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.

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Breathing,Breaking,Beholding

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I took a break from the blog.  I needed to step back, to really push through to the other side.  I began this blog as an accountability tool for myself.  It then morphed into an opportunity to share about my passion for home and organization, along with spiritual lessons.  Then one day, it just seemed there was nothing to say, my thoughts were dark and anxiety and bitterness were becoming more a way of thinking and living.

Somewhere between facing some changes in our finances, ongoing extended family relationship struggles, approaching the empty nest years, I began to spiral.  My thoughts were consumed with the “what if”…”why didn’t I”… “why does she” questions.  It seemed that nothing in my family relationships would change, and that depression and anger would continue to steal from our relationships.  It seemed at age 49 there were not many prospects for entering the workforce, engaged in something I was passionate about, creating a new identity for myself outside of motherhood.  The chaos of the world seemed to only confirm what I feared.  I was tired.  Anxiety woke me at odd hours, my chest feeling as though an elephant were sitting on it, and breathing was hard, shallow.  Fatigue kept me from moving, doing and too often the end of the day found me sitting face to face with regret, angry at myself for letting the worries win.

I would like to tell you that during my morning quiet time or a church service God spoke, pulled me from the pit.  I’d love to tell you about a “burning bush” moment, but that is not my story.  Instead, it has been a slow process, one that began with a desire to exercise, strengthen my physical being, burn off some steam.  I have slowly climbed my way out of the pit, dragging my body up the muddy hill, pushing, pulling, crying, laughing.

I joined a local gym and signed myself up for personal training.  I did it without talking to my friends or family (yes even my husband, which I do not recommend if you are on a tight budget).  I decided I had to do something on my own, for myself.  I needed to make just one small decision and just do something.  I am not going to lie.  I did it with a little bit of rebelliousness.  It has been amazing!  In a matter of thirty short minutes the trainer can push me through exercises that cause my heart to race, my muscles to ache and my body to sweat.  Learning to use equipment I didn’t know existed, pushing myself past that moment of “I can’t”.  At the end of each session with the last count done and the high five slap a sense of empowerment, accomplishment set in.  What I thought I could not do, I could do.  In fact not only could I do it, but I could do more than what was expected. Pushing myself physically, having someone to speak truth as I pushed, hurt, struggled, got me over the hump.  As I began to see and feel the difference in my physical being I began to realize how much I had let Satan fill my mind with his lies.  I realized that while I was a good Baptist girl who read her bible every morning, attended church and bible studies, I was not letting God’s truth fill my mind.  I was choosing to believe the lies, the distorted messages of Satan and it had and was robbing me of life.  I was focused on all that I didn’t have, on the hard parts of life and was ignoring all that I did have, all I had access to through Christ.

What began as a journey to renew my physical body has become a journey to renew my mind.  I have taken every negative thought captive and wrestled with it, searching out God’s truth.  Some wrestling matches have lasted months, while others stop and start. Some matches I have won and God’s truth reigns.  Everything about us, our thoughts and our actions, rest upon what we believe.  I believe I am the daughter of Christ, made in His image.  His Spirit resides in me and gives me access to His power, the power to overcome, to live free.

If you are struggling I want to encourage you.  Step back, breath, take a break and behold God’s truth.  Let each Word sink in.  Release the lies.

The funny thing is not a lot about my life has changed.  The truth is, I haven’t really changed.  I am still me, the girl I have always been, with the same personality, talents and gifts.  Depression and anxiety still have a hold on a family member.  My girls are still headed to college.  My husband’s business is still recovering from the economic crisis of a few years back.  I have had friends bury children, walk through divorce, and lose jobs.  The difference is what I choose to believe.

truth

 

The Ebb & Flow of Loving Home

It is summer.  I am off schedule with the blog.  In the past, that would have stressed me, but no longer.  It’s just a natural part of life.  It is a natural occurrence of the change in seasons, change in schedules.  Life is a little less hectic and the daily routines a little less hurried.  The lack of schedule affords more time for play, projects, and my favorite-reading.  I always get a little more reading in during the summer months.  I also find, that summer is often my time to dream-dream about the year to come, dream about what I want to do to the house, with the yard, etc…  Reading, reflection prompt dreaming.

Today I want to encourage you to get a copy of Melissa Michaels’ book, “Love the Home You Have”.  Mrs. Michaels is the author of the blog “The Inspired Room”, which I have followed for some time.  I absolutely LOVE this book.  I have long had a love affair with home.  Even as a young girl I loved arranging my room, creating order in an effort to have my own haven. I love home.  I love creating home.  But, and there always seems to be a ‘but’, I can get sucked into the world of discontentment.  I can find myself procrastinating, slipping into a home care slump, while I yearn for that new couch, piece of art I can’t afford, …  I can find myself living the comparison game thinking my space is inadequate.  It’s a trap.  Too many of us find ourselves there.  Some use it as an excuse to give up: give up on decorating, cleaning, hosting.  ” Love the Home You Have” reminds us what home should be about.  It encourages us to breathe, play, collect and enjoy the process of creating home.

