White Space, Room to Really Live Schedules, Daily Habits & White Space

A few weeks ago I shared some tips for creating white space in your home, clearing the clutter so you have room to breathe, appreciate what you have, love and use.  We need white space in our days as well.  A few years back I shared the following post.  I still practice these disciplines.  I think the only thing I would add is this:  all too often we fail to acknowledge everything we need to do.  We tend to leave daily chores and errands off our lists.  I think women are more guilty of this than men, as we try to cram these daily chores and errands in with other activities, failing miserably to multitask, or draining ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically.  Our daily task list/calendar/schedule should include the daily-the Walmart run, laundry, vacuuming, picking up birthday gifts…  These are the things that tend to fill what little white space we thought we had.  These are the things that never really get completed, and so can’t be ignored.

Does the above set of pictures make you cringe?  Do feel the tension in your body building?  For so many of us, the idea of living by a schedule, sitting down to determine when we will do what, feels confining, makes us uncomfortable.  As much as I like to live an orderly life, to be as productive as I can, I honestly resist the idea of living by a schedule.  I sense rigidity, lack of creativity in schedules.  I want to leave the door open for those “God appointments”.  I want to be able to meet the unexpected needs of friends of family.

Consistency.  My word for 2016.  Here in lies the truth-the hard truth.  I can not be more consistent, I can not consistently move towards meeting my goals, completing my tasks without some measure of schedule.  More importantly, tracking my time, setting specific times in which to do specific tasks keeps me mindful.

I just finished reading “I Know How She Does It”, by Laura Vanderkam.  It is an inspiring book and exactly the motivation I needed to get back to scheduling.  Most interesting in her research was the reality that most Americans work fewer hours than they say, with very few people working more than 50-60 hour weeks, and most people overestimate their work hours by 10 hours!  On average, highly successful, full-time working mothers cap at an average of 44 hours per week.  As I continued to read, I realized the core of the problem, the explanation for this over-estimation of time, sense of being overwhelmed, living out of fatigue feeling there is never enough time is a result of really having no idea how we spend our time and thus making very few intentional decisions about our time.

Laura Vanderkam is also a firm believe in the 168 hours principle, challenging us to plan weekly instead of daily.  I was convinced of this principle after reading her first book, “168 Hours”.

When you treat all 168 hours as your canvas, and don’t hold to rigid assumptions of what must be work time, and what must be nonwork time, you can create some fascinating mosaics (schedules).

While I resist the idea of living confined to a schedule, unwilling to move away from it for the unexpected, I know from experience and am reminded that schedules, daily habits and white space are the key to consistency, the key to my taking care of what matters most and moving towards completion of my goals.  So, this week, I focus again on doing what I know I should do (that seems to be a recurring theme!).  I challenge you to do the same.  Step back from your life for a moment.  Look at your week, your 168 hours and decide how you want to spend your time.  Here are some of my tips for successfully planning out 168 hours/creating a schedule or road map by which to live those hours out.

  1.   Daily morning quiet time to center my thoughts, read scripture, pray over my day.
  2.   One load of laundry every morning first thing.
  3.   Plan each week on Friday (I have let this habit slip and I pay for it.  Planning on Friday allows me so much freedom from nagging thoughts on the weekend and kick starts my Mondays.)
  4.   Use a weekly planner with hourly increments, blocking off appointments, tasks to work on, exercise, hobbies, free time etc…  This gives me a great visual, helps me to see the whole of my week.
  5.   Plan for the unexpected by building in PLENTY of white space.  I always leave 30 minutes between appointments.  This allows for transition time, gives me some buffer should the task take a little longer etc…  I also leave gaps of time (an hour to two) in my schedule at least every other day.  I typically use these gaps to take care of household chores, but often end up using them to have lunch with a friend, cook a meal for a sick friend, care for a sick child, …

Schedules, daily habits and white space keep me grounded, focused and moving in the right direction.  When I look at my time weekly in lieu of daily, I am reminded I have plenty of time.  While I still resist “being scheduled”, I always find there is actually a great deal of freedom in scheduling.  Life is always better when I am aware of where and how I spend my time.  A schedule allows me to be intentional about my time and I find that I get more enjoyment from my “free time/play time” when I have lived my week by my schedule.

