Three Simple Steps to Success

Simple Folders

I was asked today how I get things done.  I had to laugh, because this morning was another morning I found myself awake at 3:00 a.m. worrying about all the things I hadn’t gotten done, or feared I would never do. It always amazes me how we see ourselves so different from the way others see us.  I wonder sometimes which view is more accurate, more true.  I think most often how others see us is a more accurate reflection of who we are.  As women we are hard on ourselves-we set high standards and often expect the impossible of ourselves.  It’s nice every now and then to hear from someone else what they think of you-how they perceive you. The innocent question this morning served as a little pick me up in the midst of my worry and striving.

The truth is “it” will never be finished.  There will always be more to do.  If I am growing and learning and stretching, that is exactly as it should be.  Doesn’t make it any easier.  Frustrations rise when the dog tracks in mud on the clean floors, the kids pull out from under the bed or floor of their closet, two more loads of laundry just when I thought the last piece had been dried and hung and the husband informs me we are out of coffee just after my face is washed and visions of pajamas are dancing in my head.  Add to that the request to serve one more day of lunch duty or fill in for a sick co-worker/friend.  I know you know.  We all know.  We all get it.  It’s life.  We can either fight it or we can embrace every moment of it as a gift and give it our all.  We can linger in frustration, resist doing or we can give ourselves a pep talk (coffee with a friend does wonders for me!) and pick back up.

I don’t do it all.  In fact I am almost (believe me when I tell you it has been a long work in progress) done trying.  I have learned to scale back my to do list.  I have learned that there is ONE thing I absolutely will not give up.  I have learned  there is a time (literal time) to stop.  I haven’t learned the lessons easily.  I am not perfect.  But these three things truly transform my day, which transforms my week, which transforms my life.

1.  I arise early and spend time with God.  I used to think there was no “right” time to do this.  I would now argue strongly that is false.  God asks for first fruits.  The Old Testament was full of instructions about offerings and first fruits.  Christ came to fulfill that law, but we see in His daily living that He gave God His first fruits.  Choosing to spend time with God first thing in the morning matters.  It matters because that is about as close as I will ever be to being sinless.  It is important because no one else has begun pecking at me, seeking my attention.  It matters because He says it matters.  I began this practice in high school.  While I have missed days, it really rarely happens, and believe me when it does, it is rarely pretty.  Arise early and spend time with God.

2.  Drink 8 glasses of water a day.  This one I struggle with.  I love water.  I grew up being a water drinker.  I prefer water to most drinks.  But some how, the idea of drinking 8 glasses in one day overwhelms me and the more cognizant I am of it, the harder it is.  However, nothing makes me feel better than doing this one thing.  I am more energized.  I think more clearly.  I rarely get a migraine.  I eat less.  The list could go on.  Drink 8 glasses of water a day.

3.  This last one is fairly new to me.  Shortly after my girls were born (about 15 years ago) I began to struggle with fatigue and some autoimmune health issues.  I need sleep.  Like every good American, I wasn’t getting it.  I began to go to bed earlier.  For me to do number one, arise and spend time with God, I have to get up between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m.  So, count backwards and that means a 9:30 bed time.  I rarely make it to bed that early and NEVER fall asleep that early (but that is a whole other issue), but I did begin “shutting down the house” at 9:00 p.m.  My girls quickly learned that coming to mom at 9:15 to get a signature on a paper, ask for a school uniform shirt to be washed etc… wasn’t gonna cut it.  In fact, it wasn’t gonna happen.  Recently though I found myself filling the evening time with other items: e-mail, Facebook, writing, cards, ironing, etc…  I was finding myself less and less engaged with my family.  So, I now try to wrap up all work by 2:00 p.m.  I try to have the three most important tasks for the day, the ones that move me towards my goals or project deadlines, completed by 2:00 p.m.  That leaves me the afternoon to catch up, do household chores etc…  I am now getting dinner cleaned up and then focusing on time with the family.  I am getting a lot of reading done, but I am less distracted and way less irritable if someone wants to sit and visit or needs a little extra help with homework or simply wants to talk.  I’ll even throw in a last minute load of laundry.  I am not as firm about “shutting down the house”, but having this extra couple of hours to just be, relate with my family, has honestly resulted in all of us being more ready to “shut it down” around 9:00/9:30.  Complete your three most important tasks by 2:00 p.m. and then block off the time after dinner for family.

