Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Big Three and My Biggest Plan.

I love New Years, and I usually make some resolutions, but this year I just never got around to putting them down on paper. After reading The Accidental Creative last year, how I look at my life and my perspective on making progress have changed. I don't think having a bunch of goals is necessarily the best way to ensure you accomplish what you hope to, so instead I'm choosing to narrow my focus and make plans along certain priorities.

In his book Todd Henry recommends having a "Big Three", three main priorities you are always looking at, three goals for the month, three projects, etc. More than three and you're spread too thin. Less than three and you'll get easily distracted and stop moving forward. So what are my big three? Aside from my service to God and my family (which always come before everything else), I am focusing on...

- Homeschooling
- Writing
- My Oils Business

Each week and each month I will have certain objectives and planned tasks in order to keep me on track. I'll have to actually look at my planner, but more on that later. I want to spend a short amount time here on the blog on each of those priorities, and today I'll start with homeschooling.

Several days ago, I was in a major funk. Hardly functioning really, just taking care of daily stuff, completely irritable, and hardly able to think a single thought to completion. I was certainly not my best self. In all reality, I get like this semi-frequently, maybe every other month or so, it's really hard to nail down why. Anyway, I felt like my life was always going to be this under-whleming normal, the person who is always needed, and while often appreciated, I just wasn't feeling like the this life was the best use of myself. I was spending a lot of time thinking about my goals, my ambition, my lack of energy, my giant load of responsibility, and none of it was fitting together enough to make sense.

As I scrolled through Instagram (for maybe the tenth time that day), I came across a friend's post where she quoted a few lines from a book a friend gave her. I don't know all the people I need to thank for making that happen, but Amanda is one if them for sure! Here it is:

"When we are consumed by God's glory, we forget to worry about our own. When our eyes are fixed on Him as the source of all goodness and truth and beauty, we accept that we are not. When we are enamored by His worth and majesty, we can stop being so enamored with ourselves. And fascinatingly, when we seek God's glory, we'll be able to appreciate it in the people around us. Instead of seeing them as threats to our own glory, we will see them as beautiful reflections of His."

This quote is by Hannah Anderson in her book Humble Roots.

Isn't that the perfect reminder? I was so busy trying to figure out my own life, I could not even begin to enjoy my role or look for the silver linings in all the difficult parts of being a homeschool mom, much less lovingly invest in my kids (which is the pretty much the whole point). What makes this quote, this truth, even more refreshing is that our current culture doesn't say this, and much of popular Christianity today does not say this. Famous authors, accomplished people, and many well-known Christian women tell us to look in our heart, to find our true desires, and make those dreams happen. At what point do we admit that our hearts are askew and maybe we have no clue what is really best for our lives?

We are so focused on ourselves that we despise the "inconveniences" we encounter every day, and we miss all the things God is putting in our way to lead us down a better path. If that path is more tumultuous, more painful, or simply less glamorous, we despise it or question how it can possibly be good. We don't actually believe that a life filled with service, alternate plans, and less consideration about our own dreams will actually be better, more fulfilling, and more worthwhile. I think I believe this, but my heart and these tumultuous bouts with my mind prove that I don't believe it as much as I'd like to think.

So what does this have to do with my homeschooling? What I really want is to make my plans and be willing to relinquish them, to be after God's priorities in our schooling time more than my own ideas of what needs to happen and how. I made my agenda for the year, and I want to focus on meeting my kids needs in schooling above my other ambitions. I want to gladly sit down and read to them without resentment, without worrying about my other tasks, without rushing through. I want to savor them, and more than just that, I want to earnestly seek out what God is doing through our homeschooling to grow in relationship with my kids and other homeschool families.

In all of my big three priorities, I need to be reminded of one thing: God's glory is most important. My kids seeing God in my behavior is more important than my shower, bigger than the inconvenience of spilled milk, and far superior to my agenda of getting my seven-year-old to memorize three types of consumers. If I can stop, look to see how wonderful God made each of my children, and look for the way to love them well, my homeschooling endeavors will be accomplished.

For some of you, seeking God's glory might mean handing over the schooling to someone else, or maybe it means asking for help when you don't want to admit you are struggling. It is totally possible that God's glory means pursuing that fire He put in you above a lot of other things in your life. What this decision-making, priority-setting process really comes down to is willingness. How willing are you to drop one thing and move on to whatever it is God is asking you to step into? How hard are you clinging to hopes, dreams, ambitions, or goals that are not God's goals for you and your family? This is a tough pill to swallow, I hear you.

As a very ambitious, type-A, goal-oriented person, I am trying to swallow this pill the best I can. But each time I come back to this idea, every time I remember I am after God's work (not my plan), the pill slides a little further down, bringing more peace and less craziness in my brain. We need to admit we don't always know best, and confess that sometimes we are irrationally clinging to goals that do not make sense in God's kingdom. We have to see that being a person, a mom, a wife, an (insert whatever your main identity word is here), does not actually revolve around us, but around God's work, around His agenda, around His purpose for us in that role.

Why on earth would we want to miss the exciting work of God's plans being forefront in our lives? We really think we know what is best for us, but I know wholeheartedly that we don't. It's time for us to admit it, come face-to-face with the fact that our pouting is mostly about our selfish wants, and less about God's holy work. I want to want what God wants more than the other things I want (still with me?). More than I want to get my own way, more than I want to have everything under my control. I finally feel crazy and overwhelmed enough to admit I cannot figure out my life and my purpose on my own. It feels surprisingly good, I'm not sure why it always takes me so long, or why I constantly forget. The peace we can gain from simply allowing God's work to be the most important thing in our lives is completely unreal. It's not a fair trade, and we are definitely getting the better end of this deal.

Maybe this all seems a bit vague to you, so I'll tell you some tangible things I'll be doing to ensure God's work is my priority.

1. Reading my bible and praying for others will come before Instagram and Facebook. It seems like a no-brainer, but seriously, it can be a problem.

2. Speaking kindly to my children will be a daily goal, sometimes hourly, often every few minutes. Children forgive, but they are shaped by our tone, and this is something I am working really hard to get a grip on.

3. Homeschooling will come before my other priorities. Before trying to get caught up on business posts, or reading, I need to ensure I am using my time for my kids' education without resentment for how it inhibits my schedule. Their educational needs will change, and right now, and for the next three to five years, what they glean from my personal input is huge. It needs to be extremely important, set-apart, and seen as a glorious opportunity to fill my kids up with God's goodness and the beauty of the world He made.

So that's my general homeschooling agenda until summer. Overall, I'm seeing how the biggest investment opportunities we have revolve around people. People are influenced by people. Maybe they are motivated by dollars, by prizes, or prestige, but people rarely find peace, love, or a healthy identity because of those things. So in my big three I will be looking at how I can invest in others the way God would invest in them. Being a good friend, a reliable neighbor, a stable and comforting mother - these are the qualities that I want to see affecting my big three this year. And I'm convinced that as I follow God's lead in these ambitions, no matter what other hopes or dreams fall apart, I will be content knowing I've put a seed of God's love into all the passions I've pursued and into all the people I've invested in.

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