big things happen one day at a time

My youngest daughter, who is seven, has a goal.

For over a year now, she has had a good grasp on the technique, strength-required and fun that can be found in doing a cartwheel.

Her new goal: do a one-handed cartwheel.

She hasn’t just made a passing statement that she wants to learn a one-handed cartwheel. She has been flipping and twirling and practicing a one-handed cartwheel over and over and over almost every day. She takes a running start from our foyer and makes her approach on the area rug in our den dozens of times daily.

In fact, she no longer just walks into the room. If Kate is coming into the den, it’s usually by way of a cartwheel. She sticks her landing and smiles at me and her daddy.

Over the past few months I have seen my daughter work up her nerve, her courage, and most of all her confidence in performing this daunting task.

I have witnessed first hand that the determinations and habits of even a young girl can turn a goal into a reality. (This isn’t the first lesson she has taught me either.) My sweet girl has mastered her one-handed cartwheel and delivers it with near perfection every time she attempts it. She is living proof that there’s power in belief and that she doesn’t get her upper body strength from her mama.

I’ve been thinking a lot about goal setting and achievement these past few weeks. Truly, there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t spent considerable time pondering why some dreams flourish and why some habits stick and why others float away unfulfilled. I have even spent considerable time reading up on the idea.

In this self-examination I have also thought quite a bit about the past few years in light of my own successes and failures. What have I done well? Where can I grow and improve? Are there things I’d like to change in my life? Which of these areas can I control and which ones do I have little to no control over? In two or five years from now, where do I hope to see myself?

I’ll quit blaming Ryan’s military service for all of my woes, but I will say that I have allowed some major life transitions to totally overwhelm me and instead of me happening to my life, in many ways I have allowed life to happen to me. And I’m tired. I’ve grown tired of feeling like I’m just floating along managing circumstances and waiting for the next news of a deployment, a move, or fill-in-the-blank.

We are all just doing the best we can some days, but I have spent too much time over the past almost four years in a state of frozen inability to act. I have been far more RE-active and far too little PRO-active. I don’t want to be a chaos manager. I want to see a clear path of where I am going and visualize who I want to be and walk in that direction.

As a Christian, doesn’t the Holy Spirit empower me with “everything I need for life and godliness?” {2 Peter 1:13}

At the end of 2014, I began to formulate a plan for some changes I wanted to see in 2015. I tried to keep those goals fairly straightforward and simple. (Read them here, and a few deeper thoughts on them here.) I knew that if I wanted to achieve these goals and see true change that I needed more than a cute little list of goals. I needed objectives.

Objectives are those action steps and efforts I’d need to put forth in order to hit the target, and accomplish my purposes. So I went old school. I got out my big, hard-bound journal and  wrote each of my main goals across the top of a fresh, clean, lined page. Then I began to list the action steps necessary to achieve those goals.

I don’t know why this all of a sudden felt like rocket science or a grand epiphany to me, but it did. With fresh eyes and a renewed perspective I began to see the bite sized pieces I’d need to digest each day or week or month, in order to end this year differently than it had begun.

For too long, I’d made claims that certain things were a priority to me but then I’d never act on those ideals that supposedly took precedence and preeminence in my life. I knew I was capable of making changes. I had done it before in other areas. Ryan and I had made huge and lasting financial changes by creating new habits after we finished FPU. I had successfully been reading a great number of books each year by simply setting a goal and working toward it.

But somewhere, somehow, in many other areas I had a mental block or was just simply too emotionally and physically exhausted to realize that changes were possible. This year (2015) is a year of defining some big goals, yes. But more importantly, it is the year of doing the daily work to see changes happen and dreams realized. This is the year of writing down plans and getting up each day in order to see a difference.

I believe that the idea of list making and goal setting originated with God! Don’t believe me?

“Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

{Habakkuk 2:2-3}

That is exactly what I have done. Instead of tablets, I’ve used handwritten lists or downloaded charts. And instead of making it plain for *all* to see, I have placed my little means of record keeping in my household notebook and in my mom-cave (read, pantry).

I’ve wanted to share so many thoughts on these ideas, this progress, and these new habits. However, I have felt a nudge from the Lord to just keep quiet about it for a bit longer. I’ve waited until the end of this first month of the year to finally feel comfortable making my thoughts public.

