Monthly Archives: October 2015

Here’s to you, working mama… on the week before Halloween

IMG_7548This is my view sitting in bed tonight.  I’m actually feeling pretty good about myself that the piles of laundry are clean rather than dirty.  No questions about how long they’ve been there, please.  I have low expectations these days.  This summer, I read some tip online from this lady who never put a new load of laundry in until she had put away the last one.  And I thought, “What a great idea!”  And after it took me over a week to get caught up with my laundry using that method, I decided to just aim for getting things washed.  Folding – optional.  I don’t even pair socks anymore.  We have two baskets – one for kid socks, one for adult socks.  If you need a match, go fish in the basket.  Low expectations, highly recommended.

So, on this week before Halloween, when your to-do list probably looks a lot like mine, with cupcakes to bake, fall festivals and doctor’s appointments to attend, parties to host, costumes to make or find, kids out of school for fall break to entertain, and – oh yeah, WORK + your family’s normal weekly activities, here’s permission to get rid of the pressure to “do it all,” delete those unimportant tasks, enjoy the moment, laugh off the slip-ups, and don’t forget to take care of yourself too.

Because after all, if your kids are fed, your husband has clean underwear, and your house is not growing toxic mold, then you’re doing a great job, Mama!  One day, they’ll look back at pictures and appreciate the effort you put into that costume and treasure their family memories from this week, and you’ll remember their precious chubby faces and giddy laughter and (hopefully) forget all about your dirty floors and pesky unpaired socks.  So, hang in there, lower your expectations, and hold fast to the hope that November 1st with its extra hour of sleep is only three short days away…

What’s Your Reason?

Have you felt overwhelmed lately?

Jobs can feel overwhelming.  Motherhood can feel overwhelming.  Life can feel overwhelming.

I’ve learned that feelings of overwhelm are often a sign I need to shift my perspective.  Like Peter, I tend to start sinking the moment my eyes drift away from Jesus and down onto my circumstances.  Mondays sometimes have a tendency to pull us down into overwhelm, and we need to be ready to combat those feelings with the Truth.

Here is an excellent 4-minute message I heard this morning from Dr. Kevin Elko that greatly helped to reset my perspective back to my Reason.

 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  – Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)

Take heart on this Monday and everyday, because we have a true promise of a great Hope!  And we also have little eyes looking up to watch how we work – either for men or for the Lord.  May I be ever mindful that that my example and attitude will teach my girls far more than my words or intentions.

What are your reasons?  What one step can you take toward being exceptional today?

Making the Most of Your Work Time: 3 Tips

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Growing up, my very hard-working dad would always tell us, “Work smarter, not harder.”  I hear his voice in my head all the time now, which is usually a good thing!  Most working moms want to get our work done as well and as efficiently as possible, so we can make the most of our time with our kids.  Even though I now work from home, I hate the feeling of not being done with work for the day when it’s time to pick up the girls from school… because it means more work awaits me after their bedtime.  Having my work caught up is one of the best feelings, because then my attention is not divided, and I can truly relax in the evening.  In this post, I shared a few of my favorite planning and to-do list tips and tools.  Here are three productivity tips that I’ve found to be especially helpful in getting things done.

  1. The Pomodoro Technique.  I’ve been setting a timer to get things done for years but just discovered this specific timer method.  Basically, you set a timer for 25 minutes, work as hard as you can on a task, break for 5 minutes, and begin again.  This video gives a quick overview.  Over time, it supposedly helps you to see how many “poms” you need to allot for certain tasks and can help in planning your day realistically – which is good for people like me who tend to be overly optimistic about time management.  Lots of writers and professors use it, and I’ve found great success with it in the past week for writing and grading.
  2. Break your to-do list into micro-tasks.  A few years ago, I read part of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.  The part of the book that really stuck with me was his explanation that many of our to-do list items are actually macro-items that have multiple related smaller steps.  For example, one of my to-do list items is “Submit travel request for conference,” and that could be broken down into other steps, such as:  Email administrative assistant, Print forms off website, Locate registration receipt, Calculate meal costs, etc.  The goal is that you enable yourself to complete the task by being more specific about exactly what needs to be done and how much time it will take.  Simple, but brilliant – at least to me!
  3. Daily Top 3.  I got this one from Inspired to Action (I guess you can tell by now I love Kat’s stuff!).  Like the first two, it’s super easy but makes a big impact.  Each day, when you write out all your to-do list items, go back and star or circle your “top 3” things that MUST be done.  Now, I know, if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking there’s no way you could pick just three.  Sometimes I make two lists – one for work tasks and one for home/family tasks, and circle two or three in each area.  But the main idea is to force yourself to prioritize what urgently must be done vs. all those things that seem important but really aren’t.  The goal is still to get to all of your to-do’s, but in the case that you don’t, at the end of the day when your head hits the pillow, there is a great satisfaction in knowing that you at least accomplished the three most important ones.

