The Love Hate Relationship with Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Being Mom Takes Time

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Being mom takes time.  I have struggled with what to write about today.  I am not one of those bloggers with weeks or months or pre-written blog posts dated and ready to post.  Some days I wish.  No, I’m a busy mom, a Christ follower just dabbling in this thing called the “blogging world”, primarily as a means of accountability.

I am a mom.  I own an organizing business and speaking ministry.  I home school and am very engaged in my church and association.  Life is full and if I am not VERY careful I can quickly allow my job, my volunteer activities to overshadow my being wife and mom.  Sadly, as I enter women’s homes or lives through my business or speaking ministry, I find far too many women have let this very thing happen.  They are well meaning women.  Most are women of faith.  Yet, being mom and wife has lost its place as a priority, second only to their relationship with Christ.  Their calendars and time are consumed with what they are DOING for their families instead of who they are BEING for their families.  They do things: buy an abundance of things; pay for an abundance of opportunities/lessons/activities; they drive from place to place keeping a schedule.  In the frantic pace of life though the stuff begins to overtake and the relationships begin to suffer, mom begins to suffer.

Being a mom takes time.  Not just time for cleaning, cooking, driving, purchasing, but time to be with your kids, your family. It requires focus and planning.  Too often the home is in chaos because mom has failed to block off time to be mom, doing the stuff and being present.

What is the solution?  I believe the solution is to constantly give thought to what kind of home you want to have.

First, dream.  Write it down.  Do you envision family meals and evenings playing board games in a home that reflects order?  Do you envision Saturday mornings baking in the kitchen with your daughter?  Do you dream of a home where everything has its place and at least 75% of the time is in its place?  Not perfection, but calm and beauty?  Cut pictures out of a magazine. Create a dream board.  (I keep a notebook with me that has my “dream” snapshots pasted to the back pages.)

Second, time block.  You’ve heard me say it before.  And I don’t just write about it, I live it.  the only way you will ever be the wife and mom you want to be is if you block off time to take care of the tasks you need to take care of.  Don’t just block it off, but guard it.  Multi-tasking is NOT a good thing.  In fact there are studies out now pointing to the dangers of multi-tasking.  Multi-tasking is really nothing more than being distracted.  Guard your mom time.  Drive the kids to school and lock your phone in the glove compartment.  Block off an hour when the kids get home from school or you get in from work to catch up, prep dinner.  Again, turn off the cell phone, turn off the television, put away the calendar.  If you are responsible for cleaning the home, getting the groceries, block off time to take care of those tasks.  They won’t magically happen.  You won’t “find” time to get it done.  You have to plan to get it done.

I don’t always like being mom.  I get tired of doing laundry, planning meals, running to Target.  What I do like though is knowing that at the end of the week my family and I have shared laughs around the dinner table, arguments have been minimized because we all had the clean clothes we needed.  I enjoy a less than perfect home, but one in which we are always ready to welcome friends and family.

Being mom is important.  Being mom takes time.  Don’t let life race by.  Don’t just be a doing mom.  Be a present, giving mom.  Make time to focus on your family and set the tone for your home.  It won’t be easy, you won’t succeed week in and week out, but when you get it right, you’ll be so glad you made time to be mom.

A House That Breathes

If you have been following my blog, you know we built a home this past summer.  The process was exciting, fun, fulfilling.  It came at just the right time.  I was coming out of a two year process of some real life changes.  The kind of life changes that come with living past the age of 40.  Coming to terms with who I was, no longer trying to do.  Coming to terms with a family relationship I couldn’t fix, that would never change.  Healing.  Healing the empty places I had allowed to grow trying to be for others, for society, for family.  Coming to terms with my spiritual self, understanding who God is in new ways, ways only made possible by the hurts, the struggles, the disappointments, the losses of this life.  Celebrating.  Celebrating surviving young motherhood.  Celebrating the young women my daughters are becoming.  Celebrating making it past 20 years with my best friend and husband.  Celebrating friendships, the authentic ones.  The friendships of women who bare their souls, are strong enough to cry, to admit weakness, to ask for help.  Celebrating being that friend to a few, the special ones.  Celebrating family, embracing family.  In the midst of it all I learned to breathe.

