Tag Archives: Financial Peace University

Gazelle Intensity

I almost can’t believe it, but I met four deadlines last month! I don’t think I’ve ever done that in my writing life. Maybe the only time I’ve accomplished so much in such a short space of time is for school/college. But the point is – I did it.

What I learned from that experience is that I can do more than I think I can. Past experience may tell me that I can’t – until I make an experience that tells me I can. What I have to be careful of is thinking I can always get this much work done. It would be foolish of me to think I can work 10-16 hours a day, six days a week, for an infinite amount of time. For one thing, there is no time for friends or family, little time for exercise or healthy habits, and almost no time for fun.

However, last month I reminded myself that I can work very intensely and accomplish a lot in short bursts. Life is a marathon, and the writing life is a marathon, but sprints are useful and appropriate. (In my half marathon training, I use short sprints in training.)

John and I are participating in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, a money management course designed to get you out of debt and keep you out forever. In one of the lessons, Dave shows a video of a leopard chasing a gazelle. Even though the leopard can run faster than the gazelle, the gazelle got away! Why? Because the gazelle could make quick leaps out of the leopard’s path faster than he could move to intercept. The gazelle only has to keep this up for a short intense period until the leopard gives up and looks for easier prey.

Dave suggests we use this method to get out of debt. A short, intense burst of effort to pay off everything from credit cards to student loans to the balance on your mortgage. I listen to his radio podcast and people call in saying they’ve just paid off their last debt. Dave asks them how much they paid off and how long it took, then they give their debt free scream. It’s very inspiring! People are getting out of debt to the tune of $20,000 to $158,000 (that I’ve heard) in 12-48 months. John and I will be right in that range, and it’s exciting to know it can be done.

That’s what I learned last month with my writing deadlines. I focused like I have rarely focused before on one project, then another, then another, then another. And I got them all done, on time. I had hoped that on November 2, I would be able to sleep in, read a little, take a deep breath, and go back to a more relaxed lifestyle. But I still have four more time-sensitive projects to finish. At first, that made me feel super tired just thinking about it. Then I remembered the gazelle intensity speech.

I can’t keep up this pace forever, but I can do it for four more weeks. As one friend reminded me on November 2 when I was trying to figure out if I could do all this, I can’t “catch up” on everything that didn’t get done over the last year. But I can pick the most important things to finish now, and re-schedule my other goals for 2013.

National Novel Writing Month is about gazelle intensity. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are finding it can work for their writing life. But it works in every area of life. What do you really need to get done? Not just urgent things, but important things. Piles of paperwork? Haphazard, overcrowded home? Behind in something you could finish if you just really applied yourself for a few weeks?

Think about it and decide what you’re going to do about it. In the end, you’ll not only have accomplished something wonderful, and maybe done something about those monkeys on your back, but you’ll find pleasure in your own personal growth as self-discipline blooms in your life.

I’m nervous about failure, about exhaustion, about missing out on fun things other people are doing, but last month I proved that it can be done! So I’m going to keep it up for another month. See you at the finish line!

[Note: If you want more encouragement and direction in planning your goals for 2013, join me for my online class Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer. Here’s to a fabulous and productive new year!]

Does the Holy Spirit Smell Like Lavender?

Life is still a roller coaster. So many wonderful things happening – the writers conference was not only worth the cost in information gathered, but I won a Sony Reader! (See this post on Routines for Writers to hear details and see pictures.) Still, hard things keep coming. The fact that John is in between jobs and money is tight is suddenly meaningless because another family member just died a few days ago.

I don’t understand how all of these parts of life mix together. Sometimes I feel so compartmentalized; sometimes I feel everything is a swirl and I don’t see anything clearly. The only thing that makes sense so far is the thought that this is just how life is. The older you get, the more you experience, and the more you see that nothing is what you thought.

While that doesn’t make me feel good when I’m crying over another loss and trying to imagine what Thanksgiving and Christmas and so many other days will be like this year, I do find comfort in the idea that God is also not what I thought.

He’s more.

I don’t have any lofty theological arguments to talk you into seeing God my way. But I know what I’ve experienced. When times were tough, God sent people to help me through it – a plane ticket to see my mom before she died, friends who surrounded me with love and care, a husband and best friend who made me laugh and let me cry.

When John lost his job, God arranged things so that a friend told John about another company and John got a new job three hours after he lost the first one.

In a time of tight finances, even things we don’t “need” were provided in unexpected ways. A friend offered to give us their old car. John was given a computer, a large-screen TV, a smaller TV and several other items at a going-out-of-business event. At my writers conference, I won a Sony Reader after I was thinking and praying about how useful it would be to my self-publishing business. The conference itself provided some important information I’d been looking for and unable to find. Another friend offered to give us their old car to be our second car.

For over a year we’d been thinking about starting a financial program called Financial Peace University from Dave Ramsey. We had the materials; we just hadn’t opened the box. We started the program a month before John lost his first job, after only two months of work. Then his second job only lasted six weeks. If we hadn’t started this program when we did, we might’ve lost our apartment. But I believe God nudged us at the right time so that we could manage our money in a way to make it through this tough time. There is some talk at John’s old company that he’ll have work by the end of the month, and we have just enough money to make it.

Some people may call these things coincidence or providence. But many people use “providence” referring to “something out there” without knowing that it means divine guidance or care. Divine means of, relating to, or proceeding directly from God or a god. So many people believe there is some “god” out there who thinks it’s fun to give us things and take them away. I’d rather have more time with my mother than a car or a big-screen TV. Did a “god” take the one and give the other in some twisted sense of fun?

No. God doesn’t operate that way. He doesn’t do things willy-nilly. He has a plan. He talks about it over and over again in the Bible.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give  you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”

When I say that I’m learning that God is more than I thought He was, I mean that I am learning the deeper and more subtle meanings of things He has said and done. I’m getting better at knowing what He’s telling me in the here and now. Like that his plans to prosper me may or may not have to do with worldly wealth, but those plans definitely have to do with my spiritual wealth and health and growth.

I’ve been married to John for 22 years. (Shocking!) There are still so many things we don’t understand about each other, but every year we find ourselves closer than the year before. We understand each other a little better every year. We know each other on a deeper level every year. The more time we spend together, the more we finish each other’s sentences and thoughts.

Just today, John said, “What’s the name of the friend who gave me the, the -”

“Bacon t-shirt?” I asked. “Paula.”

How did I know what he was going to say? I have no idea! It’s a pretty random answer to be the correct one! I’ve been reading a lot of neuroscience books lately, and there are lots of ideas on why this sort of thing happens. But the more time John and I spend together, the more we grow and the more we grow together.

What I’ve found is that it happens with me and God, too, the more time we spend together. And that’s what I mean when I say I’m learning that God is more than I thought He was. I knew, absolutely, that He would take care of us in the midst of all these crises. But I had no idea He would be able to do so in a way that I could feel myself growing stronger as a person, not weaker.

The other day I was putting on the last of a lovely lavender-scented hand cream a friend gave me. The smell of lavender is supposed to have a calming effect, so I rubbed it in and breathed in the scent. There, I thought, this will relax me.

Then I remembered that God as the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. God is the one who can help me relax the most quickly, who will help that peace to be lasting.

Of course, God also created all the plants and everything else on the earth. And I found myself giggling and wondering, does God smell like lavender?

I don’t know yet. But it won’t surprise me if I get to heaven and hug Him and start giggling. And before I can even finish my sentence, “Father, you smell like -”

He’ll laugh and say, “Lavender. I thought you’d like that.”