2014. So far, so good.

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Wow, the first month of 2014 is now just a memory! It can be difficult to comprehend how quickly days turn into weeks and the weeks into months…. And I’m constantly aware of how badly I need to pay attention to this because I fear that I might blink and just like that be facing empty nest syndrome, these days with my precious little ones gone in a blur.

I am so grateful for my personal challenge to first and fore-mostly live more intentionally, to be more attentive and more available. I’m thankful for the “fruit” I already see as an outflow to this commitment. Along with the goals I set for myself for this year (and I’ll write more specifically how those are shaping up next), I have had a good start to 2014.

Dreaming big, living little

At a recent gathering I asked those present about their goals and plans for the year ahead and was quickly shot down and chided to dream and trust God for big things instead of “setting goals for ourselves”. I understand how utterly useless New Years Resolutions are, and also see how the area of goal setting can be high-minded and ungrounded. But for me, and others I know, the process of planning and goals is done prayerfully, yielding to what we believe God wants to teach us and following where we believe God is leading us. I believe God honours this. Actually, I know deeply and personally that God honours this. To trust God for bigger and better is good and right, but not in place of seeking His will for our lives with purpose and dedication.

Quite contrary to big, dream-worthy things, I’m finding this plan to live intentionally is being worked out in the small, quiet, almost insignificant things. But the results, or fruit if you will, are anything but small. It can be hard to understand just how much can overflow from very small, simple acts of paying attention and making the most of every opportunity.

What “intentional” has looked like for me, so far

In the past few weeks it’s been things like a phone call to a friend just to say “Hi” and find out how they are. It’s telling a friend I’ll pray for her, and actually praying daily until the situation is resolved, and then giving thanks with her. It’s sitting with another friend at the hospital so she isn’t alone while her dad undergoes risky surgery. It’s inviting a single young person to hang out with us on the weekends because he doesn’t have family nearby and lives alone. It’s a 5pm call to invite a friend to stop by after work to enjoy a drink on the patio on a beautiful evening. It’s taking out our calendar and scheduling a long weekend to visit with faraway friends we don’t often see. It’s calling neighbours when we hear their burglar alarm sounding as we had a break-in in our street in December.

It’s seeking out and and asking others about themselves and listening carefully to find out what we can learn from them. It’s arranging meals or coffee with them to ask questions about a road they have walked already that we are just embarking on. It’s showing up at events even when we’re not sure we have anything to offer or gain but know our presence is appreciated.

It’s the conversations with my daughters while we prepare meals and go about other very menial tasks such as grocery shopping, bathing babies, hanging up laundry and watering the garden together, where time allows for our subjects to take twists and turns and arrive at surprisingly deep places. It’s scouring charity shops and online stores to find the kind of clothes one daughter really loves and some very special gifts for upcoming birthdays when the budget doesn’t allow for much. It’s “face time”, setting aside the holy grail of multi-tasking and listening more closely to what they have to say without simultaneously paying attention to the TV, radio, computer, babies or anything else.

It’s running more warm water into the tub for a 4th or 5th time because the babies are enjoying their bath so much. It’s doing things at a slower pace so a toddler can “help” and cuddling the baby extra long because she won’t be so tiny, cute and cuddly forever.

This morning, it was getting up early and sneaking the babies off to the lounge behind closed doors so that Andrew can sleep in after a week of midnight oil to complete assignments and prepare a teaching for the youth group.

It’s been taking note of the ways God works in my life personally but also all around me all the time. Going beyond coincidence and synchronicity, I’ve seen and marvelled at the clear evidence of the hand of a loving God over my every day life. I’ve only noticed this because of my resolve to be attentive, my good intentions to be more intentional.

Yawn….

These things are all quite ordinary. But they have changed my life, and the pace of our family and tone of our home. In an unexpected way, this has ‘rubbed off’ onto the rest of the family, and I see them all being more patient and intentional with one another too. This has surprised me as I never asked them to share my goal or consider it for themselves, or even spoken of it with them (the children at least).

