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.

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*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”.

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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.

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.

 

Embrace being Invisible

I love to read.  I love to learn.  As I have made this transition back to full-time work and have sought to effectively lead an office through re-organization, reading and learning have been vital to my success, but more importantly vital to my emotional well-being.  My reading and learning must be balanced.  I can’t just read about management practices or leadership skills, I have to feed my spirit.  My whole self has to grow in order to be effective and healthy.

I recently read “Unseen” by Sara Hagerty.  (http://sarahagerty.net/unseen/)  Initially I thought this book would have nothing to do with my leadership, but would be a good read for me personally.  I was wrong.  Creating change, leading people through reorganization is all work done quietly.  A great deal of it is work the leader must do in the hidden spaces.  It is being faithful to show up, to keep moving forward, to wait patiently on others to begin to see and take hold of the new mission.  It is the unseen work.  It is prayer.

“Unseen” is an authentic book.  Sara Hagerty shares what many of us would never voice to another.  It is a vulnerable read, but it will stir your spirit.  As I have led, I will be honest… I have wanted kudos, a pat on the back.  That hasn’t come.  I have felt discouraged, wondering if the mission to engage others in service to meet the needs of our community would ever resonate with anyone outside our office.  But reading Sara’s story challenged me to dig deep, to deal with the reality- Who am I living for?  Is my identity wrapped up in what others think?  Those aren’t easy questions to answer.  The truth was painful because the answers didn’t match what I say I live.  I say I live for Christ, that my identity is in Him.  Yet, all too often, that is not the reality of how I live.  “Unseen” has reminded me to focus on who I am, the relationships with those around me, and believe I am where I am to serve Him.  Being obedient to Him.  It has reminded me to stop in prayer, breathing in His word, when doubts or frustrations rise.  It’s about our focus.  When we focus on what the world cannot see, we live free from the need for worldly success.

There is something freeing when we embrace being invisible.  Being the best version of me is all that matters.  I am the best version of me when I am focused on Him.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

I’ve Got Great Kids-And Yes, I’ll Take a Little Credit for That

I was asked the other day what Paul and I had done to have such great kids.  At first, I started to do that thing we all seem to do-be modest, act like I had no idea, not come off sounding haughty or proud etc… but then I stopped myself.  I have been engaged in an on-line study focused on “being intentional”.  Thank goodness!  Just as I was going to brush off the compliment, and as a result brush off this young mom’s request for advice, I took a breath and gave her question some real thought.  We weren’t in a situation for me to expound much, but I knew I needed to share some real advice.  I needed to take credit for a lot of really hard work.  So, in that moment I shared with the young mom just that.  I told her Paul and I have such great kids because we made a very deliberate decision to raise them according to God’s word.  We have been very intentional about our rules, our choices, who they spend time with, who they don’t spend time with, what goes in their eyes and ears etc…  We have worked hard at parenting, praying, reading, seeking counsel and making a game plan for each new age and stage.  We have sacrificed work time, play time and personal friend time.  We have sacrificed financially.  Having great kids doesn’t just happen.  You don’t “get lucky”.  Having great kids doesn’t happen because you drop them off at church, take them to the lake, or enroll them in the right school.  Having great kids happens because you, as parent, know how God calls each of us to live and you are willing to say yes to only those things which teach your children those standards and say no to everything that could distract or hinder their learning God’s ways.

I have continued to think about the brief interaction.  I realize with regret how many other times I have laughed off the question or hesitated to share and be proud of the decisions.  Living intentionally is not optional, not if we want to see success, find peace, walk in His ways and be women and men of influence.  Living intentionally is mandatory.  Being too busy, having too much on our plate-none of that excuses our lack of living with intent, focus, purpose, deliberateness.  There’s a lot of blame in this world today.  Sadly, there’s very little taking responsibility.  I wonder if so many shy away from taking responsibility because they realize that in deed they have never taken responsibility for their choices, their marriage, their children.  They don’t have much to want to take responsibility for.  Intention, responsibility, deliberateness.  Big words.  Hard words. Words requiring action and follow through.

I am so thankful my parents taught me God’s word.  I am so thankful they instilled His precepts in my life.  None of us as parents will be perfect.  None of us will raise perfect children.  But, if we take responsibility for knowing how to live, and make a plan for teaching that, we can raise great kids.  Today, I gladly stand up and take credit (with my husband) for two really great kids.  I gladly take credit and acknowledge the hard work and sacrifices.  I have no desire to leave my marriage, my children, our family to chance.

Here are a few things we do in our attempt to be intentional:

Mom and dad have access to everything at all times-because we own it until you are on your own paying ALL your bills.

We pray together daily.

We eat breakfast and dinner together every day (with exception of a special event or two a couple of times a month).

You do not go to anyone’s home unless mom and dad have met their parents face to face and know who all lives in the home.

Church is not optional AND we worship together as a family.

No one is on their phone during a meal at home or out.

We attend every one of our girls’ games or events.

We listen.

We own our mistakes as parents, apologize to our girls and tell them what we are going to do different.

You get in trouble away from home, you get in trouble at home.

As parents we are never let inconvenience keep us from disciplining-yes, we are grounded when you are grounded, the buggy full of groceries can be left, etc…

We never go to bed angry.