It’s Hard to be Consistent

Consistency is my word for the year.  Let me tell you.  We are only in February and wow, is it hard!  As I was praying and thinking through my word for the year, I knew that one of my personal issues was “knowing what to do, but not doing it.”  I hope you can relate. Surely I am not alone in this.  Scripture even speaks to this issue.

I had a number of goals I had not met.  As I thought through the “why” I realized two things:  First, some goals could not be achieved in a year.  They were long term goals which would require long term effort.  Secondly, instead of abandoning goals, or setting the same ones over and over, I dug deep to determine some steps I could take to make more progress.  In effect, I needed to determine ways I could be more consistent.

Self-discipline is key to achieving goals.  But so is accountability!  I was lacking accountability in some areas.  My health being one such area.  You would think that as a mom spending a majority of my time at home homeschooling, and the other managing a part-time organizing business, I would have plenty of time to eat correctly and exercise. NOT!  Very little of our home management is delegated, primarily because I am home 50% of the time and not bringing in income to justify delegating.  So, I clean my own home, we send out very little laundry/dry cleaning, we eat at home on average 5 nights a week, we care for our pool, we do our own yard…  The list goes on.  Add those tasks to homeschooling, shopping for supplies, working part-time organizing other people’s spaces and my time is gone.

I am approaching 50.  I have upper neck issues and some autoimmune health concerns. Those are not the types of things that get better.  My metabolism isn’t going to jump start itself as I age and continue through hormone changes etc…  I had a gym membership.  I was walking and doing some weight machines, but seeing little results.  I decided what I needed was some training and accountability.  I was needing at least an hour in the gym to come close to even burning the number of calories I wanted.  I knew that with my flexible schedule, relying on classes at the gym would most likely not work.  So….  I bit the bullet.  I took the plunge and signed up for personal training one time per week.  I am not going to lie.  I felt guilty.  I cringed over the thought of spending the money.  I cringed over the idea of someone knowing how out of shape I was.  I pushed past all of that.  Everyone else in my family has a  sport, an event.  We invest in that-gladly.  It was time for me as mom to invest in me.  Not in a selfish way, but in an “improve myself so I could be the very best version of myself” kind of way.  I have only had two sessions, but already I can see change.  Already I have lost 4 pounds (when you are 49 and menopausal 4 pounds is like 15 in your twenties!).  Why is it working?  Accountability.  I want to “please” my trainer.  I don’t want this twenty something, fit young man to think I can’t do it.  While the accountability is great, and really is a driving force, I am also learning.  His expertise is able to show me ways to challenge my muscles and increase my heart rate all in one single exercise.  He is helping me find ways to minimize impact to my neck.  He is showing me that in 30 minutes, doing the right things, I can get the same impact, if not greater impact, than my old way of an hour to hour and half at the gym.  I can find 30 minutes!

Consistency is hard.  If you are struggling to be consistent here are my recommendations:

  1. Step back and pick one goal as the most important goal for this month.  Focus.
  2. Dig deep.  Get honest with yourself.  What is keeping you from being consistent.
  3. Adjust your action steps based upon your answers to number 2.
  4. Set up an accountability system-whether it is a personal trainer, business coach, life coach, accountability meeting with a friend, establishing a Facebook group etc…
  5. Learn.  Find books/blogs/websites that relate to your goal.  Read.  Take notes.  Identify one to three things per week you can do/add to your weekly regiment.
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Follow Up to Editing

In follow up to my post today about editing as a means of moving towards more consistency in certain areas of my life, I wanted to share the post from Arabah.  I love her writings and this post, in particular, spoke to my heart as I move towards consistency, wrap up a study in James and obedience and edit!  May it encourage you as much as it encouraged me.

http://arabahjoy.com/promises/

Consistent

This year my word is consistent.  In the past my word for the year has been more about a quality I want to have or a skill I want to improve.  However, this year, after a roller coaster of a ride these past three years, I felt prayerfully led to be consistent.  Like Paul, I so often know what to do, and yet I fail to do it.  I desire to serve God with my whole being-body, spirit and mind.   Yet so often these past three years I have let fear or doubt sink into the depths of my mind, keeping me from God’s best.

It is scary approaching 50.  Not only that, but as I approach 50 my twin girls turn 18 and leave the next for college.  I find myself longing to have something to take the place of 18 years at home, giving full-time to manage our home and raise our daughters.  In the midst of thinking toward the future I can fall into the trap of second guessing, wondering if I have been enough, and doubting there is a place for me.  I am learning though, learning that Satan knows just how to sidetrack me.  I am learning how to overcome the doubt, stop the negative talk before it settles deep into my mind.  I am growing.