And it’s not that life has been peaceful and uneventful, quite the opposite actually. We have had a very full month and my convictions have had to play out in moments of chance and be carved into the daily routine of, well, routine. It’s been the choice to linger longer, to sit beside a child and play a few more minutes or chat longer over a cup of tea instead of checking my email, or Facebook, or WhatsApp, or read/write a blog post (smile). As such, intentionality has largely been lived out in my home and with those closest to me. In the weeks and months ahead I hope for this to extend to others not on my everyday “radar”. This takes more time and forward planning, of course, which makes it both easier and harder, depending on how you look at it.

As I’ve lived out my conviction, admittedly some days better than others, I wondered in response to the comments I mentioned above if I was short-changing myself, and worse, God Himself in settling for the joy and accomplishments in these small things. But if I waited for the occasional big moment to experience purpose and life-changing growth, I don’t think I’d experience full depth and fulfilment from the life I’m living right now. All the more, I’m grateful to experience the hand of God daily, to relish His presence and grow in it moment by moment rather than wait for a rare miracle. Of course, it doesn’t have to be either/or, and I know big things do happen and dreams do come true. Of that, there is no doubt.

So I’m living a small life in small ways but with huge purpose. And the blessings are anything but small. 2014 has settled in. If the year continues as it has begun, it will be a good one.

 

 

 

 

 

Hello 2014!

I am so excited to welcome another year! I have so many hopes and plans and am looking forward learning, growing, being more!

I’d hoped to have some quiet time alone to set down my goals and plans for 2014 and here I am! I’m so glad we managed to make it happen!

As I prayed and thought about what goals to set for the new year, I knew I had to keep simplicity as a focal point, because our lives are busy and we are coming out of a season of fatigue. I wanted to seek God’s will and walk in it, desiring His blessing and guidance for each day.

Psalms 62 and 86 really spoke into my heart, with emphasis on God alone being my strength, Rock, refuge and rest. Verse 11 of Psalm 86 says “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.” (NIV). Proverbs 1 1-7 also resonated with me.

I sought to go into a new year with wisdom, applying what I’ve learnt through every other year I’ve lived. Besides seeking deeper rest and greater strength, which the scriptures I referred to above spoke to, I know that if I do not live more intentionally, I am going to miss too much.

So, intentional and purposeful living are essential, key themes for me and my family going into a new year.

My goals for 2014

Well, I was going to list all of my goals but as I started to type them, they suddenly felt so personal. Perhaps it’s a self-preservation thing, but sharing them publicly made me feel vulnerable. So for now, I’ll just give you an idea of what they include:

-specific things to do to grow spiritually which include scripture memorisation, certain books to read and seeking out a mentor.

-participating in more service projects by intentionally planning a project every month. We’re good at meeting a need when we become aware of one, but want to go out and actively look for service and outreach opportunities in a more structured way.

-extending hospitality more frequently and intentionally, specifically after Church on Sundays (we did this in 2010 and 2011 – open house invite for Sunday lunches)

-seeking to draw my children alongside me more. I’m a thinker and tend to ‘live inside my head’ too much, preferring to work alone without interruption or conversation. I am missing opportunities to teach and impact my children and build even stronger relationships with them, and need to purposefully invite and include them in my daily life more.

-continue building and strengthening our marriage, seeking to be a blessing and support to my wonderful husband.

General to specific

Many of my goals are general rather than defined steps, such as writing more letters/notes, exercising more,  offering hospitality more, being more aware of how I can be a blessing to others by preparing meals and babysitting and such, living more intentionally alongside Andrew and my children and seeking to serve and bless them ……

To move these from general to actionable steps, I will work on weekly and monthly goals, just as many other bloggers like Crystal at Money Saving Mom and Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker  do.

With my general list in hand, I can set appropriate goals each week and month. If I don’t purposefully set about my life in this way, I know I will miss opportunities to be the very best I can be and to act upon what has been laid on my heart to work on throughout this coming year.

Many of these brave ladies share their weekly, monthly and annual goals to inspire others and encourage accountability. I hope to have the courage too!

I’ve also got a reading list for the year and financial goals decided with Andrew.

