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Entries in New Year (16)

Thursday
Jan242019

Busy, Busy

Insightful and practical, Susan K. Stewart challenges women to consider what they're doing in light of God's Word. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she asks us to consider the busyness in our lives, and if there might be a better approach to goals.

"By the end of 2016, I was tired," Susan says. "I accomplished many of my goals. I had a stack of check-offed to-do list. I had been busy. Why did I feel as those I hadn’t accomplished anything?"

Oh, I (Dawn) know a lot about checked off lists. I've lived by them since I was a child. But Susan makes me think—is there a better way?

Susan continues . . .

I had accomplished a lot that year:

  • published an award-winning book,
  • spoke at national conferences,
  • taught classes online,
  • and many other achievements, which say "success".

I met my goals for the year.

That’s was the problem. I had met my goals.

Each year we are bombarded with resolutions, goals, and focus words. We are encouraged to plan out our year for success.

Midway through the year, just as we begin to think we’ve failed, more articles and podcasts land in our email boxes telling us how to pick up the goals we haven’t finished and move forward.

Even Christian material tells us how to make plans and we can accomplish them. It might be a three-step list or a twelve-step program. The point is, “make a plan and work the plan.”

This can seem like a circle of life—no, more like a race track of life with no finish line.

I needed not just a pit stop; I needed off the track.

Here are some of the ways I’ve conquered the busyness.

1. Don’t buy a planner.

If you already have one, put it at the bottom of the bottom drawer.

We can become slaves to the lists and boxes. It can steal our joy in what we do.

I choose to have a plain calendar. Once a box is full, I don’t schedule anything thing else for that day.

2. Nix the goals and resolutions.

Instead, determine your priorities for the year. And it’s fine if you have the same priorities each year.

Some people tell me priorities are the same as goals. I don’t think so.

The month of July, my priority is my granddaughter’s visit. It’s not a goal; she comes every year. Those tasks take second chair to my priority.

3. Limit the number of items on a to-do list.

I have sticky pad to-do lists. It has space for four items. That’s truly manageable, there’s no space to keep adding on.

I don’t take the top sheet off until I’ve completed the tasks on it. I do add items to the next pages, but I don’t see them until I get there.

Long term projects get their own four-item to-do lists, which I pull out only when I’m working on that project.

Without a long to-do list I don’t feel overwhelmed, and I have a sense of accomplishment with each sticky note I pull off.

These are some tangible ideas how to not be bogged down in the endless cycle of resolutions, goals, and failure. They help me keep perspective on my day and my life. I feel more in control.

But this list in not the real answer.

Henry David Thoreau said, "It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?"

I answer this question each time I get bogged down in accomplishments, when I think I should be doing more, when I’m tired of being busy. Yes, it happens even with the above steps.

Jesus was busy about doing good and His Father’s will.

  • Yes, He got tired.
  • Yes, He needed to draw away from the daily tasks to rest.
  • Yes, He needed to spend time with God the Father.

We are told by Jeremiah God has a plan for us, a plan for good.

God's plan doesn’t require to-do lists and goals, and it doesn’t leave us exhausted.

God’s plan also has hope and future. What more do we need? (Jeremiah 29:11)

The reason 2016 was so exhausting and lacked fulfillment is I was working from MY goals and plans. I was busy about busy work, instead of doing good and God’s will.

For those of us who need a final step, it is this:

4. Seek His kingdom first (Matthew. 6:33), and make it your priority.

God will add what you need to your to-do list.

Which of these action steps could help you get off the busy-busy treadmill right now? What can you do to seek the Lord and do more of His will?

Susan K. Stewart teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. She is known for practical solutions to real-world situations. Susan is senior nonfiction editor with Elk Lake Publishing, blog content manager for Mount Hermon Writers Conference blog, and has published five books. Susan lives in Central Texas with her husband, Bob, three dogs, three cats, nine chickens, and two donkeys. Discover more about Susan's ministry at www.practicalinspirations.com.

 

Thursday
Jan172019

What Makes Bite-sized Upgrades Work?