Advertisements

Power of Knowing Who You Are

The pursuit of balance, organization, goals… The advice abounds, yet the pursuit seems to never end.  We find ourselves starting over, starting again, wondering if we are even on the right path, capable, able.  It can be exhausting, and in the midst of striving to achieve, life passes us by, we miss the moments, we miss becoming.

woodenpath

Two young women have approached me in recent months asking me about my career path, how I managed family, career, success.  Questions like this never come easy, because I find most of us don’t see ourselves the way others see us.  I struggled to answer.  I have never had a career path, real career aspirations.  No doubt early in my career I did, but as life began to emerge those quickly faded.  Marriage, the desire for children, building a home and a life with family, those have been my aspirations.  Managing those well have been my priority.  The career, the opportunities before me now, those are icing on the cake.  I like to think they are the result of a life well lived, an opportunity to be who I am, not tasks, not plans, not rungs on a ladder.

As I sought to answer both women with honesty, seizing the moment to influence another this is what I shared.

First and foremost, be who you say you are and be who you are no matter the circumstance.  I am a Christian first and foremost.  Every decision I make flows from a place of faith and I seek to align my decisions with the Word of God, His precepts, His ways.  How I make my decisions, who I desire to be doesn’t change based upon my role.  I am who I am, and that is simply a woman of faith seeking to serve God.

Second, do what you say you are going to do.  Commitment, honesty, integrity-traits lost in a world where power and position, being a “company” woman/man pays bigger dividends.  Yet commitment, honesty, integrity are lasting.  Doing what we say we are going to do has lasting impact, builds relationships, builds trust, builds reputation.

Finally, do everything you do with excellence.  Excellence is not perfection.  Excellence is not about being right, or being the best.  Excellence is about being your best and doing your best.  Excellence is about caring, caring that the product you produce reflects the very best.  In a world where outputs and outcomes reign, those who influence, those who create impact, will stay the course.

The words above may seem to simplistic.  They aren’t the words of advice I would have shared in my late twenties/early thirties.  But they are the words I live by.  I am not a wife, mom, community engagement officer out to achieve.  I am a wife, mom and community engagement officer because that is who God has called me to be.  Those are the opportunities He has given me.  My only desire is to be who I am and influence others.  That is my secret to staying focused and organized.  When you know who you are and you focus upon influence (relationship with others) it’s easy to know what matters and what doesn’t.  It’s easy to stay motivated.  It’s easy to to release the future and focus on the next step.

Years ago, a mentor passed this anonymous poem along to me.  It became a part of my life mission.  I keep it with me at all times-it finds it’s home in the front of my planner.  I share it with you, hoping it encourages you, helps you settle upon the woman you are.  The plans, the tasks-they will all fall in place.  But first, YOU.  Your power will unfold as you embrace who you are.  Who you are matters more than what you do.

956562c8af1c119c8418256a0a4f276d

*If you follow me on Facebook you know I had an opportunity to celebrate this advice with one of my daughters.  I have spent 19 years giving my daughters this same advice, and it paid off.  My daughter, a freshman, was given the Greek Life Woman of Integrity Award.  I am so proud of her, so thrilled she is learning to live the “who” over the “what”.

Spring Cleaning-It’s really all about the clutter

 

arnel-hasanovic-375269-unsplash
Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

 

It is that season.  The temperatures begin to rise, the sun comes out, green emerges in our gardens and we feel this urge to “spring clean”.  And if you are like me, the picture above makes you take a deep breath and feel a sense of relief.  You want your whole house, whole office, whole life to look and feel this serene.

I realized years ago, that my bent towards organization and that spring cleaning urgency, which frankly hits me about every three months, was really a longing for space-white space.  It was a need for room to breathe.  It was a desire to be able to find things, keep up with my schedule and have moments to breathe.  In the end it meant I simply wanted SPACE- space to live, laugh, relax.

I came up with the following acrostic to help me organize and manage my time.

  • S-Sort
  • P-Purge
  • A-Assign
  • Contain
  • Evaluate

We often begin the process wrong, and so in the end, we simply do little more than move things around, finding ourselves a few months down the road, handling the same items, shifting them from one space to another.  If you can embrace my SPACE method, I promise you will find exactly that-space to live, to play, to breathe, to rest.