Here are my three main goals for the year:

  • forming good habits and routines (self-care, family care, spiritual care & household duties)
  • writing (like it’s my job)
  • simplicity (less commitments, less stuff, etc.)

Here are my sub-goals that fall under each of the main headings: (The bold type is copied and pasted from an earlier post, below that is what I’m doing this month as a means to reach those goals.) Consider this me checking in with myself on my progress! Forming good habits and routines…

Self Care: I plan to take better care of me. I’d like to do a simple update on the ways in which I attempt to do that. For me, my goal is to be better about getting outside more to exercise, getting dressed in something presentable even if I don’t have plans to leave the house, and limiting sweets and grains in my diet. I am also planning a monthly “something” just for me (a trip, a girls’ night, an outing of some sort).

I’m using a daily goal tracker to bubble in a little circle every day that I have exercised and another tracker for every day I’ve gotten dressed for the day. I’ve also been using a little skinny notebook and taking about twenty minutes each Sunday to organize and plan my outfits for the week. It takes the pressure off each morning and makes my shower/getting routine really fast and easy to complete. As for my nutrition, I also have a small chart where I am tracking my weight loss and have a reasonable goal of losing about 1.5 lbs a week with a “finish line” date of April.

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Do these pictures seem stupid and self-indulgent? You bet! But I am not making any apologies for them because I have had a real, plaguing problem as a home school mom where I will go days and days when we are home all day (usually four days a week) and I won’t wear any make up, fix my hair or wear pants that have zippers.

My family deserves to have me feeling better about myself, more alive, more put-together and more confident in the fact that I am a real person, not just a working machine. It turns out the “get dressed for the day” is what Duhigg would call a keystone habit. That one move means I am making other good choices each day to help my productivity and in working toward other goals. I’ll take it.

As for the “plan something for myself goal each month,” I have a little 12 month-at-a-glance calendar on my pantry wall where I am writing in those plans. This month I have gone to an AWESOME chaplain spouses coffee where we all dressed up in black-tie formalwear and celebrated a fun awards night and I met two friends early one Saturday morning for breakfast and we shared our hearts. I have a February and March thing already lined up too. This isn’t me being selfish, this is me putting on the oxygen mask so I can be a better me, a better wife and mom.

Family Care: I plan to continue being a committed teacher to the kids. I want to stay focused on their overall learning and academic, spiritual and emotional growth. One goal I have is to focus more on each of our children individually. I want to spend more time cultivating each of Thomas, Mae and Kate’s unique interests, gifts and personalities. Ryan and I are planning at least a once-a-month date night for every month of the 2015 year. I am also planning a monthly “Book Report” post and I plan to list the books that I read as well as the one’s my kids read. We heart books around here. I’ll add Ryan’s too if he’s up for it.

For this goal, I have made a real effort to begin spending some intentional one-on-one time with the kids and looking at ways to further highlight each of their strengths. Right now, I am doing a 16 week discipleship study with Mae each Sunday afternoon (Thomas and Kate will get their turns later this year). Kate and her daddy have a special date planned at the end of the month and she and I have been reading up on some things that interest her (The Duggars) as well as baking in the kitchen. I plan to spend some time working through this with Thomas and we have decided to let him go to a “tween” social each month with a group of home schoolers.

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My reading goal is easy because I love it. I have already been busy reading and compiled my January Book Report here. I’m keeping a running list in my household binder as I finish a book I write it down. The kids are keeping book lists too as a part of their school record keeping. They chose for me NOT to share that information here. And I can’t keep up with Ryan’s reading. I think he reads more books than I do.

Ryan and I have had our January date night and I also keep a small calendar in my pantry with that information. Seriously, we can say we want to work on our marriage and invest time in it, but if we aren’t intentional in planning for it in this season of our lives, it has been getting pushed off the list. For my Type-A-ness, that means planning things on a calendar and checking them off.

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The Wood family is also aiming for regular game nights, near-daily dinners around the family table, staying active and having fun in extracurricular activities and sports, going on field trips for our unit studies, and planting a garden straight from packets of seeds. Knowing these things are priorities for our family helps me keep track of what we are doing and where we are spending our time!

