How Your Short Term Decisions Make {or Break} Your Long Term Goals

While texting a friend, I had a crazy flashback this week that threw me back a decade or two… maybe I’d not like to admit how long ago it was… but it threw me back a good many years to when I was learning to drive. I remember being at a friend’s house one evening in our neighborhood and admitting to a kid a year or two younger than me (named Thomas, who, oddly enough, should not have known how to drive yet at this point) that I was struggling with keeping the car going straight down the road in Driver’s Ed. I felt like I was constantly making these tiny corrections, constantly turning the wheel, and it just didn’t feel right.

With all the wisdom of (I guess) a fourteen year old or so, Thomas said:

“If you want to drive straight, you can’t look at the road right in front of you. You have to look further down the road.”

The next time I got behind the wheel, I put wise young Thomas’s words into practice. I found that when I looked further down the road, I stopped making all those tiny jerking adjustments and corrections to try to make sure my tires were right between the lines, and found that as I kept my focus further down the road, I naturally steered the car exactly where I wanted it to go.

You might already know: I’m one of those crazy people who homeschool their kids. And I’m constantly inundated with ideas, methods and curriculum choices. When you’re just getting started, it can be so overwhelming you almost don’t want to homeschool at all. You can homeschool online, in a co-op, with the Classical method or the Charlotte Mason method, with Classical Conversations (my favorite), with methods that are student driven and based on the child’s interests… there’s even un-schooling. Yep, that’s totally a thing.

But the challenge in midst of the tendency to constantly want to jerk the wheel back and forth in response to this trend or that New York Times article is to focus “on down the road” and think about what the real goals are, what the non-negotiables are, and to plan from there.

I’ve fallen in love the Read-Aloud Revival site, and was listening to a class this week where I was encouraged by this G.K. Chesterton quote:

Just now there is a tendency to forget that the school is only a preparation for the home, and not the home a mere jumping off place for the school.

What in all that is good and fluffy does that mean? Well, we sometimes tend to forget that education is just a part of the process for preparing children to grow up and contribute to society and be responsible adults and (if we’re Christians) hopefully do with their lives what God created them to do. But what do we really want for children when they grow up? It often goes without saying (and therefore doesn’t get said) we most of all want our children to be happy, well-adjusted adults with a good family life.

Yes, we want them to be able to pay their bills and earn a living, but we know deep down that if we have raised selfish or greedy kids who expect things handed to them, they are not going to have a peaceful life at home, and one way or another, that’s going to catch up with them.

But how about if the goal is what the Westminster Catechism says? “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

When I have the glory of God in mind for my kids, I don’t skip over our morning devotional time at the beginning of our homeschool day — because I remember that these kids knowing Jesus is, in the light of eternity, more important than anything else on the to-do list. Yes, we will do school, but first? Jesus.

So, question:

Where do you want to go? What do you want to have accomplished in five or ten years? Because whatever your long-term goal, your short-term decisions will make or break you getting there.

If you want that book published, can you make it a habit to write a few hundred words every day to help get you there?

If you want a happy marriage, can you start asking your spouse what you can do to help make their day better? And doing it?

The problem is, the methods and tips and tricks at our fingertips aren’t just for homeschooling. We are all constantly inundated with options and ideas and the next way to get there fast. Wherever there is. If we are constantly trying to keep our metaphorical wheels between the lines by making those adjustments and corrections, because they say you should… and we’re blowing with every breeze pop culture tells us is the way to get there, we will find ourselves swerving all over the road.

And possibly hitting mailboxes.

Or parked cars.

So ask yourself a question about your life you should probably ask yourself when you get behind the wheel of the car: Where am I going and how am I going to get there? Like…

I’m on a journey to lose weight so I’m going to make sure thirty minutes of exercise are a part of my daily routine.

I’m on a journey to be more generous to those in need, so I’ll make coffee at home, and each of those $3 lattes will add up to enough to sponsor a child with Compassion or World Vision.

I’m on a journey declutter my home, so I’m going to spend ten minutes a day, going through the house section by section until I get there. (If that is actually a goal the step-by-step in this book is a really helpful tool.)

I’m on a journey to find a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus, so I’m going to read two chapters of the Bible every evening, and spend ten minutes in prayer every morning…

Once you know where you want to go, you can focus your eyes down the road on that goal, and give some thought to the plan for getting yourself there.

This is the way the writer to the Hebrews put it:

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! {Hebrews 12:1-3, The Message}

As we consider in the week to come, that Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, which led to the Holy Week that led to the cross, remember that Jesus knew where He was going. And He endured the trials necessary to cross the finish line, to achieve the thing no one else could achieve, but everyone else could benefit from. He fixed His eyes on the finish line. And we should fix our eyes on Him.