Step 1 is to Sort.  You can begin as small as one drawer, one closet or as large as one room.  Simply sort the items into categories:  like items together.

Step 2 is to Purge.  Take a good look at what you have.  Get rid of duplicates, broken items, the unknown…  Elect to either throw the items away or donate.  Either way have a bin or bag for both.

Step 3 is to Assign.  All that remains are the items you have elected to keep.  These should be things you use or enjoy.   Decide where you are going to put each item.  Some may find a home on a shelf, some in a drawer, some a closet.  What matters at this point is to simply decide where the item is going to live.  If the item is going to be moved to another room, take it there and simply leave it in a holding space until you are ready to address the space.  Once you have assigned each item a place to reside, step back and determined whether or not the space is sufficient to hold the items you have assigned to it.  If not-yep, hate to tell you, but it’s time to purge a little more.

Step 4 is to contain.  So many of us want to rush out and buy all these cute bins, containers, labels BEFORE we begin organizing.  PLEASE DON’T!  You will waste money and simply find yourself trying to organize the items you bought to help you organize.  Once you know what you are keeping and where you are going to put it you determine how it will be stored in the space.  If you need extra containers, hooks, boxes, etc. you will know what size and how many.  Make a list of any items you need to purchase in order to effectively contain the items in the assigned space.

Step 5 is to evaluate.  This is the step most of us want to ignore.  We want to organize our space and have it magically remain organized.  But that sweet friends is simply not reality.  We live.  Our families live.  Items make their way into our homes and at some point many of those items need to find their way out of our homes.  It is important to periodically (maybe once every 4-6 weeks) evaluate your space.  Is there an area causing you frustration?  Do you find yourself distracted each time you set out to begin a project or work in a particular space?  While this step can often be the most difficult to do, it really is the key to success.  The more mindful we become about our spaces, the more we stop to think about the impact of our spaces on our lives, the more intentional we become with our purchases and our decisions.  As we begin to live with intention and focus, we find that space we have longed for, and in that moment we take the deep, rejuvenating breath.

*this same process works for your calendar and time management system, but that’s a whole other blog 🙂

 

 

Errand Day Re-Invented

This week I am sharing an older post, but one that has hit home.  As our season in life changes, so too must our habits, our systems.  I have said it many times before, organization is not about managing stuff, but it is about personal discipline, creating habits.  My errand system has evolved again, now that I am a full time working mom with girls in higher ed, but the many of these habits remain.

One of the joys of this Second Season is having gained a little wisdom through much trial and error.  Being a “type A” I have always enjoyed organization and the challenge of trying to be efficient.  Over the years, I have learned being effective is even more important than being efficient.  Sometimes the two are not compatible.  Yet, other times, the two come together in beautiful simplicity.  This week I have had one of those moments.

In an attempt to save time and money, I typically schedule an errand day.  Most weeks this falls on Monday.  It just seems to be a good day to restock and get those errands out of the way before the week’s activities encroach on my time.  Armed with a list or two and various stacks of coupons off I go!  But more often than not, the coupons fall out of the paperclip or get hung on the inside of my purse.  The lists (one for groceries, one for WalMart/Target, and one for other errands) get bent and tattered.  I’ve tried clipping the coupons to the itemized lists, but yet again, they get pulled away from the list, I drop the coupons or list trying to juggle cart, purse, pen and lists!  Frustration, frustration, frustration.

Being a “lover” of all things organizational I am surrounded by friends selling Thirty-One Products.  (If you are not familiar with this line of products I highly encourage you to Google them and find a consultant near you!)  It hit me.  They have this great little purse size organizer perfect for my Errand Day!  Below you will find pictures of my handy little Errand Day organizer.  On the left is a clear, zippered pouch.  In it I place my paper-clipped coupons, each stack corresponding to one of my lists.  In the center is a lined notepad (purchased at Staples).  I have a written list for each:  groceries, Wal/Mart/Target, and Miscellaneous.  On the right is an elasticized pouch perfect for holding a package of wipes (is it only me or do you frequently find yourself wanting to wash your hands at the grocery store?), my pens and if needed highlighter.  After getting it put together, coupons clipped and sorted, lists made, I was absolutely giddy with excitement!  So, off to Goodwill, Office Depot, Target and the grocery store I went.  I didn’t drop a thing.  My coupons remained in tact.  With pride I ripped off each list as I completed it and threw it in the trash receptacle on the way out of the store.  Even more exciting, was being stopped by three other moms, each asking where I’d gotten my handy little organizer!