Three simple disciplines.  They make a difference.  They keep me centered.  They help me know my priorities.  They make me healthier.  They create opportunity for being.  I got number one down.  I’m not giving up on number two and three.  I am less “successful” there, but I’ll keep on trying.

 

Who Am I? A Mother’s Quandry

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with a fellow ministry friend at a church women’s event.  We got to sit with another ministry friend, who was hosting one of the break out groups at this same women’s ministry event.  I love these two women.  One I have known for almost 14 years.  The other, roughly 18 months.  It is amazing though how close I feel to both these women.  These women encourage me, they challenge me, but more importantly they hold me accountable.

As happens at so many women’s ministry events there was a little “mixer” game.  Well, seeing as that the three of us were catching up and preparing for our presentations, I kind of missed the directions.  The game was one in which you were to meet new women, ask them to answer one of about 12 questions, note their answer and name, and then move on to the next woman.  At the end of the night there were door prizes for those who had answered each question.  In other words, a fun way to get to know some other women in the room.  Questions ranged from what is your favorite color, to what’s one goal you aspire to achieve.  Well, considering that I was NOT paying attention, I began filling out the questionnaire all for myself.  I had in my mind we would be trying to find women who had answered the questions the same way we had.  Really?  I realize now that makes absolutely no sense, but…  We do find a way to justify things, don’t we.  My dear friends, usually quick to speak truth and hold me accountable, apparently thought I was taking notes for my presentation or something, because neither of them stopped me.  We finished eating and then proceeded to make our presentations etc… We gathered back together for the close of the event and the grand finale-door prizes.  Needless to say, it became readily apparent to me I had completed the assignment wrong!  Good grief.  As I snickered to myself I told my friends what I had done.  Yes, they laughed.  In fact, they laughed out loud.  There was a smart remark or two about some of my answers (apparently the fact my favorite ice cream is Rocky Road spoke volumes to one of my sweet friends-so I feel certain there will be a blog post to follow.)  As my dear friends laughed WITH me, I am certain they were not laughing at me (HA!), one said, “Well, I guess it never hurts to stop and get to know yourself again!’

No truer words could have been spoken.  We go and do and run so hard sometimes, I do believe we forget who we are.  We get so busy being someone’s wife, the mother of so and so, the home room mom… that we forget who we really are.  In all honesty it was fun to fill out that sheet.  I had a little get to know me mixer all by myself.  I kind of liked the woman I got to know that evening.  There were even a few questions I had to really stop and think about.  How would I describe myself in three words?  If someone made a movie of my life, would it be a drama, comedy or action film?  I can get so busy doing, meeting expectations, that I forget to be me.  I do what I think I am supposed to do to be the good wife, good mom, talented writer, hard working organizer…  Yet in the midst of all that I do, I exist.  Me.  The one created by God in His image to carry out His good works for eternity.  The one that likes Rocky Road ice cream, relaxes by reading a good book or baking, envies Meg Ryan because of her hair, loves melon, and would be an eagle if I had to choose an animal to be. I’m the one whose heart cry is for women.  I’m the one who thought she didn’t want to be a mom, then thought I’d never be a mom, and now loves being a mom.  I’m the one with insecurities.  I’m the one who still feels the sting of harsh words and rejection.  I’m the one who struggles with worry and doubt.  I’m the one God loves.   I’m the one slowly getting to see God’s plans unfold.  I’m the one with some pretty amazing friends.  I AM who I AM because of the GREAT I AM.

Take a moment for yourself this week.  Who are you?  Think about it.  Relish in it.  Thank Him for creating You-His daughter, His bride.  We moms need to remember who we are, because who we are will see us through to the finish-beyond the mothering years, beyond the work years.  Mingle and Mix with yourself.  I bet like me, you’ll enjoy getting to know yourself.