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It may sound trite, but it’s not an easy thing to do.  And yet, breath is the very sustenance of life.  We rush through life taking shallow breaths, breathing in quickly, exhaling too quickly.  We rush.  We find ourselves holding our breaths in an attempt to hold our anger, our sorrow, our excitement.  It requires yoga class or meditation therapy or a doctor to remind us to breathe-really breathe.

I have learned to breathe and as we set out to build I wanted to create a home that would breathe.  We purged.  Being an organizer, that wasn’t terribly difficult, but it still required thought, discipline and action.  I kept only what we loved and used.  I set out to paint the home in an array of neutrals-shades of white.  I set out for there to be open spaces, empty spaces.  Week before last I had my first “gathering” of those outside the family.  As the guests arrived, more than one commented on the house.  There were the usual compliments, but the greatest of them all were these words, “I love it.  I walk in and I take a deep breath and feel myself relaxing.  There is space.  There is calm.”  Not just once did I hear these words, but three times. Satisfaction.  The years of struggle.  The years of battling my “demons” within, were all worth it.  In those moments I knew I was living, living the life of abundance, peace, contentment.  I was breathing.  My home was breathing.

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Possibility is not in the stuff.  It is not in the structure of the home.  It is not in the activity.  It is not in doing.  Possibility is in the stillness, the knowing, the being.  My life is lived in shades of white.  My calendar is filled with white space.  Not by chance, but by choice, by discipline, by intention.  My walls are filled with white space.  Not by chance, but by choice.  My thoughts are focused on what is most important.  My eyes rest on art and pieces of furniture most important.  And in the in-between, in the shades of white, I can breathe.  I can sit and listen.  I can hear the still small voice of God speak clearly regarding who I need to be, who He is.  My home rests, it breathes.  It holds room for life, for guests to enter, to take a breath and rest.

I challenge you to create a home that breathes.  As you enter the holidays and think towards the year ahead, what can you eliminate?  What areas cause you stress?  What rushes you each day?  Find your shades of white, breathe and live.

A few of the rooms I used as inspiration:

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Dreams Come with Faith

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As a mom over 45 I have found myself wondering where my dreams have gone?  Wondering if I have let them die, given up, or just lost my way.  Not because I lack happiness, but maybe because sometimes I focus too much on others, my family, dreaming FOR them, instead of living my own.  Sometimes my dream IS them, and it all gets mixed up.  I know I am not alone.  I hear the conversations and read the thoughts daily.  We long for so much, we get caught up in the “what should be” and can lose sight of what is, our dream, His will.

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In an unexpected moment, a sunset, He whispers to our soul, “Remember who you are.  Remember whose you are.”  Those dreams of old come spilling forth.  Like the warmth of the sun, they envelope me in a warm embrace.  I do still dream.  My dreams still live.  The more I am still, the more I ponder, the more I realize that even those dreams I thought lost, are being nurtured by all that He has called me to in this moment.  I can trust Him.  He does not give us the desires of our heart all at once.  He plants seeds of hope, visions of ministries, and through our daily living, daily obedience He grows them.

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Right now life is about this.  These three people fill my heart with joy.  They challenge me to be better, to give more, to laugh, to grow.  My best for them is to be the best of me.  It’s not to dream FOR them.  It is to set wings to my own dreams, to trust-have faith.  It is to live in such a way that they feel safe, loved, cherished and free to dream.  It is taking joy in hearing their dreams and watching as He begins to unfold those dreams.  I can hold on tight or I can release, having faith.