So, Errand Day has been re-invented.  A small victory in life, but one that impacted my mood for the day, allowed me to better serve my family, and meet a few young moms along the way.  I also hope I was able to send a little business to my three favorite Thirty-One consultants.  The real lesson though, is this:  When something is not working, I need to step back, give myself some time to reflect and come up with potential solutions.  

Image

Image

Discipline Outweighs Tools & Skills

DailyDisciplines

The past few weeks I have needed to tackle some mundane items, updating processes and products.  The kind of items that easily fall to the side, as daily, urgent tasks take precedent.  Yet, these mundane items, are the backbone of what we do, they are the foundation upon which so much else is built.

While my challenge is at work, I remember these same struggles when I was a full time, at home mom.  The mundane items:  laundry, grocery shopping, bed making … easily fell to the side, sometimes for the urgent, and sometimes for the “more fun” tasks.  Yet, these items were the backbone of my home.  They laid the foundation for a well managed home, a home where my family could find rest and peace.

Finding a way to manage the mundane, to keep the foundation of your work, home, ministry, strong is important.  So, how do I tend to the mundane, build the foundation?  I live by the 15 minute rule and Friday planning.

I learned the 15 minute rule from Emilie Barnes, author and Christian time management expert.  It is amazing what you can accomplish in 15 minutes, especially the mundane tasks!  More importantly, using the 15 minute rule can help you get started, take that first step.  One of two things happen- you either get started and begin working on the task you have been putting off, OR you begin and keep going, realizing the task wasn’t as difficult or as to be dreaded as you thought.

Friday planning I read about on a blog a few years back.  I had been a Sunday planner, but found I often let the planning time slide.  Friday planning, especially now that I am back working full-time outside of the house, is so much more effective.  I set aside about 30 minutes each Friday morning.  I sync my calendars, make note of any high importance task for the week not yet finished, transfer unfinished tasks that can wait to the next week, and look over goals and objectives determining if there are any new “to do” items.  I find this helps me have more productive Fridays and frees me to go into the weekend focused on family and rest.  I know I have a plan for the next week in place and have a better chance of letting the mental clutter go.

The real trick though comes in disciplining myself to live by these two rules.  I have to develop the habit of setting aside 15 minutes in my daily schedule to tackle the task/project I have been putting off or simply don’t enjoy.  I have to discipline myself to keep Friday mornings clear so I can plan for the week ahead.  It takes thought and a decision to make it happen.  Yet, like so many disciplines, the discipline of time can set me apart, outweighs my skills and has more impact upon my productivity and effectiveness than the tools I use.  Discipline matters most.

This week, give it some thought.  What is weighing you down?  Is it the same old tasks/chores left incomplete each week?  Is it that project you just can’t seem to start?  I challenge you- set aside 15 minutes a day and start.  Then when Friday rolls around, set aside some time to plan for next week, doing the same thing-setting aside 15 minutes a day to tackle the mundane.  Better yet, set aside 4 minute segments of time to tackle the mundane!  You’ll be amazed at what you get done and you’ll be on the road to a more disciplined life.

 

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.

 

Tending to Me

Female Strength_Photo by Justyn WarnerPhoto by Justyn Warner

As I prepared to post tonight I couldn’t help but think, “How many times am I going to say ‘I’m back!’?”  This blog has been through many transitions.  Some simply following life changes.  Some related to business ventures.  Others, a result of comparison.  Ouch.  Admitting the last hurts.  Yet, it is the truth.  At some point don’t we all fall prey?  And that is okay, so long as we recognize it, acknowledge it and return to our true self.

This blog began as an outlet, a personal space to think out loud and connect.  I have been amazed and blessed by the connections made, the lives touched and blog friends who have in turn touched my life.  It is not a business.  It is not a platform.  It is simply the sharing of my story, a place to be creative.