Here are a few questions to get you going:

1.  If you could have an endless supply of food, what would you get?

2.  If you were an animal what would you be and why?

3.  What is your favorite thing to do in summer?

4.  If you were an ice cream flavor which one would you be and why?

5.  What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?

6.  What is your pet peeve?

Living in the White Space-Interruptions Become Blessingso

I have written about white space.  I began to implement using “white space” in my planning a little over 9 years ago, after a marketing executive friend shared with me the importance of white space in printed materials or visual campaigns.  We had been visiting about a marketing campaign, and as women, our conversation had slid into sharing with one another our struggles to manage life.  Talking about white space led to talking about caring for ourselves, finding time to slow down etc…  Living in the white space has helped me move from living frustrated and frantic, to living with a sense of rhythm and joy.  I am able to see what I use to call “interruptions” as opportunities to be blessed or bless.  An unexpected invitation to lunch becomes a time to catch up with a dear friend.  A plea for help getting a house in order is a time to laugh and grow in fellowship with a friend or new client.  A gentle hug from one of my girls is an opportunity to stop and give them my full attention, listening not only to their words, but their heart.  Living in the white space gives me time to rest, permission to just stop and be for a moment-to look around and see God’s provisions, to be grateful, to dream, to grow through the words of an eloquent writer.

This week the white space has been an opportunity to walk through a difficult place with some dear friends-friends walking through a difficult pregnancy only to get devastating news and find themselves welcoming their sweet baby girl at 25 weeks, preparing to hand her over to the Lord in peaceful rest.  Living in the white space afforded me the opportunity to move some meetings, forget about the chores and just be with this incredible couple of faith.  Be.  Just be.  That’s really what the white space is about.  You see, there is nothing I can do for this couple.  Their journey is a very personal journey unique to them.  While I know the sense of loss that comes from losing a child, I do not know their journey.  I do not understand their pain.  I have no answers.  All God asks of me, of any of us, is to just be with.  He is with us.  And through us He can minister to and be with those we spend time with.  So, the white spaced was filled with sitting.  Just sitting.  Just being there.  Just listening.  Just putting my arms around when the sorrow came over like gentle waves.

As only God can do, He sent nourishment to my spirit in the perfect moment through Holly Gerth’s blog.  I share that blog with you today as one more reminder that living in the white space is so very important.  My friends’ journey is not over.  Their sweet baby girl is still struggling to arrive.  Thankful for more white space on my calendar.  Thankful that in the months and year ahead I will have those white space moments to sit and remember with my faithful friend her baby girl and the milestones.

http://holleygerth.com/okay-rest-really/

 

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Truth for Daughters-And Mom Needs to Hear It Too

I was up at 3:00 a.m.  The doubts, the fears, the wondering…  How easily we fall prey.  Add menopause in the mix and getting a good night’s sleep seems truly elusive.  Then, this message.  The one that tugged at my heart and spoke to the depths of my womanhood.  I printed this devotional message and placed it in the journals I keep for my girls.  They need these words, this message.  Today, I need to impart it to them in my own words.  Once they have left my nest, I pray they treasure the journal.  The one filled with my prayers for them as they grew in my womb.  The one full of magical moments caught in words.  The one with tear stained pages when I felt I wasn’t enough or had lost my temper in a very un-Christian like way.  The one with letters of congratulations marking the day of their baptism and public confession of faith in Jesus Christ as the one and only Son of God, Lord of their lives.  I pray, as I pray over each entry, these pages tucked in will serve to remind them their worth, their value.

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/09/what-women-need-to-say-to-each-other-to-shatter-the-dark/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aholyexperience.com%2F2014%2F09%2Fwhat-women-need-to-say-to-each-other-to-shatter-the-dark%2F&utm_content&utm_campaign=A+Holy+Experience+Blog+Posts

 

 

Striving Stress to Relinquishing Rest-Lessons from Mary and Martha

I love organization.  I love having the sense that my life is in order and therefore I am able to serve.  I love having the sense of peace and calm that comes from being in an uncluttered environment.  I love that God is a God of order and even in the creation story we see His deliberate order.  I love order.  I have always loved order.  I have to admit though, that often, and especially in my early days, order was a means of control.  I worked so hard to have order, keep order, because I was striving to please, to be good enough, to succeed.  Those aren’t in and of themselves bad reasons, but they aren’t the best of reasons.  I often hid hurt, sorrow, frustration, disappointment behind my order.  I often let keeping order keep me busy so I didn’t have to participate or deal with some things.  Isn’t it funny how things in our life that can be really good things can become walls, keeping others out and keeping us from living abundantly and freely?!  Striving to do something in an attempt to get something really does nothing more than exhaust us.

