Redeeming Your Time

Redeeming Your Time

The present time has one advantage over every other…it is our own.
– Charles Caleb Colton

If I had a friend that, without fail, gave me 24 gifts every day, I would be elated. I hope among all the iced lattes, massages, and new shoes that I wouldn’t lose my appreciation for them. When the walls were filled with beautiful art and I had traveled to a hundred different cities all around the world, would I still wake up the next morning with child-like anticipation for my next gift? Would I spend time reflecting on the gifts of yesterday or simply starve for the next sunrise – greedily wanting more?

What if they missed one? What if on one particular day my friend only brought 23 gifts to me? Would this be enough, or would I feel dejected over the loss of one among the pile?

The key is not spending time, but investing it – Stephen R. Covey

I have lived this gift experience, personally and truly, for 14,172 days now. 340-thousand hours of life I have been gifted. Twenty MILLION minutes of adventures, joys, laughter and love. Some of those minutes and hours brought great challenges, but the gifts of hope and peace have been enough to carry me through.

I desire to be careful not to fall victim to the idea that life owes me anything, including time. Rather, we are gifted time over and over from minute to minute, hour to hour and day to day. We are afforded the opportunity of redeeming it at our pleasure and disposal. Today I redeemed 10 minutes for a shower, 90 minutes for church and 20 minutes at the grocery store picking out ingredients for a new udon noodle recipe I am excited to try. I redeemed 12 more minutes to sweep and clean the kitchen and 45 minutes to sit and write.

Somewhere in the mix I redeemed 8 minutes to hug and chat with a friend at church, and another 10 minutes to hold and cuddle a daughter of a friend whom I love to pray with and giggle with. I redeemed a few seconds to tell my step-son, “Thank you, I really appreciate all that you do,” when he stepped in to help with the chores. And a few more seconds to pet the dog and make sure he also feels love and attention on this beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. Later I have plans to redeem a few hours with friends, talking, laughing and enjoying dinner together this evening.

Recently I experienced a frustrating situation that left me feeling negative and displeased. In the midst of dealing with it, I suddenly realized there was no value in the way I was feeling. Sure, I had every “right” to be upset, but what good was this course? It was only adding stress and tension to my day. I put down my head, said a prayer for strength and wisdom, and firmly decided I would not redeem any more time to any actions that were not positive. I simply refused to let this situation steal any of my gift of this day. Instead, I moved through the motions of stepping towards peace, and peace I quickly found.

Image result for peace scriptures
Image source: Dawson Family of Faith on Pinterest.com

Hearing a sermon on Luke chapter 10 recently, I am reminded of the story of two sisters, Mary and Martha. As Jesus was traveling on a journey, Martha opened her home to him. Martha proceeded to serve and tend to the needs of the travelers. Mary chose to sit at Jesus feet and hear his words. Martha complained that she was having to do all the tasks without her sister’s help. Jesus heard this complaint and acknowledged that Martha had many things that were concerning to her, but that Mary had “chosen the good part.” Mary was redeeming her time in a manner that fed her soul, rather worry about physical needs in that moment. There would be time for her to help her sister later, but in this particular moment she redeemed some precious minutes to learn from the one they called Master, the one that brought healing and great, wise teachings. It was not a moment that Mary could afford to let pass her by. She knew the priceless value in spending her time in this moment.

We all have pressing demands in our lives – commitments that tie up our time for some reason or another. These commitments do have value, to be sure. But, how do we redeem our time otherwise? When called to put in my time at work during the day, I redeem time to connect with others around me, to offer words of encouragement or a listening ear. I may be committed to this block of time for my employer today, but how I spend it is still up to me. I could spend it frustrated at constant changes and shifting goals that seem elusive or I can spend it investing in others.

How we spend our days, is, of course, how we spend our lives – Annie Dillard

Spending my time at home is no different.  Do I redeem it cleaning and fussing, or connecting and loving?  Can I find ways to do both so that my obligations and desires of my heart are both fulfilled?  This looks like engaging the kids in cooking dinner, or making chores into a game with Alexa turning up the music at full blast. How can we work through the process of using and redeeming our time wisely?

