I have been asking myself how I am spending my time. Am I being a good steward of the time God has given me? Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way to the Lord” and Psalm 5:3 encourages,”In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” Therefore, before I begin my day I need to spend time with the Lord, as well as meditate on His word throughout the day. This is an important routine to fill up my tank for the day allowing me to go into my tasks with the right attitude and providing the words to use in spreading the gospel. In my last post I discussed how I am spending the time and abilities God has given me and whether I am using them to the best of my ability. I wanted to devote more time to the topic of daily Bible study as that is essential to all other things.
Daily Devotional Habit
First and foremost comes my time with God. Over the years, I have developed a habit of pulling out my Bible first thing in the morning. I get up with my husband and help him out the door at 6am. Then I sit with my bible, my reading plan, and a cup of coffee. (Also earbuds because I focus sooooo much better when I listen and read it!) For a long time I have felt that I was doing good in this area and I checked it off my list, so to speak, of disciplines that I have got a handle on. But, Paul exhorts us to excel still more (1 Thessalonians 4:1). My typical Bible devotion is usually to read either the M’Cheyne One Year Plan or a chronological plan (this year I am doing Solid Life Whole Bible Reading Plan). These plans have me reading the Bible in a year and have me reading in both the Old Testament and the New Testament at the same time. The act of reading from 2-4 different areas in the Bible helps me make observations and connections I haven’t made before.
However, I am not consistent at Bible journaling, nor do I regularly do a separate Bible study. I underline and write little notes in my Bible, but sometimes I have more to say than what I can write in the margins. And while I love journaling, I’m a wordy person, so writing in a blank page journal is like a 30 minute exercise for me. This means that I usually get lazy and don’t pull it out because “I don’t have time for that.”
However, I have decided that, in order to continue to grow in my relationship with God (2 Peter 3:18), I have to do more than what I already do. So I purchased this simple journal that uses the Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer (SOAP) method. I decided to do this instead of using a blank journal like I have in the past to make the idea of daily journaling feel less intimidating. The fill in the blank pages are one page per day which make me feel like I can briefly write my thoughts without writing a book. 10 minutes of journaling is still journaling! I’m still getting my thoughts on paper without taking up all my time. Also, I have committed to write in the journal daily, which forces me to think and meditate upon what I have read (Joshua 1:8).
In addition to reading and meditating on the Word of God, prayer is an important part of daily spiritual disciplines. Because I lack focus, I can struggle with this aspect at times. Not because I don’t know what to say, but because, despite my best efforts, my thoughts stray to other things. The best way I have found to combat this is to have my Bible open and pray scripture and/or write my prayers in a journal. Again, this is not something I do everyday, but I am striving for excellence in this area. Another favorite way to pray is during my morning walks. After I read my Bible and before my kids get up, I leave the house and walk about 2 miles. The peaceful serenity of the morning makes for a wonderful time of prayer while I get some exercise, Somehow being outside and moving my body helps me concentrate on prayer. I am also looking for other profitable ways to pray during my day. My pastor’s wife tells how she would often pray while doing monotonous daily tasks such as folding laundry or ironing. This is also a good method.
So what’s so important about developing this skill? Why not just do a five minute devotional and be done? 1 Timothy 4:7 says to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” In his book on spiritual disciplines, Donald Whitney compares this to spiritual exercises. “To go to your favorite spot for prayer or journaling, for example, is like going to a gym and using a weight machine. As physical disciplines like this promote strength, so the spiritual disciplines promote godliness.” As we grow in godliness we grow in sanctification, and that is the goal of the Christian life. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
I am a list setter and a planner. I like to write my to-do lists and I like to schedule out my days. There may be times I need to adjust on the fly, however I do so much better in my day if I have a plan worked out telling me what I need to do and when. Because of that I have tried a lot of planners. Digital and print, specialized and general, purchased and homemade. I’ve tried them all. And nothing is just right — just what I’m looking for.
The specialized ones are too … ummm … specialized, not leaving room for the other areas of my life. The general ones don’t allow me the space for jotting down notes and brainstorming; processes that help me keep my brain in check. Digital ones keep me in a box of “fill in this blank with this type of information” — sometimes (a lot of the time) my life doesn’t fit in a box. Then there are the printable planners that boast of completely customizable pages that include several different options to make the planner what I need it to be. I just print what I want. That sounds great in theory, but printing 150 pages in full color and binding it in something durable is expensive! I’d honestly rather pay a little bit more to buy one already printed and professionally bound.