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I have often believed our homes are a reflection of who we are-really who we are.  They reflect the state of our spirit, our priorities.  As we settle in to who we are, learn contentment, it is reflected in our homes.  We worry less about the things we don’t have, and value what we do have.  We embrace our style, our likes, and that is reflected in how we care for our home, the treasures we display, the furnishings we choose.  A house full of clutter is often a reflection of someone lacking direction, someone living with stress as the result of an overbooked schedule.  A house where furniture is falling apart, floors are dirty, the kitchen sink is piled high all the time, is often the reflection of someone avoiding , someone avoiding discipline, trying to find purpose, struggling emotionally.  A house that seems cold, void of personal items, can be a reflection of someone desperately trying to control all of life, function in their own strength.

Truth be told, our homes at various times can reflect all of the above.  The condition of our homes reflect the condition of our spirits, our hearts.  “Love the Home You Have” not only shares ideas on how to care for and create a place of beauty and peace, but encourages us to care for ourselves.  Mrs. Michaels encourages us to find contentment, not just with our homes, but with the person God created us to be.   No home is perfect, believe me I have built 5 and still haven’t gotten it 100% right!  My budget will never afford me the opportunity to buy what I want when I want.  My love of hospitality means my home is often full of people, and things get dirty when people fill your home.  Just as I live and breathe, so does my home.  As I grow, mature, so does my home.  As I release worldly expectations, I am free to create, find joy in the quirky parts of life and home.

“Love the Home You Have” is full of decorating ideas, home management ideas and personal care advice.  No matter where you are in the ebb and flow of loving your home, I encourage you to order your copy today.

http://theinspiredroom.net/lovethehomeyouhave/

Who Am I? A Mother’s Quandry

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with a fellow ministry friend at a church women’s event.  We got to sit with another ministry friend, who was hosting one of the break out groups at this same women’s ministry event.  I love these two women.  One I have known for almost 14 years.  The other, roughly 18 months.  It is amazing though how close I feel to both these women.  These women encourage me, they challenge me, but more importantly they hold me accountable.

As happens at so many women’s ministry events there was a little “mixer” game.  Well, seeing as that the three of us were catching up and preparing for our presentations, I kind of missed the directions.  The game was one in which you were to meet new women, ask them to answer one of about 12 questions, note their answer and name, and then move on to the next woman.  At the end of the night there were door prizes for those who had answered each question.  In other words, a fun way to get to know some other women in the room.  Questions ranged from what is your favorite color, to what’s one goal you aspire to achieve.  Well, considering that I was NOT paying attention, I began filling out the questionnaire all for myself.  I had in my mind we would be trying to find women who had answered the questions the same way we had.  Really?  I realize now that makes absolutely no sense, but…  We do find a way to justify things, don’t we.  My dear friends, usually quick to speak truth and hold me accountable, apparently thought I was taking notes for my presentation or something, because neither of them stopped me.  We finished eating and then proceeded to make our presentations etc… We gathered back together for the close of the event and the grand finale-door prizes.  Needless to say, it became readily apparent to me I had completed the assignment wrong!  Good grief.  As I snickered to myself I told my friends what I had done.  Yes, they laughed.  In fact, they laughed out loud.  There was a smart remark or two about some of my answers (apparently the fact my favorite ice cream is Rocky Road spoke volumes to one of my sweet friends-so I feel certain there will be a blog post to follow.)  As my dear friends laughed WITH me, I am certain they were not laughing at me (HA!), one said, “Well, I guess it never hurts to stop and get to know yourself again!’

No truer words could have been spoken.  We go and do and run so hard sometimes, I do believe we forget who we are.  We get so busy being someone’s wife, the mother of so and so, the home room mom… that we forget who we really are.  In all honesty it was fun to fill out that sheet.  I had a little get to know me mixer all by myself.  I kind of liked the woman I got to know that evening.  There were even a few questions I had to really stop and think about.  How would I describe myself in three words?  If someone made a movie of my life, would it be a drama, comedy or action film?  I can get so busy doing, meeting expectations, that I forget to be me.  I do what I think I am supposed to do to be the good wife, good mom, talented writer, hard working organizer…  Yet in the midst of all that I do, I exist.  Me.  The one created by God in His image to carry out His good works for eternity.  The one that likes Rocky Road ice cream, relaxes by reading a good book or baking, envies Meg Ryan because of her hair, loves melon, and would be an eagle if I had to choose an animal to be. I’m the one whose heart cry is for women.  I’m the one who thought she didn’t want to be a mom, then thought I’d never be a mom, and now loves being a mom.  I’m the one with insecurities.  I’m the one who still feels the sting of harsh words and rejection.  I’m the one who struggles with worry and doubt.  I’m the one God loves.   I’m the one slowly getting to see God’s plans unfold.  I’m the one with some pretty amazing friends.  I AM who I AM because of the GREAT I AM.

