Tag Archive for new year

New Year’s Resolutions for the rest of us.

This post is for women who can barely get ready in the morning without littles banging on the bathroom door, for the mom who is nursing a baby and trying to train toddlers, the one who can barely eat a meal while it’s warm without an interruption.

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This post is for the mature woman who is caring for an aging parent  whose days are more like one continual stretch, dotted by doctors appointments and scares at the ER.

This post is for all of us who are caregivers by choice and nature, whose days and schedules are not our own.

This post is for all of us who want to make New Year’s resolutions but who are too scared or too realistic to try anything “big” because big dreams require chunks of time and we don’t have that right now.

Me? I’m in a season of homeschooling and carpooling and caring for a just-turned-3 foster son whose needs are ever evolving and whose care consumes most of my days. So setting anything but the most basic goals is not a realistic option for me.

As Katherine Brooks pessimistically replied to Anne of Green Gables hopeful ideas for her future–“Bend in the road? There’s no bend in my road. I can see it stretching out straight in front of me.”

If you’ve chosen a life of caring for others and your schedule is not your own, and there’s little to no “bend in your road”, and you’re feeling a little down about that, wondering if your life will matter, here are a few thoughts I’ve been processing myself, that I hope will encourage you.

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  1. Success is not defined solely by doing great things. Success is doing small, faithful things with great love.
  2. Success is not reserved for the woman with no boundaries or constraints on her life. Success is doing what you can with what you have. Many of the greatest inventions were born out of need not abundance.
  3. Your quiet time may not be as quiet as you like, with toddlers on your lap or interruptions that you can’t avoid. Remember that Bible reading is only half of the equation. Meditation is the secret weapon that brings change and peace. So even if you’ve only got 5 minutes to read the Bible, you will benefit greatly by meditating on what you’ve read throughout the day. I try to write one truth on a 4″X6″ card to remind me of the verses I want to think about that day.

Reading is the exposure to the Scripture, but meditation is the absorption of the Scripture.

Donald Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life

When living your daily life, even when your time is not your own, you can still grow spiritually by asking this simple question before you act or react: “What will bring the most glory to God?”

Spiritual growth can happen no matter what our circumstances because God uses ordinary days to mold us into the image of His Son, Jesus.

  • So on the days when you feel like you have no control over your situation (kids sick, dog throwing up, money tight) ask, “What does the Bible say about this situation?”
  • When you are unsure about the future, ask “What truths about God do I know for certain?” and meditate on those.
  • When you are frustrated or feeling stuck, ask “What is God teaching me about contentment and godliness today?”

For all of us with no foreseeable bend in our road, we may not have grand goals or plans for the next year, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t set our heart to seek the “things which are above, where Christ is”. And isn’t this what true spirituality is all about? Seeking God’s will and glory faithfully, right where you are, trusting Him with every detail of your life?

Happy New Year, friends. May we all be faithful wherever we are and love God and others more in 2017.

Measuring God’s Goodness, In Joy or Trials.

How do you measure God’s goodness to you?

If you are like me, you tend to equate material and physical blessings with God’s smile, and hardship and trial with God’s frown. When my kids are doing right, and we’re on top of the world (aka organized and on track for school) or when God provides ministry opportunities and we see fruit in our work, then God is blessing us.

But the dark side to this thinking is that when trouble strikes, we assume Satan is after us because we’ve been so righteous (pride) or that God’s somehow withholding blessing from us (self-pity…aka…pride).

Looking back at this past year, our family has had tremendous blessing. We’ve traveled more than ever, enjoyed health and happiness in our family, grown in size with a new son-in-law as our daughter married, and we’ve seen God provide in miraculous ways for our family. If I’m not careful, I can equate God’s goodness to us as a correlation to our performance or His happiness with our family.

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Our family has also known worries and trials that we’ve never experienced before with the care and keeping of our foster son. Emotional unrest, uncertainty, and fear were all very present in 2016. If I’m not careful, I can equate all of this to God’s displeasure or a reflection of our poor performance in our Christian lives.

The wonderful truth about God is that He is good to His children because that’s His nature. The end. It’s not based on how good we are. This is at the heart of the gospel. God seeks us when we are sinful and unlovable, and does all the work to save us. It’s not about us or about our performance. I don’t know about you but I need this reminder daily.

This small line of verse has been ringing in my ears for the last 6 months:

“Every joy or trial, falleth from above,

Traced upon our dial, by the Son of Love.”

