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The To-Do List

So how are those New Year resolutions going for you?

A lot of folks have abandoned one or more of them by now.  The vow to eat healthier is taking a beating tonight at some Super Bowl Party.  Getting more exercise got sidetracked when the weather just didn’t cooperate and the power walk was canceled.  Staying organized started well but now it’s tax time and trying to get all that paperwork together has taken priority.

You might remember that I did not make my normal list of  wonderful goals for 2012 that usually take up a couple of pages in my planner.  Life has just been too uncertain, too complicated, driven by the winds of adversity more than the sail of my own plan and purpose.  But I read something that caught my attention when it comes to finishing tasks and feeling that I’ve accomplished something. 

So I present here a To-Do List I can actually complete.      

  • Hit the snooze button, several times.
  • Fix coffee.  Drink it hot and strong with half and half cream.
  • Sit in the rocker with the hot pad at my back while I have my quiet time with Bible in hand.
  • Shower and wash my hair.
  • Match my socks to my pants.
  • Listen to the radio on the way to work.
  • Chat with co-workers.
  • Open email and respond to most of them.
  • Eat something.
  • Go home sooner or later.
  • Feed the dog, the cat, the husband, and myself.
  • Go to bed with a good book.
  • Kiss Sweet William on his fuzzy cheek (he is sporting a full beard these days).

Yes sirree bob!  This is a list I can take care of and check off as completed.

Have a great day!   Hope you enjoyed this “just for fun” post.

The plan

I’ve been reading some of my old journals to remember other Christmases because I want to remember our celebrations.  This year is so different with son and family having a Tulsa Christmas.

As I read my Christmases past, it becomes apparent that they have not all been picture perfect.  Time tends to shadow the sadness that surfaced during our holidays, the separations we experienced, the sickness that kept loved ones away, the death that left a place at the table permanently empty, the problems that were only magnified during the stress of the season.

Looking at our last Christmas entries, I am glad God did not give me a glimpse of the coming year, of what lay ahead for us in 2011.  I think I may have gone back to bed, covered my head with the blanket wanting to stay until the year was over.

Perhaps your year has been something like that.

For certain 2011 did not go according to my plan.

My plan was to accomplish many things, to be successful in my undertakings, to finish projects, to excel and experience happiness in all my endeavors and relationships.  I had it all written down.

I didn’t have any room in my plans for operations, hospital stays, extensive care-giving, or learning how to live with our grandchildren so far away.

Reading the account of Jesus birth in the books of Matthew and Luke, I see something that resembles my own life.  The characters of this story had plans.  Mary and Joseph had plans for a marriage and a happy productive life.  Zachariah and Elizabeth had plans to live out their old age in quietness and service.

Mary and Joseph’s plans were disrupted by an unexpected miracle pregnancy, by the decree to go to Bethlehem and then the urgent warning to flee to Egypt.  I feel sure it was not the simple life in Nazareth they had envisioned.

Zachariah and Elizabeth were not expecting to be parents in their old age when strength and vigor were waning, when keeping up with a lively toddler would take more energy than they could muster on any given day.

Yet . . . it was God’s plan.

My morning Bible reading recently took me to Micah chapter 4.  Verse 12 was the one that caught my attention:

But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither do they understand His plan . . . “

Ain’t it the truth?

I know the verses that say our ways are not God’s ways, that His thoughts are far above our thoughts.  It’s just that I want to make sense of what happens to me and to the people I love.  I want to understand the “why” of it.  If I did, maybe I could accept it more easily.

But alas, that is not the case in almost all of my unexpected interruptions whether it is a minor irritation or an extremely painful life change.

I am required to trust when it is dark and I cannot see the way ahead, when taking the next step is scary and I don’t know how to do it.

Who among you fears the Lord, listening to the voice of His Servant?

Who among you walks in darkness, and has no light?

Let him trust in the name of Yahweh; let him lean on his God.”  Isiah 50:10

Even in my confusion, I find there is always an answer in the Word.  It may not explain all the details, the whys and wherefores I want to know.  But it does tell me what to do until the day when all things will be made clear.

