2017 Goals / Powersheets Review

We’re 19 days into 2017 and I have to say, so far, I have liked this year, minus the news that someone close to me is sick.

I usually do some posts about goal setting around the New Year, but this year, I took it offline and went through Lara Casey’s Powersheets goal-setting system.  Powersheets are not for everybody—my mom said “this is a NIGHTMARE” when I showed her the book, and David kept karate-chopping the air and saying “POWERSHEETS” dramatically whenever I would talk about it—but I’m really enjoying the way the system encourages you to break down bigger goals into small action steps.

I’ll keep my 55 pages of “whys” and “what I want to cultivate” to myself in case you’re on Team My Mom and all of this make you want to barf, but I still wanted to share a few of my goals, in case they encourage anyone else!

My big goals for the year are: 

  1. Establish a pattern of intentional action, celebration, & rest.

  2. Infuse my life and work with more creativity.

  3. Develop a deeper awareness of God’s presence and voice. Live with awareness of spiritual reality.

  4. Keep cultivating a fun & flourishing marriage.

  5. Embrace and enjoy this season. Engage in the little moments and enjoy them as gifts. Use what I have now instead of looking ahead/behind.

  6. Be proud of how I use my energy.

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Through the Powersheets process, I created small action steps that let me see that I am making progress on these goals. It’s really energizing and encouraging.  Here are a few of my daily goals for January that fit into the big goals:

Read the Bible/have quiet time every day.  I’ve been waking up whenever my first child wakes up (usually between 5-5:30) and giving them a little bowl of dry Cheerios to eat in their bed with some books.  Then I go out to the kitchen and journal and read with my tea until 6 am when the kids are allowed out of bed. I’m using the One Year Bible and so far, I’m keeping up!!! At one point, I got three days behind and almost gave up because every day is a lot of content, but I spent two nights catching up and I’m back on track! Whoohoo! Since I have committed to this goal, I am also going to bed earlier, so I feel better rested in general.

Complete one cleaning task per day. I made a list of all the “once a month” cleaning tasks, and am doing one per day. (For example, today, I washed our windows, mirrors, and appliances.)  This way, I don’t have to strain to remember what should be cleaned—I just consult the list and see what seems like fun not awful to do that day.  I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier.

Have “present lunch.” I’m trying to sit down and engage in conversations with or read to my girls during lunch time, instead of shuffling through the mail, cleaning up the dishes, scanning my e-mail, texting a friend to coordinate afternoon plans, etc.  Mealtimes are hard for Zoe and she often doesn’t eat lunch on Riley’s schedule, so the bonus of living out this goal is that I often end up getting 1×1 time with each girl.

Sit down for 1×1 reading time with each girl each day.  We usually do a bedtime story, but I want to do more reading with each girl.  So far, this has been the hardest goal because my children do not sit still for long!

img_9330My weekly (non-work) goals this month are:

Take a Sabbath each week–celebrate and rest! I started this over the fall, and felt the desire to continue to grow in this area.  I am reading an amazing book that is deepening my practice of and commitment to Sabbath.  One great idea from the book: make dinner easy on your Sabbath day.  The last two weekends, I have picked up a prepared meal from our grocery store on Sabbath, and it really lets me sink deeper into relaxation when I know that dinner is already taken care of and there aren’t any dishes!

Work out four times. I have been in a steady routine of 3x/week for the last year, but I was ready to challenge myself! Having this goal “forces” me to exercise one evening or weekend day each week, which builds on my weekly “Sabbath” goal since I find exercise really fun and recharging!

Listen to a podcast each week. This encourages my creativity and can also encourage me spiritually and/or in my marriage, depending on which podcast I’m listening to!  My favorite podcast is The God Centered Mom, but I also really enjoy Creative Empire, Coffee & CrumbsInspired to Action, and just about anything Lara Casey puts out.

Complete weekly life planning. Figure out what our obligations are, what we’re eating, who’s buying the groceries and when, what the girls and I will do during our time together, when David and I will work out, what my work projects are and when I’ll do them, and what needs to be done around the house.