Identify Time Pitfalls: How we desire to use our time and how we actually spend it can be two different things. Start by writing down and tracking how you spend your time. This will help you identify things that might be holding up your time, despite your own desires and wishes. I was finding myself at the grocery store three times per week to pick up ingredients and this wastes a lot of time for me, especially as I commute 45 minutes to work each day. That means it can take me up to an hour and a half just to get home in the evenings by adding in this stop. After identifying this time-wasting activity, I started to meal plan at the beginning of the week and making a shopping list. Now one stop per week gives me time back that I can invest into something more productive than a redundant task.

Prioritize What Matters: Our schedules can get hectic and overwhelmed pretty quickly. We can end up having so many pressing tasks and commitments that it is nearly impossible to give quality time to them all. It will help to prioritize what truly matters. Is it life-giving? Is it necessary? Is it healthy to spend your time in this way? Sometimes it is okay to say “no” to another commitment, or “not right now, but perhaps in the future.” I personally would love to volunteer more, however I am working and a student. My time is dedicated elsewhere for the immediate future. It will not always be this way and in a few more months my schedule will change and be more open. I have to be willing to be flexible and honest so that I can prioritize my time correctly.

Redeem Your Time: It truly helps to think of time as a gift. Redeem it wisely and you will not find yourself starved for more minutes. Break tasks into small and manageable pieces to avoid procrastination and spending time unnecessarily. Work daily tasks and chores into your routine so that you can accomplish priorities and enjoy some fun at the same time. For me, this looks like folding laundry while watching my favorite Netflix show, or working on homework while dinner is in the oven. You can have quality time and talks with your spouse while taking a walk together in the evening. Turning off distractions and focusing on spending time with your kids in whatever they enjoy is also a great way to redeem some precious minutes. You will never regret investing time into those you love. Life demands come and go, priorities can readjust, but remember they are only usually for a season. Continue to value your time and respect it. Do not get too stressed if things are not going perfectly. Take a breath, set your intentions and try again. Every effort is time well spent.

24 hours. 24 gifts every day. 

May I wake each sunrise with renewed anticipation and fresh perspective.  It’s a brand new day I have been gifted and one I have not lived yet.  I hope I redeem it for the treasure that it is.

The Art of Living

The Art of Living

One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.  ~ William Feather

She was dancing.  Moving, swirling, twirling, hips swaying back and forth.  So lost in the moment, she moves with the music like it was written for her.  Her smile says it all.  Pure joy.  She is deep in the rhythm.  She belongs in this moment.

He stands along the edges of the small crowd, eyes eluding approval and appreciation.  As her body glides gently back and forth, his face reflects adoration.  He is in love.  He is drinking in this moment as her movement speaks poetry directly to his heart.  He simply watches, his eyes fixed upon the beauty that she is creating with each beat, with each slide of her feet and wave of her arms. A smile spreads across his face, a reflection of love.

He is not on the dance floor, but he is completely living inside this moment with her.  He patiently waits and watches for hours as she enjoys one song after another. Her giggle, her laughter.  It endlessly echoes across the walls.  Their young daughter grows tired and curls up on the carpet under a dinner table close by.  He crouches down and ensures her comfort.  He takes a seat nearby and he simply waits by his ladies, his wife and his daughter, content to simply be near them.

This is the amalgamation of marriage.  This is the irrefutable bond that unites two former strangers into a single heartbeat.  He needed nothing at the present, he ignored the hands of the clock and the demands of time.  He simply existed.  Simply existed in her moment.

Strong:Her author Rachel K. and her husband, Chris

Oh, that we could all offer this to our spouse or family or a friend without hesitation or definition.  What pleasure to simply exist in their moment with them?  To have no other purpose than a resolve within ourselves to simply be.  Like a momma in the stands at a baseball game, watching with anticipation and pride.  Like a daddy watching his little girl ride a bike for the first time.  Not judging, wanting or needing anything…just being present, being there, being an observer in the moment with them.

Watching this particular family enjoy the wedding celebration of a mutual friend, it makes me wonder…when was the last time I felt this kind of freedom?  When was the last time I found my purpose in simply existing in the moment?  Do I let the demands that life seems to have, the sands of time in the hourglass at work, the due dates, deadlines and productivity goals define my purpose?  Or could I simply just exist in moments and let joy be the only reason for living?