Until then, there are some things I need to learn:

To trust

To wait with expectant hope

To learn contententment whether I have plenty or not

To give thanks in all my circumstances

Tall orders for this sojourner.  I am willing to walk in the dark as long as I don’t walk alone, as long as my God goes with me, goes before me and prepares the way.

It’s okay that I don’t have all the answers.  I know the One who does.

If you have had an “Unplanned Year” like me, leave a comment.  Let’s learn to trust Him together.

A normal life

The other day, I was thinking it would be nice to have a normal life. I won’t even begin to tell you what I think that is. You would probably have a different version of normal.

So what is a normal life? I’m not sure there is one. What I’m probably wishing for is a life designed to my own specifications. One that would be easier than the one I’m living right now. Or at least I think it would be easier, prettier, fancier, if I designed it myself.

It’s a good thing I don’t have that option. In fact, I’m really thankful God does not answer my silly, selfish prayers.

I placed my life in God’s trust so many years ago, and His word tells me He has a perfectly divine design for me. Psalm 139 describes in beautiful detail how I was planned and made according to God’s specifications. It even says all of my days are written in a book.

Now I am all about writing things in a book. I’ve kept a planner for years.  I also journal, keeping records of the past for future reference and future generations who may someday wonder what in the world great-grandmother Wright did with her life.

If I was a design-it-yourself project, I’m afraid I would have missed some of the most memorial events of my life. Not the most pleasant, mind you.  In fact, some of them have been exceedingly painful. Those moments are the ones I remember well, the ones that made such an impact and a difference in me. The hard roads, the excruciating days, the tear-filled weeks, the losses, the squeezing and molding process that was meant to conform me into a Jesus likeness would not have been on my plan sheet. I would never have listed any of them on my To-Do List.

Only God in His all-knowing wisdom would give me such an “abnormal” life. He did it with a purpose in mind, that through it all I would be less me-centered and more concerned for others. That would be the image of Jesus emerging. As a result, He would be glorified.

What is normal?  I still don’t know.  I think it doesn’t exist.  Each person has a life to live, a plan to fulfill, an image to bear.  If that life is surrendered to God as a Christ follower, it will be the best life lived, a perfect plan completed. 

 

What do you think is a normal life?  Leave your comments.  I’d like your opinion.

Countdown to 2011 – Part 2

Here I am again with more tips on  getting organized in 2011.  Just remember, I am not a pro.  I am only sharing information that has helped me or that might help me in the future.  Organization is an ongoing project.  It only takes a little accumulate of things to feel out of control.   And I like to be in control.  Just ask Sweet William.

Work on the areas that are visible first.  For sure, those closets need your attention, but putting your visible surroundings in order first will give you a respite when you take a break from the closet chaos.  Besides, if someone drops in unexpectedly, you don’t have to make excuses for the whole house being in an uproar.

Keep only one, and I do mean only one, calendar.  This takes some discipline but is well worth it.  Whether you use a Day-Timer binder, a Blackberry or some hand-held computer, or a simple calendar on the refrigerator door, use only one.  Otherwise you will mark an appointment on what is at hand and forget to transfer it to your personal planner. 

Keep an ongoing box for Goodwill or Salvation Army.  Regularly deposit items that need to be re-positioned out of your house into the designated box.   Don’t go back through the box when it’s full and ready to be removed. 

Remember the stuff you keep is really keeping you.  Have you realized this?  The more stuff I have, the more time it takes to dust it, wash it, straighten it, and protect it.  Is that really the way I want to spend my life?

Reward yourself.  After you complete a number of tasks, take a break and do something you enjoy, like paging through that new magazine (stacked neatly with your other reading material) while sipping a great cup of hot coffee (made from the pot that is sitting on a neat kitchen counter).  Set the timer so you can get back at the task at hand.

The wise man Solomon said this in Ecclesiastes 3 – “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . . A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away . . . ” (verse 1 and 6).

January is my time to cast away.   More to come tomorrow.

I wish you a happy, safe New Year’s Eve and a blessed New Year 2011

 

Are you making resolutions or goals for next year.  Leave a comment.  I’ll share some of mine with you later. 

Countdown to 2011

January magazines are on the stands, and often they boast how you can get organized.  Obviously it is a goal at the beginning of a new year.