A year and a half ago God answered a big prayer.  I wanted and needed to go back to work.  God provided beyond anything I could have thought possible and in perfect timing.  My girls entered their Senior year of high school (yes, if you are new to the blog, I have twins).  I was just months away from 50.  Lots of change, lots of big life moments.  In the midst of that an opportunity to go back to work full-time doing what I began my career doing, an opportunity to return to my non-profit roots, my love for service.

It has been a transition.  Those Senior girls graduated and ventured on to university and cosmetology school.  We gained a new dog-child (graduation gift for said daughters rarely at home).  Full-time work, taking an existing office unit, and leading it to adopt a new mission, new work.  At times I have doubted my capabilities, I have felt inferior.  At times I have wondered, “Why me?  Why here?  Why now?”  Finding my place in a big, complicated, not so healthy bureaucracy going through its own restructuring and leadership changes, has not been easy.  But this is what I have learned-know to be true.  I am capable.  I am prepared for this.  I am strong.

Life is good.  Life is lived to the fullest when we are stretched and beyond ourselves.  God doesn’t just provide the opportunity and walk us to the open door.  He leads us through the door and stands beside us ready to meet our every need.  The hours spent with a personal trainer 6 months leading up to and 6 months after I began work were not just about my physical strength and health.  Those hours were about learning to push myself, trust my trainer and my capabilities.  Those hours were as spiritual as they were physical.  Those hours taught me the importance of self-care.  Serious spirit, mind and body self-care.  Tending to me has helped me cultivate the habits and skills I need to be the person I want to be, reflecting Christ at home, at work and in my community.  Tending to me has helped me see who I am in Christ, to embrace the me He created in His image to do His will.  Tending to me has helped me love others, to risk, to forgive and to release.

So, this isn’t “I’m back”.  This is “Hello, I’m still here.”  Lessons are learned to be shared.  Life is lived to be shared.  That’s what this blog is all about.  It’s me, sharing a little bit of me, hoping as I continue to tend to me, you will be inspired to tend to you and the things we cultivate will begin to blossom and bloom into a life we never imagined- lives full of victories, joys, hardships, losses.  Lives lived to the fullest.  Lives shared.

You Can Have it All, Just Not All at Once

This week I have been doing a little evaluating of my current life.  Back to full time work, two girls graduating high school, a home to manage, friends to see…  As I pondered my own frustrations, disappointments, I also saw a post from another hard working mom asking if there was such a thing as balance.  Another young mom messaged me asking how I managed, what could she do different.

As women we all struggle.  It is hard to be all the things we want to be.  Sometimes we have choices, other times the circumstances of our lives dictate whether or not we have choices.  As Christian women the struggle can run deep.  Not only do we hold ourselves to the standard of the world, but we hold ourselves up to the Proverbs 31 woman and create expectations we often can’t meet.

Going back to work at age 50 is a completely different experience from that of my 20s. It’s not better, it’s not worse.  It is just different.  Experience has taught me.  Struggles with anxiety and fear have moved me.  As I thought about the questions of dear friends, as I pondered my own momentary frustration I was reminded that today matters.  What I choose today is what matters most.  Who I am today affects my tomorrow.  I cannot be all things to all people at all times, but I can be who I need to be today to the persons God brings across my path.  I can choose today to return home from work and turn my attention to the ones I love most, preparing food, washing clothes, caring for their needs. There is not a lot of time for relaxation, for outings, for extra time with friends.  But that is okay.  All too soon the girls will be gone, their adult lives unfolding.  I will no longer have the chance to wash their clothes, light a candle to say welcome home, cook their favorite meal.  When that time comes there will be more time for friends, for personal rest.

Life is a journey.  Spiritual growth is a journey.  I can have it all, just not all at once.  Each season brings new opportunities.  Each season requires saying no to some things, so others can be cherished.  As I read back through scripture I am reminded the Proverbs 31 woman lived a full life.  She too experienced and lived her life in seasons.  And most of all, I am reminded that what God desires I learn from her is her character traits- patience, love, perseverance, joy, hope.

Remember.  God has you in this season to do His work where you are at this time.  You won’t be able to do it all right now.  But over a lifetime you just might have the chance. Be patient, love well, persevere, and hope in the future.

