About Rita Clucas

I am an incredibly blessed wife of Jon and mother to four--Kieran, Kaila, Samara, and Avielle. Together we strive to love better. I have a passion for families and especially for the mamas raising them and I love to encourage them in any way I can, be it writing, speaking, or a smile along the way. Join me will you?

3 Steps to Putting First Things First

(This article is part 2 of a series. To read part part 1, see Is Your Plate Too Full?)

One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”


GodI read that illustration many years ago by leadership expert Stephen Covey and I go back to it when my life seems too full of urgent things leaving no room for the important things.

It reminds me to do the big things first before my “jar” gets filled up by all the little things that won’t mean much in 20 years.

When I find myself frustrated by my lack of time for those most important things, here’s how I get back on track to Putting First Things First:

  1. Decide it! I determine my “big rocks”. We can’t prioritize our time if we aren’t clear on what is most important to us. For me, my list includes :
    • Pursuit of God
    • Good Health
    • Pursuit of a strong marriage
    • Pursuit of a healthy family
    • Personal growth
    • Projects
  2. Write it! I keep a journal of my “big rocks” and revisit and change them periodically. Within each category, I list specifics. Under a healthy family, I write, “have a weekly game night”. Under personal growth, I list books I want to read and classes I want to take. Once I know my priorities, my calendar comes out and I take off things that don’t line up with them to make room for things that do. Then I tackle my to-do list and make it more manageable.
  3. Guard it! I learn to let non-essential things go. The phone will always ring, the emails will always beckon. The closets will never quite be as organized as I may like. I carve out some time for these, but then don’t let them bleed over into more important areas.

 

So this is where I am, putting first things first. My next step is taming my to-do list to make room for my priorities on my daily schedule.

How about you? What are your “big rocks”? Do you need to make room for some of them today? I hope you’ll scroll down and leave me a comment.

 

 

 

Is Your Plate Too Full?

It was only Monday morning. I woke up an hour before the alarm, and my brain was already racing through my mental to-do list. Going back to sleep wasn’t going to happen, so I slipped out of bed and began to tackle the day.

hand-565588_1920By the time the kids got up, I was already in high gear and wondering how I’d ever get it all done. A quick assessment allowed me to cross a few things off and move a few others to another day. But those days were already crammed and I was afraid I’d end up not getting to it altogether, so worry began to press in. There are bills to pay, appointments to make, lessons to teach, calls to make, and…

The intrusive voice: “Mommy! Did you hear me?…”

Really? Can’t they see how busy I am? “WHAT?” I snap.

“I just didn’t know if you wanted me to make you eggs,” came the convicting sweetness of my 11-year-old.

UGH!!! Guilt is now heaped on top of busy-ness and worry, and I feel like poop. So I soften outwardly and crumble inwardly. “No thank you Honey.”

I grab the phone to make what should be a 3 minute call that turns into 30 and by the time I’m off my heart is racing, my brain is full, and my emotions are about to leap off the sanity edge.

And it’s only 8:30. I grab another cup of coffee and plunge further toward disaster.

Have you played out this same scenario with different characters? If so, then let me tell you, it doesn’t have to be this way. These moments are our little reminders to reassess our priorities, re-evaluate our schedules, and re-tweak (or as in my case—overhaul) our to-do list.1

I wish I could say I did all that on Monday, but Tuesday and Wednesday were near repeats before the ah-ha moment kicked in. By then, I was in panic-mode. I went to bed exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, and irritated with everything and everyone.

So I had a desperate, late night cry session with the Lord over my too long to-do list. I was plagued by my inconsistent involvement in the girls’ schooling and by my not being “in the moment” with my family. I asked God how in the world to accomplish it all. After all, there is just one of me.

Can’t anyone understand that? I can’t do it all!

And there it was: Truth in five words.

I can’t do it all.

And thankfully I don’t have to.

