I wouldn’t eat because I was too hungry. I began to understand how negative food had become.

If I am not careful, exercise can become my fix to food shame. Exercise helps stabilize my mood and brings great joy in my life. If I let it take the place of the food shame I can easily beat myself up when I miss a work-out. I love the gym and want to keep it that way. Instead of replacing one self-medication (food) with another (gym) I need to continue working on these two things.

Intervention: 1. When I reach for something to shove in my mouth, pause to evaluate why I’m eating it. Is it to cover over something I’m feeling? If so, I want to place God’s truth in the gap instead of food. If it is because I want to enjoy it and have no emotions mixed with it, I’ll go ahead. I will give myself permission to enjoy it in moderation.

Who doesn’t love a plank!

2. If I am feeling guilty for missing a workout, I will pause to celebrate the rest my body so badly needs. I will use gratitude over the ability to use my body to move and to accomplish hard things. I can choose to have no more guilt. I’ll get back to the gym tomorrow.

-ST

Slowing Down with My Little One

Day 40-

My monthly goal of slowing down and enjoying a recipe happened over the course of two weeks. Our Christmas tradition of making and decorating sugar cookies to give to the police department or first responders in our neighborhood couldn’t happen because of our recurrent illnesses in December.. With Valentine’s day approaching, we invited some friends over to decorate heart sugar cookies.

My little one enjoys helping me in the kitchen. When she hears any dish come out of its cupboard she instantly appears, pushing a chair or her stool to the counter in order to help. Her two little hands washed and nothing in her mouth means she can help mommy. 

We first made the cookie dough. The basic recipe I grew up with was enhanced by some extra sea salt. I wanted to balance out the sugar a bit more than usual. This idea came from my coworker who finds downtime with new recipes in her kitchen. I was excited over the idea and added small amounts of sea salt until I could taste it in the dough. 

My recipe calls for the dough to chill for a few hours so we left it overnight. I put a bit less flour than what it called for since it would dry out a bit while it’s chilled. I cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and in the refrigerator it goes.

The next day my oldest was sick so we had to postpone our decorating. Since I had the dough ready to go Camryn and I rolled it, cut out the hearts and baked the cookies. They weren’t perfect, but they sure tasted good. The hint of sea salt make a huge difference. Camryn couldn’t wait to decorate them so I allowed her to decorate a few of the ones she rolled out—blue sprinkles for the win! We froze the soft cookies. I made sure they were slightly under-baked so they would freeze well.

The morning of our decorating party the following week I pulled the cookies out to thaw. I made my favorite buttercream and the kiddos decorated to their hearts content. Most of the frosted cookies went to the police department to thank them for keeping our neighborhood safe. It was more about the process than the eating!

The best part was spending the time with Camryn over several days and with our friends who joined us for decorating. I have to slow down when Camryn is helping me. I want her to be safe and I want her to enjoy these sweet traditions in the kitchen. It made the memory even better.

This month: recipe and coffee…time to look for something wonderful. I’m sure Camryn will be joining me in the kitchen.

-ST

Progress…Finding Peace

Day 33-

Eliminating hurry from my life is not arriving in the form I thought it would. Slowing down and being less busy sure seem like wonderful ideas, but I haven’t reached these yet. Sleeping in and having a lovely rest day was in the cards today until my little one woke me up at my normal time of 5 a.m. and my mind was up.

Last night while we were at church it struck me that my heart and my mind have been in a richer state of calm and rest this past week. After my honesty on Monday morning in my blog I have been more peaceful. I have spent more time in God’s Word (listening to the Bible) and running to Jesus before hurrying to our bank balance.

Yesterday was the first time all week I asked myself what was wrong when I started to be heavy-hearted. (See previous blog for context.) Something was amiss, so I went to Jesus about it. I went to him with gratitude for the obvious blessings in our lives. It’s all I could see in the moment. My heart quieted and my mind was not allowed to spiral.

Today may turn out to be different, but my mind and my heart feel less hurried as I begin it. My tasks are plenty on the to-do list, but my soul does not feel rushed. I will keep working on the next right thing to think about, to be grateful for and to continue to process what it means to eliminate hurry from my life.