So what it boils down to is that I want a planner that is already printed and bound, that is not specialized in to categories like homeschool calendar or blog calendar, but has room for me to brainstorm my thoughts and allows me to schedule out my day to include all the different things I do.
Enter the Living Well Planner. I found it a year ago when I was searching for a good way to plan my chaotic life and bring the overwhelm under control. I was unhappy with the last two planners I had purchased as they were homeschool specialized and were not conducive to the other areas of my life. I had been a reader of Ruth Soukup’s blog for a couple years and had heard about the planner but hadn’t checked it out yet. It seemed to have everything I was looking for, so I took the leap and ordered it. I’m so glad I did!
My favorite part is the goal setting and project planning pages at the beginning of each month. It’s a place for me to brainstorm the “big thing” I’m trying to accomplish right now and set goals for projects I want to accomplish in the future. The worksheets help to break up my big “to-do’s” into actionable steps. It’s especially helpful that there is a new set of goal pages every month as I have different things I want/need to accomplish that often.
The goal setting page at the beginning of each month.
Project planning pages following the goal setting page.
Then there are the weekly pages. Every day is laid out by the hour so I can time block what I need to do each day. For a slightly scatter-brained person like me, that is a life saver. In addition to the time block, there is a space to write your daily “must-do” and what’s for dinner. Seriously, it’s like this planner was made just for me!
The weekly planning pages. Everything is undated so you can start whenever!
In addition to these pages every month, there is also a monthly budget page, thoughts and thanks page, and a notes page. You could literally almost keep your whole life in this planner — and it’s beautiful too!! The months are tabbed making it easy to flip right where you need to be.
There are a multitude of planners out there — one to fit every taste and niche, and then some! While that means that somewhere in the sea of planners there is something that fits your unique personality, it also can be overwhelming. So I thought I’d share with you the planner I use and enjoy. I hope this review was helpful to you.
In full disclosure, I do earn a little commission of your purchase, but it has not effected my review in the least. I had this planner for a year before I became an affiliate and I would recommend it regardless of that fact. It is a planner I will purchase again in the future.
Am I making the most of my time? Homeschool, blog, church, family; I have so many things vying for my attention, but if I’m not careful, I can easily waste an entire day wandering aimlessly because I haven’t written anything down. I know I have things to do, but I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to come to the end of our school year and feel that I didn’t accomplish all that I set out to do. I don’t want to look back at the end of this year and think that I did not give my all to my family or the people God has put in my life. It is important that I learn to intentionally think about my time and how I spend it.
As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.
So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable of a man getting ready to go on a journey. He calls his servants and entrusts to each of them various amounts of talents according to their ability. To one he entrusts five talents, to another two talents, and the last he gave one talent. Then he goes off on a journey. When he returns, he lines the servants up to see what they did with the money. He expects that they invested it in some way and received a return for it. The man who had been given five talents traded with them and earned five more. In the same manner, the man who had two talents also invested them and earned two more. The landowner was pleased with these men, because they wisely used the possessions he gave them and acquired more. This is what he he told them:
Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt. 25:21)
Then he came to the last slave, the man who had been given a single talent. He was a fearful man. What if he lost the talent? What if he didn’t use it correctly and made a huge mess out of things? He believed his master to be a hard man who reaped where he did not sow and didn’t want to disappoint him. So he decided to hide the talent — he couldn’t lose it if he didn’t use it, right? When the time came to give an accounting, he went and dug up the talent and held it out. “See, here is your talent. I was afraid to lose it because of what kind of man I knew you to be, but here it is, I didn’t lose it!”
Instead of being grateful, the master was furious! He called the slave wicked and lazy! “You should have at the very least put the money in the bank so it could earn interest! What good does it do me in the ground!” He then took the talent from the man and gave it to the servant with the ten talents.
For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. (Matt. 25:29)
What does this mean for us? Let’s think of the talents as abilities or time. God has graced each and every one of us with abilities and skills, as well as 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. How are we using these precious commodities? Wisely and thoughtfully? Or are we hiding them in fear? Are we squandering them on useless things that will gain no profit?
