White Space, Room to Really Live Schedules, Daily Habits & White Space

A few weeks ago I shared some tips for creating white space in your home, clearing the clutter so you have room to breathe, appreciate what you have, love and use.  We need white space in our days as well.  A few years back I shared the following post.  I still practice these disciplines.  I think the only thing I would add is this:  all too often we fail to acknowledge everything we need to do.  We tend to leave daily chores and errands off our lists.  I think women are more guilty of this than men, as we try to cram these daily chores and errands in with other activities, failing miserably to multitask, or draining ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically.  Our daily task list/calendar/schedule should include the daily-the Walmart run, laundry, vacuuming, picking up birthday gifts…  These are the things that tend to fill what little white space we thought we had.  These are the things that never really get completed, and so can’t be ignored.

Does the above set of pictures make you cringe?  Do feel the tension in your body building?  For so many of us, the idea of living by a schedule, sitting down to determine when we will do what, feels confining, makes us uncomfortable.  As much as I like to live an orderly life, to be as productive as I can, I honestly resist the idea of living by a schedule.  I sense rigidity, lack of creativity in schedules.  I want to leave the door open for those “God appointments”.  I want to be able to meet the unexpected needs of friends of family.

Consistency.  My word for 2016.  Here in lies the truth-the hard truth.  I can not be more consistent, I can not consistently move towards meeting my goals, completing my tasks without some measure of schedule.  More importantly, tracking my time, setting specific times in which to do specific tasks keeps me mindful.

I just finished reading “I Know How She Does It”, by Laura Vanderkam.  It is an inspiring book and exactly the motivation I needed to get back to scheduling.  Most interesting in her research was the reality that most Americans work fewer hours than they say, with very few people working more than 50-60 hour weeks, and most people overestimate their work hours by 10 hours!  On average, highly successful, full-time working mothers cap at an average of 44 hours per week.  As I continued to read, I realized the core of the problem, the explanation for this over-estimation of time, sense of being overwhelmed, living out of fatigue feeling there is never enough time is a result of really having no idea how we spend our time and thus making very few intentional decisions about our time.

Laura Vanderkam is also a firm believe in the 168 hours principle, challenging us to plan weekly instead of daily.  I was convinced of this principle after reading her first book, “168 Hours”.

When you treat all 168 hours as your canvas, and don’t hold to rigid assumptions of what must be work time, and what must be nonwork time, you can create some fascinating mosaics (schedules).

While I resist the idea of living confined to a schedule, unwilling to move away from it for the unexpected, I know from experience and am reminded that schedules, daily habits and white space are the key to consistency, the key to my taking care of what matters most and moving towards completion of my goals.  So, this week, I focus again on doing what I know I should do (that seems to be a recurring theme!).  I challenge you to do the same.  Step back from your life for a moment.  Look at your week, your 168 hours and decide how you want to spend your time.  Here are some of my tips for successfully planning out 168 hours/creating a schedule or road map by which to live those hours out.

  1.   Daily morning quiet time to center my thoughts, read scripture, pray over my day.
  2.   One load of laundry every morning first thing.
  3.   Plan each week on Friday (I have let this habit slip and I pay for it.  Planning on Friday allows me so much freedom from nagging thoughts on the weekend and kick starts my Mondays.)
  4.   Use a weekly planner with hourly increments, blocking off appointments, tasks to work on, exercise, hobbies, free time etc…  This gives me a great visual, helps me to see the whole of my week.
  5.   Plan for the unexpected by building in PLENTY of white space.  I always leave 30 minutes between appointments.  This allows for transition time, gives me some buffer should the task take a little longer etc…  I also leave gaps of time (an hour to two) in my schedule at least every other day.  I typically use these gaps to take care of household chores, but often end up using them to have lunch with a friend, cook a meal for a sick friend, care for a sick child, …

Schedules, daily habits and white space keep me grounded, focused and moving in the right direction.  When I look at my time weekly in lieu of daily, I am reminded I have plenty of time.  While I still resist “being scheduled”, I always find there is actually a great deal of freedom in scheduling.  Life is always better when I am aware of where and how I spend my time.  A schedule allows me to be intentional about my time and I find that I get more enjoyment from my “free time/play time” when I have lived my week by my schedule.

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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?