 

Proverbs 31:10-31New International Version (NIV)

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 [a]A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

How to…

I am often asked how I get done what I get done.  Let me first say, I honestly don’t think I get more done than most people.  I think it often appears that way because I hold my emotions close, am fairly private and try to maintain my composure.  I fear I sometimes appear “all together” and that is often far from the truth (just ask my family!).  I will admit though, that I have also been a student of time management for as long as I can remember.  I was that child in elementary school who wanted to work my way through every SRA test seeing my name rise on the chart.  I was the high school student who wanted to make good grades, play sports, serve on student council and earn spending money.  I was the college student who had to work her way through college, so I needed to be able to balance studies with work.  I was the young wife who wanted to work, cook fabulous meals, entertain friends and business partners and create a “Southern Living” style home.  And then I became a first time mom to not one, but two beautiful baby girls and I wanted to be present in every way, have our home continue to be a haven and place for gathering, and I desperately wanted my girls to see me serving in the community.

 

I have have learned a lot about managing my time along the way.  Some lessons were learned through painful mistakes, while others were learned as doors opened and new opportunities presented themselves.  I am still learning.  I have revisited many of my favorite tools and books as I have re-entered the workforce after 16 years as a stay-at-home mom.  I have given a lot of thought to what advice I would share with others as I prepare to send my girls to college next year.  Here are a few of my favorite tips:

  1. Choices:  We all have the same amount of time.  We have to make choices.  Anything we choose to do fills our time and requires we say no to something else.
  2. We all need help.  Even the Proverbs 31 woman had help.  She had maidservants.  We cannot keep our homes, do all the shopping and all food preparations, volunteer at our children’s schools and at church, work, serve our friends and maintain our sanity.  We have to allow others to help.  If our budget allows that may mean a hired housekeeper.  If not, it may mean our children have chores and our husband helps. We may need to swap childcare services with a friend.  When I chose to go back to work this year I knew it would require budgeting for a housekeeper and passing off some of the household shopping to my husband and girls.
  3. We need to know our personal rhythm and build our schedule around it.  I am a morning person.  I do my best thinking in the morning.  I have energy in the morning.  As a result I make it a habit of setting my work hours early.  While I would love to be one of those people who goes to the gym at 5:30, it doesn’t fit my rhythm. I do much better jumping right into work and then fitting in a workout on the way home late afternoon/early evening, giving myself a time to transition and a little energy boost.  My natural rhythm also means I need to go to bed early.  I am usually in bed by 9:30 and try to have lights out by 10:30.  I have tried many times to adjust my schedule, to be more like someone else, but in the end my natural rhythm is a part of my DNA and there is no fighting it.  I am a better version of me and am able to perform better when i embrace my personal rhythm.
  4. I live by the 15 minute rule.  Any time I feel stuck, am dreading an assignment or find myself with some extra time I employ the 15 minute rule.  You will be amazed at all you can do in 15 minutes.  Giving your undivided attention to something for just 15 minutes can be the difference between never getting a task done, never starting on a project or complete success.  Here is a list of just a few things you can tackle in 15 minutes:
    1. Empty the dishwasher
    2. Clean out your purse or car
    3. Make your bed
    4. Respond to email
    5. Update/sync your calendar
    6. Create a work plan for a project
  5. Always build in white space.  I always add 15 minutes to the front end and back end of appointments.  This allows me some buffer, keeps me from running late, and is often a source of some 15 minute blocks to tackle some of the daily tasks.  I also leave at least two weeknights open.  This means I have seldom joined a book club or a Bunko group.  This means my husband and I say “yes” to very few charitable events.  (we will pay for a ticket and gladly give someone else our seats)  Early on in our parenting my husband and I made a decision to not let hurry and events run our lives.  We have chosen instead a slower paced way of living, making certain we AND our girls were at home as often as possible.  To some this may have meant keeping our girls from opportunities, denying them the chance to be popular, the best at their sport.  All I can tell you is I have well-rounded, happy girls.  They both have activities they love, lots of friends and our home during these years high school years has been the gathering place.  They would tell you they didn’t miss out on a thing.
  6. Use a calendar.  I am a list maker, but that is not why I advocate use of a calendar.  No.  My advocacy for calendars stems from my desire and intent to be aware of where and how I spend my time.  I want to make choices and know what choices I am making.  Life can and will quickly take control if we allow it.  By using a calendar (which for me is still a paper version) I see how our schedule looks, I know what I have planned for the day, week, month.  I become more conscious, more aware.