My dream was to be an advocate.  At age 14 I knew God was calling me to serve the forgotten child.  I had grand visions of working for UNICEF or Save the Children.  Instead I became a “Child Abuse Investigator” and later case manager.  I became an advocate and leader with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).  Then, in a moment, after 6 long years, heard the words, “You are pregnant.”  In a moment my husband and I knew everything was to be put on hold, the new call was to grant these miracles the very best, for me to be at home, being mom.  Why do we so often think that means putting dreams on hold?  Why did I let my mind go there?  Why do I even today sometimes doubt.

My dream is not dead.  My dream has not been completely fulfilled.  Instead, God has grown me, all while growing my dream. I am still called to serve the underserved.  I am still called to serve the forgotten child.  However, God has shown me that as He has taught me to parent, to mother, He has placed a desire on my heart to come alongside that woman, that mom who doesn’t know, doesn’t know how.  Years of advocacy, years of being at home, years of waiting.  I am beginning to see glimpses.  There are others with a similar dream.  We begin to meet.  We begin to pray.  I am reminded to have faith.

A little over a year ago I had the privilege of meeting at Family Life with the Arkansas Women Bloggers network.  We had a wonderful lunch, time of sharing and then the cherry on the cake, was hearing from Barbara Rainey.  Her words that day struck a chord and prompted me to move from discouragement to hope.  She is an extremely talented author and artist.  Her husband leads one of the most influential Family Ministries in our country.  She has children.  She reminded me “there is a season” and “nothing is wasted in developing our dreams, who we are.”  An empty nester, she has just begun a new venture, one in which her heart for family, motherhood and her talent as an artist are melded into a beautiful business-Ever Thine Home.  She reminded me to keep the dream.  Remember who I am, whose I am.  She reminded me that in His time, in the right season, He will unfold the rest of the dream.  It won’t be working for UNICEF or Save the Children, but it will be so much more, because I am now so much more.  I am reminded as Holly Gerth says in  You’re Made for A God-Sized Dream, “Your God sized dreams are not just about making his purposes and plans a reality.  They are also about revealing his character through you.  Who you are on this journey is just as important as what you do.”

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Today I will dream.  I will be the mom who cooks, cleans, plans, carpools, holds the hand, watches the girl learn to guide the horse, listens to the heartache of friendships.  I will grow.  I will need HIM, meet Him each morning seeking His grace and His wisdom for the day ahead.  I will see that not one moment is wasted.  Even my mistakes, those times I ran ahead of Him, are salvaged.  He will not let the dream die.  He will take every moment, use it to correct, teach and encourage.  I will grow.  The dream will grow.  In season, it will come to fruition.  I will have faith.  I will live faith.  Faith fuels the dream.

I Skipped Church and Lived to Tell About It

The fact that skipping church causes me great angst is probably something only a woman over 40 from the South can understand.  Well, and maybe only a Southern Baptist woman over 40 from the South can understand.  Add to that I am a PK (preacher’s kid) and MK (missionary kid) and well, skipping church is just about equal to sex, drugs, and rock and roll and ensures a ticket to hell.

All joking aside, I doubt skipping church causes much angst in very many people this day and age.  But it does me.   Always has and I guess always will.  Although, I must admit in recent years the angst is a little less.

The girls and I had our girls weekend.  Dad was on his annual guy vacation, AKA Golf Trip, and the girls and I were left at home with a weekend to fill.  The weather was great.  Fall hit our neck of the woods and it was fabulous!  We attended a great “talent show” of sorts at my old University, Ouachita Baptist, helped with a baby shower for one of our former babysitters and searched for a Homecoming Dress.  The latter could be a blog post in and of itself, but I’m not sure I have recovered enough yet to write about it.  Throw in decorating the front porch for fall, cleaning the swimming pool and changing out the girls’ closets and we had ourselves one productive weekend.  Sunday rolled around and we found ourselves wanting to enjoy a girls day at home.  I love those days.  The kind we used to call “pajama day”, back before school entered the picture.  The kind where no one puts on make-up or does their hair.  The kind where I get to sip my coffee, watch a movie, look through old magazines and listen to my daughters.  So, we did just that.  We slept in (they slept in, I enjoyed three cups of coffee while watching the Food Network).  It was a great day.  We laughed, we had a few squabbles, we just let the day unfold.