Several years ago I started a January project of going through every drawer and every closet in the house.  I’ve thrown out, given away, and found a lot of stuff.  After several years of this mentally deranged undertaking, I have, at the least, a much better idea where things are when I need them.

Some of you are probably thinking I’m weird to enjoy this.  Maybe I am.  I  know my organizing-orderly tendencies can drive other people crazy at times.  Blame it on my DNA.

So . . . I thought I would share some organization ideas with you over the next few days as we countdown to year 2011.  

Now before you start thinking I’m very wise (along with being very weird), let me tell you that what I’ve learned has come from others.  I’ve picked up tips from articles and books that endeavor to teach me how to organize my space, my time, my life.  Is that even possible?  It’s a work in progress for sure.  Some of it has sunk in and actually works for me.  Maybe it will work for you.  I will share it, and you can be the judge.

File it – don’t pile it.  One of the best pieces of advice I ever took hold of is to do something with what I have in my hand.  It is so easy to lay it down while planning to put it away later.  Before you know it, there are piles of things to put away later.  Whether it is the daily mail, the clean laundry, or something you picked up from the living room, put it where it belongs instead of laying it down to do later.  

Creat a system for your papers.  Yes, I know we are trying to go paperless in our society.  But I still have a lot of it coming in to the house.  Don’t let it accumulate on the kitchen counter.  Have a bill file, a hold file, a to-do-later file, a read file, or make up your own categories that will work for you and your family.  After you’ve put it in a file, make a note in your planner or calendar to go through your files on a regular basis.  You will feel better knowing your stuff has a rightful place to be.  And your kitchen counter will not become the land of the lost papers. 

Make up your bed.   This is what we tell the kids, right?  It will make the entire bedroom look neater, and you’ll feel better about going in there.  The simpler your coverlet and pillows are to spread and fluff, the quicker this job will be. 

Break big projects into smaller ones.  You’ve heard this one before, I know.  Don’t let giant projects overwhelm you.  Take bite-size pieces.  Instead of planning to organize the entire house (such as weirdos like me do :)), plan to go through your dresser drawers; or organize the kitchen cabinets; or clean out the freezer or the refrigerator.  Accomplishing a smaller project will boost your morale and make it easier to tackle the next project.

Now the tricky part of this post:  How do I take this subject and make a spiritual application to it?

There is a verse in 1 Peter 4:9 that I think applies as I make the effort to maintain order in my home. 

Welcome people into your home and don’t grumble about it.  (Contemporary English Version)

If there is reasonable order in my home, I am free to extend a spur-of-the-moment invitation.  You just never know when someone needs a welcoming place to sit and refresh and be encouraged.  Your home could be that place to a weary traveler.

P.S.  Be sure to click on the five at the top.  It’s just  fun to watch the countdown.

   More to come in the next few days.  I would like to hear your organizational tips.  I’m always ready to try something that works for someone else.  Leave a comment.

Interruptions

A sweet friend sends a daily message over the internet.  She said she gets them from different places.  They are meant to be uplifting, thought-provoking, and turn our eyes heavenward.  I enjoy reading them each day, and sometimes they hit me right where I live.

Recently she sent this one:

“Christ comes to us in the unexpected, in the interruption and not necessarily on our schedule.”

Life’s interruptions come often, don’t they?  The question is ‘what to do with them?’  You can’t go around them; can’t go over them’ can’t go under them; gotta’ go through them.  Wisdom sometimes comes from a child’s game.

My Sweet William and I had an interruption this week.  He went to the hospital for another knee surgery.  Neither of us really knew how the day would turn out.  As it turned, he spent two nights in the hospital.  Definitely an interruption and not on my holiday schedule. 

I am a planner, not very spontaneous.  Bill helps me be a little more spur-or-the-moment than my personality tends to be.  It is not natural for me to drop what I’m doing and go on an adventure.

So an interruption such as surgery the week before Christmas and two nights in the hospital really turned over my apple cart.

As I listened to the news with Bill lying in the hospital bed, I saw people in California dealing with flooding, mud slides, and houses drowning in the river of waters.  I heard about someone’s sister and her husband who were hit while driving to another state to visit family.  I got an email informing me a sweet elderly member of Little Flock died as a result of a fall on the ice.  Another friend’s wife underwent back surgery though she didn’t know she needed until this week.