I do get a lot done.  However, there are also a lot of things I don’t get done, and most of those are by choice.  I try to extend grace to myself.  I try to maintain discipline without being rigid.  The “how to” is a lifelong learning experience and each season brings new challenges, new lessons, new methods.

If you are struggling to get things done, to get our from under the weight of your calendar I hope a few of my tips will help.  Most of all, I pray you will find some time this week to step back from your life, your daily routine and give it some thought.  Take a leap of faith. Say no where you need to.  Make the desires of your heart your priorities.  Reset your schedule and live your life, not someone else’s.

The Little Box I Can’t Live Without

Prayerbox

Prayer.  One of the most difficult spiritual disciplines.  I have prayed as long as I can remember.  I believe in the power of prayer.  I have seen God answer prayer in a matter of moments, in weeks and years.  Yet, my prayer life seems to an area I struggle.  Despite all i know about prayer, I struggle to be consistent.  Yes, that word again.  Consistent.  I don’t really struggle to pray, but I struggle with remembering who I promised to pray for.  I struggle to articulate my prayers.  I give up on prayers when not answered my way or in my timing.  For years (23+) I have journaled.  Those journals hold my inner most thoughts, and much of what I have written becomes prayer.  I often look back through those journals and am reminded, struck with a recurring truth or convicted by lessons already learned.  But in recent years, the journaling alone just didn’t seem to be capturing the entirety of my prayer life.  I wanted more.  I wanted to be more faithful (consistent) in interceding on behalf of others.

The little box pictured above is my Prayer Box, my little version of a Prayer Room.  I LOVE it.  It is simple.  I purchased the box and the embellishment at Hobby Lobby.  I purchased tabbed dividers at Mardells Christian Bookstore.

PrayerBox2

I have divided the box by category and subject.  The pink is for all things related to home: family members, physical home.  Blue is for volunteer activities and organizations I am involved with.  Green is for my business and clients.  Orange is for friends and acquaintances.  I simply date a note-card and write out my prayer and any related scripture. When a prayer is answered I write the date on the back of the card and a prayer of thanksgiving.  On occasion I will send the card on to the person for whom I prayed.  Most often I simply place the card in the back of the box.  There are times when I feel compelled to alter my prayer.  I simply date another card, write out my new prayer and staple it to the front of the original prayer card.

I LOVE my box.  I still journal and often prayers from my journal make it to my prayer box. However, my prayer box has proved a much more effective way to consistently pray.  I keep the box next to the chair where I spend my morning quiet time.  I look through it every single morning.  If a prayer request seems more urgent, or I am prompted by the Holy Spirit, I pull a card and carry it with me throughout the day.  Sometimes I hang the most pressing prayer cards on the back of my master closet door so I am prompted to pray each morning and evening.  I love the flexibility this box system affords me.  I don’t feel limited by space.  I am not having to flip back through journal pages looking for a specific request.  Pages are cluttered with extra notes, lines drawn through answered prayers etc..  it is portable.  I can grab the box and pack it or pull out the prayer cards and slide them into my organizer.  I LOVE it.

Prayer is vital to our spiritual being.  Prayer is the opportunity to connect with God.  I believe in prayer.  I want to be a powerful prayer warrior.  I want to persevere, not giving up and believing with faith action.

If you have struggled with prayer, or like me, want to grow your prayer life I challenge you to create your own little prayer box.  See what God will do.

Steps to Creating a Prayer Box

  1. Select a pretty box that speaks to your creative spirit.
  2. Purchase tabbed dividers. You can find them at any office supply store.
  3. Label the dividers according to subject:  Who do you engage with daily?  Where do you serve?
  4. Set aside 2-3 thirty minute segments over the course of this next week to write out prayer cards.  Put in writing those prayer requests you already have committed to. Begin to place those prayers in the appropriate categories.
  5. Each morning look through your prayer box.  Follow the Spirit’s prompting as you name each prayer.  Pull out those you feel compelled to ponder over.

Prayer boxes are great for families and children.  When my girls were young we kept a small box on the kitchen table.  They would pull a card each evening to pray over.  You can simplify or expand the idea above to meet a multitude of needs.