Monthly and Weekly Planning

This year, my word is “balance.”  I always have a lot of great intentions.  I intend to work out, to eat at home, to get the laundry done, to organize that one drawer, to spend quality time with my kids, to find coupons for groceries, etc.  However, if I don’t have any intentionality behind my intentions, I end up feeling defeated or overwhelmed when it all seems to pile up at once or the time passes and it’s not done. In order to have more balance in my life while still getting stuff accomplished, I decided this year to make a flexible plan.  Here’s what that looks like for us in our home.

  1. On the 1st of each month, we fill out a monthly goal plan.  This includes our physical, spiritual, career/learning, financial, and project plans.  This is broad and it doesn’t get into the nitty gritty at all.  For example, a spiritual goal of mine in January was to read the book called Messy Grace and to read the book of Matthew in the Bible.  My physical goal was to complete the first 3 weeks of P90X3 Mass edition, and my financial goal was to save enough money for some car updates and repairs.  Here’s an example of what it looks like for us filled out.  I do this with my husband, but you could do this individually or with your kids too, depending on their ages.  For us and our family, my husband and I decided we can do this together.  One day, we will likely involve the kids in the preplanning, but we aren’t there yet.  This doesn’t take us long at all and it’s simple.  It narrows our focus and helps us to not get distracted by the other 3 million things we feel the need to work on or complete.  We can’t do 3 million things, but we can do a few things really well if we are intentional.img_2915
  2. From there, I just look 1 week at a time and map out my week.  I make little mini goals for each day of the week that will lead us to achieving our overall monthly goals we’ve set.  I don’t always have something written in for each section, but the opportunity is there to write it in if I need to do so.  Here’s an example of what that looks like for us.  On each day, I make some commitments that I track and discuss with Micah in order to help hold myself accountable.  Some of those commitments are harder for me to keep than others. If they were easy, I wouldn’t have to track them or even state them because they would already be in place.  I don’t have to track how often I brush my teeth because I already do it all the time and it doesn’t require any extra motivation or reminders for me to do so, (although flossing is a completely different story….  Whoops.)  My point is that I’m not going to waste time tracking stuff that I already do naturally.  That’s just busy work. img_2917
  3. As the week goes along, I track my behaviors and my commitments and I reflect on my success at the end of the week.  On that next Sunday, I look back over the week with my husband and we talk about how it went and if we are on track to meet those monthly goals we’ve set.

 

I can’t be perfect and neither can you.  I also can’t do it all, no matter how hard I try, so my goal is never perfection.  My goal is learning and growing, so what I pay most attention to is my progress.  At the end of the week AND at the end of the month, we are asking ourselves what celebrations we have.  Did we spend more intentional time with our kids?  If so, how did that impact our relationships with them?  Did I work out harder? If so, am I stronger?  What are some areas where I (or we) can improve?   Is there anything we need to stop, start, or continue doing?  This leads to us creating our next weekly plan and it’s how we lead into our next monthly goal plan.  If you have a google account, you can click on this link to get a free copy of the monthly sheet and weekly plan I made.  You can edit this to tailor it to your own liking.  Take off the stuff you won’t use and add in things you want on there.  Feel free to print it off and see if it helps you make progress toward your goals.  If you do, I’d love some feedback.  This sheet isn’t perfect and I’m thinking of new ways to customize it even further for my own liking, but it’s helped me get off to a great start this year and I’d love to know if you find it helpful too!

Tea Parties

Before I ever had children, I imagined myself as a “boy mom.”  I don’t know why, but for some reason, I just always thought that if I was blessed enough to have children of my own, I’d have a house full of boys.  So, when I had two girls back to back (only 15 months apart in age), I was immersed in all things girl.  Though I never felt anything but immense love and gratitude for my daughters, there were moments when I felt a little too glittery and pink and floofy as I was quickly surrounded by dress up clothes and dolls.  My daughters (especially my oldest) love entering a room with a twirl and leaving nothing but glitter behind, which made this “non-cutesy” mom have a whole new perspective on appreciating my daughters for exactly who God created them to be.  I had to embrace the feather boas and adore the princess dresses as I watched their sweet imaginations blossom.  I never want my daughters to feel like they are better than anyone else or entitled, but I do want them to always feel like they are beautifully and wonderfully made, just like all of the other unique women God created so intricately.