“Works Christianity” can creep into my mindset so easily, even though I’ve fought that natural teaching my whole life, and worldly philosophy like Karma and survival of the fittest can jade my worldview, distort the truth of the gospel, and rob my joy.

Circumstances are not an indication of God’s pleasure or displeasure, love or coolness toward me. God’s act of sending Jesus to die for us on that bloody cross is the final indication of His love for us.

When we have plenty of money, lots of opportunities, when life goes smoothly and people treat us with love and respect, God does indeed love us.

But when God seems distant, and everything we touches falls apart, when money’s short, and hurt surrounds us, God also loves us.

Whatever comes our way, “every joy or trial”, comes from His good hand and it’s intended to bring us close to Him.

Whatever accomplishes that,

whatever makes us look up at Him, whatever strips us of our own delusions of goodness or self-sufficiency, whatever makes us realize how small and out of control we are apart from Him, whatever drives us to cling to Him as our only Hope, that is exactly when we can see the love and goodness of God despite the circumstances.

This past year, despite highs and lows like we’ve never experienced before, the goodness of God’s love has shined through the circumstances and God’s grace has shown us His presence.

In the end, dear friend, God is the goal and to know Him is the stabilizing factor in our lives.

Whatever your goals for 2017, don’t assume that God’s goodness is measured by the amount of ease, plenty, respect, happiness, approval, or health you’ll experience. Good or bad, come what may, be willing to embrace everything and anything as from the Father’s good hand, knowing He’s there with you and present, and that is the ultimate gift.

 

How I Plan and Prioritize My Weeks

Several of you have told me that you wish you could sit at my kitchen table and see how I plan our busy life so I thought I’d do a post about what that looks like.

For years I’ve used this Weekly Priority Printable that I made for myself.

It’s just to plan the HIGHLIGHTS of our week, not every little task. It’s also a reminder of our IDEALS–how we want to look back at how we spent our life. It’s a run-down of what God calls me to in Titus 2.

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For instance, at the end of a week, I want to have spent time in God’s Word. That’s goal #1. I want to intentionally LOVE my husband and children. This includes meals, emotional support, and mutual spiritual encouragement.

I can’t tell you how many times this little sheet has helped me say “NO” to things that were fine and good, but not the best for our family–LIKE every week. It also helps me see the “ebb and flow” of our life–aka–when I’ve over committed myself and need to rest.

Basically, I set aside an hour a week to jot down my “plan.”

  • I print my guidelines.
  • I pray and ask God to guide me as I “plan” and to redirect my plans as He sees fit.
  • I then plan for my devotional time: what I’ll read and study in Scripture and what devotional books I’m going through. I keep an ongoing “What Do I Know about My God? notebook. I also keep a leather bound notebook for all of my Bible study,notes for teaching or speaking, notes from sermons, seminars, or quotes that impacted me.
  • I try to plan a time to connect with Peter. In this season of life it’s usually either a coffee time or just shopping or doing something mundane together so we can talk.
  • I then mark and plan for “special days” like birthdays or anniversaries.
  • I look at the flyers to make our weekly menu based on what’s on sale or in season.
  • I block out school times.
  • I note doctors appointments, weekly lessons or commitments that I have with the kids.
  • I plan to do something fun with the kids.
  • I plan to do good to someone God has put on my heart by either a phone call, note, visit, or coffee run.
  • I note our ministry schedule and plan to invite people in for fellowship/hospitality if our schedule allows.
  • I plan personal ministry times like blogging, encouraging a friend, watching a friend’s kids, “kitchen table counseling” as God gives me time.

When you write this all down, you’ll see right away where you are out of balance or too busy. As you look back, you’ll KNOW that you lived life according to your ideals instead of just living re-actively and haphazardly.

There you have it. Nothing elaborate, but it works for me.

How do you plan your weeks? Do you struggle to say no to good things so that you can live the best life you can? (I highly recommend Sally Clarkson’s Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love, one of my favorite books of 2015!) Feel free to share any great resources with me! I love to hear how you organize your life.

 

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Small, Insignificant Goals for 2013

This is the post where I am supposed to tell you all about my New Years goals. It is not that I don’t have any goals, I do. But they seem a little silly to be writing down.

I think my goal this year is to just live fully where I am and to be content. I’ve learned to plan, but hold those plans loosely, knowing that the Holy Spirit will guide me and direct my ways.

In 2013,

I want to be a good mom to my five children. I want my children to be happy in their home. Happy.

What makes a happy childhood and how does this translate into goals?