I have written about UPGRADING our lives since 2013, and in that process, the Lord has shown me how to cooperate with Him to upgrade my own life.

In that process I've also learned an important lesson:  

Personal upgrades can be overwhelming.

It's true no matter what we're tackling:

  • weight loss,
  • toning our bodies,
  • creating a more joyful or contented spirit,
  • moving forward without fear toward a personal goal or dream,
  • learning to be a better parent or grandparent,
  • becoming a prayer warrior,
  • making decisions that lead toward financial freedom,
  • and a host of other upgrade choices!

In a very practical way, personal UPGRADES begin with a choice toward a goal, and then we break down that goal into small (bite-sized) action steps.

Case in point: I wrote on Facebook recently that helping some loved ones pack and move motivated me to clean out my home of my own overflow of "stuff."

I decided:

  1. I no longer use or want many things that still are cluttering my shelves, cabinets and garage—why am I keeping them?
  2. I want to move forward into new adventures and new ministries, and don't want to be "encumbered" by unnecessary and distracting clutter.
  3. I do not want to leave so much "stuff" to my children to dispose of—so this became a "legacy issue" for me.

But considering this UPGRADE goal, I soon became overwhelmed with the thought of the "how" of making that change.

But then that old adage—"How do you eat an elephant?"—came to mind.

We "eat an elephant" one bite at a time!

One bite.

So what was my "one bite" for clearing out the clutter? I decided I could manage one box per week to Amvets or some other charity. That would equal 52 boxes of "clutter" and unused-but-useful items gone from my home in one year!

I am tackling weight loss the same way. Losing all the weight I need to lose is overwhelming, but I can choose bite-sized goals for each day.

I want to write a book this year. It feels daunting. But the Lord is giving me some bite-sized goals, and my "elephant" doesn't seem so huge.

Now this is not a new insight. The "eat an elephant" example has been around for a long time.

But what makes it powerful is when we take action.

Author Pam Farrel recently wrote about the many action steps the Proverbs 31 woman took that changed her life, enabled her to bless others, and earned her well-deserved praise.

Pam even wrote an action planner to encourage wise action steps.

We have to take that one bite... and another... and another.

The key to bite-sized actions making a difference is PERSEVERANCE!

We need to stick to it—or as Pam Farrel says—"Get It Done, Girl!"

  • We can't make a resolution and forget it the next week.
  • We can't make a decision and then back away.
  • We can't set a goal and then suddenly think it doesn't matter.

Perseverance is a steady pursuit of a goal or a repeated action despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

It includes tenacity, determination, resolve, purposefulness, courage, endurance and staying power.

With that in mind, I will persevere in cleaning out my home, losing weight, and writing a book in 2019.

The Bible encourages in this regard. It speaks much about practical perseverance in the Christian life.

One of the scriptures currently motivating my life is to be a "doer" of the Word and not a "hearers"  only (James 1:22-24).

A successful life doesn't grow out of hearing and nodding in agreement or even expressing good intentions.

To be a success, we must take action and persevere.

Even when it's hard.

Even when it takes courage.

The more we persevere in our walk with God, the more God teaches and blesses us, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to continue to persevere! Christians should desire to persevere and cooperate with the Spirit as He works to change our hearts and make us more like Jesus!

Ask yourself this question:

"What is God trying to accomplish in my life, and how can I cooperate with Him in complete surrender and obedience?

Then ask,

"How can I make little decisions every day—bite-sized upgrades—to persevere in that cooperation?"

It is perseverance in the right direction and with effective actions that make our intended upgrades work!

What upgrades do you want to make this year? What bite-sized choice can you make today ... and tomorrow ... and all year long?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts  and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jan152019

Happy Productive New Year

Pam Farrel is one of the most "get it done" women I know. In this New Year UPGRADE, she desires to help us be "get it done" women too!

"Achievement, attainment and accomplishment feel GREAT!" Pam says. "Completion brings a certain satisfaction and fulfillment, especially if our goals and tasks positively impact our life."

I (Dawn) have personally seen how many accomplishments Pam has made over the years. She must have some secret, I thought. Turns out, she does! And she's sharing it here.