I intend to practice this by looking for moments where I lay everything else aside and simply drink in the experience that life is affording me.  One of these recent moments for me was riding down a narrow mountainside in the back of a dump truck, sitting on a bed of sand with a bunch of other ladies, heading to a little church down deep in the valley in Nepal to meet a group of women and share love and a message of purpose and hope.   The sun was shining bright and warming my face.  We were bouncing around like crazy, laughing and having fun, and I felt nothing but joy and excitement.  (You can read more about this experience here.) It was a moment to just simply be, to experience life in unplanned and unexpected fashion, to just let my heart be full in the moment. 

This is the purpose that I desire to have for my life.  To purpose joy, to purpose hope, to purpose love.  To be intentional about sharing kindness, goodness, mercy, compassion, a helping hand.  To infuse the world with wonderful and marvelous friendships and bonds.  And to wrap myself up in the unending opportunity for experience and laughter. 

It is in this idea of intending purpose that I find the art of living to be so magnificently amazing.

Finding Purpose in an Ordinary Life

Finding Purpose in an Ordinary Life

God does not require a spectacular individual to complete his work. He only asks that the willing heart answer the call. You, my friend, are worthy enough to find your purpose. You were meant for extraordinary things. This, I believe for you. <3

Nepal, June 2019

The sun is up and the birds are chirping. As a new morning arises, I listen to the sounds of the earth waking up. A bus passes by, down shifting to make a turn, a car close behind. Serene and familiar are the light sounds of traffic flowing by the open window. Yet, it dawns on me that something is missing. I do not hear the rev of single-stroke engines mounted to motor bikes, nor their patterned honking as they pass one another with flurried ambition. Yes, they are most assuredly missing from this morning scenario. Ah, it is too quiet. Realization dawns that I have left my heart in other places. Most recently, this was Nepal.

Sharing a learning experience with the women of Nepal

We spent a week among the beautiful Nepalese people. From high in the mountains, sometimes even above the clouds, to down low in the valley, surrounded by the brightest green mountains. Our team of six ladies, eager to answer the call, three translators full of beauty and grace, and one pastor with a willing heart, traveled the city of Kathmandu and it’s surrounding villages. Three hours up to the peak, or even more hours south towards India, we ministered and preached, shared lunch, tears, joy, hugs and worship with women of all ages. Meeting in community centers and on the porches of local homes, we distributed water filters, brought the gospel and desired to demonstrate the love of Jesus to each and every soul.

Praying with the women of Nepal

An experience like no other is to hold the hand and pray with a stranger who is seeking to start their own ministry to their local friends and neighbors, or to embrace one woman out of the entire crowd who braved hecklers and opposition to declare faith and claim her seat at the father’s table.

Water filter distribution, Nepal

This is the call of missions. The desire to meet and walk with strangers, to be welcomed as friends, to invite them into the Father’s house, no matter if nationality, tongue or culture is vastly different. Recognizing that we are all children of the almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, the call of missions is to bring and share the good news to the far corners of the earth.

StrongHer author, Rachel K., riding in a dump truck down a mountainside to share water filters, hope and love with residents of Nepal

Humbled, I am, to think that God would even consider to use my hands, feet or voice. Submitting my heart and full-self to his will, I too grow in innumerable measure by his love.

Praying together, Nepal 2019

Although my time abroad was brief and I feel the demands of daily life once again upon me, I have realized one thing…my heart is still there, still beating on the missions field. A longing churns inside realizing my true home is in the midst of kingdom work, in the middle of a circle of prayer for a stranger, or in the holding of hands with a woman whose name I do not know, yet our spirits realize each other as sisters. It is there, in the presence of God, where I find my true home.

Sharing water filters with multiple families in Nepal

Nothing else can satisfy like working in something that fulfills purpose. If you are seeking this in your life, or in a period of searching, then I understand you, friend. You are not alone on this journey. Feel free to share how you feel purpose in your life and what you are doing to fulfill it. I would love to share in this adventure with you.

