Month: April 2014

But When Will You, Really?

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I didn’t post anything last Monday.  It was Easter Monday, and it seems the holiday threw off my routine.  Apparently I don’t do posts on holiday Mondays.  That’s my thing.

But, I am posting today, and I’m back with a new Monday Musing!  My first musing asked where you envision yourself to be in 3 years, followed by the question of what you’re doing to get there.   So, assuming you answered those questions, you have an idea of where you want to be and what steps you need to take to get there.   Today’s question is, “When are you going to do those things?”  I’ve hinted at the necessity of this question in other posts on this blog, but the truth is, if something doesn’t get scheduled onto our calendar, it doesn’t get done.

clockSo, let’s say three years from now, you want to have written a novel.  You’ve decided that you need to complete a chapter every two months.  Often we stop here and wonder why we never accomplish the goal.  It’s a great goal.  A chapter every 2 months sounds concrete.  But it’s still not specific enough.  The essential follow up to that goal is to decide when you are going to get down to the nitty gritty of writing those chapters?  This week, when are you going to write?  What day?  What time?  For how long?  We need those concrete action steps in order to make any progress.

Let’s say you have a DIY renovation project to complete.  You’d like your basement to be finished a year from now.  You lay out all the steps that need to be done in which months.  Month 1: framing.  Month 2: electrical.  Month 3: plumbing.  Month 4: insulating.  Month 5: drywall.  Month 6: painting.  Whatever steps come next…I probably should have used an example I’m more familiar with…you get the idea.  It sounds awesome, but how many days will it take you to frame?  What days in month 1 are you committed to framing?  Put it in your calendar.  Maybe you’ll discover as you try to find blocks of time in your schedule that you don’t have nearly enough time to finish the framing in one month.  Well, that’s very helpful information!  Now you know, either something else has to be cleared from your calendar to make room, or your goal has to be revisited.  Do you need 18 months to finish the basement?  Do you need to hire out some of the work?  Do you need to give up watching Survivor this season so you can fit in renovations?  There are lots of options to consider.  Too often, we simply don’t plan it out realistically, and end up discouraged and assume we cannot achieve the goals we set.

So what are some of your big goals?  Are you a student with books to read and papers to write?  Are you an entrepreneur with prospects to call and a logo to design?  Are you a parent with life skills to impart and love to express?  Whatever is impressed upon your heart to work toward, figure out the steps you need to take to get there, and schedule time into your calendar every day or every week to take those steps.

The thing that I have found most rewarding about this 3 part process of clarifying goals, identifying steps, and blocking out time to work on them, is not just that I’m accomplishing my goals, but that I have more peace of mind in my daily living.  I know that I am going about living my life with my big goals in mind, and I’m taking the necessary steps to achieve them.  I don’t feel like a slave to the urgent.  I rest at the end of the day, knowing I didn’t get to everything clamoring for my attention, but I did get to the things I’ve prioritized for this season.  And in our very busy and sometimes overwhelming world, that is no small thing.

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When You Just Don’t Feel Like It

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I have big goals.  I long for impact.  I want to use my gifts faithfully.  I want to invest my life well.  I’ve thought through my priorities.  I know what I have to do each day if I really want to live my best life.

But some days, I just really don’t feel like it.

Maybe it’s the rainy day or the bad sleep or the heap of responsibilities.  Maybe, for some, it’s the draining relationship or the huge life stress or the physical illness.

fencepostLife is full of obstacles.  For everyone.  Every.  One.  When you see people who are faithful to their goals and sticking to their plan and following through on their commitments, it’s not because they didn’t face obstacles.  They woke up to the same rainy day, with their own heap of responsibilities, and their own life stresses.  They have their own bad sleeps and rocky relationships and physical calamities.  So how are they sticking with it?

Here are some of the differences that I see:

1. Their vision is bigger than their obstacles.  Do you know what you want?  Do you know why you want it?  Maybe you struggle to exercise or eat healthy.  What’s your vision?  What’s your goal?  Why do you want that?  I mean really- why do you want that?  You need to be crystal clear on those reasons.  Because you can be guaranteed that you’ll encounter obstacles.  You’ll feel tired or busy or stressed and be tempted to not make the choices you know you need to in order to hit your goal.  What will compel you when you hit those obstacles?  Not “if” you hit them, but “when.”  You need a vision that is bigger than those roadblocks.

2. The steps they need to take are part of their routine and it happens without thinking.  Are the things you really want a part of your daily routine?  For me, one of my biggest priorities is to be saturated in God’s Word.  I want, more than anything else, to be close to Jesus.  This has been my desire for as long as I’ve been a Christian, but it has not always been a part of my routine.  I tried lots of different strategies, but I’ve finally reached a point now where my devotions are an unquestioned part of my morning routine.  Because for me, as soon as I leave my bedroom and start my day…forget it.  For a million reasons, I never take the time after that to be quiet, to read my Bible, and to pray.  Maybe on a rare occasion, but not regularly, which is my goal.  What’s important to you, and how can schedule it in to your week?