The bottom line

In a nutshell, I simply desire to be a faithful Christ-follower, a loving and hard-working wife and mother, and a encouragement and blessing to anyone on my life path through this next year. Each goal and idea essentially boils down to these basic things. If I can look back and see evidence of these in my year, I will be thankful.

Trust in the Lord with all you heart. Prov 3 v 5-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning Retreat

 

Think. Pray, Read. Write. Dream.

This post called Give Yourself a New Year’s Planning Retreat popped up in my Facebook feed last night.

It jumped right out at me as I love Erin at The Humbled Homemaker but also because I’ve been working on goals for 2014.

I identified with her right off the bat when she said ” Last year, I did not give myself a New Year’s planning retreat. I had a 2 1/2 year old and newborn, and I spent the majority of the year overwhelmed and without much direction. As a Christian, I feel these verses from Proverbs 29:18 ring true: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” For me, having a written “vision” for the new year is key.”

She goes on to list some great ideas to bear in mind if you want to set about a goal-setting and planning retreat of your own.

As it so happens, Andrew has also been talking about taking some time in a coffee shop to plan out his year ahead – work, study, ministry, family and general life planning.

We’ve been talking about taking some time out together to ‘get onto the same page’ with our personal plans and goals (which are in every way interwoven by the very nature of our marriage commitment, really) and to decide on some things together for our marriage, family and finances, things we’ve already been talking about but want to settle and decide firmly upon together that we may be unified in our application of each.

And I’m hoping to be able to take some time out alone too. I have a good mental plan of what I am aiming for this year but need to simplify each thought or goal into an actionable step. I may have to be creative since Andrew is back at work and don’t have any available friends or family to help look after the babies so that I can get out a bit.

But Andrew takes the children to a movie every New Years Day (a little tradition since the girls were younger) and I will be staying home to look after baby Cadence. We’ll try plan the movie to coincide with her nap time, and that will provide me with a couple of hours alone. I won’t be away from home but that isn’t so bad, really, because at least I’ll have everything I may need right here and, if it is a nice day, our large, quiet garden is really beautiful at the moment and a great place of sanctuary for me.

I think that may be the perfect opportunity.

Proverbs 3: 5-6

 

WOW!

I came across this post via Money Saving Mom’s Facebook page:

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: The book that inspired me to set a Wow goal

It inspired me. I have long believed in the power of goals.

I last set goals in January 2011, about 6 weeks after Cael’s birth. He was a demanding baby who cried a lot and slept very little. But I really thought it would get better. I didn’t remember the girls being so difficult, and while there was a large age gap between them and their brother (14 and 10 years respectively), I was sure my memory wasn’t that bad. So, certain that our boy would soon settle in a predictable and easier rhythm, I set goals.

He didn’t get any easier. Life suddenly and unpredictably (perhaps naively) become very tough overnight and stayed like that for, well, three years. Our boy has brought us immense joy and delight too, but he has been very challenging. He had just turned two when his baby sister arrived, and while she was (and still is) a sweet easy baby, life still seemed tumultuous and getting through each day was by simply taking one step at a time, and never taking on too much* or aiming for anything super-exciting or productive.
(* Actually, in retrospect, we still took on a fair bit. We stepped into music ministry as a family and Andrew took on youth ministry, started a new business and a distance study degree. Whenever possible, we involve ourselves in ministry/missions, community or charity projects. While many “drop off the radar” for a while after the birth of a baby, we were so determined to keep up “life as normal” that we didn’t just keep up, we added more. I think it is partly who we are – people who like to dig in and make the most of every day  – and also because of some guilt and judgement we perceived to be placed on us, perhaps more by ourselves than others, but real nonetheless.)
Well, things have settled a little. We still have a way to go but, dare I say, I have started to breathe again. I am feeling a touch stronger. The exhaustion-induced brain fog hasn’t cleared entirely, but it’s a process.

And yes, I even dared to think about setting goals again.

The funny thing is, I’ve almost forgotten how to do it. And the notion of setting myself up for bitter failure again isn’t appealing.