My goals this week: photograph some stock photos of beautiful things God created to use for my blog. A camera in my hand slows me down and rests my soul.

Have a beautiful, unhurried day.

-ST

Anxiety over Provision

Day 27-

The sky is cloudy and so is my mood. Job searching, my oldest daughter recovering from an illness and things still to do on my to-do list occupy my mind. My work-out this morning was tough. I thought I was going to pass out. It has all collided on this Monday morning.

My anxious thoughts were relentless for me this weekend. This leaves me more tired than I hoped. I know I am writing about my anxiety, but I am still embarrassed to admit it. I declare my undying trust in my God and Savior in one minute and run away from hard things the next. 

The truth is that money is the main source of my anxiety. We are so blessed and we live in a home which is secure. There is food in our cupboards. I do not stress over how I will get a paycheck and I am typing this in my safe place, a coffee shop with a mermaid on the cup. I know how I will buy my gas to take me to my job and activities. I am looking for a job in my profession which has options. I can choose to be picky in what I do with my life. I can read the application and I can write my cover letter with ease.

So what part of all of this brings my heart rate up and my mind spinning. I have concluded I have spent more time worrying about my finances than trusting God with them. When the money gets low in the bank account I search for ways to fix it. “I” am the problem. God has yet to let me fall so far in the mud I get stuck. I claim I trust God and then run to my own abilities when my going gets tough.

In college I left home with a few thousand dollars saved for my freshman year. Other than books everything was on my own. My first task before unpacking was to find a job. I had one by the end of the first day. The following summer I went on Project with Campus Crusade for Christ, aka CRU. I needed a job. The first full day I went out and found a job within walking distance of our lodging. It was a terrible job, but it was a job.

After I graduated from nursing school I passed my boards as quickly as possible so I could work as a camp nurse until my real job started. Since then I have only gone five days without a job. I had to move from one state to another state, so yes, I had to have a few days off. After ten years in the ICU I finished at 1 a.m. on a Saturday and started my next job on Monday at 7:30 a.m.

Talk about always having a job. So my fear of not being provided for just seems odd. Or does it? When I was younger and took some risks to go to college I felt as if I had to prove I had heard God’s voice in regards to school. If I failed to provide for myself I thought I would make God look bad. I thought I would have failed as a follower of Jesus. 

I need a breakthrough to loosen the fears I have around money. I am fully aware of God’s provision and his love for me even if and when the bills are outstanding. I am fully aware I am not alone in providing for my family as my husband is working hard too. Being good stewards of our money isn’t about doing our own thing to show God we have it together. Over the years I have built poor habits of trust in this area.

As embarrassed as I may be, I write these words knowing you might be in the same boat. For the disciples of Jesus many of them were fishermen. They knew how to navigate the sea and the wind. Yet, they were still afraid. They were the best men for the job when the storm came. Jesus was asleep under the deck after a long day of ministry. The men, fearing for their lives even when they knew what they were doing, woke him up. “Jesus, don’t you care?” (Matthew 8)

I find myself asking this question, too. Jesus is in my boat. He has provided everything, but when the bank account gets low I find myself thinking he doesn’t always care. “Jesus, forgive me for my pride.” Jesus absolutely cares, but he cares that my trust is in him to protect and provide for us rather than for me to combat the wind on my own.

Intervention: Practice going to Jesus first before our balance sheet. Go to Jesus for provision before I let my mind run away with fear. 

-ST

Time…It’s My Choice

Day 23 –

I was on my way to a massage appointment this afternoon when I was stuck behind a slow moving truck. Talk about irritating. I wanted to be on-time for my appointment. No matter how keen I am on illuminating hurry from my life, this was not the moment to work on it. I’ll find a slow truck another time to practice this way of living.

It stuck me in my frustration how much I dislike the word “time”.

I like to be on-time.

I don’t have enough time.

I have more goals on my to-do list than time allows.

If only time stood still.

Time flies.

Where did the time go?

What time is it?