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Spiritual Care: This is an area where I have had some clarity over the past few months. I think I have finally come to realize that I can very easily have a tendency to mistake the work (ministry) I do on behalf of Christ as a replacement for the time I spend WITH him. My goal is to take on less in terms of official titles and responsibilities outside of my home as I have come to realize that I often allow the busyness, stresses and administrative components of those responsibilities to overshadow a heart and attitude of worship and reverence for the time I spend reading my Bible.

This area hasn’t been super time consuming but it has rather, been more of an attitude of the heart. I have had some reminders from what I’m reading about spiritual priorities and I have also been reading my Bible early most every morning. This isn’t a chore or drudgery. I wake up hungry to read God’s word and let it penetrate my heart and actions throughout the day. I got the ESV journaling Bible for Christmas and I love it. This year, I’m using this plan to read through the Bible and I’m writing God’s promises toward me in the margins of my new Bible.

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Household duties: Over the past several years it has been important to me to keep our house fairly clean and “company ready.” Our children are finally at ages where this is even possible. One of my greatest passions is opening our home to show hospitality to others. I’ll keep tidying, I’ll keep candles burning and yummy food in the kitchen and hope to continue the practice of entertaining friends and family in our home. (We have a new-to-us dining room table and I plan to write a post about that in a few days!) I will also keep “apprenticing” the three young people in this home and continue to find more ways to pass the torch of some of the household chores. I’ve said for years, my goal as a home maker is to eventually work myself out of a job. I think I hear the couch and some bonbons calling.

One way I’m keeping up with the duties of running a home is by taking about ten minutes on Sunday afternoon to take a look at our coming week and activities. I meal plan accordingly and also use this time to lump errands on the same day and cleaning/house stuff on the same day. I’m finding that even planning out these small details opens up my week and makes my time more efficient.

In terms of hospitality and homemaking, I’m buying fresh flowers at the store (which I have done for years!) and I’m also adding in some new household plants and trying my luck with keeping them alive. There are some profound lessons on growth and nurture I’m learning already. But that’s another blog post for another day! All of us are attempting to stay on top of keeping the house in order so that we are never more than a few minutes of wiping down surfaces and maybe sweeping the floor to be “company ready.” photo 1-5 photo 5-1 photo 4-3

As for the kids chores, they all earn a weekly commission for doing jobs around the house. My goal this year is to spend some focused time teaching them life-long skills for being self sufficient. I started with ironing. They are all three naturals. I let them practice with ironing my table linens. Soon, I’ll let them practice ironing actual clothes. Baby steps. I have 11 other “chores” I plan to teach them; one per month.

These skills take time and practice to perfect. We just keep revisiting them often and pretty soon, I know each of the kids will be not only capable, but also confident! I’m trying to attempt a few new recipes each month. So far I’ve done the Southern Living Chocolate Mayo Cake, Taste of Home’s Mexican Enchilada Lasagna, and tonight we’re having Pioneer Woman’s Chinese Beef and Broccoli. You never know if you like something until you try.

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*****

Writing like it’s my job…

This goal is somewhat difficult for me to write about here publicly. Dreams always sound so ridiculous when you say them out loud. But that’s okay. I’ll keep this one a bit closer to my heart for the time being. I have been busy. I have been up early and up late. My fingers have been dancing on the the keyboard in a very intense and determined fashion. I have a goal. I have an outline. I have chapter titles. I have a word-count that is climbing daily. I have a time-table for finishing, for researching and proposing and submitting. That’s all I will say for now. But I am making it public, and making it happen. 2015 I am coming for you.

This goal in particular has been partly to blame for why I haven’t been writing blog posts very regularly. I have been using all of my words and keystrokes for working on a manuscript. I am happy to say that the first draft is finished. I have a 13 chapter book manuscript and right around 52,000 words. The next steps are to make some necessary revisions and have a small number of handpicked “experts” to read what I have and make suggestions. From there I’ll make more revisions and begin working on a query letter to send out with the completed manuscript. photo 2-4

When I say this out loud or even type it, it sounds so incredibly ridiculous. But I know the dream God has placed in my heart and I know that I am simply walking each step in obedience. That’s all he’s asking of me and it’s the least, and yet most I can do. All I know is that other people can’t read about your mistakes and God’s faithfulness through your trials if you keep all of the words locked up in your head and heart.

