Category Archives: Time Management

My Life’s Work

Thank you for indulging me as I have attempted to catch you up on the last seven months.  It was very therapeutic for me to go back through photos and see what the last seven months have meant in the life of our family. The time since June has been so hard in some ways and so amazing in other ways. Stuggles are never enjoyable in the process, but there is such beauty in looking behind and seeing the fruit that trials have brought. God has taught me so much about my own weakness and His strength, about my pride and His love, about my dreams and His plans, about my hurts and His healing, about my motivations and His keen eye, and about my sin and His forgiveness. My time of sickness led to a time of quietness and that quietness was exactly what I needed in order to hear God speak.

At church on Sunday the guest speaker spun a familiar idea into new words. I love it when someone can take an idea or phrase and speak new life into it. Scripture is living and active and yet at times, I let the words run right off of me instead of through me. When the imagery is changed, however, it forces me to stop. In stopping, the words start to penetrate my heart.  There is beauty and freshness in looking at things in a new light.

The speaker was preaching on what he called “Practical Atheism in the life of a Christian.” His point was that many believers claim a renewed life and yet the evidence of their actions and choices shows that they are living like an atheist.  An atheist doesn’t believe in God and therefore God’s Word doesn’t affect his or her life in any way. The speaker had many scriptural examples of the signs that point to this lifestyle as well as the results that such living brings.  Many of them were cause for deep self-examination, but one stood out to me more than the others.

One of the results, he said, of practical atheism in the life of the Christian is that when the time comes to enter heaven, the life’s work of the practical atheist will be left at the doorstep, though he/she will enter heaven. The practical atheist spends her time doing things that are completely and totally earth-centered: there is no eternal value in them. While the idea of “focusing on things above” (Colossians 3:2) is far from new to me and books such as Randy Alcorn’s Money, Possessions, and Eternity have been life-changing for me, this particular image in my mind — of  me standing at the gates of heaven having to leave behind everything I have put my time, heart, and energy into — struck me in a profound way. I imagined my own sadness as well as the countless before and after me who hung their heads before the Almighty, realizing that all of the things they had poured themselves into during their stay on earth were worthless beyond the gates of eternity.

Again, this isn’t completely new for me. I long ago gave up any notion that houses, cars, bank accounts, clothing, and personal status are worthy of any great attention. However, something about the way the words were spoken and the imagery it conjured up in my mind sparked something deep within my soul. They have given me a renewed determination to spend my days and hours on things that have eternal value and not to waste those same days and hours on things that will end up in a huge pile of  “Sorry, that can’t come in with you” junk. I get frustrated at airports when a bottle of water or shampoo gets confiscated at security.  I think, “What a waste!” Given the intensity of emotions I feel as I stand barefooted at a security checkpoint, I can only imagine the weight of sorrow that would be on me if everything I spent my earthly years on was denied access into eternity with me!

Each of us have a choice to make every day.  How will spend our moments?  Our moments turn into hours and our hours into days and our days into years. We must ask ourselves,

“Where is my time going?”
“What is getting the bulk of my attention?”  
“Where does my money go?”
“What value will this have tomorrow, next week, next month, or in ten years?”

And just as important,

“Is there something else that I could be spending my time/money/energy/emotions on that will have more eternal significance?”

This isn’t to say that I don’t think God wants us to enjoy life.  On the contrary, I believe that the abundant life that Christ offers will only be realized when we allow Him to change our hearts (and as a result, our priorities and desires). I think someone can run for the glory of God.  I think someone can bake and bless others eternally. I am convinced that someone can create art that points to the amazing Creator.  We can write as a means of using words to build up and encourage others. But, I also think that we can run for vain and arrogant reasons.  We can bake with the intention of impressing others.  We can create art with a twisted lust for the praise of man.  We can write words in the hopes of others recognizing our wit, intelligence, or creativity. It isn’t necessarily the activities of our day that are in question, but rather, the true motive behind them. We may fool others into believing our motives are pure, but Scripture tells us over and over again that God tests our hearts and He is privilege to our deepest and most sincere desires and motives.

So, right now, I am mulling all of this over.  I am looking at the moments and choices of my life and days and letting God shine light on my heart motives. More than anything, I want to arrive at the gates of heaven and rather than be told to throw my life’s work into a pile that has to be left behind, I want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Your work has preceded you. Go on in and see the eternal result of your time and choices. It’s beautiful.”

So with each meal I prepare for my family, each load of laundry I wash and fold, each photo I take, each word I type, and with each snuggle I give, I am praying that God would use my choices and my days as part of His eternal plan. If I bake, let it be to bless others.  If I rest, let it be so that I can have the energy to serve. If I read, let it be to gain wisdom. If I eat, let it be to nourish and strengthen my body. If I create, let it be to shine forth God’s beauty and creativity. If I discipline my children, let it be to lead them closer to the Lord. If I celebrate, let it be for God’s goodness and faithfulness through the years. And if I write, let it be to edify others.  I want my life’s work to matter.