Take a moment for yourself this week.  Who are you?  Think about it.  Relish in it.  Thank Him for creating You-His daughter, His bride.  We moms need to remember who we are, because who we are will see us through to the finish-beyond the mothering years, beyond the work years.  Mingle and Mix with yourself.  I bet like me, you’ll enjoy getting to know yourself.

Here are a few questions to get you going:

1.  If you could have an endless supply of food, what would you get?

2.  If you were an animal what would you be and why?

3.  What is your favorite thing to do in summer?

4.  If you were an ice cream flavor which one would you be and why?

5.  What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?

6.  What is your pet peeve?

Still No Resolutions, Still No Goals, But a Plan Coming Together

I haven’t quite yet gotten back in the groove of posting to the blog.  In days past, I would chastise myself and create additional stress.  It has been tempting to go down that road again.  After all, I’m still that same girl-the one who likes to have a plan, get things done, see organization and order around me.  I love a check list and checking it off!  But…  I have continued resting my mind on the word God whispered to me:  PEACE.

Peace, it is truly elusive, so easily stolen from us as life marches on bringing with it new demands, new disappointments, new seasons.  I have held strong to praying daily for PEACE and opening myself up to His direction. Late last week it dawned upon me to identify those moments in the day when I sense a lack of peace.  As you might expect, a pattern emerged.  That bewitching dinner hour.  The time between late afternoon and dinner. Surely I am not alone.  I can have conquered mountains, but in those few hours the weight of the world seems to fall upon my shoulders.  The husband comes home with his day’s worth of baggage, the kids need help with homework, the taxi service begins, dogs need fed and/or walked, the household chores for the day await, and then there is that thing called dinner.  No matter how well planned my day, week, even month, this time of day seems to be truly bewitched.  My stress level rises, and the more I am asked to do, the more my mind seems to race to all those tasks I have failed to do, did half way or simply had hoped to do.  Before I know it I feel drained and defeated.  And sadly, too often that feeling stays right with me through bedtime.  I have determined I need to focus on this area more than any other area.  This time, this “area” of my day is my peace thief.  So, as I approach my little mini retreat on January 31st (see previous posts about my Sabbath practice holding the 31st sacred each time it rolls around) I have begun to look for things I can change, let go over or begin to change the end of my day.

First and foremost, I have determined to end my day reading a devotional in bed and writing down blessing of the day.  I am thrilled to be using “One Thousand Gifts:  Devotional” by Ann Voskamp.  She is one of my new favorite authors.  Her writing is classical, almost musical.  Her thoughts are deep, they are real and they are sometimes even raw.  I wish I could say I had stuck to the plan, but frankly, I’ve let a few nights go by. Honestly, I’ve crawled into bed and fallen asleep.  But thoughts of defeat I will not let enter.  I will not quit.  I will miss a day or two, get over it and carry on.

Second, I have made a few changes in some household routines.  After reading several other blogs on parenting and motherhood I realized I too often do for my girls, instead of teaching them to do for themselves. Culprit number one:  laundry.  I have taught them how to sort.  I have shown them how to do, but rarely have they had to.  Not to mention, the only consequence for not bringing laundry down and sorting has been mom spending all Saturday catching up.  Now, I realize I should be smarter than this, but sometimes the duties of motherhood seem to sap me of any cognitive abilities.  Well, not now.  No.  There is a new plan in place. Mom does one load of laundry every morning (for me this happens about 5:30 a.m. before my quiet time).  If you fail to bring clothes down and sort them so they make it into one of these laundry loads, you get to do your laundry all by your lonesome Saturday morning.

There’s no Third.  Not yet.  This journey to PEACE isn’t going to happen overnight.  I am pondering and waiting.  I’m not looking for a grand list of goals or legalistic list of rules.  I’m just looking for God to show me where and when I fail to trust in Him.  I’m asking Him to show me my weaknesses and help me work to become stronger in those areas.  PEACE is not perfection.  PEACE is knowing I have done what He has called me to do, He has prepared for me to do.  It is knowing when enough is enough.  It is knowing that my efforts can never match His efforts.  It is knowing when to say “well done” and rest in His grace.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  … Be holy, because I am holy.”  I. Peter 1:13,15 NIV