Ministering and sharing in worship with women in Nepal
A young boy, Nepal 2019
Cross on a church door, Nepal 2019

Running Towards Joy

Running Towards Joy

She is as lovely as the first time I met her 5 years ago when asked to interview her for a transfer from one business location to another.  Long, strawberry blond hair and a smile that lights up the air around her.  She speaks softly and laughs readily.  She is a gem of compassion, love and mothering…she just has that way about her.  Meet Cathy Engen, Strong:Her Woman of the Month – June 2019.

Cathy hails from the Dakotas.  Born in Cleveland, Ohio, her family headed west when Cathy was 10 years old.  Their 800+ acre farm literally straddles across the North and South Dakota lines.  “I think the state line ran right through the middle of the house,” she says.  She attended high school in both states, as well.  From the time she was little Cathy was always singing.  Singing and running.  Even in her crib, the baby noise she chose was a song. Her passion for both would weave its way into the story of her life.

Cathy, performing in the musical, Brigadoon (1970’s)

In high school Cathy longed to be on the track team, but there was no such thing as a women’s track team for her small town.  Maybe in the bigger cities, sure.  For this tiny farm-girl, however, she was only allowed to train and run with the boys, but not compete.  This soon changed as she and a group of girls advocated for equality and were eventually allowed to form a track team to compete against other girls.  They did not have funding to be very official and certainly lacked equipment.  Passion fueled solutions, however, and the girls would wear the boy’s football cleats and stuff socks in the toes.  They would then take to the track and run their hearts out.  They soon found themselves allowed to compete in local competitions and like the freedom a bird must feel in flight, Cathy ran.

In college she reignited her love for music and majored in vocals.  She became a music teacher for the next few years and spent her time teaching, mentoring, coaching, singing and sharing her love for music.  It was harder in those days, the early to mid-80’s, to find good paying jobs for women in music in small mid-western towns.  So, Cathy moved into the business sector and became one of the first female managers for the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce.  She is proud of that position, even when finding opposition from other women in the workforce.  She overcame resistance by determining herself to be an example to other women around her and to show them that they could be strong and successful, as well.  “We need each other,” she advises.  “We just don’t do enough (as women) to support each other.  It doesn’t take anything out of me to help you get ahead!  If I pour out of myself into you, God will just come along and pour back into me.  One act of kindness can spread further than only I can reach.  I help you and you help the next person and it just keeps going.  Why wouldn’t I want to help someone else?”

Cathy as Chamber of Commerce Manager, Sioux Falls (1980’s)

That philosophy has carried her throughout much of her life.  Cathy has also found that her faith has been the central-most grounding force in her life. “Life is going to hold challenges,” she wisely admits.  “You will face dark times, trouble will find you.  You have to be grounded.  The most important thing is faith.  You must have that foundation and nurture it.  You can feel like you give away so many pieces of yourself as a woman, a wife, a mother, or at work.  Take time for yourself.  Set healthy boundaries for yourself.  I have found that it is in the valleys of life that I have experienced the most learning.  There are seasons of growth to be experienced in the middle of those trials of life.”

Cathy puts her own philosophies into action.  A few years ago she took time to pause and take an evaluation of this season of her life.  She and her husband have been married for three decades and their baby daughter is now grown.  She has seen success in life in business leadership and fostering relationships around her.  With this reflection, Cathy decided it was time to exit working and give time to focus again on what truly brings her joy.  “I wanted to hold music again!” she gushes.  “There’s just something about holding it in your hands.”  So, she joined the choir at the Fourth Baptist Church in Plymouth, MN.  She also started running again.

“I wanted to be an example to my daughter and I wanted to be mindful of my health.” She continues, “Life is a gift and I took control of what I could manage and change for myself.  It’s important that we mind the things that sustain us like eating good food, getting enough sleep, resting and paying attention to our emotional health.”

She admits that working towards her personal fitness goals takes a little longer in this season.  “Just start by walking,” she says. The pace is not the most important part, it’s the act of doing, being, striving, engaging, participating, setting a goal and working towards it.  “Sometimes I think, could I be better, yeah, but I’m using my talents, my gifts and living the best in my body.  There’s only one of me, I’m one-of-a-kind and I’m worth taking care of!” 