Since my daughters love to dress up and feel fancy, I decided to start doing tea parties with them from time to time.  Tea parties are supposed to be fun, but they also have so much potential if we just look at them as an opportunity to help our daughters grow into strong, graceful women.  It also gives me the chance to soak up their innocence and embrace this sweet age.

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At our tea parties, we talk about the following:

  1. Women in our family: those who came before them and the ones who surround them now.  This is one of my favorite things to talk with them about and one of their very favorite things to hear about.  I tell them about my “Memom,” (my grandmother) who said, “ESTA!” when she’d sneeze and who loved UK basketball more than anyone I’d ever known.  I also tell them about how she served others, even in her times of grief and struggle.  I tell them about their great aunt Lori, who passed at the age of 36 and how the tea set we use came from her.  I tell them about her hilarious laugh and how she always made others feel special.  We talk about their aunts and grandmothers and they ask me to retell the same stories to them over and over again as we find inspiration in the grit and grace that came before us and still surrounds us today.
  2. Table manners and kindness.  We practice how to be polite at the table, how to look people in the eye when we have discussions, how to say, “Thank you,” and, “Please.” We also set the expectation so that our discussion with each other is always encouraging and uplifting with everyone at the tea party.
  3. Serving others.  Tea parties are a great opportunity to talk with them about how it brings me joy to get to serve them their tea and treats and I ask them to serve each other.  We talk about how doing so is not only kind to the others at the table, but how it makes us feel when we serve.

Here’s how we set up tea parties in our home to make them more than a party and less of a hassle.

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  1. The food is stuff I already have in my pantry.  I shop at Aldi and I purchase a few things that could double as something “fancy.”  Below are some items I’ve used before for our parties, but I’m sure you could use anything.  You could also use this as a time to get picky eaters to try something “new and fancy” you’ve been wanting  them to try.
    • Dried fruit (we love dried mango)
    • Fresh fruit
    • Toast with different type of jam
    • Cheese (I have ever taken string cheese and cut it into small pieces)
    • Salami slices
    • Muffins (I often buy the Garden Lite Muffins from Costco, which are full of veggies.  They are frozen and thaw quickly with the help of a microwave.)
    • Nuts
    • Pirouettes (these just seem soooo fancy to my girls)
  2. I make a small pot of tea, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.  I typically use decaf or a low caf green tea.
  3. Instead of using sugar for them to mix, I usually use sweetened liquid coffee creamer for them to pour.  It’s already sweet and it’s less of a mess, and they also love to pour things.
  4. The girls get to dress up.  Sometimes, they’ll ask me to fix their hair fancy or to paint their nails.  If time permits, I honestly love to do both because it’s extra time I get to spend with them.  But if dressing up isn’t your thing, then it’s not your thing.  On Christmas Eve morning, we do a tea party and we do it in our PJ’s.
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Fancied Up Tea Party
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Christmas Eve PJ Tea Party

Multiply

It’s been so long since I’ve written on my blog that I feel almost as if I need to introduce myself again.  Instead of doing that, I’ll just say that I’m still here.  Today, I had a bit of a come to Jesus moment with myself while I was reading out of the Jesus Storybook Bible with my little 3 year old.

