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.

A Year Ago: The Inspire Conference that Broke Me

I have spent the last few months preparing to lead a breakout session at Inspire 2015.  A year ago, this very conference was the site of a HUGE God moment for me.  It wasn’t the event.  It was a simple act of obedience on my part and on the part of every other woman who made a choice to be present.  Inspire is a simple conference.  Just one day-not even a full day.  It is just a day for women of faith to gather and share their stories.  Yet the simple impacts.  The sharing of stories draws us to REAL life, REAL hearts, REAL faith.  

I was coming out of one of the most difficult seasons of my life.  I was disheartened by the church.  I had been struggling with my own striving.  I was in the midst of changing my reactions to my relationship with my mother and others in my family impacted by depression, loss, anger.  In all honesty, life hadn’t turned out like I had planned or hoped.  There were moments of self pity-asking why and then letting myself stay there.  I longed for intimate friendships and a renewed sense of purpose, yet I held back, kept walls, kept striving instead of seeking.  

The weeks preceding Inspire I had been inundated with letters, email, phone calls from young women in my own church hurting, feeling isolated, left out.  A friend and I had been struggling to bring a ministry to fruition, facing daily setbacks.  No one from my church was attending Inspire.  I knew some working on the event, but…  I woke up though that Saturday morning and knew I needed to go.  It was outside my comfort zone.  I would be walking into a conference where women would be gathered with their friends.  I would be walking in alone.  I went.  I sat on the end of a pew near some lovely older ladies.  We shared greetings and then settled in.  I chose my breakout sessions-wanting desperately to attend the one my sweet friend and sister in Christ was leading, but feeling drawn to a different one.  Moment after moment i was faced with the choice to be obedient to the Spirit’s prompting or do what I wanted.  At lunch, the large room full of round tables I spotted another young woman sitting alone.  I asked if I could join her.  She was on the committee planning the event, but she too was there alone.  She wasn’t feeling overly confident and shared how she felt a little like the “unpopular girl” on the committee.  Oh, the sting we can so often feel when we work with women.  For a moment I felt discouraged.  Was there no escaping the hierarchy women seem to feel the need to create?  Did the church and women’s ministry and women’s missions have to look like the the world?  I fought the disappointment and discouragement.  Instead, I shared.  We shared. Lunch became an opportunity to speak truth to one another, to value each other, to laugh, to live.  

God is always at work in us.  That day He finished one work in me and began a new work.  That work is still being worked out as I learn to live life differently, no longer striving, but broken and poured out.  I want to live being transformed, knowing I am not finished, He is not finished.  I want to be laid bare that His fragrant Spirit spills out.  Below is the post I wrote the day following Inspire 2014.  My prayer tomorrow is that He is present again for all those stepping out in obedience.  My prayer is that those attending my breakout see not who I am, but who I am seeking to be, the One I cling to as I grow in His likeness.  

Broken-Going to Live That Way

I am a church girl.  Born and raised.  Long line of preachers and missionaries in my family.  I myself a preacher’s kid and missionary kid.  I’ve never strayed from my faith, never questioned my beliefs, never doubted my salvation.  But this weekend, I attended a women’s conference in my town and experienced one of those mind altering/heart impacting moments.  That moment when head knowledge becomes heart knowledge.  The kind of moment you want to document, journal about, make note of.  The kind of moment Henry Blackaby calls a “spiritual marker”.

I am a woman of faith.  I believe and know that Christ is the Son of God, that He suffered and died on the cross to cover my sins, extend His life giving grace.  I believe that once He has sealed my heart through salvation, it can never be unsealed.  I believe the Bible to be His holy word.  I believe it to be the extent of His word.  I believe I should live out His word and His example.  I seek to do just that.  But sometimes, I seek to do that too hard.  I struggle with the hardships, the disappointments, the tragedies of life.  I know He does not cause them, but rather allows them.  I know He does not seek to condemn me through loss or pain.  His word says there is no condemnation in Him.  I believe He uses those moments to teach, discipline, and strengthen.  But, I still struggle.  I want to fix it all.  I want to make sense of it, see what He is doing.  So that’s what I have done.  The deeper the pain, the more fear I feel, the harder a friend falls, the harder I work to pick up the pieces and fix it all.  I attempt to fix it doing a lot of really good spiritual things that I know are not wasted.  I study His word with new intensity.  I pray.  I continue to fellowship with other believers and I lean into them for wisdom, counsel, prayer, and friendship.  I journal, I read spiritual books.  And in the midst of all that I learn, and I see growth.  The cycle though continues and it can leave me overwhelmed, exhausted, feeling inadequate, feeling broken.  That’s just it though!  I am broken.  Bad things happen-loved ones get sick, loved ones pass away, the economy crashes, business declines, children struggle.  This life is a jumbled up mess and little if any of it is in my control.  But He doesn’t want me or need me to try to fix it.  He just wants me to acknowledge where I am, that I am broken and need His guidance, His strength.  You see, when brokenness meets brokenness God is glorified.  That’s the moment He frees me.  It is His.  He has already redeemed me.  He is already pleased with me.  I am His.  As I sat and took in the bible lesson, I felt like scales were dropping off my eyes and I was finally getting it, not just part of it, but getting the whole idea.  My mind went to the story of Mary, sister of Lazarus, and her breaking the alabaster jar to let the fragrant oil run free onto Christ’s feet.  It was her greatest offering.  I am just like that.  His glory is kept contained until I break.  But when I break, when I leave the pieces alone, that’s when I can be a fragrant offering.  That’s when His glory and Spirit are released and I can just rest in Him, just rest knowing all I need do is be obedient-just do the next thing He asks of me.  No more trying to fix, trying to make sense-just resting in Him.  My thoughts no longer need to be on what I can do, developing a plan to restore or fix, but my thoughts can be solely focused on His word, which is truth.

I am still taking it all in.  I am thinking of scripture after scripture I want to go back and visit, read again.  I can’t contain my hunger to just be in His word.  My prayers these past few days are not begging prayers.  They have just been prayers of adoration, laying before Him the problem, the request and then listening.  I know I am going to struggle.  My personality is one of order, planning, fixing.  I will fall.  I will be tempted and I will give in to temptation, picking up the pieces, but I am praying daily He quickly convicts and reminds me how good freedom in Him feels.