I am grateful for the lessons of these past few years.  I can’t say I have any clearer sense of what lies ahead, but this I know.  The more consistent I am to fill my mind with God’s word, to establish habits that bring me greater health and physical strength, the more able I am to see the appointments God has placed before me right now.  I am also reminded as I stop along the path each day to sit in His presence, He desires nothing more from than I finish this stay-at-home mom thing strong!  I am so thankful for friends who speak truth into my life.  I am so thankful for the habit or morning quiet time with God that sets my heart, mind and spirit straight for the day.  This year, the task at hand is to keep my heart, mind and spirit straight-to be consistent:  unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time; compatible or in agreement with something (God!)

Next Steps Instead of New Goals

It’s that time of year.  Goals, resolutions, one word challenges.  I have done it all.  I have set goals.  I have run from goals.  I have made broad resolutions and I have championed a word for myself.  And like you, I have found myself disappointed, frustrated, and on occasion have experienced a sense of accomplishment.

This year is different.  This year has been about stepping back, so I could move forward.  This year has been about letting go so I could experience more joy, more freedom.  This year has been about settling into the here and now, trusting God with the future.  As I have settled into this new way of thinking, living, being, I have come to realize that I don’t need new goals each year.  What I need are next steps.  Rome was not built in a day. I will not become the best version of myself in a years’ time.   Goals take years to achieve.  And often, even when we think we have arrived, we realize there is farther to go.

footprints

This year there are no new goals, just some new next steps.  I have some steps I need to take again, but by in large, there are new next steps.  I don’t want to rush life.  I don’t want to strive and grab at life.  I want to relish the lessons along the way, taking it one step at a time.  I want to move past doing and continue to learn to be.  I want to be content with progress, not seeking success in vain.  I want to move forward more than I move backward.  I want to keep perspective, remembering life is so much bigger than me.  I want to live simply, to take one step at a time.  Next steps will guide me this year.  Next steps will bring me closer to my goals. Next steps hold promise.

What are your next steps?  Give yourself permission to grow, stretch.  Give yourself permission to keep the same goals.  Acknowledge the accomplishments, determine what you can do more of or do better. Commit to next steps.

 

What Does It Mean to Be Organized? I Say It Means Nothing

Organization.  Purging.  Margin.  White Space.  Time Management.  Minimalism.  Simplifying.  Downsizing.

Google any one of those words and thousands upon thousands of articles, blog links, advertisements pop up.  We live in a high tech, fast paced, immediate gratification world and yet it seems all are seeking a simpler life, or ways to better manage the craziness of their life.

As a young mom, I sought to learn everything I could about managing my home, managing my time.  Some came naturally to me.  I like order.  I don’t like a lot of stuff, so shopping and collecting are not big issues for me (well unless we are talking dishes or shoes).  I am also an introvert, so staying home in lieu of a jam packed schedule didn’t feel awkward.  I ran my house with my 6 month old twins like a well oiled machine and took great pride when asked ” How do you do it all?”  From the outside my life looked great.  It was a good life.  I had healthy baby girls, a beautiful home, a wonderful husband, circle of friends through my almost daily tennis and weekly church involvement…  The truth however was that I was burning the candle at both ends.  I was quick to snap at my girls, get frustrated when they didn’t sleep as the schedule dictated.  The smallest interruption always felt like a huge disruption.  I was hard on myself and hard on my husband.

One day as my frustration had mounted, frustration with myself, I was struck by the fact that I was spinning my wheels trying to be organized-be efficient.  I was juggling all the balls and squeezing it all in, but at what price.  Being efficient was not creating the life I longed for.  God took me back to Proverbs 31, that woman we love to hate and long to be like.  As I read the passages again, God invited me to really get to know the lady, to look beyond the scripture as a litany or to do list and look at the impact of one woman’s life.    In those moments my whole view of organization changed.  I no longer wanted to be the most efficient.  Efficiency was replaced with a desire to be effective.  I wanted to live an orderly life so God could use me to impact my girls, their friends, my friends, our neighbors.  I didn’t want to be known for what I could get done in a day, I wanted to be known for having time to invest in others.  I wanted to see interruptions as opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ.  I wanted our excess to bless others, whether it was purging to pass on, or shopping for others instead of ourselves.

Organization and efficiency are the world’s ways.  There is no such thing as being organized.  There is however a way to live a disciplined life that brings order and affords you the time and space in which to serve others.  Striving to be organized leads to fatigue and frustration.  Striving to be organized means being captive to our things, our schedules, our work.  That is not God’s design.  His design is that we live free, free to serve Him, free from the confines of stuff and schedules.