Despite all that was good about the day, I found myself feeling guilty.  And well, guilt can just flat out take the joy out of a thing if you don’t get it in check pretty quick.  At first I blamed the guilt on being a PK, MK and Deacon’s wife.  After all, THAT woman never misses church.  Not only does she never miss, but she is thrilled to be there!  Then I blamed it on growing up with a mom who lived in a very black and white world and was quick to let her “judgement” of a situation be known.  In reality though, I had to admit I felt guilty because I am a RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST.  There.  I said it.  Hi, my name is Shana and I am a RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST.  The problem with being a perfectionist is not just that you want things perfect, which ahem, we all no is absolutely impossible.  The problem is that being a perfectionist comes with a whole slew of other issues-people pleasing being one of them.  In a perfect world everyone would approve of me and be happy with me.  In a perfect world I could please everyone and meet everyone’s needs when they need them met.  In a perfect world I can be every place I need to be right when I need to be there.  The real reason I feel guilty about skipping church is I am afraid of/worry about what that “other” church lady will think or say.  I’m afraid I’ll let my kids down.  It was a prompting to go to my Heavenly Father and confess-again.  God doesn’t want me to live in that place.  He knows this is a fallen world.  He knows I am a sinner, forgiven and prone to making more mistakes, the same mistakes over and over.  He prepared for that.  He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for me.  He extends grace and mercy to me every day, every moment.  He isn’t keeping a check-list.  He simply wants me to release my expectations, and be.  Be still.  Quit striving.  Listen for His still small voice.  It’s hard.  And just about the time I think I have conquered this Perfectionism thing, I am hit with those feelings of worry, doubt, defeat.  But when I stop, when I take that moment to breathe deeply and really think about what I am doing/feeling, I am reminded to press on and have hope because God is with me and He is faithful.  I can overcome in the moment.  I may not conquer it completely, but I can overcome it.

Yes, I skipped church and lived to tell about it.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t something that needs to happen often.  I believe in church.  I believe in the biblical instruction to gather and fellowship with other believers.  There is great value in that. I need it.  My family needs it.  Church is often my time to praise, to express gratitude, to care for a fellow sister  or brother in Christ.  It is necessary, just not mandatory.

It’s Monday.  I’m saying it again.  Hi, my name is Shana and I’m a RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST.  Life isn’t perfect, but it is beautiful.  It has purpose.  And some days you just have to stay home and live in the moment.  Full disclosure.  The following pictures depict my less than perfect life and pursuit of peace as a RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST.

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The Search Never Ends-Planner Perfection

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Project List and Tracking
Project List and Tracking
Slim Weekly Planner purchased at Barnes & Noble
Slim Weekly Planner purchased at Barnes & Noble

Well, I know it is NOT just me.  There seems to be a never ending search among-st women for the PERFECT PLANNER.  Now, I know perfection is NOT something to be pursued, for none of us is perfect, but it sure seems like there would be a planner out there that met women’s needs.  We are all so different thought.  Some of us like to decorate our planners and want lots of white space in which to create.  Others of us, like myself, like lots of lines to write on.  Most of us need to manage a whole slew of people’s schedules and events.  Some of us want to manage those things by time slots, others want to see a section for each person they track.  The list could go on and on.

Out of curiosity, I thought it would be fun to do a little survey.  What would you want in a planner?  I thought about a survey, but I don’t want my limited thoughts, creativity to stifle your thoughts.  So, just post in the comments.

I want a month at a glance with lined boxes.  I like a 7 day per week on two pages overview.  I like an area to note appointments and like this to be numbered by the hour.  Again, I like lines.  I have this thing about crooked writing.  I want a place to put “to do lists” by category/project.  I do not need a contacts section.  I would like to track my water drinking.  You get the idea.  Dream away and give me all your best ideas.  Never know what my happen with those ideas!

