Routines Don’t Mean a Routine Life

A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law and I were visiting about the challenge of managing our families.  House cleaning, meal planning, calendar coordinating.  It can all be overwhelming.  I was reminded though that systems and routines are critical, imperative.  We all seem to push back on routines, thinking life will become too structured, too mundane, too routine.

We have entered a new season in our home.  Our girls have entered higher ed and we have entered those empty nest years, although they aren’t quite out of the nest.  I went back to work full-time.  New season, new challenges.  As I visited with my sister-in-law I realized I had let too many of our routines and systems fall to the wayside.  Some needed to.  Life is different.  But frustrations were hitting us.  Meal time felt stressful, laundry was piling up and seemed to consume our weekends, entertaining was happening less often.  I’d been avoiding setting up new systems and routines.  I was pushing back, feeling like life was too structured, too much of my time was not my own.  The truth is, routines and systems create room for a full life.

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Clean spaces, simple meal preparation, laundry systems, allow for me, my family, to enjoy time doing the things we love.  The systems and the routines don’t confine us, they free us.  The mundane, the chores are taken care of in small pockets of time, leaving larger pockets of time to relax, to fellowship, to live fully.

Here are a few routines I have put back in place:

  1.  A load of laundry washed and transferred to the dryer each morning. (5:30 am)
  2. Weeknight meal themes:  Sunday-Pasta, Monday-Fish, Tuesday-Beef, Wednesday-Salad/Sandwiches, Thursday-Chicken, Friday-Eat Out, Saturday-Rice Bowls
  3. M,W,F-vacuum, M touch up bathrooms, W dust (I am fortunate to have a housekeeper)
  4. Sunday coupon clipping and pick-up grocery order
  5. Friday planning-fill out calendar and schedule for the week to come
  6. 4:30 workouts (as soon as I get home)

I encourage you to create some routines.  Don’t look at them as confining. Instead, look at them as a tool to help you create time for the things you love, as a tool to help you delegate, as a tool to create habits.

Routines don’t mean a routine life.

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Are You Ready?

Easter is my absolute favorite holiday.  I love the anticipation:  Lent, Holy Week-pondering all that my God and Savior did for me.  It is also the season of renewal, “spring cleaning”, fresh starts as nature’s green bounty begins to emerge.  The colors, the song birds, the crisp air, all representative of new life.

It’s easy to get caught up in the doing:  cleaning base boards, washing exterior windows, running errands, planting perennials, thatching the grass, preparing Sunday’s Easter menu.  But oh how sad, if that is all we prepare for.

This year I ask myself, and I ask you.  Are you ready?  Are you ready to really give your life to Christ?  I don’t just mean a one time faith decision proclaiming you believe in Jesus Christ the Son of the one and only God, Jaw-eh.  Are you ready to submit to His will, to accept whatever is required of you to serve Him, to be used by Him to show His majesty and power to a fallen world?  Christ’s agony in the garden, asking His Father to spare him, to remove the cup, but then bending to His Father’s will was not just for our salvation, but is an example of how we are to live-broken, submitted, willing.

I want to be willing.  I no longer want the circumstances of my life to dictate my feelings, my responses.  I want to live yielded.  I want to be ready.  I know to do that I have to remain disciplined to begin my day with Him, girding myself with His truth, prayerfully yielding each day to Him and remembering that the only true calling on my life is to live obedient to His Word.

Are you ready?  If you have never chosen to accept Christ as the Son of God, would you consider that today?  There is no hope, no life without Him.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  He is our hope, our only way to God the Father.  New life comes through the shedding of His blood on our behalf.

If you are a Christian, would you join me in preparing for all God calls you to?  Will you submit?  Be willing to be ready.  Sunday is coming.  Sunday is not the culmination and should not be our one “big” day of worship.  Sunday is the beginning.  He died.  He rose again.  He walked among His disciples and then ascended into Heaven. leaving us with the power of His Spirit.  May we be ready to live victoriously for Him all year and may our churches be filled.

Don’t Plan Your Week, Guide Your Week

I love organization:  calendars, baskets, hooks, notebooks, planners, colored pens, labels, label makers… the list goes on.  It is in my DNA.  The first born.  Type A.  Disc profile C.  Perfectionist.  Scheduler.  The list could go on, but I am sure you get the drift.