Speak my people’s love languages. Looking at this goal each week helps remind me to speak love to my family members in the way they receive it, not just the way that is easy/natural to me.  For Riley, my cuddler, I seriously just have to remember to sit down throughout the day and make my lap available to her.  It’s a simple way to love her, but I’m not the “sit down” OR “cuddle” type, so I have to remind myself to do it. Within ten seconds, she’s usually on my lap, so I know it’s filling her little love tank.

img_5274(Fun fact: Zoe took this photo!)

With the Powersheets system, you check in every day and every week and indicate with progress bars and check boxes how you’re progressing towards your goals.  I have found that it is really easy to remember to do this, and it’s so motivating to see that I am actually making progress on goals that otherwise feel abstract.  I love looking at my week with the goals in mind and deciding when I’m going to take small steps that add up to meaningful goals, instead of just hoping that I have time to take the steps.  I also really enjoy the Powersheets philosophy of setting meaningful goals, pursuing progress over perfection, and taking small steps that add up to your big goals.

Basically, if you’ve been on the fence about Powersheets, I either just convinced you to purchase them, or run far, far away, depending on your personality type.

This weekend, I’ll be checking out a potential future kindergarten for Zoe, organizing our storage room with David while my in-laws watch the girls (we’re turning it into a home gym space!!), meeting a friend for coffee, and skipping church and taking the girls to the beach to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday.  I’ll also be starting my friend Brittnie’s new book.  I can’t wait!

What are you up to? 

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A Prayer, A Protest

I’ve written before about how I didn’t think about race for a lot of my life—a luxury I didn’t understand at the time.  Having two children with visually obvious black heritage has taught me something different.

I was very aware of the racial differences between myself and my daughters at first, but over time, my day-to-day acknowledgment and awareness have abated because I am just so busy taking care of their daily needs.  I don’t have a lot of conversations related to my children’s heritage anymore, and I have learned to walk away from unsolicited comments or insensitive conversations with my hypothetical fingers in my ears.

Recent events remind me that I need to pay attention.  For my children’s safety.   

I have never hated because of race.  But some people do.

I have never moved into a neighborhood and wondered, “is someone peering out the window with hatred in their heart because of what we look like?” But it happens every day to people who look just like my daughters.

I look at mixed-race families and smile—to me, they look like the family of God.  But to some people, my family is an abomination.

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My innocence to these facts might feel more comfortable, but it’s also ignorant to the reality of what some of our country actually looks like, thinks like, acts like.  This is a country where people who look like me literally wave flags of prejudice—and care more about our right to do so than the sense of oppression it makes our brothers and sisters feel.  I don’t understand the hatred.  I don’t have to live in fear of it, either (and I don’t plan to).  But I have to be aware of it.

Oh, how I want more for our children.

When pondering what happened in Charleston, all I could think of was the interconnectedness Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talks about in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail (which is fantastic reading):

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. 

…There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being ‘disturbers of the peace’ and ‘outside agitators.’ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were ‘a colony of heaven,’ called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be ‘astronomically intimidated.’ By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

…Was not Jesus an extremist for love: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ Was not Amos an extremist for justice: ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.’ Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: ‘I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.’ Was not Martin Luther an extremist: ‘Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.’ And John Bunyan: ‘I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.’ And Abraham Lincoln: ‘This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.’ And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .’

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.

Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

Lord, raise us up to be creative extremists in our churches, families, and communities.  Help us transform this stupid, messed up, full-of-potential world into a place that reflects Your love for all of us.

2014: Bring It, Part II

In Part I of this (very short) series, I shared how the end of 2013 went.  Now, I want to share my overall impression of 2013.

Every year I find that there is a central theme to the things God has taught me, and that theme can almost always be summed up in one word.

This year’s word?

Free

Free.

I remember hearing a song lyric a few years ago:

When I get where I’m going
There’ll be only happy tears
I will shed the sins and struggles
I have carried all these years
And I’ll leave my heart wide open
I will love and have no fear

It’s talking about Heaven and at the time I heard this song, I thought yes, that’s when I will be free…in Heaven.