I still fall prey to the world’s call to be organized.  I even make a living helping others get their stuff organized.  However, I seek to approach every day asking myself if the purging, the sorting, the stacking, the time blocking is my attempt to control an unruly life, one I no longer really manage, or is it to afford me the opportunity to bless another person, invest in another person.  I am not interested in the pursuit of efficiency unless it helps me be effective.

Step Back- To Find the Way to Move Forward

It is hard to believe the holiday season is here.  Time marches on.  School started and I welcomed it with open arms.  While I relish the lazier days of summer, opportunity to step away from the schedules, I am always ready for back to school. Ready for the new schedules.  Ready for structure.  The structure and the schedules can fill up, and if not careful, the schedules crowd out everything else.

I found myself there a few weeks back.  Not just there, but feeling overwhelmed.  Then a small health issue and time was not enough.  The instinct for most of us it to push through.  I tell myself to give a little more, wake up a little earlier, go to bed a little later, skip lunch, say no to the home parties/social events.  No one wins in that.  Fatigue, frustration, loss of focus-that is all to be gained.

The only way to move forward is to take a step back.  It’s the counter-intuitive thing to do.  I step back.  I block off some time each day for a few weeks.  I have to stop.  It is not until I stop I can see what has consumed the time, the days.  It is not until I stop I can assess the time and the activities, knowing if the pieces fit or are indeed too much.  Those moments are for figuring out what is real, what is clutter.  Those moments are for taking time to go back to my true loves-making the time for that reminds me who I am, the life I have, and how to move forward becomes clear.

I talk about “white space” a lot when I talk about managing time.  White space gives me opportunity to breathe, to take in life, but they also give me opportunity for the unexpected.  When life becomes overwhelming, the plates can’t all be juggled and kept spinning the white spaces become the moments of clarity.  The white spaces are on my calendar and in the schedule I keep.  But spiritually, the white space is when I am still-the moments I quit telling God and instead I release it all and wait for Him.

BeStill

Step back in a moment of nothingness to be still, to find the way to move forward.

The Ebb & Flow of Loving Home

It is summer.  I am off schedule with the blog.  In the past, that would have stressed me, but no longer.  It’s just a natural part of life.  It is a natural occurrence of the change in seasons, change in schedules.  Life is a little less hectic and the daily routines a little less hurried.  The lack of schedule affords more time for play, projects, and my favorite-reading.  I always get a little more reading in during the summer months.  I also find, that summer is often my time to dream-dream about the year to come, dream about what I want to do to the house, with the yard, etc…  Reading, reflection prompt dreaming.

Today I want to encourage you to get a copy of Melissa Michaels’ book, “Love the Home You Have”.  Mrs. Michaels is the author of the blog “The Inspired Room”, which I have followed for some time.  I absolutely LOVE this book.  I have long had a love affair with home.  Even as a young girl I loved arranging my room, creating order in an effort to have my own haven. I love home.  I love creating home.  But, and there always seems to be a ‘but’, I can get sucked into the world of discontentment.  I can find myself procrastinating, slipping into a home care slump, while I yearn for that new couch, piece of art I can’t afford, …  I can find myself living the comparison game thinking my space is inadequate.  It’s a trap.  Too many of us find ourselves there.  Some use it as an excuse to give up: give up on decorating, cleaning, hosting.  ” Love the Home You Have” reminds us what home should be about.  It encourages us to breathe, play, collect and enjoy the process of creating home.

LoveTheHome

I have often believed our homes are a reflection of who we are-really who we are.  They reflect the state of our spirit, our priorities.  As we settle in to who we are, learn contentment, it is reflected in our homes.  We worry less about the things we don’t have, and value what we do have.  We embrace our style, our likes, and that is reflected in how we care for our home, the treasures we display, the furnishings we choose.  A house full of clutter is often a reflection of someone lacking direction, someone living with stress as the result of an overbooked schedule.  A house where furniture is falling apart, floors are dirty, the kitchen sink is piled high all the time, is often the reflection of someone avoiding , someone avoiding discipline, trying to find purpose, struggling emotionally.  A house that seems cold, void of personal items, can be a reflection of someone desperately trying to control all of life, function in their own strength.

