Sometimes God whispers softly in my ear. The sound is so faint that I have to ask, “Is that you, Lord?” And even then, I am still not sure. My mind races and questions and I wonder if it really is the voice of the Lord or my own thoughts trying to confuse me. I am still getting used to hearing (and believing) that still small voice.
And then there are other times....times when God comes in the rushing wind and He leaves no doubt in my mind that He is speaking to me. The Voice comes from every direction...time in the Word, on my bed at night, in books I read, in articles I come across, and in messages I hear. He speaks so loud that I am tempted to cover ears and yell, “I hear you! I hear you!”
Right now I am definitely in one of the “rushing wind” moments. It seems that everywhere I turn I see or hear something else about the need to set priorities, to manage my time, to make sure that the important doesn't get pushed out by the urgent. Apparently, God thinks I have some things to learn about in this area.
It's been on my heart and mind so much lately that I spoke to our small congregation at church last Sunday on it. I just shared a little of my heart and we talked about the need to finish well. Finishing well, I explained, must begin by starting well and with knowing where the finish line is. We mentioned some of the many characters in Scripture who started well but did not complete their course in the same manner. Gideon, Samson, Judas, Saul, Eli, and many other kings...they all began with God's blessing and favor and power and ended in their own sin and neglect. I don't want to be like that. I want to finish well. To do that, I am marking the finish line, deciding who and where I want to be, and then working backwards. I am beginning with the end in mind.
I am still thick in the middle of this process, but I wanted to share a little about my journey in the hopes that it will encourage you to look at your own life. If we, as parents, can clearly state our priorities and know where they rank in comparison to other things that press for our time, then we are better able to spend our time, energy, and resources on the things that truly matter to us. Too often our “priorities” are nothing more than vague notions of things we will one regret not investing more of ourselves into. Instead, I want my time to reflect those areas in life that truly matter most.
In order to ensure that my priorities are lived out on a day-to-day basis, I first had to identify them. There is something powerful in actually writing them down, to see them in front of me. I wanted to set some limits for myself, making my eyes and heart see that not everything can hold the same place of importance. In order to do that, I created a set of graduated circles. I gave myself three large circles, five medium circles, and six small circles. These limits made me think, pray...and squirm. In the end, though, I did it. I identified my priorities by their level of importance. This is “my life in bubbles” for this year.
In my three large circles, I chose the things that I feel I need to focus the bulk of my energy on this year. Obviously, these are only broad categories and there is a lot to uncover beneath them, but in three words I can state where my time and focus needs to be.
- God – time with Him and in His word. Praying that my heart and life will conform to His.
- Family – to love and honor my husband and to cultivate the hearts of the children God has given us.
- School – to intentionally and purposefully create a home environment that braids home life, discipleship, and education into one beautiful thread.
In the medium circles are things that are very precious to me. However, I have to be very careful that these loves and needs don't take the place that is rightly due my top three.
- Hospitality – To intentionally and lovingly open our home and lives to other people regardless of their life stage, family status, or likelihood to reciprocate.
- Health/Exercise – to put forth time and effort in caring for the body God has given me in order to be a good steward and as a means of modeling a healthy lifestyle for my children.
- Intentional Relationships – Building into others (usually women) using my time and energy for the purpose of encouragement and edification. The bubble grows a bit bigger if those benefits are mutual rather than one-way.
- Reading – Nourishing my soul with good books and good blogs that challenge my thinking, encourage my heart, and direct my longings back towards my top three priorities.
- Writing – Finding an outlet for the stirrings of my heart through the written word with the two-fold purpose of refreshment for me and encouragement for others.
My small circles represent other parts of my life that are dear to me and yet cannot (and should not, at least this year) take up prime space in my schedule or heart. These things are all special to me and "fill me up" and yet they too easily take up the bulk of the time that should be devoted to my “big three.” It isn't that I don't want these things in my life, but rather, that they fill in the cracks of time rather than me pursuing them first.
- Home – making the physical spaces of my home more aesthetically pleasing (this does not refer to keeping a clean home, but rather, a “pretty” home).
- Baking – Oh how I love to bake! This one especially hurts as I see it where it needs to belong – in a small circle. I could so easily let it push out my big three. I love to bake, and I will continue to do it, but my schedule (and waistband!) need it to stay in its rightful place of priority.
- Scrapping – Oh how I love thee!
- Photos – Another love, another thing that could easily eat up my time.
- Helping at BAIS – I love to contribute to the school where my husband works. I am so thankful for the community I am in and love to give back when I can. However, I have to be careful that I don't let this keep me from other things.
- Leisure Activities – these are other things that are fun or relaxing but easily suck time away from other priorities.
It was interesting for me to note the many activities that didn't fit within these top fourteen. And yet, they often take up my time. Need to work on that!
My hope is to flesh these out a little bit more of the coming weeks. However, already I am seeing the value in this activity. I have had a number of instances this week where a decision needed to be made. I looked at the situations from a variety of angles and I just couldn't commit to a decision. And then I remembered “my big three” and I was easily able to determine which direction I needed to go. Saying no to the good to make room for the great...it's not easy, but it needs to be done.
I encourage you to try this. Go ahead, write your priorities down. And once you have done it, evaluate if your actual life matches your written priorities. You might be surprised!
Next Post: Making the most of my priorities