There are days when I look back over the course of my adult life and get discouraged, saddened by the course of events, most out of my control.  My parents divorced, an array of hardships resulting from that for all of us.  Financial strains of family members and my husband and I trying to fix those or provide, often beyond our means.  Getting married to have two different family members live with us in the first year and half of marriage.  Paul’s mother being diagnosed with brain cancer and passing on within our fourth year of marriage.  Six years of infertility.  A difficult and complicated pregnancy resulting in the loss of a set of identical twins and the live birth of beautiful fraternal twin girls.  My husband facing the suicide of two good friends.  Mixed in with that the normal ups and downs.  Losing grandparents.  Beginning new businesses.  Having those not so great days in marriage and in parenting.

Sadly through most of it I spent a lot of time striving.  Striving to get through it the way I thought all good Christian girls were supposed to.  Striving to keep myself from falling apart.  Striving to keep others out of our business so as to avoid the inadvertent harsh remarks.  Striving.  This same striving often led to my rushing decisions and trying to work “ahead” of God.  This same striving often caused me to lose focus on what was most important and even caused me to lose my compassion for others.  Striving stress became a way of life.

It is a long story, over the course of about 6 years, but God has shown me that relinquishing rest comes only from Him and comes ONLY when I quit striving.  I can’t rush God’s work.  I can’t fix things for others, and often I can’t even fix them for myself.  My life is intertwined with others and at times their choices, their decisions, their God given direction changes the course of my direction, my life, my plans.  I don’t understand.  At times it seems unfair.  But this I have learned-no amount of striving, attempts at putting everything in order, creating order out of chaos will change anything.  It may serve as a band-aid for a moment or a time, but it will always lead to exhaustion.

I don’t know if it is this way for you or not, but when God has a message for me and I am slow in taking it in, or need the affirmation of hearing it over and over, He does just that.  I find myself daily running into the message, the story, the characters-whatever it may be.  Mary and Martha have been that for me the past 7-8 months.  A common story and one women often read, but seldom really understand.  The scripture isn’t about comparing these two sisters.  It isn’t about making one more right than the other, but gosh do we women love to go there.  This story is about striving stress and relinquishing rest.  This story is about two sisters, who when living life together, embracing one another’s strengths and weaknesses, were able to serve our Lord in their home, trust Him for their brother’s healing/resurrection and accept Him as Lord before most even understood who He was.  Martha was not chastised for her preparations and her organizational skills.  She was gently reminded that there was a time to stop.  There is a time to set aside the “doing” and rest in the moment.  I have no doubt Mary had been helping Martha.  Now, I don’t doubt Mary was the baby sister and didn’t give her housekeeping and organizational work the same effort big sister Martha did, but I still believe she helped her sister.  However, once Jesus arrived, Mary decided that what had been prepared was good enough and it was time to take enjoy her company, to learn from the Master.  Martha couldn’t let go.  She couldn’t quit striving.  I think her motives were pure-she wanted Jesus to have the very best.  She wanted it all to be just perfect.  But that is where the truth lies.  We are not perfect.  We can not strive enough to become perfect.  He knows.  He sees.  He created us.  He wants us in our less than perfect state.  He wants to spend time with us teaching us, encouraging us, growing us, changing us, bringing our image closer to His image. Mary got it.  She knew when to let go and let God.