 

Friday Planning for Monday

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I used to do my weekly planning on Monday.  I was always in a rush on Friday to wrap things up, or had something fun planned as my little reward for getting things done during the week.  As a result I often went into the weekend with all these little tidbits of information and thoughts spinning in my head.  My desk would have at least one good pile of papers sitting on it.  I seldom looked at my calendar until Sunday night family planning time, when my husband and I make an attempt at coordinating schedules and I holler across the house asking my girls what all they have the coming week, what items they need, asking if I have signed all the papers etc…  You know.  The mom drill.  Monday morning would come around and while I would awaken ready to start the new week off with a bang, at least two hours would be consumed with going through the pile of papers, trying to get on paper all those tidbits of information.  I’d be border-line exhausted by the time I had my plan of attack for the week mapped out.

Then, during the course of my much time management related reading, I came across two authors recommending Friday Planning.  David Allen, of “Getting Things Done” highly recommends this practice.  I hate to admit this hit me like a ton of bricks.  What a novel idea.  You see, being the type A, rule following girl that I am, it would never have occurred to me to “change” the ever acclaimed process of Monday planning.  That had been the mantra of most of the authors I had read, with the exception of the few mom authors who acclaimed the Sunday night planning.  After pondering the idea for a bit, and getting over the fact that I had never considered this before, I gave it a try.  I LOVE FRIDAY PLANNING FOR MONDAY.

I attempt to reserve time after lunch for planning.  I block off thirty minutes to one hour.  It’s amazing how quickly I can develop the next week’s plan of action on Friday.  It is also amazing how much I can get done Friday AFTER my planning session.  I sit down with planner and phone.  I use the monthly calendar on my phone for scheduling appointments etc…  I still transfer this information to my paper planner, but I don’t carry my planner with me at all times, so my phone calendar serves as the “master” calendar.  I make certain everything on the phone calendar is written into my monthly paper planner and weekly planning pages.  My next step is to review all of my project lists (remember from my previous post I try not to have more than 4-5 projects at any given time).  If there are new tasks to add I do so, while also marking off completed tasks and transferring to the coming week’s pages any tasks for that week.  I then review the current week, looking to see if there are any items pending or undone.  I either determine to get them done Friday afternoon or I transfer the task to the following week’s list of “to do” items.  Thirdly,” I make a list of anything I am going to need to buy in order to complete the next week’s tasks.  Lastly, I block off time to work on long range goals-those items that are value to me, build my business and my ministry, and are on-going.  This is in fact my weakest area, but I am finding that as I continue to practice Friday planning, I am much more likely to have the time for working on these long-range goals and keep the time appointment with myself.

Why does Friday planning work?  First, most of us are not up to starting new tasks or doing any “heavy” work on Friday afternoons.  Focusing my energies on planning for the following week gives me an opportunity to “wrap up” and bring closure to the week.  The little things left undone are typically items that are simple, require little thinking and can be done in about 15 minutes if I just do them.  Things like getting the filing caught up, sending a thank you note or business letter to a lead, researching hotels for future trip…  Sometimes it is even going back and reading all those articles I pinned or put in my “follow up” folder in e-mail.  Secondly, Friday planning gives me an opportunity to brain dump.  I can go into the weekend knowing that anything I didn’t get accomplished the previous week has been assigned a new date and time, and will not be forgotten.  I read once that a great deal of our mental fatigue is caused by thinking about things we HAVEN”T done.  This practice helps eliminate that.  I can get it off my mind because I know it is written down and taken care of.  Thirdly, I can truly wake up Monday morning and jump right into work.  This usually means I am VERY productive Monday through Wednesday, and then my energies begin to slow.  But hey, that’s ok, because 80 percent of my stuff gets done in 20% of my time.

I challenge you to give it a try.  Friday planning for Monday.  It might just change your weekends and your Mondays.

 

The BIGGEST Mistake Women Make in Managing Time

Managing our time is one of our biggest challenges.  Our choices and opportunities are infinite and yet our time is finite.  For most of us, our organizational issues are really nothing more than time management issues.  None of us wants to be disorganized.  None of us wants to be late.  None of us wants to miss a friend’s birthday.  We have good intentions.  We want to do right.

