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.

 

 

 

Love Wins!

New Year’s Eve 2015 greeted me with anxiety and dread.  The fear of repeating the events of the past year was overwhelming. Would I let the anxiety catapult me into a year similar to the one I was bidding farewell, or would I open my heart to my Father to transform the upcoming one?  That in itself was a scary proposition.

The temptation to give in to fear came from years of practice, but this time I made a different choice.  In the face of fear I surrendered and asked my Father for a plan (James 1:5). Afterall, doing things over and over again expecting different results is insanity and I had had enough of that (2 Timothy 1:7).  He illuminated the fact that we had no goals in place individually or as a family, so I set two:

  1. A craft project for the family
  2. The Love Dare for Parents, a goal for me personally

During our New Year’s Eve dinner I asked everyone to think of a word that expressed something they wanted to work on in the upcoming year.  Their responses left me awestruck. It was as if they had just been waiting for someone to ask.  I realized I do not need to keep telling them what they need to work on, they already know.  They just need to be encouraged, so they will feel free to overcome.

The physical result :

FOT16B3

The emotional and spiritual results are still developing.  It is freeing to be able to ask my children in the midst of a struggle are you being (fill in the blank with their word)?  We have checked in a couple of times as a family to hear how everyone is doing.  I also encourage them when I see their words displayed in their behavior or actions, which is helping me practice “nurturing” them.

My personal goal although a seemingly clear and simple one has proved to be much more challenging.   It exposed things in my own heart that need to be healed and pruned.  Day 1 of The Love Dare is “Love Blooms” and instantly I was challenged, which is how my word became so clear to me, “NURTURE.”  For some it may be the simplest of dares, but as I read it, my own woundedness and imperfections were obvious.  I was grieved with how difficult it was, but was determined to complete it.    I think my children were startled by the spontaneity of affection, but began to soften under the words, “I love you.”

What if God never expressed His great love for us?  What if we did not have His Word to remind us daily of that great love?  How would we know He loved us if we were not in constant communication with Him and Him with us?  It is the same with my children, it is not enough to just “know” mom loves me, they need to hear it – verbally and often.

Can you easily let “I love you” escape your lips or do you struggle with it?  What has helped you overcome?  Do you have another area of nurturing your children that is more difficult for you?  I would love to hear your heart and pray for you.  We are not in this journey alone.

Father, may we be so rooted and established in LOVE that it will overflow into everything we do.  Replace the fear in our hearts with Your perfect LOVE.  Thank you that Your LOVE won on the cross and wins eternally.  Amen.

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.