I love these sisters.  I love that God is using their story to alter the course of my story.  I love that even now, thousands of years later, I can learn from Mary and Martha.  I know I would have been drawn to them.  I know I would have love being in their home.  I am working on my striving.  I’m still in love with order, with organization, but I’m working really hard on doing it for the right reasons.  I want to manage my time, so that God can order my days.  I want to be faithful with that He has placed on my plate today, so I am ready for the task He gives me tomorrow.  I want to relinquish control and use my gifts and talents to draw others to Him.  My home plays a BIG part in that plan.  Letting go plays a BIG part in that plan.  From striving stress to relinquishing rest.

Perfect Planner-Business Pages to Keep Me Going

Where did Friday go?  Ever have one of those weeks?  This has been one.  I love fall.  I love back to school-not because my kids go back to school, but because it is the beginning of a new year: new calendar; new schedules; new plans…  However, it takes a a bit to get used to it all and to get all my systems in place.  My planner helps, in fact I couldn’t survive without it.  It keeps me focused.  I can also trust my planner when I can’t trust my brain!

I currently home-school one of my daughters.  I strive to live my priorities God, family, then work.  I have been privileged to have the opportunity to stay at home.  When my girls entered middle school I began working towards developing opportunities to earn some income, while still keeping my priorities.  For a brief period I actually went back to work outside the home, working for someone else.  The discontent was overwhelming-not just for me, but for my family.  It became clear I needed to be back home, where God had called me years earlier.  I had to quit comparing myself to others.  I had to quit wondering why I couldn’t “do it all” like some of my friends and acquaintances.  That’s not what it was about.  It was about God’s call for me.  What my life looks like is and will be different from that of others.  I can’t explain it.  I don’t always understand it.  That’s o.k.  God has plans.  His plans are often not in accordance with our ways.  It is not for me to understand, it is just for me to obey.

That being said, I am back at home.  I have begun an organizing business with one of my best friends and recently Mary & Martha found me, I am an independent consultant.  I have my real estate license, but am not sure where that will go or how long  I will keep that.  Managing our home, home-schooling, working in ministry through the Christian Women’s Job Corps and the Women’s Missionary Union, and juggling these income opportunities is challenging.  I was really struggling with keeping information at my fingertips.  I love binders, and for a while each project had a binder.  Problem was, I was frequently out or away from my office space and needed to be able to access some information.  As I began to build my new planner using Life is Crafted products I decided to add some business pages in the back.

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I have a tab for each business.  Behind each tab I keep a running Master To Do list.  I write down things I need to do to develop the business.  I can then determine week to week whether or not I have time to work on those tasks or just address the immediate clients/tasks.  Next, I have a set of monthly tabs.  I keep client intake sheets for my organizing business, hostess information for Mary & Martha, monthly promo sheets for Mary & Martha and any listing or selling agreements/info for my real estate.  I am in process of locating a monthly budget sheet that will help me track income and expenses for the three businesses.  I still keep separate binders for each business, but this allows me to have important data at my fingertips at all times (client names, contact info, listing info…).  The back pocket of the binder holds the current Mary & Martha catalog and brochures for my organizing business, Simplified- Organized- Styled (SOS).  I also keep post-it notes so I can flag items in my calendar, make notes, flag favorites/corrections in the catalog.

Life is crazy.  Things happen.  I can plan and plan, but at the end of the day life can only be lived one day at a time.  I love my planner.  I have no doubt it will continue to evolve and change as life evolves and changes.  I can minimize stress for myself by planning weekly and disciplining myself to write things down.  However, I am learning day by day to remember that God is in control.  I can’t run too for ahead with plans-my plans.  I want to be obedient and I want to be faithful.  I pray weekly and daily over my planner.  I want to do my best at what I have each day.  I want to be faithful.  I want to be ready for whatever he may have in store for me (like homeschooling).  My perfect planner helps me do that.  For it to really work I have to remember:

1.  My ways are not His ways.  I can never quit listening.  I listen best as I pray each morning over my plans.

2.  White space is imperative.  Life will either be full of interruptions (if I plan with no white space) OR it will be full of opportunities (those unexpected things I can do without stress when my calendar has built in white space.)

3.  Obedience to His calling gives peace.

4.  I can NOT do it all.  Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  Today is about today.  Live well today and tomorrow holds opportunity.