Making the Most of my Time


Twenty-four hours. No one has more. No one has less. Or, as my friend Steph likes to quote, “None of us has the corner on the market of busy, we all have the same 24 hours in each day.” As much as I would like this fact to not be true, as much as I would love to add another twelve hours to my day (while my kids are sleeping), that just isn’t going to happen. I have to trust in God’s infinite wisdom that 24 hours– no more and no less – is exactly what we need. It doesn’t always feel that way, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

As I look at my priorities – and the way those priorities affect my family – I have to be honest with myself that I can’t do everything. I just can’t. I had to laugh at one line of a strength assessment I recently took which said, “Your inventive mind usually generates more possibilities than you can handle or fund.” Yes, that’s me.

And that is why I need to prioritize. I need to think, pray, decide, and know what the most important things in my life are – and what they are not. I refuse to whittle away my time on frivolous things that won’t last. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40). Right there are my priorities: loving God and loving others. And as I wrote about earlier, love is more than a feeling.

As I look through my stated priorities for this year it is easy for me to feel overwhelmed. I feel sad realizing how some of the things I love have to take a backseat to things I love more. I feel scared that I won’t be able to balance it all or that I will lose “me” in the process. However, God has made it abundantly clear that this charge to prioritize my life is from Him and therefore I step forward, sure that the wisdom needed to make wise decisions will be there when I need it.

In order to make these priorities work in my life, I am committed to three things. Before I share those, let’s refresh your memory on what I stated as my priorities.

As I look over these fourteen items I know that I cannot focus on them equally each day. For that reason, I have committed to the following things:

1. Pray for wisdom: My first commitment comes from a life-changing conversation with a former supervisor. I was lamenting the fact that there was simply too much work to be done and not enough hours in the day to do it all. There really wasn’t enough time. The job was too big and I was always feeling as if I was failing in some way or another. My supervisor said to me, “What you need to do is to pray that God will give you the wisdom to do know what is most important to do today.” I have treasured that advice for many years now. She was so right. There will always be more to do, things that could be done better, and things left as dreams instead of realities. We can’t control that. God gave us the same 24 hours and it is only possible to get a finite amount of things done. In light of that, I am committing to praying for wisdom to know, each day, what God would have me do on that day. Today it may be spending a long day cooking in the kitchen with my kids. Tomorrow it may be school planning. The next day it might be meeting with a friend who needs a listening ear. I don’t always know what needs to be done, but God does.

2. Cut out what is not needed or beneficial at this time. This may in fact be the hardest area of commitment because it involves sacrifice. Often the things that are “not needed” or “not beneficial” are things that we really enjoy. However, they can be the “empty calories” of our time and they provide us with nothing. I have already cut many, many things out of my life and schedule. I watch almost no TV (I probably average one hour a week). I skip many websites and blogs that I enjoy but aren’t pushing me towards my top priorities. I’ve cut out many activities that drain me. I’ve put most of my craft supplies away knowing that now is not the time. Cutting out the worthless – or even the good! – in order to make room for the great is a hard but profitable action. I still have areas to work on, but I know I have seen improvement and I look forward to the continued refinement.

3. Make the most of my priorities. On my bubble sheet I listed fourteen things that I want to prioritize over the coming year. There are three “big bubbles”, five “medium bubbles,” and six “small bubbles.” In order to make the most of these priorities, I am striving to combine them in ways that makes the activity far more advantageous. Let me illustrate, using baking as an example.

If I spend an afternoon by myself baking in the kitchen, it is just a “small bubble” in my life. I really enjoy it and I find it both relaxing and satisfying. This is not a bad thing, but it could very easily take up a good amount of time and keep me from focusing on bigger priorities. If, however, I can combine baking with other priorities, then the time spent becomes much more beneficial and reflective of the intentions of my heart.

If I let my kids help me in my baking, then I can add the family bubble (spending intentional time with my kids) and school (teaching them kitchen skills). If we bake on a day when we are having people over, I can then add the bubble of hospitality (welcoming people into our home and cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual refreshment with those God brings into our lives). If after baking, I take pictures (I love food photography!) then I can add the photo bubble too. And finally, if I then write about what we made and share the recipe with others, writing gets to be added as well. What we end up with is a really BIG bubble and time that was well spent.

There is so much more than can be shared on this topic. Many books and articles have been written on time management, life plans, prioritizing, and organizing your life. In sharing this little bit of my journey, my hope is to encourage you in your process of thinking and praying through your priorities. After thinking and praying comes writing and after writing comes implementing. Without a plan and purpose for our time, it is far too easy to let other things get in the way of us prioritizing our priorities. To say that we are “too busy” to do something (like spending quality time with our children) is, in effect, saying “you are not a priority.” And that, I pray I will never do.

If you have any words of wisdom for me, I’d love to hear them!  I’ll be returning to this topic at a later time and I am excited to know how you have progressed!

And if you’re curious about the cupcakes in the photo at the top, it’s just one of the fun things the kids and I baked this summer! You can see more here.

 

Next Post: I’ll lighten the tone around here with a new favorite recipe!

My Life in Bubbles (aka Prioritizing My Priorities!)

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