*****

Simplicity…

In 2015, I am going to pair my self-care goal of getting dressed for the day with my goal of simplicity by wearing the clothes I already have. At least through the remainder of the winter I am vowing to not buy another clothing or accessory item for myself. I’ll re-evaluate this again in late March when spring is here. If possible, I’d love to keep going through all of the seasons. I plan to report here periodically on how this is going. The same goes for more stuff around the house. We have lived here six months and we have the house like we want it and it is adequately furnished. I will not transfer this shopping into more school related purchases, more kids clothing items, more gadgets.

To be honest, one area of my own weakness, is spending too much time (and thereby, money) at Target and Marshall’s. It is mindless and since I don’t drink alcohol or smoke or gamble or have any other “real” vices, I enjoy treasure hunting at stores like these. I usually leave those places with something I “need” for the house or my closet. But I don’t NEED any of that. There are days that I even feel like finding good deals there or bringing home just one more home decor item or one more pair of shoes or a cute shirt or purse has become an idol in my heart.

I have made two trips to Target this month. One to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy and another to return some blankets I bought for Mae and Kate’s bed that have turned out to be poorly made and shed like crazy. That’s it. No superfluous purchases and ZERO trips to Marshalls and Ross. I won’t lie, I have had about six moments where I was tempted to go, but I took a minute and thought through what was making me want to go there and it turns out I have urges to go there when I am tired or stressed or just want to be alone.

I’ve worn through all of my winter clothes 28 days into the month. I’ve said before I already keep a small wardrobe. I’m constantly pruning and purging. I still plan to wait to purchase any clothing until spring. I’ll just start my line-up of clothes over again and keep wearing what I have. It’s become a real sticking point with me to not keep clothes that I don’t wear, don’t fit or are out of style.

In my quest for simplicity and contentment with what I already have, I have used this time in January to get rid of three different household items we aren’t using anymore. I sold them on Craigslist and said goodbye. Cleaning out clutter!

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I’ve also used this time to complete a household painting project and repair a piece of furniture that wasn’t being used.  Yes, I have my own indoor tool box. And yes, I know how to use it.

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We have found what feels like extra, bonus time. We have made time to visit some nearby attractions and go skating with some friends. We have been to the library each week and had nearly daily free-throw contests on our basketball goal.

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Thomas’s science fair project has inspired all of us and we can’t wait to see which variety of radish grows best here in our yard.

photo 2-6 We have also had time to welcome some special guests to our house. We’re so glad Mimi and Papa were able to come for the weekend and see the kids at Upward and join us for our Sunday chapel service. photo 3-6

Truly, there’s much to be gained when things are simplified and smooth. I am grateful for a full January. It has been a month on purpose. For the first time in a very long time I feel like I’m making good use of my time and investing it where I feel the Lord has called me to invest it.

Using lists, planning, goals and action steps I feel like I’m in a position where I am happening to my life again and it’s just not happening to me. Without purpose and intention, I just seem to flounder.

I’m so thankful for the simplicity AND gravitas of the lesson my seven year old taught me with her cartwheel.

My youngest daughter, who is seven, has a goal.   For over a year now, she has had a good grasp on the technique, strength-required and fun that can be found in doing a cartwheel.   Her new goal: do a one-handed cartwheel.   She hasn’t just made a passing statement that she wants to learn a one-handed cartwheel.   She has been flipping and twirling and practicing a one-handed cartwheel over and over and over almost every day.

 That’s what I intend to do in 2015. Over and over and over. Almost every day. For I know that big things really do happen one day at a time. I can’t wait to see what the sum of all the parts of 2015 adds up to at the end of the year!

 *****

What are your goals and dreams for this year? It’s still just January. It’s not too late to start putting action to your hopes. Where do you see yourself at the end of 2015?

 
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8 thoughts on “big things happen one day at a time

  1. Meghan Cobble says:

    Doing a lot of the same in my neck of the “wood”s. I am busting you up with high fives…smackity-smack-smack.

    The dreaming thing. It’s huge. And, yes it feels weird to say out loud.

    But…

    That’s how one-handed cartwheels happen.

    Go, sister!

    Like

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