We use the word “time” for so many things. For me, the word has became negative. I do not want to miss a thing. I rush from one thing to another hoping I won’t be wherever I am in life too long. I often will enjoy what is going on in the moment and two seconds later be scurrying to the next moment because I ran out of time. 

In the practice of eliminating hurry from my life I think I need to reframe the word “time”. Time on a clock has no emotion. It has no feelings. It can easily be spent and it can easily be enjoyed. It’s my choice how I view it. 

My roommate my freshman year of college was so annoyed by how many times I checked my watch during breakfast. I never wanted to be late to class. (If you had the teacher I had, you would understanding why.) I unconsciously checked my watch constantly. My roommate challenged me to go without my watch. This was before cell phones were cool and were carried everywhere. I took her up on the challenge and stopped wearing a watch in hopes I could learn how to just be present in the moment. I did not wear a watch for years, but I picked up my old ways as soon as I had a phone.

A clock is useful for order. It can help me remember to pick-up my children from school. It wakes me up even when I don’t want to be awake. Although useful, a clock cannot tell me how to spend my time or reprimand me for having a few moments to nothingness in the middle of my day. A clock does not hold me to the hope of eliminating hurry from my life.

Today, my to-do list goals were greater than my capacity to accomplish. Instead of hurrying, I just hung out with my kiddo. She helped me make some food, prep some cookie dough, do dishes, and then we did the same puzzle four times while watching part of a movie. We played and worked until it was time to go get her sister. It was lovely. I stopped attempting to cram in everything I could. 

I am pleased to say I had my first successful elimination of hurry! It felt good to spend my time focusing on someone rather than on the list. It was a lovely afternoon and something we both needed. Intervention: “time” can be positive and I have the power to change the way I think about it. 

Today was a win!

-ST

Gratitude

Day 16 –

I have been waking up in a bad mood. I have been keenly aware of it since I know I’ll be blogging at some point about it. I recall having an inter dialog since I was much younger. As soon as I felt anxious I would say, “What’s wrong, Steph? What’s wrong?” I would come up with who did it, what caused it even when nothing was the problem. It was this emotional cycle. Of late, like the past year, I have noticed and started to curb my “what’s wrong” questions with saying, “Nothing’s wrong, Steph. Nothing’s wrong”. 

I’m a big champion when it comes to thinking about the ways we think and the idea that we can change our minds. Literally, the pathways in our brains can change by thinking about different things, by changing the way we think. We can retrain our minds. We’ll dive into this more another time, but this morning, Day 16, needed an overhaul.

Driving Camryn to school I asked her what happens when she is in a bad mood. She is almost four-years-old, so she is very knowledgeable. She said “You sit on the Sad Pad”. The Sad Pad at school is where you have a “time-out” if you need to think about your actions after certain amount of trying other things. In her mind, its the worst place to go and she has yet to be led there. She became quite sad while she was talking about it so we abandoned the topic.

I, however, continued to think about it and realized the “Sad Pad” is exactly what I need when my mood is off. I need a time-out. I need to pause to let gratitude change my focus. Nothing is wrong, usually. Wherever I am in the moment is just not the place I planned, hoped for or intended to be right then. This itself is anxiety producing so yes, I need a time-out.

John Ortberg’s book hit the spot this morning. “The truth is, all of us can get so caught up in ourselves that we too often don’t take the time to be grateful—to God and to others.” (John Ortberg, Soul Keeping

So I changed my mind with a little gratitude after the time-out. The world looks brighter. I am choosing to not let my “what’s wrong” mentality stir anxiety. Intervention: When I feel like something is wrong, I am going to choose gratitude first, even before I tell myself “Nothing’s wrong, Steph. Nothing’s wrong”.

-ST

Take Heart, Stay

Day 12 –

Psalm 27:14 Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again; Stay with God.

I was reminded recently about a loss I sustained over the course of a year. I lost a good friend, someone I called a sister. Like every close relationships there are ups and downs. The ups are supposed to outweigh the downs as a stronger bond is formed. But, for me then the downs overtook the ups, the relationship fell apart.