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I was reading the story about Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a little boy’s lunch.  I’ve read or heard this story about 5,000 times and I’ve known the moral of the message for a long time.  Basically, there wasn’t enough to feed the enormous crowd, so Jesus (being Jesus) took a little boy’s measly lunch and was able to multiply it for the masses to have plenty.  So, when it seems like we won’t have enough or when it seems as though we don’t know how we’re going to make it, God can provide.  He can take a little and make it much.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like a little.  I don’t mean that I feel like I have little, I mean I. Feel. Little.  I feel like all I have to offer are a couple of little fish.  I feel spread too thin as a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister in law, an aunt, a co-worker, a team player, a church goer, a blogger.  I feel too small to make an impact and I often times feel like the offering I have is just a small drop of water on a forest fire.   For a more realistic picture, it’s like I’m only folding 1 of Micah’s white t-shirts in a heap of laundry the height of Mt. Everest.  (Yes, laundry is a very, very real visual for me.)  So sometimes, I hear this voice that tells me things like, “Why are you trying?  You can’t do it.”  Or, “Do you even know if that’s making any type of difference anyways?  Just stop.”

Today, while I was reading that Bible story, the fish and the bread weren’t representative of my finances or my belongings.  The bread and the fish were me and what I have to give.  I felt like God was speaking straight to me on those illustrated little pages with the dimpled hands of my 3 year old pointing to the “fishies.”  Those little hands were pointing out that God can take me (a very small fish in a very huge sea), and multiply my impact.  He doesn’t want me to stop trying.  He wants me to give whatever I have – even if it feels small – and trust that He will multiply it, to spread it, to feed anyone who needs feeding.  I’m one 7 billionth of the world, but even if my words can somehow impact one of the other 7 billion people on this planet, then my words aren’t wasted and they were worth speaking (or typing… or writing…)

Basically, I stopped writing on here for a while because I got caught up in the lie that my story is old news and that my words probably don’t amount to much anyways.  I said I didn’t have time, but the truth is that I didn’t make it a priority, although I have felt for a long while like God was calling me to write (even though I often tell Him that I’m not a gifted writer, or that I am in no shape to be giving someone else any type of spiritual guidance….). However, just like the little boy who came out of the crowd with the lunch his mom had packed him, I can be bold enough to do the same and trust that God will somehow multiply my measly little offering.

In the same way, what do you have to give?  How are you going to let God multiply your impact? I’m going to start writing again and pray that whatever I have to say will somehow be in the view of someone who could benefit from this little fishy.  To you, your offering may seem small or insignificant, but God put you here for a purpose.  He can take your basket of fish (or in my case, my Tupperware of deli meat), and feed a crowd.  I’m taking a spiritual leap and trusting Him to spread my offering as far as it will go.

Forgiveness.

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I’ve heard it said before that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.  It’s always resonated with me and I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that I sometimes have to tell myself almost daily not to drink the poison.  Sometimes, I do really well and I temporarily avoid that poison altogether – especially when I go a long time without seeing someone who I’ve allowed to hurt me.  Other times, I drink the entire vial and it’s paralyzing.

The only thing that I can do is to do what feels the most unnatural for me to do, which is for me to pray blessings over the person(s) who I’m struggling to forgive.  I want so badly for them to come to the realization that what they said or did or the way they acted (or didn’t act at all when I needed them to act) was hurtful and I focus way more on justice than I do on mercy, which imprisons nobody but myself.  I think that if they only had the “a-ha” moment and understood how wrong they were that I could finally be released from the resentment I unnoticeably embrace.

Things that don’t make forgiveness magically happen:

  1. Avoiding the person
  2. Disassociating with them to teach them a lesson
  3. Gossiping
  4. Giving them a taste of their own medicine
  5. Trying to ignore the pain

It’s easier to forgive and release ourselves from that anger and resentment when it’s someone we hardly know.  A lady on her phone cut me off in a parking lot today.  It annoyed me at the time, but I know I won’t remember it years from now, nor will I care.  It’s different when it’s a family member or a friend that you trusted and loved enough to not only give of your time, but your acts of service, your money, your encouragement over the years, your own home when they needed a place to just be, your embrace when they were sad.  Hearing hurtful words about how they feel about you or statements questioning your character or integrity are moments you don’t forget.  They are moments that maybe only took a second to unfold, but they have been stinging you for months, years, or even decades.  These types of wounds are the hardest to heal, and it seems like no amount of care will cover the scars.

