Routines Don’t Mean a Routine Life

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

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

apartment-blinds-cabinets-349749

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

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

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

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

Routines don’t mean a routine life.

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”.

Are You Ready?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Serve One Another

As a missionary kid I grew up in the midst of people giving their whole lives to service, to making the difference in someone else’s life, seeking to help and to share the gospel. Opportunities to travel the globe as a child and youth exposed me to needs, to political structures which stifled and caused harm to citizens.  I knew from the age of 14 I wanted to work in public service.

This week thousands of us in public service, join the Points of Light Foundation in remembering President Bush’s inaugural speech and his call to action.  We honor him, the legacy he built.  I remember watching the speech.  I remember the reference to the non-profit and government programs spread across the country “like shining stars”.  I remember, in those moments, knowing I had chosen the career that was right for me. Today, as I serve the citizens of Arkansas, President Bush’s words continue to inspire me. Programs and processes do not change people.  Programs ad processes may offer help, they may meet a concrete need, but they do not change people.  People change people.  I believe that, not just because of years of service with government and nonprofit organizations, but I believe that because I know we were created by God to have relationship.  We were created to need one another.

My work plans for 2017 involve the launch of a system to connect people to other people, helping people meet the needs of others.  In my personal life my desire for 2017 is to strengthen existing relationships and open myself up to new ones, to respond to needs when I see them.  As a mother, my greatest desire has been to teach my children to connect to others, to see the needs of those around them and sacrifice their time and resources to meet them.  That character trait is one I have desired to instill and rates high above grades or popularity in our home.  My prayer this week is that they, my girls, and you will read the words of President Bush, be inspired, and then take action.

http://www.pointsoflight.org/people/board-members/president-george-h-w-bush

LoveAllHeart

 

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.

Fear is the Key to Freedom

From Deb @ Breathing in Grace
From Deb @ Breathing in Grace

 

If you’ve read much of my blog you know I struggle with fear and worry.  You also know I am a recovering perfectionist.  I guess it is highly possible the two go hand in hand.  I am so thankful God has chosen to speak to me a great deal about these two things.  Fear.  Worry.  I had convinced myself both were a sin.  Yep, big black, dirty sins.  That would lead to beating myself up over the worry and fear.  And you know how the cycle goes. The beating up, the battle in the mind, leads to more fear and more worry.  It’s really quite exhausting.

I believe all of us have been there.  Some of us just stay there longer than others.  I confess.  That would be me.  The recovering perfectionist.  The one that got to the end of her rope, couldn’t fix the world, much less her extended family, couldn’t do it all, missed the boat on some great chances.  The one living life exhausted and finally tired of living that way.  The one who knew there was more to life than this.  I could regret it all.  I could regret I didn’t learn sooner.  But, what good is that?  It only leads to a renewed cycle of fear and worry.

I am grateful.  I am grateful God’s grace never runs out.  I am grateful each morning is full of NEW mercies.  I am grateful He walks with me.  I am grateful that when we finally release He gives us rest, freeedom.  I am grateful I said yes to letting go of perfectionism.  I honestly thought letting go of perfectionism meant I’d be free of fear and worry.  Not so.  You see, the greatest lesson of all in this process of letting go (and it is a process, don’t kid yourself into thinking you can quit anything cold turkey) has been understanding His truth.  Fear is not a sin.  Fear is a feeling.  God created it.  He created our minds and bodies to respond to it and in those responses we are often protected.    The sin comes in letting fear oppress us, hold us back from obedience and faith.  God knows I fear.  His word says that is okay.  His word tells me He has a plan for fear.  The plan is to keep going WITH Him.  The plan is to acknowledge the fear, to look it in the eye and say, “This fear is real.  But I will not let it win.  I have God with me, in me, around me.  I will walk with Him THROUGH this fear.” Too often I let fear oppress, hold me captive.  That leads to worry.  That leads to inaction.  That leads to nothing good.   God has taught me and reminded me that putting feet to my faith is what matters.  That thing that terrifies me, is most often the one thing needed to move me towards my God given calling.  He never says He will take the fear away.  He never rebukes us for having fear.  He simply says, “Do not fear” and then gives a directive.  For the Israelites it was “do not fear”, put the blood on your doorposts and the angel of death will pass over.  To Abraham is was “do not fear”, gather my people and I will lead you to the promise land.  To Mary it was “do not fear”, go tell Joseph and I will give to you my Son and you shall call Him Jesus, Messiah.  DO NOT FEAR is never a chastisement.  It is always a directive, followed by an action we are to take, followed by a promise.  Fear is not a sin.  Fear is often the propelling force.  It is the force pushing us to greater faith.  It is the force that says, trust me, put feet to your faith and hold on.

The worry thing.  Well, it is a sin.  I am still struggling with it.  It wins most often when I have let fear win.  There is something liberating though in coming to the truth that I need not fear, fear itself.  It’s hard-hard to embrace, but I am getting there.  When fear strikes I am learning to sit, to be still, and to listen intently for His directive I KNOW is to follow.  Then I pray.  I pray for strength to do it, to take the step.  The most beautiful part comes in holding His hand watching for the promise to unfold.