3. They have people in their lives who fuel and encourage them.  Who in your life really knows and supports your goals?  If one of your goals is to have a strong and thriving marriage, but you surround yourself with people who talk trash about their spouses and mock married life, it’s not going to encourage you on your path to a joyful and rock-solid marriage.  Find people in your life who you trust, who you can share your heart with, and who will come on board to support you in pursuing the life you know you want to live.

So on the days that I just don’t feel like following through, I remind myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing.  And if that doesn’t help, I fall back on the routine and habits I’ve put into place to reach my goals.  And if that doesn’t help, I phone a friend who will listen to me whine and complain and make excuses…and who will then lovingly remind me to go do what I’ve got to do to live the life God has for me.  Thank goodness I don’t have to do this stuff alone, because trust me, I’d never make it.

How about you?  Have you got a vision?  Routines?  Life lines?  Which one might need some work?  What can you do today to put these foundational pieces in place for your next rainy day?

The Fine Line Between Peter and Judas

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I admit, I’ve often felt uneasy about the lot of Judas Iscariot.

Don’t get me wrong- I understand his betrayal was deep and his sin was real.  It’s just that I sometimes wondered if Judas ever had a choice.  Jesus knew he was going to betray him.  And Satan entered Judas, and off he went to do his deed.  And then he couldn’t live with himself, so he took his own life.  It’s a tragic story, and I’ve always wondered if Judas was destined to be the greatest betrayer of all time, and had no alternate route.

But, in a way that it never has before, the story of Judas really jumped out at me this Lenten season.  Because Jesus knew the heart of Judas, just as he knew the heart of Peter.  He predicted Judas would betray him, but he also predicted Peter would deny him.  And in both cases, Jesus was right.  Peter did exactly what Jesus saw coming- three time he denied knowing Jesus on the night of his arrest.  And yet, Peter’s story doesn’t end there.  It doesn’t end in suicide and tragedy.  Peter came back to Jesus!  All day Friday, and all day Saturday, Peter sat in his failure and his shame and his regret.  But on Sunday…glorious Sunday…Peter came back!  Peter ran back to the God he had failed.  Ultimately, Peter confessed and Jesus forgave him and commissioned him.  He sent him out as an apostle.  And Peter’s story becomes one of mission and impact and glorifying his Savior.

the choice Jesus was right about Judas too.  Judas did exactly what Jesus saw coming- he betrayed him to the religious leaders of the day for financial gain.  He too, must have hid in shame and failure and regret.  And Satan used that shame to lead him to death.  But Judas still could have come back to Jesus!  He too could have come to his risen Savior on Sunday and confessed and fallen into the embrace of Jesus.  Judas could have been another forgiven sinner, much used by God to build His church.  But instead he died in his shame.  And therein lies the worst choice Judas ever made.  Not his choice to betray Jesus.  Not his initial failure.  But his choice to not return.  His choice to refuse forgiveness.

I’m reminded that we’re all faced with the same choice that was before Peter and before Judas.  We all fall into sin.  Jesus knows our hearts.  There have been times when we’ve done exactly what Jesus saw coming.  And we can hide in our shame and failure and regret.  Or we can turn to our risen Savior, fall into his embrace, and go out into the world to fulfill his mission.  He suffered and died and rose again so that we could make that choice.

Monday Musing: Are you insane?

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Last Monday I posted a question that led you to consider where you envision yourself in 3 years.  Typically, when people envision their future, they imagine things will be different than they are in the present.  Not necessarily in all ways, but at least in some ways.  Depending on how much of your life you see as currently being on track, your vision may range from slightly different to drastically different than your present reality.

Let’s assume for a moment that there are at least 2 or 3 things that you hope will be different, or improved 3 years from now.  My question for you today is, “What are you doing to make that happen?”  What steps are you taking to move in that direction?  Let’s say, for example, that 3 years from now you hope to be debt-free.  If you continue to live each day, each week, each month, and each year the way you currently live, will you have made your vision a reality in 3 years?  It may be that your answer is yes.  You are currently making more money than you spend, and diligently paying off your debt, and can see a date in the future when you will have conquered that debt.  But if you are currently in debt, are earning less than you spend each month, and are making no changes to your situation, then your vision of a debt free 2017 is quite unlikely to materialize.

