Welcome to Part 4 of a 4-part series called “In The Life.” I’d like to share a bit about priorities, balancing, and what life looks like for me right now. We’re chatting about putting first things first and some simple principles to live by. If you missed Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3, go check those out! Feel free to jump in the conversation and share what your days look like. Thanks for joining me here!
It didn’t happen quickly, this settling into living out what matters most. The journey has been just that – a journey (…and the journey is far from over!). Your journey will have its own twists and turns, its own flavor. And as I look back through my day-to-day decisions, I’ve realized that several simple principles tend to manage my moments. I hope these will bless you! (Take what works for you and chat with God about it. He’s the best Source we could ever have!
#1: Time with God doesn’t just happen at 6am (or whenever) for an allotted block of time. It’s a relationship. It’s ongoing and it doesn’t fit in a box.
#2: Tidy as you go. Yes, have times in the day that are reserved for tidying things up. But, the more we put things away as soon as we’re done with them, the less mess there is to tackle later. Also, declutter and give things away regularly. This keeps our homes uncluttered and releases the hold that stuff has on us.
#3: Create a vision and mission statement for your family and (if applicable) for your homeschool. Print and frame it to keep you on track and stay mindful of the big picture.
#4: If you’re homeschooling, don’t expect to fit the mold of a public school schedule. Spend only the amount necessary for academics. Teachers in public or private school settings must consider things like a bell schedule, waiting on some kids to catch up, transitioning between classrooms, preset curricula often determined by someone else, and managing 20-30 children or teens with varying personalities, quirks, and learning styles. As a homeschooling parent, you can go more quickly because there’s less waiting time and more opportunity to individualize your child’s education to their needs and interests. It’s different. It’s okay.
#5: Make leftovers and keep some healthy frozen options available. And, breakfast for dinner is absolutely fine on occasion. Snacking on the weekends can totally count as mealtime too!
#6: Embrace your gifts and passions. Making time for them will give renewed vigor to other areas of your life.
#7: Every moment can be a teachable one. For your kids. And for you. Learning is (as often quoted) much more about lighting a fire rather than filling up a pail. It’s not just teaching what to think but rather how to think. I’m far more concerned about encouraging the natural inquisitiveness of my children than I am about seeing how much information they can regurgitate.
#8: You can do anything God has called you to do! [Note: I didn’t say you can do anything you may want to do!] But, if God has called you to something, He will equip you as you go.
#9: Consider the ingredients and weigh the cost. Put things into your body and mind on purpose, knowing what they are, why you’re taking them, and how they can/will affect you. You alone are responsible for the way you steward your body, soul, and spirit. The responsibility does not fall on the shoulders of a doctor, or pastor, or friend. Information is out there. Do your research. Pray. Ask God what His best is for you and your family. And pray for the freedom to continue (and take back ground where it’s been lost) to steward our bodies and minds according to God’s direction and our consciences rather than according to governmental mandates.
#10: Guard your “Yes“, Give your “No” and Go back to your “Not Now.” Know why you’re saying yes to something and how it fits into your priorities. Give your “no” freely to anything that doesn’t fit, at least for right now. Perhaps consider it later. But remember that whatever you say yes to requires that you say no to something else. Be sure you’re willing to make that trade.
God is in the midst of our days. He sees us cleaning up messes and filing paperwork and dealing with challenging co-workers and wiping runny noses. He’s right there, longing to be a part of each moment, even (and especially!) the messy, unlikely ones.
What principles is He asking you to live by?
A call to my husband in the late afternoon. I’m thinking about dinner and wondering what time he’ll be home. He asks me, “How’s your day been?”
“Good,” I say. “Really, good!” I list off some of the things the kids and I have done. “But, you know, the best part about the day has been that I’ve actually only done one thing at a time. I feel like I’ve been more focused today, more present.”
One. Thing. At. A. Time.
How very different from a typical day where I attempt to earn the Mommy-Multitasking badge of honor!
That morning, I’d woken up late, sleepy, with a pretty sour attitude. And those are always, inevitably, the days my kids ask me to be the one to pray over breakfast. “Lord…thank You for this meal. And, please help me wake up and lose this bad attitude!” Yep, that was my eloquent breakfast prayer. And, you know, it worked! This God…He’s the Worker of miracles for sure!
Breakfast over, it was time for morning chores, time to bless the house. I made the bed, loaded the dishwasher. And then, I collapsed into a comfy chair, the kids contentedly playing in another room. Bible and devotional sitting in my lap, I opened the pages and began the day again. My dry, prickly attitude started to soften as I soaked in life-giving words. It was only a few minutes. I felt like it should be so much more. But then God said, “It’s okay…move on with your day…just take Me with you.”
Well, okay then.
Then, it was time to start our schoolwork. The Cohen Academy was due to open. But, I just couldn’t make myself direct the kiddos to their normal routine, starting with their math workbooks. Today, on this dreary, rainy, freezing cold day, we needed something different than just a regular routine. So, I popped in a CD, stories of American history geared towards children. I didn’t grow up in the days before television. But in those moments, while we practiced the lost art of intense listening (without looking at a screen), I imagined we were gathered around a radio, listening to a show together…transporting us 60 or so years into the past.
There I sat, snuggled under a blanket, sipping my coffee…just listening. My daughter laid in a blanket fort she’d built. My son wiggled and squirmed all over the room. But in our own ways, we all listened, we discussed, we learned.
Several times I had to bring my thoughts back to the moment. I’d start making a list in my head, thinking of some distant task to accomplish. Reeling it back in, though, I refocused and practiced my listening, just as I challenge my kids to do each day.
Still in a mood to snuggle, windows foggy with condensation, eaves dripping wet outside, I gathered my brood on the couch. And we simply read together. I love these moments. Entering into a story, focusing intently, listening for what’s there beneath the words printed, all the while snuggling with my loves in comfy blankets on the couch.
For us, this was our “school-time” yesterday. I’ve felt dry and weary in teaching lately. I desperately needed a day like that to just enjoy listening and learning.
Then, while the kids snacked and played for a while, I pulled out my guitar (after far too long an absence) and played. Just a few moments spent in that place, but I entered in fully. And something hard on my heart broke off. I was just being. Being me. Doing something I love. Being present.
The difference in yesterday was that sense of being present. Setting aside my usual agenda for walking with God in the moments. In an ordinary, non-spectacular day, I was amazed. I experienced abundance.
Jesus said he came that we might have life abundant. And we think that multitasking gives us greater abundance when, in reality, it’s a tactic of the enemy to steal our abundance, to steal our focus, to steal our very presence in the moments we live.
Living meets life when we see the moments for what they are. When we don’t cram them beyond capacity. Abundance in life enters in when we invite God in and banish the enemy’s tactics of distraction.
I’m absolutely amazed at how those days go when I stop multitasking…when I lean on God’s agenda moment-to-moment rather than on my never-ending to-do list. I get so much more done! And yet, getting more done isn’t the goal on those days. But it still happens that way. The rest of the day I had plenty of time to practice for a class I’m preparing to teach, learn a new song on my guitar, snatch moments to read a novel, watch an amazing movie I’ve been looking forward to for months, create a new card detailing my vision for 2015 that I can see each day, be patient with my kids, practice Bible verses with them, cook dinner, help my hubby rearrange furniture, and more I just can’t remember.
It was a day of abundance, not because of the things I crossed off my list, but because of the level to which I was actually present in my moments. This, my vision for 2015: Live. Today. Fully.