I’ve been hurt before, and the only way I healed was to pray – not to pray for justice or for the other person to realize what they’ve done….. not even for them to change.  Unconditional love means we don’t give up on people – even when they hurt us.  Years ago, I got hurt pretty heavily.  For months, I let it fester.  It ate at me.  As soon as I would start to pray about it, I found myself just venting in my head and justifying my thoughts.  I had to audibly tell myself to stop and I made myself write a prayer on my for that person.  My prayer was simply for that person to experience abundant blessings,  for that person to know who they are and WHOSE they are.  I prayed for this person to have a blessed family, a happy home, an incredible life.  In addition, I prayed very specific blessings over that person.  I prayed that prayer once a day for a while and I promised myself I would pray that prayer every time I started to feel like drinking that vial of poison again.  I can honestly say that I no longer have resentment, hurt, or even a smidge of bitterness toward this person.  I don’t think about the hurt I felt anymore.  I don’t hold onto it.  I’ve been released and it feels so good.  I also have a great relationship with that person now and I consider myself blessed to call this person my friend.  Trust took some time, but that’s ok.  Forgiveness and trust aren’t the same thing, but I’m happy to say that God restored my trust in this person as time went on too.

The point of this post is to encourage us (myself included) to stop replaying the hurt in our minds.  Who has hurt you?  Who do you struggle to forgive?  What name pops in your head?  Pull out your phone, a sheet of paper, write an email to yourself, do whatever you need to do to write down a prayer for this person.  Instead of asking God to change them, ask Him to bless them.  No alternate agenda, just blessings.  See what happens to your heart.

 

Rejection.

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It never feels good to be rejected.  I have often let the fear of rejection determine the road I take.  Some of the earliest memories I have of feeling rejected were in elementary school, and even at a very young age, I’d let that fear keep me from pursuing something I desired.  “What if I can’t?  What if it won’t work out?  What if people laugh at me when I try?”  We have a crazy amount of opportunities to either be accepted or rejected.

Ask yourself if you’ve ever experienced any of these scenarios below.  Did any of these scenarios ever lead to acceptance or rejection?

  • Asking a friend to play with you as a kid.
  • Trying out for an athletic team or musical ensemble.
  • Applying for a job.
  • Applying for college.
  • Applying for a scholarship.
  • Asking someone to be in a relationship with you.
  • Sharing something intimate about yourself to your family or friends.
  • Being in the “in crowd.”
  • Being a part of a community.
  • Sharing your ideas with your co-workers.
  • Asking for a raise.
  • Applying for a loan.
  • Asking someone to love you.
  • Trying to adopt a child you’ve longed for.

I could’ve continued that list, but if you have ever felt rejected in any of the above scenarios or any others, you aren’t alone.  What I find comforting is knowing that people I love and admire have often been rejected too, but it does not keep them from pursuing their passion.  If anything, it only motivates them to overcome.  If we let rejection define us, we may never reach our potential and we may never experience joy that could have been on the other side.  Sometimes, the answer is “No” and it needs to be no.  If that’s the case, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we were pursuing something that would not have ultimately been fruitful and it’s time to start pursuing something that will be.  Other times, the answer might not be “No,” but it might be, “Not yet.”  It’s so hard to swallow the “not yet” when we feel like we know what would make us happy, but in reality, there’s maybe a better time or some other work in us that needs to happen before the “not yet” becomes a “yes.”

Recently, I was at a meeting for work when I heard someone say that we need to look at our obstacles as “opportunities.”  Maybe you were rejected from the job you wanted.  But, what if there is a reason…  What if there’s something better for you or a lesson you were supposed to learn in order to grow?  Does it mean you should stop searching for a job?  No.  Does it mean you should start searching for a different job?  Maybe.  Rejection shouldn’t put us to a stop.  Rejection should inspire reflection, which should motivate us to action instead of crippling us with fear. 