I think women struggle with this more than men.  In part because many of us do not work outside the home, or if we do, it is not full-time. We take on primary responsibility for our children and our homes.  As a result we find ourselves with multiple schedules to manage, and often our time is not our own-in terms of using it for ourselves.

I realized years ago, when I first transitioned from full-time work to staying at home with my twin daughters, items NOT getting taken care of or completed were typically items I had never written down in my calendar.  Outside appointments, volunteer projects, girls’ events/play-dates… all got written on the calendar.  However, the bulk of what I needed to get done, wanted to get done, failed to ever make it to the paper (or electronic organizer if that is your preference).  Cleaning the house, making a meal plan, buying groceries, organizing the Christmas decorations in the attic, weeding the flower bed…  As a result I often found myself with a full day transporting kids, handling volunteer phone calls, playing tennis, attending bible study, but failing to get dinner on the table, or snapping at my husband because I felt frazzled and disappointed in myself.  I found myself running to buy a last minute gift or card. I’d get stuck in the house all day on a beautiful Saturday cleaning or doing 8 loads of laundry.  Not what I wanted.

The hard truth is this:  If we want to get it done, we MUST write it down-not just on a list, but we must decide what day and what time.

Some people like to have a weekly schedule.  I personally don’t do well with a weekly schedule.  I work for myself and serve clients, so I rarely have two weeks alike.  I prefer to have a list of the things I know I need to get done each week.  I then transfer those items to my weekly calendar on Friday or Sunday.  I rarely mop the floors or do the laundry on the same day any given week.  However, what I do commit to is getting it written down on my calendar that week.  Why is this important?  One, it reminds me.  Two, if an invitation to an event or a client work opportunity arises for that particular time slot I see what I am going to say NO to in order to say Yes. Sometimes it is worth it.  Sometimes it is easy to move the task to another time slot.  Sometimes I realize I simply can’t say Yes.  if I don’t have it written down it clutters my mind all week and/or I treat it as less significant than other items, and then what do you know?! It never gets done.  On occasion that is fine, but week after week it is not.

As women we need to schedule what I call the MUNDANE/the WEEKLY.  Whether you work out of the home, from home or in the home, you need a calendar.  You need to note appointments, but just as importantly, you need to write down the mundane/weekly.  Treat those items as appointments.  Block the time.  Don’t schedule anything on top of the mundane or weekly unless you can reschedule the task or are willing to give it up that week/that day.

As I began to practice this I began to feel more confident as a stay at home mom.  Even now, it helps me keep my family first.  I know what is important to my family.  I know what I need to do to feel like I am taking care of them and meeting their needs.  I see where my time is going and I can appreciate it.

Don’t make the biggest mistake women make in managing time.  Get out that calendar.  Write it down.  When are you going to clean the bathroom.  What day and time works best this week for doing laundry?  What are you going to feed your family this week?  You get the picture.  It all needs to get done.  It’s all important.

The Organized Life: It’s Not Magic

I am often asked how I do it all.  On the one hand I am somewhat honored/flattered, but more often than naught it makes me twinge and feel a little guilty.  While I want to daily present and be the best I can be, I never want to present an illusion, I never want to seem to be more than I am.  I am imperfect.  I sin daily.  My family sees my bad side, and that makes me sad.  I do not do it all.  I used to want to.  I used to strive to.  I used to believe I could.  But there is no magic- no magic wand, no magic formula, no magic planner, no magic system, no magic container, no magic home.  