I told you they were simple, but sometimes simplest is best!  What’s your best tip for maximizing your work time?

Inspiring Blogger Moms You Need to Know

Sometimes motherhood can be isolating, and I think working moms are especially prone to feeling that way.  As a work-from-home mom, I’ve learned that I have to be intentional with maintaining and cultivating relationships with other women to get the support I need to survive.  We moms need each other!

Reading blogs can be a fun way to gain wisdom or motivation from others on the motherhood journey.  Here are some of my favorite working moms to read.  May you be as blessed and encouraged by them as I have been.

Grace @ GraceLaced – I found this lady on Instagram, and she also has a blog and online shoppe.  As if being a wife and mom to SIX sons wasn’t enough, she is also a gifted artist who works from home creating gorgeous watercolor prints and is equally talented with her use of words, which are a refreshing mix of transparent humility and inspiration.  I always walk away from her posts motivated to either do better or give myself extra grace.

Kat @ Inspired to Action – If you read blogs – or even if you don’t! – this lady needs to be at the top of your list.  I think she was the first “mom blogger” I stumbled across years ago when my oldest was a baby (probably from a desperate Google search about sleep or colic or potty training).  She rocks!  Mom of 3 from Texas who works from home running all sorts of resources to inspire other moms to embrace the importance of their role and take action to improve.  She’s such an awesome combination of down-to-earth, organized, and motivational.  Be sure to check out her podcasts as well.

Melanie @ The Big Mama Blog – This lady is hilarious!  She’s a stay-at-home mom to one daughter, turned author of three books.  She has a special way of chronicling the everyday moments of life and motherhood to capture both the funny and serious.  Her writing always brings a smile to my face and usually uplifts my faith as well.

Leann @ Just Start Somewhere – I found Leann, a fellow working mom, through the Write31Days challenge.  She is a women’s health coach and blogs about the importance of self-care for moms from a Christian perspective, which I can attest is super important.  She will inspire you to take manageable steps to make better choices for yourself, so you can better care for your crew.

On Perfection & Getting Things Done {+ Printable To Do List}

Any fellow struggling perfectionists out there?  My hand is up… well, it used to be.  I like to consider myself a recovering perfectionist these days (or at least I’m trying).  Years ago in college, we once had a night meeting where we met in small groups with our different teacher education professors for an informal Q&A session.  The talented leader of my group was a working mom with young kids.  Looking back, I can really relate to her now, although she of course seemed “old” at the time.  Someone asked a question about time management, probably because we all thought we were busy and overwhelmed (while our 30’s selves are having a good laugh in retrospect).  And she gave us a piece of advice I’ve never forgotten.  She said, “Some things just have to be done, and some things have to be done well.  Now that’s a good word for tired working moms with plates spinning in the air left and right.  The important thing is figuring out the difference.

If we try to do everything to a standard of perfection, we will either never begin and fall way short of our goals, or our health or family will eventually suffer while everything looks good from the outside.  The perfectionist and people-pleaser in me wants to do it all and do it all well, but I’m slowly but surely learning how satisfying and significant “No” is and how to be ok with certain outcomes that are “just ok.”  Sometimes I jump in with both feet and then have to dial it back – and that’s ok too!

Earlier today, I was feeling frustrated with myself that I signed up for this challenge and have missed several days of writing due to especially busy events with my job and family that I didn’t account for.  So, I thought, “How can I simplify this and still complete the main goal I set to write more often during the month of October?”  I counted up the remaining days in the month and found that if I post once a day, each day, until October 31, I will have a collection of 21 posts… which the perfectionist in me considers a nice “catchy” number. 🙂  And while it does fall short of the original goal, the outcome is still one I can be proud of, because I set a goal to grow in my writing, and I have!  It’s much more than I would have accomplished by never beginning in the first place while waiting for the perfect circumstances to write, and I have learned a ton along the way about writing and about myself.

So, how do we discern what things should be done vs. be done well?  I think this post, this post, and this post share a bit of my heart on that topic.

Are you an active or recovering perfectionist?  What things do you just need to get done, and what things do you want to do well?  Here’s a printable sticky note to do list to help you keep track of it all!