Interruptions are the stuff of life.  All the planning we can possibly do will not stop the unexpected.  Sometimes it is an irritation, sometimes it’s a tragedy.  And sometimes it comes as a pleasant surprise and a blessing from above.  Like the pre-op nurse handling Bill’s surgery preparation reminding me she had been in one of my Bible studies.  Her presence gave us comfort in a stress-filled situation.  Like the sweet choir member who brought lunch for the Little Flock staff on Tuesday, and there was enough left for me to eat on Wednesday.  What nice interruptions.

The good news in all of this is that our God knows the end from the beginning.  He is from everlasting to everlasting.  What we face tomorrow, He has gone before and knows what we will need.

Proverbs holds wisdom about life’s interruptions.  Chapter 16: 9 says:

“In his heart man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

Another gem is written in chapter 19:21:

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Bill’s two days in the hospital were spent with a fellow patient who had just had knee replacement surgery.   He and Bill had quite a time talking, joking, laughing, and making the week before Christmas quite interesting for the orthopedic staff on duty.  The nursing staff actually said these two men made their job  easier with their positive attitude in spite of their pain.

Jeremiah 29:11 says:  “I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future.”

Even with all the interruptions I must accept and endure, God is sovereignly planning my life for my good, for a hopeful future.   I have a little card on my desk that I look at and pray, “Lord, I want to be part of Your plan today.”  And I really mean it.

God interruped the world and sent His only Son in a most unexpected way.  And I say, “Thank You, Lord!” 

 Merry Christmas everyone.

A personal note . . . in anticipation

     Today, I worked from home finishing some last-minute details for yet another recital.  This one will include the eleven piano students I teach from my home.  They have worked hard to prepare and I know their songs will be beautiful as they play with skill and confidence.

I anticipate a beautiful Christmas Recital tomorrow night, a fitting beginning to my Christmas season.

The melody of Christmas, the song the angels sing . . . Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

“The earth has grown old with its burden of care but at Christmas it always is young, The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair and its soul full of music breaks the air, when the song of angels is sung”   –Phillip Brooks

Preparations

This is recital preparation week at Little Flock’s Academy of Arts.  Fifty plus students will perform during three separate recitals this weekend – on piano, guitar, flute, violin, percussion, and voice.  It is exciting for the students, highlighting what they have learned and how they have progressed in their musical education.

As the administrator of the academy, recitals are a busy time for me.  Having the tendency toward perfectionism, the smallest details become an accumulation of  many things on my to-do list. 

My co-workers know I have the “chicken with its head cut off” syndrome during this franctic-paced time.  It is just the nature of recitals that much of the activity can only be accomplished in the few days leading up to the event.

My mind spins with things to do, my written list is long, my check-off sheet is ever before me.   Can we say “stressful?”  It is not unusual for me to work long hours this week to finalize the arrangements.   

What is unusual is that Tuesday morning I arose from my sleepy bed with a song humming in my brain.   The song was “Lord Most High.”  The words go like this:

From the ends of the earth, From the depth of the sea,

From the height of the heaven Your name we praise!

From the hearts of the weak, From the shouts of the strong,

From the lips of all people, This song we raise, Lord.                            

Throughout the endless ages

You will be crowned with praises, Lord Most High!

Exalted in every nation, Sovereign of all creation, Lord Most High!

Be magnified!

This song would not let me go.  It swirled in my mind while I showered and dressed.  It crooned to me as I drove to work.  It greeted me at my office desk, and as I washed the coffee pot for a fresh brew.

It was as if the Holy Spirit Who lives within my humble being was singing to me, encouraging me to join in the praises to the Lord Most High.

I thought of Romans 8:26:

“In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should,  but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.”  (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Scripture says my Father knows what I need before I ask.  He knew I needed to focus on worship rather than worry, to delight in Him rather than fret over details.  The Spirit’s groanings turned out to be singing.

Grace never ceases to amaze me, that God loves me this much.  He cares about the dailiness of my life and my stress level.  He sings to calm my frazzled nerves, and He invites me to join in the chorus.

“He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, 
  He will rejoice over you with singing.” 
(Zephaniah 3:17)