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.

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.

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.

What Happens When A Woman Prays God’s Promises

Edit-The Path to Consistency

2016 is about consistency.  Purposing to be “unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time.”  It is a struggle.  I so often know the things to do, yet do not do them. Sometimes though I am not sure how to be more consistent-the path seems foreign. Sometimes I just feel stuck.  I keep doing the same things, and on some level they are working, yet the outcomes seem stagnant.  I want 2016 to be about more than just trying to be consistent, I want to uncover the ways to consistency.

This week as I have given thought to this, prayed fervently for direction, and delved into some reading.  At the same time, I found myself struggling to make some decisions I knew I needed to make.  They weren’t life changing decisions.  They weren’t moral decisions.  They were just those kind of decisions that come as the result of some gentle whispers, nudging.  As I thought about each of the decisions I was avoiding, I realized each had to do with editing.

edit:  to correct, revise and get ready for

I talk a lot about editing when I work with organizing clients.  Editing is an important part of organization.  Being organized is about being able to manage what you have AND enjoy it.  To be consistent in what I do, who I am, is about editing.  The less I have to manage, in terms of things, the more time I have to focus on developing good habits and developing character.  To have the time to make improvements in areas often means I need to focus more of my time on that area.  This again, requires editing.  I have to look intently at where I spend my time.

I want to be more consistent in my prayer life, in homeschooling, in caring for my health and using time to be creative. This week I spent time really looking at what I could edit.  I made the decision to edit several things.

  1. Purge photographs.  I long to have photo albums up to date and perfect Project Life albums created for my girls.  Yet each time I consider setting aside time to work on photographs I procrastinate, dreading trying to figure out where to start, where to find the right pictures.  This week I approached instead by focusing on editing-getting rid of pictures that were duplicates, didn’t really tell a story in and of themselves, or just flat didn’t speak to me.  As I did this I also made piles by date. Wouldn’t you know it in no time flat I had discarded 1/3 of the pictures, sent duplicate family pictures to my sister-in-law, and had three envelopes of pictures by date.
  2. Partnered with my girls to clean out the media room, packing up all the children’s books they wanted to keep for storage in the attic, getting rid of DVD we really won’t ever watch again, and editing the gift wrap station.
  3. Announced a reprieve from Facebook.  I too often get “sucked” into the abyss of mindlessly scrolling through news feeds, getting emotionally worked up over religious or political statements or self promotion, and/or “wishing” my life was more like…  I felt strongly convicted that for me, this moment in time, I needed to step back from Facebook and focus on creativity, face to face time with family and friends and studies.
  4. Revised my work schedule to protect more time for homeschooling and studies.

Editing is going to be key to becoming more consistent.  What might you need to edit so that you can move forward with a goal, or project, or decision?

Schedules, Daily Habits & White Space

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.