It means making approximately 300 family dinners this year to be eaten and enjoyed over family conversation.

It means washing and folding 260 loads of laundry and washing endless dishes every day/365 days a year.

It means talking to them during everyday life about our God and all that He does for us.

It means spending HOURS of time teaching them math, english, history, science, music, and art.

With so much to do, it can be easy to forget about nurturing your child in love. Oh, you can educate your child without love, and get all kinds of results, but the bottom line is WHY would you do that?

Love and tender feelings for your children affects generations. THAT is what touches the heart and leaves an impression.

They know when you are just bathing them to get it done, or feeding them so you can move on to more important things. You know, the really big things in life. They feel it.  You can serve without caring, but you cannot “lovingly serve” without caring. This means seeing what is in front of you. Living without distraction.

Today my littlest one is sick. She has the same cold and flu I’ve had all weekend. Being “all there” with a sick little one means entering into her world and problems.

Today, it looked like this:

My little sickie with JTB.

Me: “Hope, which owl would you like? JTB, Frederick or Howard?”

{readers note: These are the names of our owl rice heating pads. Our kids name every stuffed animal or thing that enters this house and they take on a life of their own. For instance, JTB stands for John the Baptist because this owl really believes he is JTB. Frederick Owl is a total believer that JTB is who he says he is, but Howard Owl, well, he’s a skeptic. He is always looking for holes in JTB’s claims.}

Hope: “It depends. Is JTB behaving today?”

In the end, several owls were called in.

I should have known. JTB is always the favorite, probably because of his eccentric ways. :)

Just this little exchange shows her that I care about her situation. I could have just heated whichever and given it to her, but this little bit of nonsense touches her heart and bonds us.

AND, Curious George tried to convince us that he was also sick, but we suspect it was just a ploy so he could watch movies and drink Gatorade.

2. I want to be a better wife to Peter. I want to be happy and make Peter happy. I tend to get weighed down by responsibility and am not always as joyful as I should be. This needs to change. Men are pretty simple. They want a happy wife–a friend.

3. I want to get to know more about my Lord.  This is a basic, I know, but really, it is foundational to everything. Whether you find yourself spiritually healthy or spiritually callous right now (not sure? here are 40 evidences that  you have left your first love) you can never go wrong by spending time seeking God through His word. The goal is to know Him. (not to use Him to get what we think we want.) Whether you feel great about your current spiritual state or not, just do the next right thing. Feelings are secondary to obedience.

I am totally enjoying the book Forever by Tripp and would encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. It has helped me see life a little more clearly, expecting more of God and less of others. We bristle at injustice and poverty, war and crime simply because we were not created to live in a broken world. We were created for something better–Eternity. Here is just one amazing quote from the book:

Here is the bottom line.  Here and now is simply not forever.  This world is not the paradise we were designed to live in.  As you live in the here and now, the brokenness of this world will collide again and again with the longing hardwired inside you.  Yes, sin twists and bends that longing, and it becomes scarily self-absorbed and self-focused.  Yes, you will always find ways in which to insert yourself into the center of your world, the one place no human being is supposed to be because it is God’s place.  You will have times when you moan and complain in your self-absorbed disappointment that life doesn’t operate according to your sovereign plan.  In your disappointment and anger, you will lash out against the people who live closet to you.  You will doubt that the world is under any control whatsoever and fantasize about how much better the world would be if you had the controller in your hands.

Sadly, we all do these things in some way.  But with all the ways sin causes us to lose our way, we still get up every day and hook our hope to something.  Everything we do is somehow attached to hope.  So here is what we need to keep in mind: the brokenness and longing that intersect in our hearts are meant not to drive us to cynicism and despair, but to God.  As we begin to realize that in this broken world we cannot look for reliable hope horizontally, we are at the edge of what we were designed to do: hope in God.  And as we begin to place our hope in God, we get connected to the promise of eternity, where all that is broken will be fixed and made new again.  And as we do this, we look at life in a radically new way.  We no longer ask the broken people, places, and things to be the source of our hope.  We know they can’t be, because they are broken and in need of renewal just like we are.

I want to assess my Proverbs 31 qualities by asking questions like Am I virtuous, trustworthy, energetic, industrious, God-fearing, kindhearted, unselfish, economical, prepared, giving, charitable, honorable, prudent? THIS could take me a whole year to assess. 😉

I do have a few small things in mind for myself for the year, like learning a little more about photography and continuing to write in my free time.

What about you? What small goals do you have for this year?