Pam continues . . .

Our productivity has even more value when it means that other people are blessed and built up too. When our accomplishments encourage and equip others, the joy is multiplied!

People sometimes ask me, “How did you write and publish 46+ books, speak almost every week, run a ministry, keep a vibrant marriage, raise three great kids, build a wonderful friendship circle and keep your home in order?

Honestly, I was inspired long ago by the Proverbs 31 woman.

While I recognize this description of a godly woman was penned as a tribute and likely covered the accomplishments of her lifetime, while studying the passage, one VITAL trait consistently popped off the page:

The Proverbs 31 woman didn’t just hope, dream, wish or plan—the girl took ACTION!

Let’s look at this famous passage. (I have emphasized the action verbs):

An excellent wife who can find?

    She is far more precious than jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,

    and he will have no lack of gain.

12 She does him good, and not harm,

    all the days of her life.

13 She seeks wool and flax,

    and works with willing hands.

14 She is like the ships of the merchant;

    she brings her food from afar.

15 She rises while it is yet night

    and provides food for her household

    and portions for her maidens.

16 She considers a field and buys it;

    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

17 She dresses herself with strength

    and makes her arms strong.

18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

    Her lamp does not go out at night.

19 She puts her hands to the distaff,

    and her hands hold the spindle.

20 She opens her hand to the poor

    and reaches out her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,

    for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

22 She makes bed coverings for herself;

    her clothing is fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is known in the gates

    when he sits among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them;

    she delivers sashes to the merchant.

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,

    and she laughs at the time to come.

26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,

    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

27 She looks well to the ways of her household

    and does not eat the bread of idleness.

THE RESULT

And what is the positive outcome of her proactive action plan?

28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;

    her husband also, and he praises her:

29 “Many women have done excellently,

    but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,

    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,

    and let her works praise her in the gates.

In summary . . .

  • Her kids rave about their awesome mom;
  • her husband proclaims her strength, value, talent, and character;
  • she is held up as a role model of virtue and godliness, a woman to be praised by people; and
  • best yet, her OWN WORKS—those accomplished tasks and the character developed in the pursuit—provide an extra dose of praise!

Inspired by her diligent action, I thought,

“How can I replicate this hard-working woman’s 'get it done' style?”

In Get It Done, Girl! Maximizing Your Moments Action Planner, I share a simple acrostic that helps me plan and then take A.C.T.I.O.N.

A—Ask God.

Invite the Creator to give you a heavenly perspective. 

I begin each day asking Him to order the steps of my day. By taking the time to pray, it has helped me recall a person, an opportunity, a need, or inspired a creative thought for a book, a blog or a business.

C—Clear the “Must Do’s.”

I keep the Due Date next to each task in my action planner and also, as a reminder, on my phone’s calendar.  

I ask, “Which of the many things I have written has the worst consequence for inaction?” I mark these MUST DOs with a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in order of priority.

T—Tackle Tough Tasks.

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day.

Your “frog” is the most vital task each day.

I try to handle the hardest things early in the day—then I greatly reward myself!

I—Invest in the Future.

At this point, I get to select the tasks and actions to make progress on. 

For bigger projects,

  • I break them down into more bite-sized portions,
  • assign due dates,
  • then select time blocks to work on these items.

I track my projects and try to make forward movement.

O—Organize Space and Personal Life.

Being organized can lower your daily stress and raise your productivity.

You can either:

  • pay a maid,
  • delegate chores to your children—which helps them grow up to be responsible adults,
  • or handle your tasks yourself.

The key to our happy, long-lasting marriage is this:

The one who has the RESPONSIBILITY has the AUTHORITY to handle that task, their way, their time, with their creative ingenuity.

And the spouse’s role is to THANK and APPLAUD their mate for handling the job.

N—Nurture Those I Love.

Just because you are a “Get It Done, Girl” kind of woman doesn’t mean you are all work and no play! 

The most productive people I know have a healthy work/play balance. Their motivation for the work is to provide, protect and bring a peaceful environment to their life and family.

A happy family is a more productive family.