The grief of the loss changed me. I see other friends go through friend loss and I am reminded how fragile we humans can be sometimes. We are imperfect people attempting to have perfect relationships. I remember being anxious and constantly reviewing what I did wrong or what went wrong. I revisited conversations and tones of voice. I lost hope in having close friends and I pulled away. It still takes time for me to trust a new friend.

We were not made to be alone. My grandad just blogged yesterday about after losing my grandmother he become really busy and reoccupied with moving on with life. When he slowed down he realized he was lonely. This happens for me as well. I work and work and the instant I slow down, I can become lonely.. I get disappointed easily by what I think I should have.

When loneliness hits me I begin to think God is far away from me too. When I am hurt by a friend, I pull away. I again pull away from God because I’m afraid of being disappointed. I translate my friend failure to a failure in relationships, even as close to a perfect one as I can experience: a perfect God and an imperfect girl.

I am easily anxious when I feel alone. I remind myself about the amazing friends I do life with and spend time keeping my heart and expectations. in balance. Previous grief has matured me in how much I rely on those friendships. I am still learning to trust.

The psalmist David penned these words. “Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again. Stay with God.”

So I say it to myself and I say it to you, stay with God. Even when our human imperfect relationships run us over and knock us down, God does not change. He may seem distant, but he is right there. We push away and we become distant and turn it on God as if it’s his fault. We do this to protect ourselves from disappointment. But, God, has yet to disappoint me when I remember I’m imperfect and He is God. He shows up when I am willing to be vulnerable to allow him to be with me.

Blessings,

-ST

Recipe Time: GF, DF Banana Bread

Day 9 –

I am a very “free” person. I am dairy-free, soy-free and sometimes gluten-free and sugar-free. Some of my free-ness comes from my mold allergy/muscle fatigue/who knows what my stomach tolerates stuff. I have to be essential-oils free, too, if I want to keep breathing. When I first was so restricted, I remember being so anxious when I went out to eat or when I wanted to eat something that actually tasted good.

When I became fully gluten-free it was 2006 in Oregon and being GF cool wasn’t cool. It was quite overwhelmingl. I had a small budget. I remember using tapioca flour as the alternative to wheat and throwing out batches of gross inventions. There were few options for my dairy intolerance as well. I became dairy-free in 2002. My alternative to dairy was rice milk. I couldn’t have soy either so life just became sad. I had a magazine page up on my refrigerator for years which said “I was GF before it was cool”. Oh, the struggle was real.

Baking, one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen, has become much easier over the years. With more options made available for cheaper, I have finally learned some tricks. Here is a simple banana bread recipe which has become a go-to to lower my stress. It is so delicious. I give it away as gifts for the holidays and when I need a quick alternative to share with a friend who is also GF, DF, SF, etc.

Finished Banana Bread

Banana Bread by Steph Trowbridge

3-4 medium ripe bananas, mash with a fork

1/2 cup of sugar (more than half of other recipes)

1/3 cup apple sauce (one kid squeeze packet)

1/4 cup (or a little less) olive oil

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup alternative milk (today I have coconut/almond blend)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 table salt (1/2 the amount since we did half the amount of sugar)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp xanthum gum (one tsp for every single recipe is my go to, today I hold this since my baking flour has it already)

2 1/2 cups of all purpose gluten free flour (today I’m using Bob’s Red Mill 1-1 baking flour. My favorite is oat flour, but I don’t have it in my kitchen at the moment)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the wet ingredients with the fork so the bananas can maintain some mashed shape. Add the dry ingredients. Use cooking spray to coat the 8-inch loaf pan. One recipe fills one pan. Place the filled pan into the oven on the middle rack. Check the banana bread at 50 minutes. Test with a knife to see if the knife comes out clean. If not, bake for about 10 more minutes. This recipe tend to look a little lighter whether my regular gluten-filled loaf recipe. The knife through is the important part. No one wants soggy banana bread after all this work.

I love to talk about making GF, DF, etc, diets easier, so don’t hesitate to ask questions. Having to eat differently can cause anyone stress, but there are tricks to make life easier!

Enjoy!

-ST