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Why Being Too Busy Ruins Your Effectiveness (And How to Untangle From Commitments)

  • Wendy Pope Author of: Yes, No, & Maybe
Why Being Too Busy Ruins Your Effectiveness (And How to Untangle From Commitments)

My then six-year-old daughter sounded the alarm as she ran through the house, “Momma, a hummingbird is trapped in the garage. A hummingbird is trapped in the garage!” Great. Just what I need. I’m already late, trying to get out the door for church, and now I have to deal with a stuck bird. The anxious voice in my head immediately switched to the calm “Everything’s gonna be all right” mom voice, as I assured my daughter we’d rescue the bird. As we walked out to assess the situation, I found myself wondering, How do you get a bird out of a building?

The poor bird frantically flew from one closed window to the other closed window, trying to escape its accidental captivity. Aha! I’ll open the windows. But my tiny feathered friend must have felt threatened rather than relieved by my assistance, because she perched herself on the motor of the garage door opener and ignored the open windows. Operation Hummingbird Fly Home attempt 1: fail. My mind quickly regrouped.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock/macniak

Wrought with Worry

Wrought with Worry

Move the van. Yes. The door opening is larger than the window opening. Even after I removed her biggest obstacle, my little birdy still couldn’t figure out how to find the freedom made available to her. She continued to flit and flitter, more anxiously than before. Why couldn’t she work it out? Maybe her mind was wrought with worry. Perhaps physical exhaustion had clouded her reasoning and kept her from seeing the way of escape in front of her. Rather than breaking free, she remained panting on top of the motor box. Operation Hummingbird Fly Home attempt 2: fail.

My heart raced as I tried to formulate another plan. I cried out, Lord, I have to get this bird out of here. I have to get to church. My class will be waiting. In the pause of the prayer, the Lord gave me another idea. It was the best yet. God was a genius!

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Trapped in Turmoil

Trapped in Turmoil

I grabbed the broom and held the straw bristles near her tired body in the hope that she’d step on them and allow me to carry her to freedom. Sadly, the poor thing interpreted my offer of help as a threat. She erratically flew faster from window to window, but higher this time, hitting her head on the ceiling, as if to say, “Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me!” By this point, my heart was breaking, my kids were in tears, and I felt certain the bird was crying too. In a strange way, I began to feel a kindred spirit with this little hummer. She was worn out … and so was I. My exhaustion didn’t stem just from being Wendy the Bird Rescuer, but from all the commitments piled on my plate. In a similar way to our feathered captive, I felt trapped and in turmoil.

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“I’m caught up in the captivity of activity.”

“I’m caught up in the captivity of activity.”

I told the kids to go inside so the bird could calm down, and with tears pouring from my eyes, I sat down. I get it, Lord. I’m caught up in the captivity of activity. Help me slow down … and help me set this bird and myself free.

In one final attempt, I slowly lifted the broom under the fragile feet of my friend. Her worn-out body fell on the straw bristles. Motionless, she sat on the broom as I carefully carried her to freedom. Fly away, friend. So wonderful to meet you today. Thanks for the lesson. Operation Hummingbird Fly Home attempt 3: success!

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Natalie Collins

Entangled with Commitments

Entangled with Commitments

I would have never scheduled a life-altering encounter with God and a hummingbird forty-five minutes before the time to leave for church. But clearly, I needed a visualization of my current lifestyle. It was time to pause and consider all my assignments: my freedom for had become freedomto do. My proverbial hat rack was full: wife to Scott, mother to Blaire and Griffin, operating manager of the Pope household, friend, daughter, women’s ministry director, Bible study leader, Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker, author, and part-time employee. (Whew! I’m fatigued just typing that list.)

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“We can spread ourselves so thin that we become busy, but not effective.”

“We can spread ourselves so thin that we become busy, but not effective.”

It’s easy to get caught in the trap of freedom to do. Our love and excitement for the Lord generates a desire to spend all our energy on Him. We become entangled with commitments and strangle our freedom. We can spread ourselves so thin that we become busy, but not effective. If we aren’t careful to consider reasonable assignments, we may become resentful of all assignments. Our overload slowly affects our productivity, and then our relationships.

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Captivated by Activity

Captivated by Activity

The lesson I learned from my little hummer friend had a profound effect on me. In the weeks following our encounter, I began to pray and seek the Lord about my captivity of activity. The revelation was eye opening. I had never intended to be so busy serving others that I had little left for those I loved the most. My family received leftovers: leftover creativity, leftover energy, and leftover joy. Yet they were also on the frontline to receive my temper, anxiety, and short-fused responses.

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“The immeasurably more life isn’t rushed; it’s relaxed.”

“The immeasurably more life isn’t rushed; it’s relaxed.”

The immeasurably more life isn’t rushed; it’s relaxed—relaxed in a confident faith that God will direct us to the right ministry assignments and guard us from the wrong ones. This is something I had never considered, which was a costly mistake. Rather than seeing the best of God’s work in me, my family saw a “hummingbird mom” stuck in and frenzied from service, with little left to give to her greatest ministry assignment, her family. My humming friend taught me a great lesson while perched on the motor box. She taught me to pause and consider. Call me silly, but I think she considered her options and accepted the best one.

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Choosing to Consider

Choosing to Consider

Who decided ministry and life are races meant to be rushed rather than experiences designed to be relished? How different would the flow of our life be if we chose to consider?

Careful contemplation isn’t something that comes naturally for many people, nor is it a concept widely embraced. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. Rush. Rush. Rush. Our streets and highways are full of individuals needing to be somewhere yesterday. We no longer enjoy the simple pleasure of a leisurely meal. Texting has replaced calling, and emailing is preferred to writing a letter. Consider says, “Wait a minute, there’s too much at stake for me to make an uninformed, rash decision.” Before compromising calmness and adding to chaos, we must consider our people, our schedule, and our giftedness, and cover every decision in prayer. The pause we make today, will have a huge impact on our tomorrow, and the tomorrows of everyone we love.

This article is an excerpt from Yes, No and Maybe: Living With the God of Immeasurably More. Used with permission.

Wendy Pope is the wife of Scott, mother of Blaire and Griffin, author, speaker, and Bible study teacher. She loves lazy Sundays watching golf with her husband, thrift-store shopping with her daughter, and watching building shows with her son. Wendy is the author and Wait and See: Finding Peace in God’s Pauses and Plans and Yes, No and Maybe: Living With the God of Immeasurably More. She leads women all over the world to life change through her in-depth online Bible studies. Down-to-earth and transparent, Wendy teaches in a way that women feel she is speaking directly to their hearts. She has led thousands of women through her Read Thru the Word (RTW) study of the One Year Chronological Bible.  Her messages are filled with biblical insights but sprinkled with just the right amount of humor to help her audiences see she is a real, everyday woman.

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