Old Goals/New Goals

On the days I feel like I can’t keep going, I remember Psalm 103:13, which says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (ESV). God has a lot more patience and compassion for me and my failures than I have for myself! He doesn’t expect perfection. He want us to lean on His strength and accept His grace as we try to become the people He wants us to be.

This is coming a bit later than I intended. We got derailed this week with some sickness. But that is life–just when a routine seems to be established, something always happens!

Does that discourage me from having a schedule? Actually, no! If routines and habits are established and maintained when life is going smoothly, everyone and everything is in a better place when the bumps do come. And it is faster and easier to get back on track once life settles down again. Which is why I determined to focus time and energy this year on reestablishing some of those schedules and routines that gradually and unintentionally disappeared in our lives.

After five years filled with three rough pregnancies, a miscarriage, and multiple bouts of severe post partum depression, I was exhausted and muddled. I didn’t have a consistent routine, because routines (when there is a baby involved) continually change, if they exist at all! I’d given up on any goal beyond survival. I’d learned to settle there. And I didn’t like it.

The biggest hang-up I had when it came to making new goals and routines was fear of failure. As a highly sensitive person with strong perfectionist tendencies, I tend to view failure as deadly. I’d rather not attempt something than attempt and fail. (Just ask my family what happened when I learned Spanish!)

But I couldn’t keep living the way I was living. And change doesn’t happen by accident. So last month I started on a quest to change my life–one month at a time.

To do this, I chose three goals. My intention was to work on them for one month. If it worked, I’d either continue them the next month or develop new goals to focus on.

And . . . it worked! I was able to stay focused on my goals for one month. I saw change and improvement. And I didn’t get burnt out or feel like a failure because it is much easier to stay focused and excited about something for a month than it is to stay committed for a whole year. That’s not to say there weren’t days things fell apart (because there were plenty of those!), but there were more successes than failures.

January’s goals were to get up earlier so I had more time to read the Bible and exercise, to exercise 5 days a week, and to spend less time on my phone so I could spend more time reading good books.

In order to find time to exercise, I started setting an alarm again for the first time since I started having kids. I hate alarms with a passion, but I found a ring tone that wasn’t obnoxious. And I’ve set it and gotten up to it almost every day.

By getting up at 6:20 (approximately 20 minutes earlier than I had been waking up on my own), I am able to have half an hour to read my Bible, pray, and read a spiritually focused book before the kids get too crazy. And it’s been wonderful! I’ve been having my devotions much more often. And I’ve been getting more out of them because they aren’t rushed.

I wasn’t too sure how the next goal would go either. I do dislike exercising! But I found my exercise pants, put together a Youtube playlist of JessicaSmithTV exercise videos, and started exercising.

I’m not a fan of exercising, but I am a hug fan of JessicaSmithTV. I started using her videos when I was pregnant with Elena in the middle of a cold, icy New England winter. They are fun, easy-to-follow, and I appreciate her clothing choices. So I found some of my favorite walking workout videos along with some core strengthening videos.

I was surprised with the results. No, I didn’t lose a lot of weight. But my core is much stronger. And–here’s the surprise–I have so much more energy!

Ever since Colin was born, I’ve spent almost every afternoon lying on the couch while the kids are resting–too tired to read or sew or do anything productive. But since I started exercising every morning, I’ve had the physical, mental, and emotional energy to stay moving. And this has enabled me to accomplish much more each day!

Since I have more energy in the afternoons, I’ve been reading more. I actually finished 5 books in January (thanks to two days of jury duty!). It has been wonderful to spend time reading again. It is my favorite hobby and greatest addiction!

Since the monthly goal plan worked well for January, I decided to move forward with it for this month, too. For February, I decided to keep getting up early and exercising, but cut back the exercising to 3-4 days a week. That gives me a little bit of freedom if we have to get out the door early for a doctor’s appointment or homeschool co-op. And, let’s face it, some nights kids are sick and don’t sleep well, and then it’s hard to wake up extra early to exercise.