Striving Stress to Relinquishing Rest-Lessons from Mary and Martha

I love organization.  I love having the sense that my life is in order and therefore I am able to serve.  I love having the sense of peace and calm that comes from being in an uncluttered environment.  I love that God is a God of order and even in the creation story we see His deliberate order.  I love order.  I have always loved order.  I have to admit though, that often, and especially in my early days, order was a means of control.  I worked so hard to have order, keep order, because I was striving to please, to be good enough, to succeed.  Those aren’t in and of themselves bad reasons, but they aren’t the best of reasons.  I often hid hurt, sorrow, frustration, disappointment behind my order.  I often let keeping order keep me busy so I didn’t have to participate or deal with some things.  Isn’t it funny how things in our life that can be really good things can become walls, keeping others out and keeping us from living abundantly and freely?!  Striving to do something in an attempt to get something really does nothing more than exhaust us.

There are days when I look back over the course of my adult life and get discouraged, saddened by the course of events, most out of my control.  My parents divorced, an array of hardships resulting from that for all of us.  Financial strains of family members and my husband and I trying to fix those or provide, often beyond our means.  Getting married to have two different family members live with us in the first year and half of marriage.  Paul’s mother being diagnosed with brain cancer and passing on within our fourth year of marriage.  Six years of infertility.  A difficult and complicated pregnancy resulting in the loss of a set of identical twins and the live birth of beautiful fraternal twin girls.  My husband facing the suicide of two good friends.  Mixed in with that the normal ups and downs.  Losing grandparents.  Beginning new businesses.  Having those not so great days in marriage and in parenting.

Sadly through most of it I spent a lot of time striving.  Striving to get through it the way I thought all good Christian girls were supposed to.  Striving to keep myself from falling apart.  Striving to keep others out of our business so as to avoid the inadvertent harsh remarks.  Striving.  This same striving often led to my rushing decisions and trying to work “ahead” of God.  This same striving often caused me to lose focus on what was most important and even caused me to lose my compassion for others.  Striving stress became a way of life.

It is a long story, over the course of about 6 years, but God has shown me that relinquishing rest comes only from Him and comes ONLY when I quit striving.  I can’t rush God’s work.  I can’t fix things for others, and often I can’t even fix them for myself.  My life is intertwined with others and at times their choices, their decisions, their God given direction changes the course of my direction, my life, my plans.  I don’t understand.  At times it seems unfair.  But this I have learned-no amount of striving, attempts at putting everything in order, creating order out of chaos will change anything.  It may serve as a band-aid for a moment or a time, but it will always lead to exhaustion.

I don’t know if it is this way for you or not, but when God has a message for me and I am slow in taking it in, or need the affirmation of hearing it over and over, He does just that.  I find myself daily running into the message, the story, the characters-whatever it may be.  Mary and Martha have been that for me the past 7-8 months.  A common story and one women often read, but seldom really understand.  The scripture isn’t about comparing these two sisters.  It isn’t about making one more right than the other, but gosh do we women love to go there.  This story is about striving stress and relinquishing rest.  This story is about two sisters, who when living life together, embracing one another’s strengths and weaknesses, were able to serve our Lord in their home, trust Him for their brother’s healing/resurrection and accept Him as Lord before most even understood who He was.  Martha was not chastised for her preparations and her organizational skills.  She was gently reminded that there was a time to stop.  There is a time to set aside the “doing” and rest in the moment.  I have no doubt Mary had been helping Martha.  Now, I don’t doubt Mary was the baby sister and didn’t give her housekeeping and organizational work the same effort big sister Martha did, but I still believe she helped her sister.  However, once Jesus arrived, Mary decided that what had been prepared was good enough and it was time to take enjoy her company, to learn from the Master.  Martha couldn’t let go.  She couldn’t quit striving.  I think her motives were pure-she wanted Jesus to have the very best.  She wanted it all to be just perfect.  But that is where the truth lies.  We are not perfect.  We can not strive enough to become perfect.  He knows.  He sees.  He created us.  He wants us in our less than perfect state.  He wants to spend time with us teaching us, encouraging us, growing us, changing us, bringing our image closer to His image. Mary got it.  She knew when to let go and let God.

I love these sisters.  I love that God is using their story to alter the course of my story.  I love that even now, thousands of years later, I can learn from Mary and Martha.  I know I would have been drawn to them.  I know I would have love being in their home.  I am working on my striving.  I’m still in love with order, with organization, but I’m working really hard on doing it for the right reasons.  I want to manage my time, so that God can order my days.  I want to be faithful with that He has placed on my plate today, so I am ready for the task He gives me tomorrow.  I want to relinquish control and use my gifts and talents to draw others to Him.  My home plays a BIG part in that plan.  Letting go plays a BIG part in that plan.  From striving stress to relinquishing rest.