But this year, I got to experience some of this freedom here on earth.  I rang in the new year happily eating cake with David. If you had known me a few years ago, this would have been unfathomable.  Sins and struggles…shed.

This year, I walked away from a job that I used to define myself by.  This year, I wrote my heart and shared it with people I knew.  And this year, I admitted to myself and to a few people that I love that I want to spend more time and dedicate more energy to writing in the upcoming year because I feel like I am being the full me—the person that God created me to be—when I write. Me,  letting myself do something without a guaranteed outcome.  Heart…wide open.

This year, I did my best to love well and to live with open hands and in the process, I saw and felt how perfect love drives out fear.  I’m in a totally crazy situation right now and yet my heart is expectant and trusting, not fearful.

Free.

I love the image above of David throwing Zoe because he’s releasing her, letting her be free, but not letting her fall.  She’s at peace because she knows he will catch her.  She’s at peace because she knows he knows what he’s doing.

The joy on her face is what I’ve felt this year.

Emily Freeman writes, “your ability to bring glory to God by simply being the person you fully are and embracing the job you’ve been given to do is a uniquely human privilege…Christ is in you and he wants to come out through you in a way he won’t come out through anyone else.”

This was the year I finally understood that.  This was the year I finally stepped aside and said okay.  I won’t keep trying to be the person I want to be…I’ll be the person I am.  The person you created me to be.  The person you delight in.

It was my year of freedom.

My next post (the final in this series) will detail my 2014 goals…written in the spirit of freedom, of course!

What word described your year? 

On Mom Guilt & Forgiveness

A friend told me that I always “make motherhood sound so good” when I blog.

And being a mom IS my favorite thing ever, but really, it’s not a 24/7 walk through fields of sunflowers and rainbows.  I don’t ever, ever, ever take it for granted because it is a HUGE gift, so I don’t complain very much.  But, in the spirit of keepin’ it real…

Motherhood lately has been fun.  And scary.  And messy.

It’s been FUN, because Zoe is independently moving and is the most fun-loving kid ever.  She’s bold and she has spunk and she will not sit still & quiet.  Last week, I took her to the playground and she wanted to walk over and over again into the splash pad to get wet.  I took her to music class at the library and she waved her arms, clapped, and screeched to the music, screaming and clapping when each song ended.  We took her to a birthday party on Saturday and she didn’t want to make small talk with anyone—she wanted to cruise around the playground holding onto our fingers for support.  She gives hugs, screams for joy, rips through her toy basket, and generally lives life to the fullest.  I love it.

IMG_1549It’s also been SCARY, because, well, Zoe is independently moving and is the most fun-loving kid ever.  She tries to kill herself multiple times a day, totally by mistake, and it is SO scary to think that her safety and security hinges on my close supervision.  I used to nanny and could give my sole attention to the child for the hours  I was there because it was my only responsibility.  As the mom, though, I have multiple things to manage.  I can’t watch her every moment and I can’t predict what zany idea she will think of next (eating carpet, pulling heavy toys on top of herself, yanking the dog’s ears, trying to pull the shower curtain down on herself, putting a twig I didn’t even notice into her mouth…my mind does not work the way hers does and I can’t always predict her next move.)

There’s a lot of pressure on me to, you know, keep this child alive and sometimes that pressure feels choking.   I try tactics to work through my fear, like praying or reminding myself that I used to be in charge of 24 middle schoolers on a daily basis, but in the amount of time it takes me to give myself that mental pep talk or lift up a prayer she usually has come up with her next Evel Knievel idea and terrified me again.

IMG_1462Think fast, mom.

And it’s been MESSY, because (what what?!) she is independently moving and is the most fun-loving kid ever.

Now, I’d already made peace with the fact that as a mom, I am messier than I was as a non-mom.  I have a certain level of acceptance for the bags under my eyes, the ponytails (a few months ago, Zoe became terrified of the blow dryer, so I can only blow dry my hair once a week or so when David is available to distract her,) and the mom uniform (I now own the same shirts, pants, and shorts in multiple colors so that I can get dressed in three minutes or less.)  I’d gotten used to life without jewelry (Zoe breaks it) and heels/platforms (who knew I was 4’11? No one, apparently.)  That’s messy, right?