She built a regimen for herself that she could stick with and embraces the trail as an adventure that brings her joy.  “I’m an athlete and I run almost every day, even in the winter,” she says.  Cathy wants to make the most of what God gave her and she loves to meet people on the trail.  Like a magnet, she attracts others to her warm, caring and genuine nature.  She strikes up conversations with other runners and enjoys pouring love into those whom she meets along the way. 

It’s only been a few years and now she has a whole shelf of medals.  She has run races in multiple seasons, including sunshine, snow, warmth and cold.  One of her biggest dreams was to run a race with her daughter, which they recently did together. They since have enjoyed several races together, including celebrating their fourth annual run of that first race, the Minnesota Hot Dash.

Cathy and her daughter, Kiki

“I just want to make the most of what God gave me.” Cathy proclaims.  “It’s never too late to start or try something new – or to go back to something you love – every day is a chance for a new beginning.  I hope to make the most of everything I’ve had in my life – my marriage, friends, family, work.”  She states, “I am not a human being, I’m a human ‘be-coming.’  Until I draw my last breath, I am still a work in progress.  I want to be everything God wants me to be.  I may not achieve that in every moment, but I am trying.”

Cathy and her husband, Tim

We think Cathy has achieved that and so much more.  Her passion and faith is evident all around her from the dedication to her training for the next race, to the voice that carries out hymns and praise on a Sunday morning, to the very words she chooses to speak to a mere stranger.  Cathy is a StrongHer Woman and she’s striving to fulfill her purpose.  “I’m still a kid,” she laughs.  “Still goofy!  This body is housing me, but the me inside is ageless, timeless.”  Her greatest accomplishment?  “I joy in having a part in the good for others,” she exclaims.  “At the end I just want to be able to say that it was a good run.”

Cathy, finishing up the Twin Cities Marathon in 2017

We applaud Cathy and her passionate zest and zeal for life! This is just the beginning of sharing stores of our Strong:Her Women. Come check out more of our inspiring ladies on our Her:Stories page.

Want to be featured as a Strong:Her Woman?  Submit your request for consideration here.

Defining Success at Work

Where does the power of success reside? In the ability to adapt, recover and respond. In the ability to show up again and again while maintaining character, attitude and self-control. When we are successful at perseverance, we are successful in much.

StrongHerPurpose
Business Planning Meeting

We came around the corner at the same time and both stopped abruptly.  In the middle of the aisle, near the small toys and candy boxes, a puppy had left us a little puppy-type gift.  The type that rules like, “No Pets Allowed” tries to avoid.  Marley and I look at each other and she sighed.  “I’ll get this one,” she said.  “You had that kid with the mac and cheese incident.” 

Ah, I had indeed.  A customer was in shopping with her four-year old when he suddenly didn’t feel well.  Unable to hold down his lunch, he got sick on the sales floor in the middle of the bike aisle.  A look of pure horror washed over his mom’s face and like a military-trained emergency rescue mission, she scooped him up in her arms and proceeded to make a run for the exit.  The restrooms were far closer, but unfamiliar with the layout and obviously wanting to hide her very existence, she headed for the car.  He was sick all the way to the front doors.  Being the manager on duty, I responded immediately and commenced mopping and sanitizing as quickly as I could.

The puppy however, was a different story.  Our customer had come in to shop with her pet in tow on a random Tuesday afternoon, but from the looks of it had abandoned the need to clean up after Fido when he was less than potty trained.  Let me interject that we are not a pet store.  We love your furry friend, but we have polite rules and requests in place in order to avoid situations like we found this day.  A mop wasn’t going to cut it. 


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Retail management involves a variety of skills I have acquired through experience…ones that education alone cannot prepare you for.  I have been called on as a maintenance mechanic, plumber, electrician, counselor, relationship expert, mediator, HVAC inspector, groundskeeper, safety patrol and service agent.  I have worked to free a bird who flew in through open doors and subsequently panicked when he could not find his way back out.  I have observed customers who chased other customers out of the store for suspected stealing (while screaming “thief!!!” as loudly as possible), where ultimately a car chase also ensued and laws were probably broken.  Then there was the time that security proceeded to fire a taser at an individual and drop him at the checkout lane in the entrance of the store.  Customers thought someone had been shot and proceeded to take shelter in areas of the store.  We worked to quickly assure each one of their safety and a lot of phone calls with corporate happened that day. 