And in that moment of clarity was the scripture, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36) My children are intricately linked to my soul and I knew the Lord was telling me I was tending too heavily to the wrong areas while neglecting the one I know is to be my focus–my family.

What the Lord convicted me of is this: I can work tirelessly in many arenas and even achieve “success” through them, but unless it is what He has purposed, it will have little value and come at a cost.

You see, when you gorge yourself from a plate that is too full, you lose the ability to truly taste anything and you have two choices. You can stuff yourself until you’re too bloated to enjoy any of it (and likely end up vomiting a big mess). Or you can choose a few things to savor more fully.

So, if awareness is the first step, what’s next? For me, it’s getting a clearer picture of my priorities. I haven’t done that yet, but I hope you’ll check out 3 Steps To Putting First Things First and together we’ll learn how to take a few good items off our plates to fully enjoy the best.

I’d love to hear about how you manage all that’s on your plate. Please comment below some strategies you use or if, like me, you struggle to reign in your to-do list.

Hugs,

Rita

Burning Red-Hot Anger

I am so grateful to have Jessica Lederer share on here today. Jessica is a gem. She is a beautiful and sincere woman, wife, mother, and friend. So I was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to post for Mothers With a Mission. She shares openly what most are afraid to speak of, and I know you’ll appreciate her candidness and transparency.

12363267_10153687550415734_377748452145311748_oI consider myself a blessed mother of 5 amazing children. My oldest will be 8 in a couple short weeks and my youngest celebrated a year of life on the outside on Christmas Eve. Life is chaotic, messy, unpredictable, and a hoot everyday.

BUT there are some days when burning, red-hot anger explodes from inside like a volcano and all I can do is holler at the bystanders to take cover. The kind that makes my kids call me “Hulk Momma”! Can you imagine! THIS has been one of those weeks!

Coincidentally (NOT) I am doing a Beth Moore Bible study called The Patriarchs. Wanna know what we are talking about–BURNING RED-HOT ANGER. Day 1 was Judah and David’s burning anger. It may surprise you to know they were burning with anger at their own sin; they just didn’t know it yet. Conviction? You bet!

The Bible talks of God’s refining fire and how He uses it to purify us and test us. Praise GOD my faith has proved steadfast, but unfortunately sometimes so does what He is trying to purify me of! That leads to the flame burning hotter. Unlike the LORD’s refining fire, my burning is the farthest thing from purifying as possible, no matter what I tell myself in the heat of the moment!

My burning is a rage I didn’t even know was possible! Any others out there know what I mean? It is what only those closest to me get to witness. It is shameful and NEEDS Jesus! Most of the time it comes from a place of a loss of control. It is never necessary but somehow I can’t get myself to CLOSE MY MOUTH.

In sharing my battle with other moms, I’ve found that despite the enemy convincing us we’re the “only ones”, many moms routinely fight their anger.

So what do we do when those situations occur? Well I can tell you what I do.

PRAY. PRAY. PRAY. HUMBLE. HUMBLE. HUG. KISS. LOVE. APOLOGIZE. PRAY. PRAY. PRAY.

  • Pray for the Lord to forgive me. Confess what I’ve done.
  • Pray for the words to speak and that The Father would stand in the gap and cover my loved ones from the repercussions of my sin.
  • Pray for the Lord to convict my spirit and allow correction.
  • Humble myself and go to those I’ve hurt and without rationalizing or explaining, just ask for their forgiveness.
  • HUGS and KISSES and I’m sorrys. LOTS of hugs and kisses.
  • PRAY some more. Ask for a Word, a promise, something to hold onto when life gets me red-hot.
  • Believe the LORD for the forgiveness He has given me, accept His Grace, and His Help.

Sometimes the circumstances may seem like they justify the outburst but believe me there is a better way. One day I will find my way there every time, but for now I’m still on the journey. Oh how I pray to be more tender and gentle! Especially with my little ones. I hope it encourages you in your journey to know that you are not alone if you have ever had “that moment”.