Truth be told, our homes at various times can reflect all of the above.  The condition of our homes reflect the condition of our spirits, our hearts.  “Love the Home You Have” not only shares ideas on how to care for and create a place of beauty and peace, but encourages us to care for ourselves.  Mrs. Michaels encourages us to find contentment, not just with our homes, but with the person God created us to be.   No home is perfect, believe me I have built 5 and still haven’t gotten it 100% right!  My budget will never afford me the opportunity to buy what I want when I want.  My love of hospitality means my home is often full of people, and things get dirty when people fill your home.  Just as I live and breathe, so does my home.  As I grow, mature, so does my home.  As I release worldly expectations, I am free to create, find joy in the quirky parts of life and home.

“Love the Home You Have” is full of decorating ideas, home management ideas and personal care advice.  No matter where you are in the ebb and flow of loving your home, I encourage you to order your copy today.

http://theinspiredroom.net/lovethehomeyouhave/

Embrace Yourself as the Proverbs 31 Woman

I had a little mini vacation this past week visiting family.  In those moments of down time I often find myself reading, reflecting on where I’m at, how I see myself etc…  Just before leaving two separate clients had commented to me about some organizing my business partner and I had done for them.  Their comments were reminders that I do indeed have talent, see things in ways others don’t and am good at what I do.  While I love getting those kind of comments, I am going to be honest and tell you it is very hard for me to accept those kind of compliments.  I rarely see myself as skilled or good at something.  I am most often my own worse enemy and critic.  What a shame.

If you have been following my blog you know I am revisiting the Proverbs 31 woman, as I do once each year.  In the process of revisiting those scriptures I always learn something new or am challenged in new areas.  This year, seeing myself for who I am, being the person God created me to be, has been the recurring theme and place of discontent and conviction.  This woman of God was strong, physically, mentally and spiritually.  She put much effort into her daily living, seeking to fulfill her purpose.  Who she was, was so much more important than what she did.  I am reminded she was confident.  Not in a haughty way, but in a wise way.  She feared the Lord and praised Him with her hands, her words, her actions, her concern for others.  She accepted who she was and set out to live for Him.  Her example reminds me I am to embrace the person I am, the way He created me to be.  It is sin not to.  To belittle who I am is wrong.  I am not to be haughty or confident in my own abilities, but I am to embrace the gifts and talents He has given me and set out to use them for His purposes and His glory.

Psalm139.14

If you have been struggling with doubt or have a tendency to be your own worse critic, look back at the Proverbs 31 scripture and ponder over Psalm 139:14.  You are unique.  There is but one you and your purpose, your talents and gifts do not match anyone else’s.  You have purpose.  Be glad.  Rejoice in who you are.  Embrace all that He has given you and commit to use it for His glory.

25 Years Looking Back

My husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage this week.  We did so with little pomp and circumstance.  When we first got married I remember talking about extravagant trips when we hit the 25 year mark.  Funny how life changes.  No extravagant trips.  Instead we had a quiet week (our girls have been gone) and spent much of it reflecting on the past, making some decisions for the present and prioritizing for the future.  We celebrated with a quiet evening out, thinking how quickly time had passed.

wedding-anniversary-cake-ideas-nice

Our marriage is a testament to the grace of God.  By all measures, we shouldn’t have made it.  We can now laugh about it, but we seriously faced just about every stressor you could face in our first 5 years of marriage. My parents divorced about a year before I got married.  That meant lots of emotions running high during the wedding planning and day of.  It also meant VERY limited resources and I had to be creative.  Two weeks after our honeymoon a cyst was found on my cervix and we went through a “this could be cancerous” scare.  Fortunately it was not, but out-patient surgery followed.  Within our first 18 months of marriage my mother lived with us and then my brother.   Within the first 2 years of marriage Paul’s mom was diagnosed with cancer, we built a home, entered a 6 year long infertility phase, and my mother lived with us again.  Paul’s mom passed away shortly after our three year anniversary.  My brother lived with us one more time and over the course of the next 15 years my mother lived with us several more times for various lengths of time.  The firm Paul had been working for disbanded and we were faced with opening his own appraisal firm.

I won’t bore you with any more details, but as you can see, our marriage was full of stressors at the beginning.  I wish I could tell you we handled it all well, but we didn’t.  There were arguments.  I was on some occasions an emotional wreck. We were hurt, disappointed, angry and often felt alone.  So how did we survive?  By the grace of God, and a whole lot of humor.  I don’t say that tritely.  There were moments we both wanted to call it quits.  We loved each other, but boy was it hard to like each other some days.  Not to mention, we both grew weary.  Have you ever been there?  You don’t want to give up, but you just honestly don’t have the energy to keep going?  My husband, a fixer like most men, felt defeated on many a day.  I can remember evenings when we didn’t have the energy or emotional reserves to be happy or angry.  There were even moments when the only words we could speak were, “Divorce is not an option.”