Consider 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” Am I being a faithful steward of what He has given me? God has given me the ability to write and a desire to encourage others. But if I decide that I’m too fearful to share the post I wrote (which I’ve done) or if I don’t talk to the person that I know needs encouragement for fear of rejection (also guilty), then I’m not being faithful to that which God has given me. He has also given me six children and has called me to homeschool them. I need to be faithful to teach them and prepare them for life. I need to be faithful to share the gospel with them and show them what it means to be a christian. The last two decades I’ve had as a parent have gone by in a flash; in another decade all my kids will be grown. I only have a short amount of time with them — how am I spending it?
I know myself, and I know that if I am not proactive and intentional about my days, I can easily waste an entire day appearing active but actually accomplishing nothing. If I don’t consider my goals and make a prioritized list of actions that need to be accomplished then I will wander from place to place, knowing something must be done but not knowing what to do first. The Living Well Planner is the best thing I have found to keep track of my life and keep me in check. You can read why I like it in this post. This is one way that I can keep from wasting my day. It is the first step, but it isn’t the only step. I must also DO the things I plan to do.
Psalm 37:5 says, Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him and He will do it. Before I begin my day I need to spend time with the Lord, as well as meditate on His word throughout the day. This is an important routine to fill up my tank for the day allowing me to go into my tasks with the right attitude and providing the words to use in spreading the gospel. I will talk more about this in my next post.
Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is also unrighteous in much… If you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?
What do you do to make sure you are using your time wisely?
We used to live in a rural setting on the outside of town. I had to plan 20 minutes to drive anywhere. A thirty minute shopping trip put me away from the house for an hour and a half. Needless to say, I didn’t run to the store in the middle of the afternoon to buy a can of beans for a recipe! I made due.
Every trip was well-planned and organized not wanting to waste a single trip to town. When I had to drive in for a doctor’s appointment or homeschool class, I combined other errands in the day. I had the system down to a fine science; I knew how to make the most of every trip. It was my habit on shopping day to buy enough groceries for two full weeks.
Now I live in the center of town. I am two minutes from a Neighborhood Market and two minutes the other direction from a Wal-mart. Most other errands I have to run are typically 5-10 minutes away. Formerly it would to take me 20 minutes just to drive to town; now I can run to the store, pick up a handful items, and be back home in 20 minutes.
I have come to learn that this is a mixed blessing. Yes, it’s nice to be able to get whatever I need, whenever I need it. I enjoy the flexibility of being close to everything. But it’s made me lazy. I don’t have to write an extensive menu with a shopping list to match in preparation for shopping day because I can easily go again. I don’t have to create a route taking me from Point A to B then C in the best way possible. And I don’t. I don’t plan anymore. I just go. And I’m finding myself going to the store for just one little thing more and more often.
But what if I don’t want to go again?!? I’m tired of running to the store and swiping my card every other day. It’s a time waster and a money waster.
I’ve been overwhelmed of late with the extensive list of things I have to accomplish and the limited time in which to do those things. Part of the reason for my stress is that I seem to always have to go somewhere, meaning I’m not home where many of my primary responsibilities dwell. Some of these outside appointments are necessary, some are self-made. By not planning my shopping trips more carefully, by saying to myself, “It’s ok if you don’t get it all now, you can go back,” I’m actually adding more unnecessary trips to my day and thus more stress to my life.
Additionally, when I go to the store more, I spend more. This is a concept I figured out a long time ago and practiced. I would go to the store (except for milk) no more often than every two weeks. When I shop more, I buy more. But if I’m not planning to go to the store, I make due. If I’m out of certain things then I don’t make the recipe that requires the items I’m lacking. It’s really that simple.
I’ve been looking for ways to simplify my life; to ensure I have more time in my day to do the things that matter. Planning my day, my outings, and my shopping trips and menu is one simple things I can do to redeem some of my wasted time.
Typically, as one year ends and gives birth to a new one, many of us tend to reflect upon the events and achievements (or failures) of the past year. This past month has been a time of reflection for me as I have met a couple milestones in my life.
I turned 40 last month
This was the day I had been dreading since I turned 36 and was suddenly on the downhill side of my 30’s. It was inevitable, and, try as I may, I couldn’t stop it from happening. I don’t know what I thought would happen as I moved from my youthful 30’s to the dreaded 40’s, but, whatever it was didn’t happen. The move to a new decade came in without any kind of issue. As a matter of fact, I’ve gotten used to calling myself 40 and I’ve decided I’m ok with it (as if it mattered!)