Or maybe 3 years from now you envision yourself healthy and fit.  Are you currently making healthy choices?  Do you take care of yourself and workout?  If your answer is no, and health is part of your future vision, then what changes are you going to make to take your health in a different direction?  Do you envision yourself in a meaningful marriage relationship years down the road?  Are you currently make time with your spouse a priority?  Do you see yourself committed to Jesus and the church and growing spiritually?  Are you presently fostering habits of prayer and reading God’s Word and worshiping with a local church community?  Do you have hopes that 3 years from now your children will be well grounded in their faith and discovering their strengths and passions?  Are you currently investing time in relationship and intentionally teaching them the life lessons you believe they will need?  Whatever your vision includes, it will only ever remain an unattainable hope if you don’t take steps now to move toward it.

insanityWe’ve probably all heard the quote attributed to Einstein that says, “The definition of insanity is repeating the same behaviors and expecting a different outcome.”  If we never take the time to make the connection between what we envision for our future and what we are currently doing, we will likely end up somewhere very different than we’d hoped.  Our preferred future will only come to pass if we work at it.  Of course, life happens, and many things may come up along the way that prevent you from reaching your vision.  There is no guarantee that you will achieve the things you plan for.  But, you can certainly guarantee that you won’t reach it if you do nothing.

One warning about today’s musing: do not put this off!  We can easily be deceived into thinking that there is a time coming when we won’t feel so busy or stressed.  Before I had kids I used to think that I’d have so much more time to focus on my personal goals when I was staying at home and not working.  Please pick yourself up off the floor and stop laughing at me.  I know!  What can I say?  I was naive.  But then I had small kids and thought I’d have more time and energy when my kids went into preschool.  That mysteriously did not happen.  Then I thought, perhaps when they are both a bit older?  I’m sure there are people in my life stage who think they’ll have more time for personal goals when their kids are teenagers.  Or when the kids move out.  Or maybe when this really busy time at work comes to a close.  Or when this family member is not needing so much attention.  Or when this school work is finished.  Or in the summer.  Or in the winter.  Or in a house.  Or with a mouse.  Or in a boat.  Or with a goat.  Seriously, you need to know that there is no magical time coming when you will feel less busy, or believe the time is just right to really capture a vision, set some goals, and make some changes.  The only time is right now.  You can either make changes to work toward the kind of life you feel called to live, or you can let life pull you in whatever direction it sees fit.  You can get intentional about where you want your life to go, or drift along wherever circumstances take you.  It’s totally up to you.  Everyone on the planet is given the same amount of time in their day.  Many have greater responsibilities than you do.  Don’t make excuses for yourself.  Make changes!  Decide where you want to go and figure out what steps you need to take to get there.  Next week we’ll talk about how to take those steps.

My First Monday Musing

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If you’ve read the “About Jen & This Blog” section on my home page, you’ll have read this: “This blog is where I write about sorting through the clutter and noise of our culture to hear what God is really asking of us.  About discovering our greatest passions and seeing the vision God has for our lives.  And about taking the sometimes scary steps to make that vision a reality.”  Helping people discover their calling and make changes in their lives to reflect that calling is one of my very favorite things.  And if I can use this blog in some way to help people along in finding their purpose and taking the tough steps, then I would be so grateful.

pen in journalWith that mind, I’m starting a weekly series on this blog called “Monday Musings.”  I will pose one question every Monday, meant for reflection, that will contribute to you living your best life.  To discovering your greatest calling.  If you feel so inclined, I’d love to read the answers you’ve come up with to the Monday Musing, in the comments section.  It’s so inspiring to read the conclusions other people are coming to, while we’re asking ourselves the same question!

So, our first Monday Musing question is this: What do envision your life to be like in 3 years?  I believe so strongly in the power of vision!  It is vital for a church, a business, a family, and an individual to have a sense of where they are going and what they are working towards.  So I challenge you to consider where you are headed.  Write down where you see yourself a few years from now.  Think about your family, your work, your friends, your personal development, your spiritual growth- every aspect of your life.  What do you want to be different?  What do you want to be the same?  What do you want to be deeper, richer, improved?  What do you want to be removed, less consuming, lighter?  What do you want more of or less of?

Capturing a vision is the first step in discovering the passions God has planted in us.  It’s not the last step, by a long stretch, but it is a significant starting point.  So I challenge you to ask yourself this question, write down your thoughts, and get ready for lots more Monday Musings.

Why is a square a rectangle?

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It’s possible that I am the mother of the world’s most literal thinker.  Or at least a boy who is still firmly grounded in the concrete thinking stage.

One of the questions in Josiah’s math book this week said this:square a rectangle

“Why is a square a rectangle?”

It took me a minute to figure it out myself, but I was greatly assisted by the printed definition of every quadrilateral listed on the top of the page.  So, the definition of a rectangle is “a parallelogram with 4 right angles.”  One can see that a square actually fits within this definition.  Now, a square does have an added feature, in that it has 4 sides of equal length, but nonetheless, it does in fact fit the rectangle criteria.  I can’t say I ever remember learning this little fact myself, but since I could easily see the explanation in the workbook, I accepted it within a few seconds.