But this idea of a WOW goal really grabbed me. To focus on just one thing but something big enough to excite and drive me, even when the going is tough, but just one so I don’t feel overwhelmed or like I can’t keep track.

I don’t know what that one goal will be yet. But I’m thinking hard and praying and chatting things over with Andrew.

I may not share what it is when I eventually know what it should be. But I really, really want to go for it anyway.

For the “smaller” stuff, we plan to change our schedule a little to improve how well our home and family work together and to be a lot more intentional in a few areas this year, such as hospitality and service projects. I’ll try write about those soon.

For more ideas and advice, check out this post: How to change your life by setting goals (and be sure to click through to her other suggested posts).

If you feel beyond stressed and exhausted, and too frazzled to even contemplate goals, consider Crystal’s new book: Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.  It hasn’t been released yet, and for those not living in US currency, the conversion rate does make it a little pricey, but it may be worth every penny if it helps you move from surviving to thriving.

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

 

 

 

A new week

We had a wonderful time at our annual Church Family Retreat this past weekend. It was a nice opportunity to get to know others in our Church family a bit better, to meet new people and to serve. Amie, Andrew and I were on the music team and there were many willing hands to hold Cadence.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been feeling pretty wiped out most days. With two babies and a sick dog we’re just not getting enough quality sleep. Poor Andrew has had a demanding few weeks with work and has had assignments due as well (he is in 2nd year of his distance-study Bachelor of Theology degree).

It’s easy to feel out-of-control and frazzled. So even though I am well and truly exhausted I am taking some time out today to formulate a plan for the week, to set some goals (like Crystal at MoneySavingMom does every week). Without some direction and a plan, another week will disappear in a blur, and time is too precious to waste.

I know that not having to cook again this week will help so a bulk cooking session will be my first priority. After a weekend away and wet weather over the past week, I have a mountain of laundry to get through. The girls both have music exams coming up so good daily practices are important and Amie leaves on Friday for a week long camping trip in the mountains, so we need to make sure she is prepared for that. Knowing the meals are taken care of for the week will be a blessing.

Starting this morning, while Jess and Amie do their music practice (flute, violin and piano), I’m going to bake a batch of Buttermilk Rusks and a few loaves of bread. I have also taken out two packs of frozen chicken thighs and legs and some stewing meat and am going to cook a triple recipe of Chutney Chicken (a family favourite although very simple) and a big beef and veggie stew.

Counting the cost

As I’ve mentioned before, I am working to reduce our grocery spending. Both of these are budget meals using ingredients that are routinely low cost (or free, like veggies from the garden). I use a pressure cooker for the stew so I can use cheaper cuts of meat. I also add beans and LOTS of vegetables which lowers the cost while upping the nutrition. Two individual servings of each will be packed and frozen for Andrew’s mom (for lunches at school), a family sized portion of chicken and two of the stew will go into the freezer and we’ll eat the rest this week. We’ll also eat a cottage pie from the freezer this week.

The temperatures have dropped and hauling out the heaters and electric blankets isn’t far off, which means a rise in the electricity bill isn’t far off either. I like to remember the cost saving measures bulk cooking offers, like

– heating the oven once but making three things (bread, rusks and casserole);

– cooking the stew in my pressure cooker takes only 20 minutes so saves electricity;

– cooking triple of each recipe uses the same amount of power as cooking just one, effectively cutting the electrical cost of the meals by 2 thirds.

I’m a firm believer in the saying that “every bit counts”, so even though these savings might seem insignificant to some, they matter to me. Added to all the other little things we do to save money, it makes a difference.

What else?

I also hope to finish the jersey (sweater) I’m knitting for Cael this week and will find time to meet with each of the older girls individually to talk through a few things that we think need attention. Parenting can be tiring and often repetitive, but without consistent and intentional effort we have little hope of raising our children up to be the kind of people we desire them to be.

Finishing strong

Finally, I will try to remember to trust in the Lord and look to Him for strength when I feel like I have none. He knows how tired I am, and knows exactly what I need, even better than I. I know He will supply those needs as He has promised  in His word to do so.