I’m also continuing to read more. This month I want to specifically focus on finishing 2 non-fiction books. I struggle with finishing non-fiction. Too often I read the first half dozen chapters and then set the book back on the shelf. So I’m determined this month to finish No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece and It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst. (I’m reading the latter book as part of an online Bible study, so that should give me added motivation.) They are both wonderful books, so I want to finish reading them.

My next goal is something I should have worked on long ago. I need to spend more time with Elena. Because of many factors–she’s very independent and self-sufficient, she’s the middle child, I got pregnant with Colin so soon after she was born, etc.–she doesn’t get the attention she needs. I get too busy doing school with Quentin and taking care of Colin’s physical needs. So this month I’m trying my best to spend a few minutes each day playing with her or reading to her. And she is so excited!

There is so much I could work on and change in my life. There are days when I struggle with feelings that I’m failing in everything, so why even try to change? But I’m choosing to pick up the pieces and try again. Some days go great. Some days end in tears. But I want to keep moving forward and not just settle for survival mode. On the days I feel like I can’t keep going, I remember Psalm 103:13, which says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (ESV). God has a lot more patience and compassion for me and my failures than I have for myself! He doesn’t expect perfection. He want us to lean on His strength and accept His grace as we try to become the people He wants us to be.

Photo by Krivec Ales on Pexels.com



The Joy of Hospitality, Part 2

Aren’t you glad God is creative? As humans made in His image, we get to participate in that creative spirit. And one of the ways we get to be creative is with hospitality!

Hospitality means “love of strangers” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). With that definition in mind, there are many ways to show love to one another. The definition also reminds us that we are to show hospitality to everyone–not just close friends and family.

When people think of hospitality, they usually think of having people in their home for a meal or overnight. And that is a wonderful way to show hospitality. It is an especially wonderful way to get to know people one doesn’t know well.

But what if your home is too small or under construction. Or perhaps you work crazy hours. Or maybe there is a new baby or a sick child. Does that mean we cannot be hospitable? Of course not! There are many creative ways to show hospitality (love) to others.

Here is a list of some of the ways I’ve practiced hospitality or had hospitality shown to me:

  • Have someone over for a meal
  • Open up your home for someone to spend the night
  • Take a meal to someone who is shut-in
  • Invite someone over for lunch or tea or dessert–this would be easier than planning a whole meal (especially if you just serve brownies and ice cream).
  • If you have the money, take someone out to eat
  • Go on a picnic, hike, and/or play date at the park
  • Invite someone to go with you to a play, concert, or museum
  • The options are endless. What matters is you are spending quality one-on-one time with someone.

One of the ways I’ve made it easier to have people over for lunch is by having a set menu. I’m not kidding. It may seem a bit cheesy, but if you come over for lunch, you will probably have chicken and grape salad sandwiches or taco salad. They are two of our favorite lunches, easy to make, and I usually have the ingredients on hand. Knowing what I’m going to make takes the stress out of planning a meal, especially if it ends up being spontaneous.

I know some people have a set hospitality menu for dinner as well. I’m not consistent with that, but Friday night is always pizza night at our house, so if you are invited over on a Friday night, it will be pizza. (My husband is devastated if I serve anything else on Fridays.) And if we need to come up with a dessert in a hurry, we always make brownies with his grandma’s peppermint frosting or serve ice cream in my cute mini glass trifle bowls.

It may sound strange to have a set menu, but most people don’t care what you serve. They are just thrilled to have someone show an interest in them. A couple of weeks ago we had a couple over for Friday night supper. It was just pizza and salad, but you’d have thought it was lasagna or a roast beef dinner. They were so appreciative!

I used to think my house had to be spotless. No one could come over unless I’d dusted and vacuumed everything. I still try to have my house clean. People should feel comfortable, and it’s hard to feel comfortable if you are tripping over toys or have to move laundry in order to sit down. But I’ve relaxed a lot. If I wait for the perfect time, the spotless home, or the Pinterest-inspired dinner menu, I’ll never have anyone over. If that happens, my family will be missing out on one of God’s greatest blessings and commands.