I have sandbagged entrances while staying open in a hurricane; dumped plastic toy boxes full of water from one to another from 20’ in the air, while trying to keep the backroom from flooding in a torrential rainstorm; and responded to a customer who was threatening bodily harm to everyone in her path if we did not pull her order faster. There was the homeless guy living in his car in the parking lot, the shipments that arrived all hours of the day and night, and the associate who ran off crying in the middle of a transaction, leaving the customer at the checkout looking bewildered.


Today, however, I have cheese in my pocket.  It has hardened overnight and has a glossy sheen that I feel is keenly unnatural for a dairy product.  Chatting in my team for our morning routine, I reach in and discover its presence.  It is unwrapped and appears to have been slightly enjoyed and then rejected as the edges were nibbled.  The evening before at closing, my associate and I discovered the remnants of a foot-long sandwich which had been partially consumed on a $1,000 pair of living room chairs near the front of the store.  Also left behind were leaves of lettuce and open packets of mustard.  Worth noting is that we do not serve food at our location.  We have home goods and décor, pillows and canvas art.  You cannot purchase lunch here, or dinner for that matter.

After washing down the discovery and restoring our product to its former glory, we exit to find the rest of the meal smashed on the ground in front of the entryway as we exited the building.  Sigh.  I continue to clean and toss the bread in the bushes for the squirrels.  It is already past my bedtime and I’m 10 years into this venture of management, so I’m feeling a little weary today.

So, why continue?  Why continue putting my effort to business everyday when the glory of business management seems so elusive?  I get up every morning, dress up, put on my makeup, tame this wild mane of curls into something presentable and proceed to stock shelves, welcome customers, be a counselor, teacher, friend, advocate, coach and business acumen aficionado. 


So, why?  It is because of passion. It is because I love my team, my customers and I’m proud of my product.  I am thrilled to see customers excited about styling a particular space in their home and leaving with ideas that they are simply giddy to implement.  They feel enlightened, engaged and invigorated to make their homes exactly into the space they love to live in.  Your immediate space around you is a reflection of your personal taste, style and expression. It is a chance to express exactly who you are.  My home is my sanctuary and I love every little piece of it.

What can we do when we feel the challenges at work are insurmountable or we feel overwhelmed?  What happens when we face a situation that may not even be in our job description or even on our radar of apparent skills?  We persevere.  We are amazing creatures with the ability to adapt, recover and respond.  We strive to maintain respect of those around us, even when another human has made a less-than-amazing choice that leaves you dealing with the aftermath.

Take a deep breath, friend.  Take a step away, if necessary.  Reach out for help and expertise of those above and around you who can lend wisdom and advice.  Remember that work is work and it does not define your life story.  When I managed a coffee shop my superior manager would just say something to the effect of, “It’s just water over beans, guys! We can handle it!”  Work has given me stressful days, hilarious antics, and challenged my character, at times.  I have laughed over my job, cried over my job, obsessed over my job, and quit 1,000 times in my mind.  I know, however, that getting to work with the people around me has also shaped me into a better version of myself.  I have met amazing individuals whom have impacted my life journey in so many ways.  I’m thankful for the friendships and opportunities my career has afforded me.  I’m thankful that several companies have entrusted me in my role with decision-making processes that impacts millions of dollars in revenue each year. 

When I’m in the trenches and working through the daily grind, I’m still thankful.  Success can be defined in different ways.  Sometimes it is hitting big goals and celebrating achievements, sometimes it is helping a colleague or employee through a tough decision, and sometimes it is climbing up on the roof, investigating odd smells, and receiving freight trucks in the middle of the night.  However we define success, it is usually one step at a time.  The power lies in sticking through the tough times and shining bright in the more celebratory moments.  It’s putting the best version of myself forward in every circumstance, living through the moment, and rising in the morning to do it all again.

Rachel Asks: What tough situations are you facing in your work day and what would best help you to overcome the challenge?  How can you leverage others around you to assist you in achieving your goals for success?  What would help you feel amazing today?

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