And while we are talking about nurturing, treat yourself as kindly as your Heavenly Father would treat you.

How can you press in and take not procrastinate? What in this blog will help you take A.C.T.I.O.N. so those in your life arise to bless you?

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, author of the Get It Done, Girl: Maximize Your Moments Action Plannerher 47th book. She and her husband, Bill, are Co-Directors of Love-Wise. To help with your productivity, in their book 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make there is a list of what chores and responsibilities children and teens can handle by their age and stage of life. In Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, the Farrels share how they divide and delegate work, ministry, home and family responsibilities.

Thursday
Jan032019

Looking Back to Look Forward

Kathy Carlton Willis is a life trailblazer. As her bio reads, she "shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow." And so you can move forward. In this New Year UPGRADE she writes about two "looks"—the look backward and the look forward.

Kathy says, “It’s not possible to move forward while looking back, but it’s also not possible to move forward without having first looked back.

"Looking back allows you the opportunity to leave it there. The good and the bad."

I (Dawn) love the opportunity Kathy gives us to prepare ourselves for our best year ever. Lots of wisdom here.

Kathy continues . . .

The past is only baggage that will weigh you down moving forward. It’s futile to expect passion to be enough for productivity in living out your purpose for 2019 until you properly put 2018 to bed.

Do you have any annual practices as you transition from the old year to the new year? Or would you like to start a new tradition this year?

It’s a great time to look back (to learn from the past) and to look forward (to set new goals).

Some choose to ask God to give them a focus word or phrase for the year. This practice allows you to have a main purpose or perspective as you navigate the next twelve months.

One way to prepare for the New Year is to:

  • look back on the old year,
  • address any unfinished business hanging on in your heart or mind,
  • and then ask God to help you move forward, ready for what He has planned for you in 2019.

Steps to Looking Back Well

1. Be honest with yourself.

Many women tend to downplay the good things and magnify the bad.

2. Identify the positive highlights of the year.

Why do they stand out in your mind? What was your part in the outcome? How did you see God at work in the circumstance, or in your heart and mind?

3. Let go of the disappointments of the year.

What do you regret? How were you let down? How did something negative impact your year?

What can you do to move past it?

4. Repent of anything left unconfessed from 2018.

  • Look upon your sinful choices with remorse and learn from them.
  • Consider ways to choose godly options next time.
  • Accept God’s forgiveness and ask God to change any lingering tendencies that might cause you to give in to unholy thoughts or actions in the future.

5. Recall the hard times you endured that had good outcomes.

Thank God for equipping you with the endurance needed to persevere.

As you say goodbye to 2018 and say hello to 2019, take some time to grieve the losses of the year and celebrate the victories.

Do something monumental and memorable to mark this moment. This prepares you to move forward.

“Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given” (1 Chronicles 16:12 NLT.

Now it’s time to release 2018 and enter into 2019 with full resolve!

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT).

Steps to Looking Forward Willingly

1. Decide what to do about unfinished projects.

What was left unfinished in 2018?

How do you plan to make room for it in 2019? Or is this a goal that you need to let go?

2. Evaluate what new thing God is impressing on you as you pray for direction in the new year.

How will you incorporate that into your plan?

3. Identify distractions, doubts and disabilities.

What limitations might impair you, moving forward?

How can you set up a plan to work around these concerns?

4. Work within your heart-core passion.

What project excites you? How can you make more room in your life for it?

5. Reserve more margin or white space in your life.

How will this refuel you?

What might you do to guard against draining to-dos threatening to crowd this space?

6. Ask God to show you the goals He has for your 2019.

  • What will help you grow spiritually, personally, and professionally?
  • What will benefit your family and friends?
  • What will put you in a place of service and ministry?
  • And mostly, what will bring glory to God?

The blank 2019 calendar represents you emptied out and ready to be filled up with God and His goals for you.

How will you fill your calendar (and your life) this year?

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with Grace; and she is featured on CBN. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with their adorable Boston Terrier, Hettie.

Graphic Adapted, courtesy of JakeMelara at Unsplash.