I am fairly organized.  I function better in a cleaned up, uncluttered environment.  That’s my nature, the way God wired me.  I also believe God is a God of order and desires we, especially as women, create order and beauty in our lives.  He created us to create and complete.  However, I have learned the real key to organization is discipline.  I prefer to think of how I live my life in those terms. Am I living a disciplined life?  Do I honor God and His precepts with my choices, my words, my actions?  I do not do it all, because I no longer attempt to do it all.  There are a lot of things I say “No” to.  There are a lot of things I desire to do, but I know God has reserved for another season.  Living that way, and that way only, enables me to do what I need to do, no more.  In that I can find rest and peace.  I no longer have to rush, chase the illusive “do it all” mantra.  I can let go and enjoy the very best God has for me.  I have times where I take on too much, lose sight of the “best” and run after the “good”.  Fortunately though I have built in some disciplines that provide me time and opportunity to step back and take notice when these things happen and I can recover, before life spins out of control.

Disciplines to a more balanced/organized life:

  1. Daily quiet time with God BEFORE the day begins.  
  2. Pray over daily calendar.
  3. Know priorities and evaluate them yearly.
  4. Use a monthly and weekly calendar.
  5. Leave white space on the calendar:  at least 15 minutes between every task/appointment.
  6. Review calendar and set up the following week’s schedule on Friday, so the weekend can be enjoyed.
  7. Sabbath retreat the 31st of each month with 31 days.  Solitude, Prayer, Reflection, Planning
  8. Rest:  physical rest (early to bed/early to rise) and the kind of rest that means to quit striving
  9. Write it down: goals, appointments, thoughts for future, to do…
  10. Purge: 4 times per year focus on problem area in house and in schedule.  Purge.

It takes discipline to be organized.  Like most everything worth having in life, organization comes from doing a few things you don’t want to do and making sacrifices.  It also takes real desire and want.  Not to want to be organized, but to want to have time to live life fully, to enjoy your home, your family, the things you choose to engage in, your friends.  

I don’t do it all.  I don’t strive to do it all.  I seek order, but solely to enable me to care for what I have (be a good steward) and to enjoy life.  When all I sought was organization, order and/or perfection, all I got was fatigue, illness and poor attitude.  Life and things managed me.  I now manage life and things as I follow God’s direction and seek to do only the very BEST things He has placed before me.  I can let go of the rest, knowing He has a plan and a time for everything.  I’m not missing out.  I’m not needing to keep up.  I’m getting to live, live fully.

I Give!!! (But, I vow to focus and finish)

I GIVE!  It is 8:00 at night, and quite frankly I am T-I-R-E-D.  I have too much on my plate, all of my own choosing, and quite frankly I have been following very little of my own advice.  So tonight, I feel like a two ton gorilla ready to plop down and call it quits.  There’s nothing wrong with my life-we are employed, we are healthy, we are safe.  No, it’s just all that little stuff-that stuff that when not managed well turns you into either a screaming hyena or an overwhelmed gorilla.  I am juggling two businesses, homeschooling (for the first time) a high school student, managing a home, and living out my gifts volunteering with Christian Women’s Job Corps.  I love it all.  But, some days I get distracted, I fail to block time and my mind starts wandering.  I fail to focus and finish.  Oh, how many times I have uttered those words to my children, “Focus, finish what you started.”  Ouch.  So goes motherhood.  It always comes back around doesn’t it?!  As the tension crept up my back today, as I lay awake at 4:15 a.m. thinking of all the tasks left undone, I silently screamed out “I GIVE!”.  

Focus.  That’s what I need to do.  I need to set aside some time this week to tackle three items on each of my projects.  I need to focus.  I need to quit multi-tasking, flitting from one thing to another, attempting to juggle.  I need to focus.  Focus brings stillness, quiet, resolve.  Focus brings fresh breath.  Focus helps me hear the still small voice of my Master.  I can’t finish until I focus.  I’ll never finish if I look too far ahead or keep turning to my right and to my left.  I’ll only finish when I focus.  Focus will bring clarity to the path, enable me to see what is ahead.  Intent focus has me looking only one step ahead, at the one thing that needs to be done next.    

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While I have to admit I still feel a bit like an over weight, grumpy gorilla, I have new resolve.  I know God has ordained my days.  I know God has a plan.  I know God can and will bring clarity.  Focus to finish.