What I’ve Learned About Mornings

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We all have heard the quotes and statistics about morning people being more successful, and most working moms desire that for ourselves.  And regardless of your kids’ ages, I’m sure you can relate to some recent rushed or stressful mornings at your house – I sure can!  I definitely go through seasons of doing better or worse with my mornings, but I’m at a much better place today than I was five years ago as a new mom – praise God!  Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Just because I’m not a natural morning person doesn’t mean I can’t become a morning person. Anyone who knows me who is reading this is either nodding along or laughing out loud, because my natural inclination is to be a night owl.  My mom gave me a pair of moose pj’s that say “I’m not a morning person,” and that pretty much sums it up.  While I consider myself an optimist, I’m not one of those Pollyanna types upon waking… I need a few moments to myself, preferably with a hot cup of coffee, before facing the world.  But just because that isn’t my natural style, it doesn’t mean I can’t create new habits to help maximize my mornings.  Speaking of which, there is an awesome free, short e-book that has really helped me in this area called Maximize Your Mornings by Kat Lee, my very favorite mom blogger.
  2. Mornings are the best time for my quiet time.  I heard this for years and wasn’t really sold, but it is true.  If you’re a mom to little kids, you probably don’t have a whole lot of energy or mental power left at the end of the day.  Learning to study the Bible and meet with the Lord at the first part of my day rather than the last transformed my quiet times.  Try it and see.  Now, if you miss your morning quiet time (and I still do often), don’t settle for an all-or-nothing approach!  Make it up some other time during the day, like lunch or before bed.  I don’t think the Lord cares at all what time of day we meet with Him, but in this season of life I feel I can give Him by best attention in the morning vs. evening.
  3. I need accountability to maximize my mornings.  There’s an awesome challenge that I’ve been a part of for several years called Hello Mornings.  It’s an online community of moms around the world who connect on social media for 6-week challenges to encourage and support one another in accomplishing three goals:  Bible Study (God time), planning your day (Plan time), and exercise (move time).  It’s free, and in addition to helping me make the most of my mornings, I’ve met some awesome Christian ladies and participated in some amazing Bible studies like this one by Lara Williams.
  4. Rest is a gift, and bedtimes aren’t just for kids.  I used to be one of those people who halfway adhered to the phrase, “You can sleep when you’re dead.”  Over the course of about a decade, I over-committed myself to the point that I got used to staying up too late and waking up too early.  I was perpetually sleep deprived and often stressed, and through some health issues, the Lord thankfully stopped me in my tracks and taught me the importance of the rest He freely offers.  And that’s probably another post for another time, but it’s true – rest is ours for the taking, but it requires wisdom and obedience to sacrifice of some other things.  One of the best tips I learned from Hello Mornings is that successful mornings begin the night before, and setting a phone alarm for bedtime is a great reminder.  Also, this article about sleep and the aging process is pretty eye-opening.
  5. My kids often adopt my morning attitude – for better or worse.  Ouch.  This one makes me cringe, because it’s true.  The mornings I wake up too late and feel rushed, I end up rushing everyone else, and the bad attitudes come out.  The mornings I wake up before my kids to have a quiet time and pray for them before they wake up vs. waking up to them, my kids still disobey and test me and act like kids, but my reaction is totally different.  Everything just goes oh-so-much smoother; the difference is indescribable.  I’m absolutely preaching to myself here, but I want mornings in my home to be peaceful, so this is an area I’m constantly working toward improving.

What have you learned about mornings?  What change do you want to take to make them better?

The One Thing

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I spent the past weekend at our church’s women’s retreat with some precious Christian sisters from my church at a gorgeous location with two of my favorite things, water and woods.  While there, I heard one of the simplest and most powerful Truths through an amazing Bible Study delivered by our anointed women’s ministry leader, Tollie Meggs.  And she brings the Word.  Just, wow.

In this post, I talked about how we tend to complicate being a mom.  And you know what else we tend to complicate?  Simply being – our entire lives. We were made for one purpose – to worship.   Everyone who is alive is worshiping something or someone.  Specifically, we were created to worship God – our Creator, Provider, Sustainer – and His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To do anything else is to waste our lives.  To attempt to put anything else – work, goals, dreams – before worship is to totally miss the picture.  Worship must be the origin of and must be pervasive within all that we are and all that the do.  I can tell you what work, including spiritual service, will do to a believer who got worship out of order in the equation – It leads to exhaustion and eventually burnout.  I know this firsthand myself and know far too many other ladies who know what it feels like to work hard for the Lord without having worship in its proper place, and it’s not a pretty picture.  To learn and live out true and acceptable worship will first and foremost please the Lord, and it will also spill over and impact every single area of our lives.  I am convinced that a mom will never be all she can be without worship at the center of her life.  But we don’t do it for ourselves; we do it because God is worthy.  I had the head knowledge of worship but needed a refresher on the heart knowledge.

It’s life-changing stuff, if we will simply submit to the Lord’s leading, obey His commands, and make time to learn to truly worship.  And, despite our modern church vocabulary, worship is not synonymous with music or song.  Worship is a way of life that can be expressed through song, but it doesn’t begin or end there.  Because my words are pitifully inadequate in describing the depth and breadth of the command to worship and its accompanying promises, here are a few of many verses on worship.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. – John 4:23 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  – Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  – Matthew 23:23-26 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.  – Hebrews 12:28-19 (NIV)

My prayer for myself and for anyone who reads this is that we will be filled by God with a renewed desire – a consuming hunger and thirst – for His Word and His commands, to seek His face and truly worship him with all we have and above all else for all of our days.  To get that one thing right will be to have succeeded in all our roles in this life, as well as the one to come.