My family threw us a 40th birthday/20th anniversary party.
I have officially been married for as long as I was single
Yep! We celebrated 20 years of marriage a couple weeks ago, just days before my husband also turned 40. We were young. Young and naïve. There was so much we didn’t know, so much we had to learn. And we learned it together — the good and the bad. We grew up in so many ways those first few years.
Being students still, we literally lived off love (and the giving of plasma) for a time. We didn’t know what we were doing, we just knew we loved each other. Times were challenging, but we went through them together. We took the song, “No ship coming in,” as our theme song.
As we traversed the challenges of life together, our faith and trust in Christ grew as did our bond with each other. We learned to depend more and more on God to sustain us through the hard times. He provided in countless ways. Blessing upon blessing He poured upon us, one of the most notable being the birth of our firstborn son after three years of marriage. Some of the blessings, however, were the hard times! They taught us, shaped us, and molded us into the people we are today.
Twenty years and six kids later, I look back in amazement at the things God has done in our lives. Dreams have been met, hurdles crossed, and blessings I didn’t even know I wanted have been poured out. God has been good to us and will continue to be regardless of what lies ahead.
My oldest child is a senior in high school
When Nic was born, the idea of this scrawny little boy who took all my energy one day graduating high school never once entered my mind. As we added more children, I did the best I could to educate them well. But I still didn’t foresee the day when the goal of high school graduation would actually be reached. It is fairly surreal. I am in the middle of filling out FASFA forms, getting his transcript put together, getting ACT issues worked out, and figuring out colleges. It is a crazy time. And when it comes down to it, in May when he walks to get his diploma during the homeschool graduation ceremony, I will be graduating as much as he will. His schooling was a joint effort, a joint struggle, as he learned to direct his focus and I learned how to teach him.
My husband and oldest son looking the same. Summer 2016
That’s the absolute truth! When I am so busy, or so overwhelmed with the current gargantuan task ahead of me that I don’t know which end is up, I escape to the routine. The task that has consistently been there for me these past 20 years and hasn’t failed to give me an escape excuse yet. Because we all know that the dishes are never done, and, if by some miracle they are, there’s always another meal to prepare, thus creating more dishes!
I feel like I’ve been “escaping” to the kitchen more often this past month or two. Homeschooling six kids is a big enough chore on its own but add to it the dozen or so other hats I wear and sometimes I want to go screaming into the night. Life is complicated; life is hard; life can be scary. I’ve come to the realization that, while the dishes do need to be done and meals do need to be prepared, I’ve been escaping too much; doing what comes easy and natural rather than doing the hard things that will turn my dreams into reality.
As I was thinking of this fact, I was trying to come up with a solution. A “fix” to get myself out of this rut and onto better things. My first inclination was an organization chart. A schedule. A plan of action.
Yeah! That’ll work! Groan! Because I haven’t made a hundred of those in the past only to follow them for a month before I get tired of it! Besides, I actually have a good schedule, I just need to do it!
There had to be something else, some other missing link to connect the dots and allow everything to run smoothly. Well, it just so happens that, as I was pondering this, the speaker at church that night was talking on the power of prayer. Towards the end of the talk on Matthew 6:7-13, he gave a list that caught my attention:
If you rely on organization, you get what organization can do;
If you rely on prayer, you get what God can do!
Wow! That struck a chord! What I need is not the next greatest organizational tool, or yet another app to keep my menus in. No, I need to give my life, my schedule, and my needs to God and rely on His grace to get me through.
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” Psalms 37:3-5
Do I need a schedule? Yes. Do I need to plan out my day? Yes. Do I need to be more disciplined? Yes. Are those things gonna save me? No.
I can make it an idol out of organization though, for sure. I can easily worship the schedule thinking that’s the only way I can accomplish all that needs to be done. But if I rely on organization I only get what organization can accomplish, further, I only get the amount of organization I am able to stick to.
However, if I rely on God and prayer, I get the power of God working through me to accomplish all that He wants me to.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
My weakness is that I can’t stick to a schedule; I get lazy and don’t make a menu; I get overwhelmed and fearful and decide to clean my kitchen instead of doing the work God has called me to. Oh that I might be able to give it all to God and rely wholly on Him so that His power might be made perfect in my weaknesses.