Let’s pray for each other whether this is you or not. Let’s ask the LORD to help us. You may not know the name of the momma you are praying for but the LORD does!

James 1:19-20 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

 

When It’s Easter Week And You’re Short On Hope

I sat across from her. An 8:30 breakfast on Wednesday of Easter week. But we didn’t talk about weekend plans. Instead she tells me her story. A story no one should have. A son taken from her too soon. Despite all the prayers lifted up, despite all the attempts to save him, her baby gone from this earth and all she’s left with is an ache.girl-865304_1920

So everyone celebrates life this week while she breaks.

My stomach tightens, not from the chain-restaurant omelette, but from the knot of longing. I wanted to say I understand. But how can I? Who can understand such pain? I wanted to have some great words of comfort, but none came.

What do you say to a mother who lowered her son in a grave long before his time? What do you say when it seems the whole world is erupting with spring life and hers is cloaked in winter’s chill?

Nothing.

So I listen. And I pray. And I realize that her story is sadly not rare enough. I realize that all around me lie the ruins of brokenness. I realize that the journey through this world is one split by selfishness and greed and hatred and heartache. And too often, hopelessness.

And then I remember the story.

The one where Hope stepped onto the landscape of the world, took on its brokenness and stretched it out on a cross. The one where the sky split open and grace descended.cross-828894_1920

I don’t believe most stories. I think incredible stories are mostly just that—in-credible. And this one is most incredible of all. I mean who can absorb the notion that God would come to earth and pour Himself into flesh?

Not just flesh, but infant flesh. And that He grew into a divine man with the power to heal and to forgive? And then in that power He looked behind and ahead to all mankind—to me and to you—and saw each moment?

Each broken moment. Each unholy moment. Each gunshot fired. Each drug injected. Each harsh word or cold slap. Each tear shed. That He had the power to see my pain and my disease and my injustice and…my sin, and declare it wiped away?

Who could believe such a story?

But I believe this one.

Not because someone told it to me, although I’m glad they did. Not because of a Sunday school flannel board, although it was fun. And not even because I read it in an ancient document, although I now treasure that holy book.lamp-872946_1920I believe it because His story collided with my story and it became our story.

I believe it because there was a time when I couldn’t find my way through the senselessness of my broken road and all I had were whys. There was no making sense. There was only doubt and fear and a sense that I would never be okay again.

And then that story. A man who died on a cross, yet lived. A man who stretched out His arms and declared it finished, yet just beginning. He looked though the corridors of 2000 years and saw my tears and desperation and I saw Him. And it wasn’t just a story anymore. It was Hope and Resurrected Life.

It was God with me.

Emmanuel. God with us. Then and now. Reminding us that we are not alone.

And that this is not the forever world. But there is one waiting for us that needs no words to explain it or make it make sense. A world where a mother who walked this earth years past her prime stretches renewed arms out to her young son who never reached his in an embrace that knows no sorrow.mother-and-son-887058_1920

A world where there is no more death or grief or tears or pain. A world that makes sense of all that is and was.

A world that once only existed in my make-believe mind. But I’ve glimpsed it. I got a peak into that world during my deepest suffering. The curtain was pulled back and I knew. I knew the story was true. I knew that it was possible to live when everything else was dying.

My friend knows it too.

Our breakfast dishes had been cleared away and we sipped the last of our coffee through tears and through laughter. She knows the story. Heaven came down when her son was taken up.

She suffers. She longs. She questions. Yet she knows. She believes. This broken road ends in wholeness.church-750251_1920I hope you can believe that.

I hope you can take it all in despite how in-credible it sounds. The suffering, the heartache, the senselessness. It won’t always be so. It’s only part of this journey and it isn’t forever.

If something in you has died, if all hope is lost, I hope you will believe the story. I promise you, when you look through faith’s eyes, you see what can not be seen with your own. And you can find joy despite suffering, hope despite hopelessness, and life despite death.

I’ve created Hope For the Hard Places just for you, and I’d love for you to download it or share it in anyway you find helpful.