Don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from pursuing your dreams and goals.  Maybe  rejection isn’t your obstacle, but rather your opportunity for something greater.

Accomplishments vs. Relationships

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We’ve all seen the minivans with “My Child is an Honor Student,” listened to others talk about how their kid was a reader before Kindergarten, seen pictures of the neighbor’s kid winning beauty pageants, and watched our coworker’s child score the winning shot at the basketball game.  All of these things are good things and they truly are something to be excited about.  I just wonder, as parents, how much we focus on the accomplishments rather than the relationships.

We even do it to ourselves.  We’re always seeking more.  Whether we want to climb the corporate ladder or gain more “likes” on a social media post, we strive to keep accomplishing.  But when we prioritize accomplishments over relationships, I think we miss the point.

Think about it…  Who do you want to be around?  Do you want to be around someone who has more jewels in their crown, or do you want to be around someone who will listen when you’re struggling?  Would you prefer to work with someone who is always trying to surpass you, or someone who is working alongside of you?  Do you want to marry the guy who makes 6 figures and comes home and props his feet up, or the one who works hard all day making half of what he is worth, but who will give all of the kids baths, feed them dinner, and sing them to sleep while you have some much needed time out with your friends?

When you talk to your kids, is the focus on accomplishments, or is it on how to have great relationships with others?  We sign reading logs, we pay for tutors, we do all the lessons – swim, cheer, football, all of it and there’s nothing wrong with those things.  In fact, I encourage so many of them and there’s a lot to learn when we focus on these types of skills.  Determination, perseverance, grit, goal setting, reflection, and so much more all can come out of these types of intense focus.  It’s good for us and it’s good for our character.  But while we’re doing all of that, let’s also talk about how to listen.  Let’s talk about empathy.  Let’s talk about putting the needs of others before our own comforts and enjoyment.  Let’s talk about giving up our turn so someone else can have an extra turn. Let’s talk about conflict.  Let’s talk about how we respond when something doesn’t seem fair.

Let’s remember that accomplishments should never require us to sacrifice relationships.

I’ve taught a ton of kids.  I’ll never forget their faces and I could definitely write a book on all of the hilarious things they have said and done.  Some of the most impactful kids I have ever taught were not the kids on the honor roll…  They were the kids who worked well with others, who loved to play and pretend and be themselves with whoever wanted to join.  They were the kids who weren’t afraid to share their ideas, but were glad to change their way of attacking a problem or conducting a project when they heard a better idea.  I’ve taught kids who would give up their spot in line at special events so the students with special needs could see better, be closer, or get the treat first.  There aren’t a lot of bumper stickers for this kind of kid, but this kid will be happy and fulfilled.

Sometimes, I catch myself wondering what my kids will be like when they grow up.  I wonder what kind of job they will have, if and who they will marry.  I wonder if one of them will be a musician, or if one might be a runner or an engineer or a writer.  I have to retrain myself to think a bit differently.  I also want to focus more on what kinds of acts of love they might show towards others.  Instead of wondering if one of my girls will look like me, or become a teacher like me, or play the piano like me, I wonder if they might adopt a foster child that needs a home, or if they might be someone’s date to Jesus Prom. I wonder if my son will rub his wife’s shoulders when she has a hard day.  I wonder if he’ll help the elderly lady put groceries in her car and be able to make friends with the coworker twice his age.  I wonder if my kids will know how to work well with others and if they’ll put others before themselves.  I wonder if they’ll smile at the shy kid when they pass him in the hallway.  I wonder if they’ll choose the kid in gym who never gets chosen.  Instead of wondering so much about the accomplishments they might achieve, I want to wonder more about the character they will have and how their lives might impact the world around them.

What do you want to accomplish?  Goal set and do it.  But more importantly, what kind of relationships do you want to have and how will you leave a legacy for all who know you?