For Josiah, however, this was completely unacceptable.  I think those six words completely blew his mind.  As if it revealed that the world was not round or that he was not actually human.

This is the gist of the conversation that ensued: Can you read the definition of a rectangle at the top of the page?  Can you see how a square would fit that broad definition?  No.  Well, it can be further classified, it’s true, but the reality is that a square is both a square and a rectangle, by definition.  No, it isn’t.  Okaaay, let’s use another illustration.  You were born in Saskatchewan, so that makes you a Saskatchewanite. (?? Does it ?? Is that what we’re called ??  I ran with that.)  If your whole life I only ever told you that you were a Saskatchewanite, and then all of a sudden, when you turned 10 I told you that you were also Canadian, that might seem confusing.  You’d say, no I’m a Saskatchewanite.  I’d say, yes you are, but you are also a Canadian.  You fit both definitions.  You were born in Saskatchewan, but you were also born in a broader country called Canada.  See what I mean?  Yeah, but a square is not a rectangle.  But it is, actually.  No, it isn’t.  It’s a square.  Mmhmm. …  I’ll just leave you to ponder this for a while.

Now the truth is, I LOVED this conversation!  I love to expand my child’s understanding.  I love blowing his mind now and then.  I love seeing him stretch his young thinking muscles beyond what was once expected of them- actually experiencing his brain develop and hit new stages.  It gives me great pleasure.  I think it’s exciting!  Josiah, however, may have wanted to burn me at the stake for false teaching.  It took him close to 20 minutes to bring himself to write the answer in his notebook, and I think that even as he did so, he believed it was heresy.

He begrudgingly finished the questions and packed up for an outside break, without any further comment.  I know him well enough to know that these ‘out of the box’ moments take some time for him to digest, but eventually he fully embraces them.  In the near future, I won’t be surprised if he pulls this question out in a social situation: “So, why is a square a rectangle?”  He will love that it sounds crazy, but it’s true.  It won’t take long for him to accept this new definition, but for now, please don’t mention this conversation if you see him.  I think he’s still a little raw from the stretching. 😉

Big Hairy Doubts

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Yesterday when I dropped my daughter off at a new activity, I found myself inside a wonderful private school in our community at the end of the school day.  It was bustling with activity and I ran into several wonderful families I know.  There were laughing kids and adorable uniforms and groups of friends.  The result of this little encounter , for me, was a series of big, hairy doubts that crept into my mind.

“Are my kids missing something better?”

“Am I robbing them of the quintessential cultural experience of a daily school environment?”

“Am I giving them a sub-par education?”

I know, firsthand, the benefits of choosing to home school, and we’ve only just scratched the surface.  There are many excellent reasons why we’re making this choice. (click here to read about those)  And I know our big picture goals in the educating of our children.  (click here to read about those)  And I have answers in my head to those fleeting doubts that crept into my mind.  But I guess I think it’s important to mention that I still have times of questioning.  As great as I think this whole gig is, I have moments that make me pause.

Maybe it’s because this is my first year?  Perhaps families who have been doing this for years have fewer doubts…or none at all?

Or maybe it’s because we started our journey in a traditional school setting and made the switch to home school?  Perhaps families who have home schooled all along don’t question like I do.

Or maybe it’s because I’ve grown to be very analytical.  Perhaps people with different personalities don’t have moments of second guessing their choices.

doubt psalmOr maybe it simply because I’m a mother.  If my choices only affected me, I think I’d roll along much more confidently.  But our decision affects our kids and don’t we all long to get those choices right?  Home school, public school, private school- we’re all making these choices because we believe they’re the best ones for our families.  We really want to nail this one.  The good news is, I truly believe these are all good choices.  Obviously, I lean one way in this matter, but I have seen the good in all the options.  I’ve seen wonderful, godly young adults come from every manner of education.

The thing is, there are pros and cons to virtually every life choice.  And with every passing month, I’m increasingly convinced of the pros of homeschooling for our family.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t experience twinges of uncertainty when I pass a gaggle of giggling girls in a school hallway.  It does mean, however, that we need to remain very clear about what we want for our children and keep that vision before us.  And it also means, I need to trust.

I need to trust in the God who called us to this path.  That He will guide and equip us.

I need to trust in the big picture goals we’ve worked out.  That our choices are leading us closer to those goals.

I need to trust in myself.  I may not be an entire school staff, but I know and love my kids enough to lead them to an excellent education.

And I need to trust in my kids.  That they are capable, brilliant, blossoming young people (as all kids are) who will thrive in an environment of love, empowerment, self-discipline, and delight.

Whatever choice you’ve made in your children’s educational journey, I pray you will lean into God, have a clear vision of where you’re going, believe in your ability to teach your children, and see the beautiful young adults you have the privilege of shaping and influencing every day.