5.  My planner is meant to guide me, not control me or confine me.

 

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Perfect Planner Does NOT Mean Perfect Plans

I have “planneritice”.  A friend and I have coined that term after numerous discussions regarding our obsession with planners.  Despite owning numerous planners (not necessarily all at once, although I am afraid that too is true on occasion) she and I can get lost in time searching for the perfect planner.  While this is in part due to our desire to always grow in our organizational wisdom, I have to confess, at least for me, it is in part due to the notion in my mind that the perfect planner will finally bring perfect order to my life.  No more plans gone awry.  No more searching for papers.  No more last minute runs to Wal-Mart of a gift on the way to the party.  No more forgotten birthdays.  No more…  Oh if it were only so!

As I mentioned, I have found the “perfect” planner for me.   A compilation of several planner pages and some creativity on my part.  However, let me be clear.  This perfect planner has NOT meant perfect plans.  I do make better decisions (most days).  I do worry less as I know my “to do” items are written down (most of the time).  But, life is not perfect.  I am not perfect.  The people I live with and work with are not perfect.  To live this life with any level of peace and joy, we just have to build in space for the imperfect.  

My daily planner pages are the center of my planner.  The heart beat if you wish.  I refer back to these pages ALL day long.  These pages in particular are why I love the Life is Crafted system so very much.

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These pages are divided into 8 columns.  One for each day of the week, and an extra left over.  Across the top are 8 blocks to be labeled with categories or project titles.  I use the same 8 categories each week.  Home, My girls names, Mary & Martha, Keller Williams/SOS, New House, Miscellaneous and Blog.  I look back at my Master To Do and any items on the Monthly To Do.  I select the items I need to do next and write them under the appropriate heading.  I try not to have more than 4-5 items under each heading.  Remember that need to build in time for the imperfect?  Yep.  Be real.  Know you will have interruptions (good and bad), know things will take longer than planned, just know.  The next section is a column for each day (beginning with Monday) and time slots.  This system begins at 8:00 and goes through 7:00.  I wouldn’t mind it starting a little earlier, but… Here is where I time block.  I honestly believe this is the key to good time management and absolutely the hardest habit to develop.  I fill in appointments first.  Second, I determine which tasks from the above section I want to complete on which day.  I determine a day and time and block off 15 minutes more than I think I will need.  I also leave 15 minutes between every appointment and/or time block.  So, in reality I build myself a 30 minute buffer.  And guess what?  Some days that still isn’t enough.  Below is a section to write down the 3 most important things to do that day (and these items should be in my time blocks somewhere)  and then list out specific tasks.  If I have quick phone calls, an email to respond to…. that is not a part of a bigger project and I know can happen in less than five minutes I will write those things down here and not time block them.  I love that the pages include little stars at the bottom for tracking water consumption (which you can tell I have not don :()  There is also a place to write down 5 things you are grateful for each week.  I am working hard to discipline myself to do this.  If you have read any of my other posts, you know I was convicted about Gratitude and am an avid reader of Ann Voskamp.  I’m not there yet, but this little reminder is helping.  When possible I do color code appointments.  I usually use a yellow highlighter to mark off the time blocks.  It gives me a really good visual and helps me guard those time blocks.

At the end of the day, the truth is, time management is about discipline.  It is about being mindful.  I have to stop and put some thought into what I am doing.  What is most important.  Sometimes items that don’t look important are critical-like laundry!  I have to work the plan.  We have all heard it said before.  I can get it all on paper, but if I never open the planner, never check in during the day to see what I have done (mark it off!!!!), I will fail to move forward on projects.  I’ll fail to do those things that are BEST.  My planner is simple.  I don’t use Smashbook or Washi tape.  I wish I did.  I love to see the creativeness.  It’s not me.  I’m a simple gal, needing a little focus and discipline.  So, these pages work for me.

The remainder of the planner are sections I have added to track my businesses and attempt to have pertinent information with me.  They have been the “work in progress” the past 6 months.  I think I have about got them tweaked and working.

My perfect planner is working for me.  The secret though is in me working my plan and allowing for imperfection.