Tuesday
Jan022018

Goals to Dig Deeper in Your Faith

Almost from the moment I met Cathy Horning, I knew two things about her: She loves the Word of God, and she is a powerful encourager. In this New Year's UPGRADE, she encourages us to dig into the Word and grow our faith.

“Happy 2018! It’s a New Year, and my very favorite holiday,” Cathy says. “A time to remember. To reflect. To look ahead. To refocus. To prioritize. To set goals.”

That sounds like a big order, but I (Dawn) think Cathy knows how to fill that order!

Cathy continues . . .

I was surprised to discover, as the holiday season ramped up this past fall, a yearning in my soul. A quiet ache. A longing to go deeper in my faith.

In the flurry of activities, I realized I was being swept along the river of life by the relentless currents of an extremely full and demanding schedule.

If you have ever been river rafting, you know what I mean.

One of my fondest memories is riding an inner tube on the Salt River in Arizona. On hot, summer days, my friends and I kept cool as we were carried down the river by the strong current. Occasionally, we were even pulled into an eddy along the way, and were forced to paddle our way out to keep from being stuck there or, worse yet, being pulled under.

Floating down a river is great fun! But, it’s not a place you want to stay!

So, as the new year approached, I knew I wanted off my raft of busyness—to paddle away from dangerous eddies, to swim out of my river, and to plant my feet on solid ground.

I needed a plan:

  • to stop being swept along by the currents of busyness,
  • to avoid the dangers of a spiritual eddy,
  • to be intentional, and
  • to stop drifting along.

Instead, I wanted to be firmly planted on fertile soil, and to go down deeper in my roots of faith. 

The New Year seemed the perfect time. Although, to some, it is simply the next day on a calendar, to me the New Year is very special. It is an opportunity to begin again. To start afresh, with a clean slate.

And in my own story, it has been a time of momentous life changes.

It is the holiday when I surrendered my life to Jesus at a midnight church service, 39 years ago. Then four years later, it became the holiday when I walked down another church aisle and became a new wife.

So, for me, the New Year is a time to celebrate not only a clean slate, but also new life.

For four decades now, my faith and my family have grown! Each year has brought many changes like children, moves, teenagers, college, weddings, travel, grand-babies, aging parents, and so much more.

However, with the changes have come challenges. And the challenges of the past few years have found me in survival mode.

You know, going through the motions. Doing the right things. Getting by.

My faith remained steady, yet my soul was not satisfied.

Thus, the longing to go deeper, instead of simply holding steady or just staying afloat.

This year, that is going to change. I will no longer be swept along or, worse yet, become stagnant and stale. As I prayerfully considered my goals, I chose ways to dig deeper in my faith. In order to achieve this, I came up with three simple goals.

In 2018 I choose to—

1. Spend More Time in God’s Word

  • I will spend more dedicated time in God’s Word, reading, studying, listening to, meditating on and memorizing it.
  • I will reserve set times for social media, because, honestly, it is one of the strongest currents which robs me of going deeper.

2. Pray Bigger and Bolder Prayers

  • I will take each worry and turn it into prayer.
  • My prayer requests will be bigger and bolder.

I will not allow myself to get stuck in an eddy of worry. Instead, I will ask, and praise God, for audacious answers which will bring Him glory!

3. Listen To and Follow My Shepherd More Closely  

  • I will more intentionally seek to listen for the Lord’s direction throughout my day.
  • I will follow His lead, even if it is contrary to my own plans and inclinations.
  • I will not be swept away in the currents of routine and order or by the imagined urgency and needs of others.

“Now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots go down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7 NLT).

Dear friend, this New Year, let’s be on our guard against being swept along by the currents of life. Or, worse yet, getting stuck or pulled down in an eddy.

What goals can you make and what intentional steps can you take to dig deeper in your own walk of faith?

Cathy Horning loves the Word of God. Nothing brings her greater joy than encouraging women how to walk in His ways. She is a popular speaker, blogger, and writer, as well as a beloved wife, mom, Grammy, mentor, encourager and friend. Her first two books will be released in 2018. Learn more about Cathy here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Marboon at Pixabay.