Oh well.  Totally worth it.  “Polished 24/7” has never been my identity anyway, and  I love Zoe way more than straightened hair.

And I’d already made peace (or so I thought!) with the fact that life isn’t just about me, that this season is a little messy, and that’s beautiful.  Deeper meaning understood! I’m so well adjusted, right? Nothing should phase me now!

BUT GUYS.  In reality?

My house?

AHH.

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I’m phased.

Zoe is in a phase of development I’m referring to as “learning through mess-making.”  Or “MAKING MOMMY LEARN NEW COPING SKILLS.”

And she’s loving it.

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(That photo was taken at 6:15 am.  She had already consumed a bottle & taken every toy out of her toy chest.  Time for sunglasses.)  

I’m forcing myself to allow the messes because she NEEDS to make messes to explore and learn about the world.  If, for example, I insist on feeding her so that it’s less messy, she’ll never learn how to do it on her own, and she’ll be a two year old or twenty year old that still needs her mommy to feed her.

But giving her control?!!

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IT’S SO MESSY.

I know, I know…this is parenting.

I know, there’s a deeper lesson…that you have to let go of control and let them mess up because that’s how they learn.

And I know…these are the easy messes to clean up.  We have youth group parents that talk with us all the time about the harder ones so I should appreciate the avocado on the wall and poop in the bathtub while that’s all I have to contend with.

But AHH.  The stickiness.  The repetition of cleaning up the same messes over and over again. IT NEVER ENDS.  And that is the spot where I break, the spot where I am vulnerable, where I suddenly think: you deserve more than this.  You are too smart to be a full time housecleaner.  Maybe you should go back to work. You just spend your whole day serving your family—who serves you? When was the last time you got time to yourself during the day when you weren’t working? August? Why is your husband at work right now? What has he given up? Does what you’re doing right now matter at all? 

And I hate that these lies come.  I want to love and honor the people in my life, not despise them and feel weighted down by untruths about them.  I want to live joyfully and purposefully. Silently muttering to myself as I slam bottles into the sink and clean up toys for the gazillionth time that day doesn’t really fit into any of that.

I want to live authentically.  Pretending to clap for my daughter’s joyful exploration of our toy chest while I secretly think you are making work for me feels like a betrayal of our relationship, a betrayal of the kind of mom I want to be, proof that she deserves better than me.

I want to live sacrificially, because there IS more to life than my whims and wants and unmet needs, but sometimes the deficits feel so overwhelming.  I think, I have nothing left to give you.  I am empty.

So no, motherhood is not all sunflowers and rainbows.  Sometimes it’s visible sin that you can’t deny and frustration with yourself and guilt and hiding tears from your baby as you implore God to change your heart.  Sometimes it’s growth.  Sometimes it feels like stagnancy or regression. Motherhood is good—like I said, it it seriously my favorite thing ever—but it is refining and it is revealing and it is not something you should do if you want to feel successful and good about yourself all the time.  Because motherhood can create your best moments, but it also shows you your weakest spots and takes you to your most vulnerable and defeating places.

But you don’t have to live there.

I’ve always felt grateful for God’s forgiveness of me.  But since becoming a mom, I’ve awakened to how grateful I am that He enables me to forgive myself.

My sense of responsibility for this precious life is so high; my mistakes and failures are so numerous.  It would be easy to sit around in shame and frustration and guilt—not because I let someone else down, but simply because I want to be better than I am.

But He keeps me moving along, unencumbered by yesterday’s mistakes.  And so I sweep the floors and pick up the toys and wash the bottles again, knowing I am forgiven, loved, seen, and chosen even in my imperfection and (yes) messiness—knowing that He picked me for this job and that He can equip me to do it a heck of a lot more efficiently when I hold up my empty hands instead of trying to do it all on my own.

It’s humbling.  But it’s freeing at the same time.  Fun.  Scary.  Messy.

Hope that was real enough for you, friend 🙂