Thankfully during those difficult years we also had much to celebrate.  We welcomed three nieces/nephews.  We built three homes.  We had some fabulous vacations with friends.  Paul’s business flourished.  We worked in the youth department and had lots of entertainment as we served and bonded with those students, many still dear friends.  We had a pastor who prayed for us, walked alongside us, and again, became a very special friend.  The day we finally arrived at the hospital for an emergency C-section this dear pastor immediately brought his staff and prayed over me and the staff as I was wheeled into surgery.

This week as we looked back, while the difficult times were real and are still vivid in our memories, we were able to think more of the joy, the lessons, the character building.  We are able to stand at the 25 year mark truly believing we can survive anything-by the grace of God.  We are able to see that while we made decisions to help family too much, financially gave too much, we also see that each decision was made based upon scripture, our desire to honor our mother and father, to care for family, the wounded, the desolate.  My husband is so good at staying away from the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” thoughts.  (unlike myself)  My husband is so good at looking to the future with hope, trusting God.  Throughout each decision he has always looked me in the eye and said, “He will provide.  He always has and He always will.  Not necessarily what we want, but it will be what we need and what we can handle.”  I married a rock.  Sometimes a stubborn rock, but that is another story.  I married a rock, a man of faith who gives way more than he takes, who fights for family and lives by faith. He brings laughter into our days and keeps his eye on the prize.

Standing at the 25 year mark feels good.  I would love to have taken some of the moments back.  I’d love to have NOT experienced some of the experiences.  Yet, as we stand together in this place I know we are who we are because of each moment, each experience.  I have no doubt we’ll make the next 25 years.  I also have no doubt they won’t be easy.  I have no doubt we have more trials to face, more heart ache ahead.  I also know we have much joy ahead.  By the grace of God we’ll carry on.

The Love Hate Relationship with Summer

Summer.  It is amazing to me how we as moms can have such a love hate relationship with summer.  Come about April most of us begin to long for the “lazy” days of summer.  We are tiring of the lunch making, the homework, the after-school activities, the schedules.  We dream of days filled with no schedule, moments by the pool, sleeping in a little later (if we are lucky), no back packs to check, no homework to battle through.

Then summer hits.  BAM!  Within the matter of a few days we begin to seek out activities.  What will we do with these children all summer?  The camps, birthday parties, family vacation, reunions, etc… fill the calendar and we realize that in no time at all we will back at it.  We gaze at the long list of all we thought we’d do this summer and realize there is no way!

It is a love hate relationship.  But isn’t much of life that way?  Too often we look forward to something missing the moments right in front of us.  We find ourselves in the midst of the time we anticipated and we panic, we realize we have failed to plan or the reality of our limited time hits us in the face.  In a matter of moments we can go from dreaming to being overwhelmed and panicked. The words ” I’m bored”, are uttered by a child and our emotions go through the roof.

Our family intentionally cleared our calendar this summer.  No family vacation.  No camps.  We decided instead to simply be at home, a home we just had the opportunity to build.  We decided to go with the unexpected, to spend more time with family and friends.  I decided to keep pursuing better health and engage in more of my creative pursuits.

beachseatSounds great doesn’t it.  A “lazy” summer at home.  Well, let me be honest.  Two weeks in and the above picture is where I think I want to be.  I’m missing the family vacation.  I’m doubting our decisions-even though we reached them as a family.  I see what others are doing and I feel the comparisons creeping in.  Why?  Why do we go there?

I know why I do.  I take my eye off the prize.  I look around more than I look within.  I forget that I am right where God wants me to be, with the people He has entrusted to my care for just a little while.  I forget that through prayer and seeking we made decisions we believed were best for us.  I forget to trust He will see us through, even the leaner times, the darker times.

So, while I have moments wishing I was in a chair on the beach, I am going to focus on being where I am.  I’m going to treasure the moments by my pool listening to nieces and nephews laugh, taking in the squeals of high school girls, breathing in deep the quiet moments captured sitting alone in the sun by my little space of paradise.  I’m going to be thankful for a home in which we rest, land safely.  I’m going to appreciate the fact my 16 year old daughters would rather be here than elsewhere, that they still share with their dad and I.

Summer is here.  I have anticipated it.  I’m going to rest in it-soak it up.  I’m not going to rush it.  I’m not going to fall prey to the comparisons, the regrets, the looking around.  I’m going to take today for what it is and be-be in the moment, be grateful, be content.