My bent towards organization hasn’t always been my friend.  In fact, it has often been my enemy.  I may appear on the outside to have it all under control, to be gifted and skilled at juggling life’s demands.  On the inside though, it has often been a different story.  The expectations grow and with them the voice in my head pushing me to perfection, telling me “I am not enough”, “do more”.  The anxiety driven by the fear I won’t keep it all together.  The laser like focus keeping me from seeing opportunities and moments around me.  The pursuit all consuming and confining, leaving little room for vulnerability, allowing others to help.  It can be and has been exhausting.  It can be and has been my worst attribute.  But, it is also a gift.

So how do I keep the gift from becoming my demon?  I embrace who I am.  I am created in God’s image, to serve Him and to be reconciled to Him, engaged in the daily ministry of reconciliation.  He is a God of order (simply read the story of creation).  His Word provides a road map.  I am bent towards organization and in His sight that is good, it is just as He desired it to be, just as He created me to be.  However, I have to remember, managing my life:  my things; my activities; my people, is simply a tool to be used to serve Him.  I can’t let it become about CONTROL.  Yes.  Too often  my pursuit of organization is more about my attempt to CONTROL, than to be and serve.  I have to remember He is in control, and my attempts to manage are simply a part of a process.  He teaches me, He guides me, He directs my paths.  CONTROL is the demon.  When I use my talents and my gifts to follow His direction, I relinquish CONTROL, and He is in control.

Maintaining the balance isn’t easy.  The past has taught me.  I have learned to spend less time planning, and more time simply developing a road map/a guide, full of white space, breathing space.  The white space and breathing space give the opportunities to stop, to pray, to listen, to adjust.  My life is fuller.  The pursuit is no longer for perfection or control.  Instead, the pursuit is for relationship, obedience with the One in control.

If you, like me, struggle with this balance, here are a few tools and tricks I use.

  1. I LOVE my Cultivate What Matters planner.  This is not a weekly or daily planner, but a great tool for setting yearly goals, determining what matters most and then cultivating habits to bring it to fruition.  If you haven’t checked this resource out, head over to https://cultivatewhatmatters.com/.  I am not paid to endorse, this product.  I genuinely LOVE and USE this product.
  2. I am a recovering planner addict.  I have spent more money on planners than I ever care to disclose.  Seriously, it is an addiction!  I still struggle.  Each November my Facebook and Pinterest feeds fill with cute images of beautiful planners, stickers, pens etc.  My heart races and I begin to think, “what if…”  I am pleased to tell you though, going on THREE years strong, I have stuck with my Planner Pad planner.  It isn’t all sparkly and cute.  It is practical.  But the layout works for me.  It is a weekly planner format that allows you to “funnel” your tasks, beginning with broad categories, moving to daily priorities, and ending with time specific tasks.  You can find out more by going to https://plannerpads.com/.
  3. I set aside about an hour every Friday to create my road map for the following week.  This helps me focus on the critical and important Friday and keeps items from falling off my radar, as they get moved to the following week.  I am able to assess how much white space I have and make necessary adjustments.  A packed schedule only leads to stress and stress minimizes productivity.  Leave room to breathe, to be the boss, wife, mom, friend you need to be in the moment.  Leave room to run back into God’s presence, seeking His guidance.
  4. Pray.  Years ago, while reading an Emilie Barnes book, I began to practice the habit of praying over my calendar daily.  I am not 100%, but the weeks and months I am faithful to this habit, I am amazed at how my plans change, the resources that come my way or the amount I am able to accomplish.  I am able to view the items in my planner as simply a guide for my week and the unexpected aren’t viewed as distractions, but as opportunities.
  5. Last but not least, I remind myself the goals I have written, the filled in to do lists, are simply guides.  I can’t plan for the future, for I am not in control of the future.  I can establish guides for myself and I can take one obedient step at a time.  When things go awry I remember I am not in control.  When tasks build up or remain undone, when there seems to be no movement toward a goal I step back and reassess.  More often than not, I simply need to make an adjustment, either in my routine or my schedule.  However, sometimes the pause, the prayer helps me see the goal was something birthed out of my desires, and is not a part of His plan.  Sometimes the goal needs to go away.  Sometimes I need to scale back and focus on some small part of the larger goal.  Sometimes I need to ask for help.  Adjusting is better than quitting.  Adjusting is better than making futile plans in pursuit of perfection or control.  Adjusting is bending to His will, growing in faith, growing in relationship, growing in His image.