Please leave me a comment below and let me know if you believe the story. Or if you’re not sure. I’d love to have coffee with you sometime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun Ideas for a Christ-Centered Easter

Samara helping Lyza with her Play-Doh creations.

Samara helping Lyza with her Play-Doh creations.

Easter is less than two weeks away. Now, I’m not one to shoot the Easter Bunny or declare that all things fun or yummy like egg hunts and jelly beans need to be banned (certainly not chocolate bunnies!). Still, I do want to be intentional to remind my children that Easter is about an empty tomb that once held Jesus, and to keep our activities focused on Him.

With so little time and even less creativity, I love it when those ultra-creative moms do some of the work for me. So, since I’m not one of those, I thought I’d round up some of their awesomeness and put it in one place. I hope you find some new ways to celebrate Easter this year and perhaps start some lifelong traditions.

TRADITIONS

Resurrection Eggs–There are all sorts of these, but these are my favorite for ages 5 and up.

Grace Garden–I absolutely love this one from Ann Voskamp at aholyexperience.com. Ann says, “So the kids and I, we put our hands into dirt, and we remember our garden fall and His garden grace.” Love it!

Fun Easter Story Cards For a Neighbor–I love these printables from the Happy Home Fairy. Fun for the whole family.

Family Service Jar–Another from the Happy Home Fairy and a great way to encourage kindness. Definitely going to be a new tradition for us.

ACTIVITIES, GAMES, AND CRAFTS

Easter Bingo–Telling the Easter story with symbols and a game for ages 4-7.

The Jesus Tree–There are all kinds of variations on this, but this is simple (Yay for me!) and has a Bible study to go along with it.

Resurrection Scavenger Hunt–My kiddos have always loved scavenger hunts, and this one is one for all ages.

Salt Dough Empty Tomb–A keeper and one we will do this week.

Printable Easter Coloring Pages–I’m a fan of everything from What’s In The Bible and these are no different. When you’re finished, you may just want to get a copy of Jesus is the Good News! to watch together.

Pop-Up Easter Scenes–For those of you who are beyond the coloring pages, these are awesome. I’m okay with just staying between the lines though.

Clothespin Donkey–Just in time for Palm Sunday, little crafters will love this.

Where Is Jesus Watercolor Magic–Always exciting to see the surprise in these.

RECIPES

Resurrection Cookies–Definitely not my favorite cookies, but the kids love them and I love the lessons they learn. Leigh Anne at Your Home Based Mom shows how simple they are.

Resurrection Buns–What kids don’t love these! Easy and fun!

No Bake Empty Tomb Treat–Made with donuts and Oreos. Enough said.

Crown of Thorn Cookies–Another awesome treat that’s simple and delish.

Lamb of God Cupcakes–Seriously, too cute.

Surprise Cross Cake–This is for the serious baker. I will not be making this one, but would be thrilled if any of you volunteered to make it for me. Amazing!

Cross Cake For the Rest of Us–An easier version that I’ve made for Easter dinner many times or at least until Samara threw up red velvet all over my nearly-white bedroom carpet. She hasn’t been able to look at red velvet cake since ;-).

BOOKS

Here’s a short list of some of my favorites. There are so many more, but these are the ones that you’ll never get tired of reading.

Benjamin’s Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs–We read this as we do the resurrection eggs.

The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale–One of my favorite children’s books ever, we read it anytime of the year.

The Thornbush–primarily for ages 4-8, but tells the story of shame and redemption through the eyes of a thorn bush.

Amon’s Adventure: A Family Story for Easter–This book for the whole family is a traditional read for us. Packed with excitement and great lessons, we get more from it each time we read it.

Well, there you have it–some great ideas from some great moms on the web. I hope you try a few this year, and bookmark this page to keep new ideas right at your fingertips next year. Until then, have an Easter full of the freedom and love of Jesus.

And please share some of your own ideas or pictures with me here or at our Mothers With a Mission Facebook group.