Don’t let the short term, day to day decisions blow in the breeze of what the world thinks you should do with your one precious life. Because the sum total of those short term decisions? That will be your whole life. Lived one day at a time.

Fix your eyes on the God who never took His eyes off you. With His glory at the center of the dreams and the goals, anything is possible.

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Heads up! This post, like some posts on my site, contains affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love! 


What I’ve Learned About Trust From Math Worksheets

“I am ready to accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”*

—Said by Not Me…

Hypothetical Question that I’m sure is not based in anybody’s actual reality for ya:

How does a person go from being totally worried that they won’t be able to make it through what happens tomorrow (if any of the things they fear were to happen tomorrow did) to a place where they feel like they can face anything?

I may have figured out the answer while looking at my kids’ Math worksheets.

Hi, my name is Caroline and I’m a homeschooling Mom. You probably knew that already.

Right now, I have a “Third Grader” and a “Kindergartener,” but if you are also inside the special world of homeschooling, you probably know that those are flexible terms.

My Kindergartener (almost always) totally loves Math. He gets excited about Math time, wants to breeze through two or three lessons in one sitting, and is overall just enjoying the subject at this point.

We’re just a few lessons away from finishing his curriculum for the school year, so I’m stretching it out a bit by tossing in a few extra “fun” practice worksheets in between. Usually these take the form of “Color by Number Addition.” Total fodder for developing the next Isaac Newton, right?

In case you decide to study that worksheet and discover some errors, be warned: the goal here isn’t perfection, it’s practice!

The third grader, on the other hand, isn’t super stoked about Math at present. The lessons are more involved, and they involve some analytical thinking, some brain-stretching, and generally a bit more focus than this kid is used to investing in schoolwork. (Because it mostly just comes easily for him.)

In the lesson above, I wrote down a thought to help this particular Math student remember not to try to solve a problem without first understanding what he was trying to figure out. Note to self, this is an extremely important life lesson worth writing about another day…

Okay. So you know the players: kindergartener and third grader. Now this, is the game.

Kindergartener totally wants to do third grader’s work. But? He’s not ready for third grader’s work. If you still need practice at addition, you’re probably not ready for division. Third grader doesn’t want to do third grader’s work. Because? It’s stretching him and that makes him uncomfortable.

Where do I fit in? I have a special privilege, as the parent, of making the judgment calls, and saying “Sorry kindergartener, but you’re a kindergartener, and we’re gonna keep working on what we’re working on. When we can, we’ll include you in the Math games third grader and I play, and we’ll eventually get to that third grade stuff. We just need to press on with the kindergarten stuff. For now.”

Now, sometimes, just so you know, even with the kindergartener, we arrive at a place where we don’t want to do what we need to do. Feel free to examine Exhibit C, below.

Kindergartener wasn’t really interested in working on this Math Lizard today. Math Iguana? Math reptile. He kind of just didn’t feel like it. But I was confident he had the skills (and he was allowed to use the abacus) and I wanted him to press through the I don’t feel like it’s and put some effort into it.

I didn’t give the kindergartener a third grade worksheet, but I did give him a challenge that I believed he could handle. When he tried to avoid said Math sheet in favor of playing legos, we sat down and had a little pep talk, where I told him I believed he was able to do it, if he tried, and I encouraged him with some strategies for getting it done.

I gave him the short term (pre-snack time) goal of getting all the questions on the lizard done, and with strategy and motivation, he achieved that goal before the banana was sliced and peeled.

Are you getting impatient for me to tie this together? Great, me too.

In my finite wisdom, I still recognize the importance of the process. In the Classical Conversations neck of the woods, we often talk about “Trusting the Process.” Another tangent for another day but grab this key thought: a lot of things, including our own hearts and souls, are in process. And in God’s infinite wisdom, I imagine He has a handle on what that process is supposed to look like.

Pause on this slice of Scripture with me:  “Now may the God of peace […] equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” {Hebrews 13:20a & 21}

The “Easy-to-Read” Version (yes, that’s a thing) actually says, “I pray that the God of peace will give you every good thing you need so that you can do what he wants.”

What an idea! God will give you what you need, so you can do what He wants.

Trust the process.

Maybe in some areas of your life you’re dying to jump into Advanced Calculus, but there’s a reason God’s holding you steady on Algebra right now.

Maybe in some areas of your life you feel like God has you doing Advanced Calculus and you wish you could go back to Algebra. Like, yesterday, please God, and thank you very much.

But if I, with my simple little finite mind am able to recognize in my own children how to foster the process of their growth, in our conversations, in our reading choices, and yes, in our Math studies, how much more can I trust our All-Knowing, All-Loving, great God who is our Father, to foster a process of growth in my life to help me become who He created me to be?

Can you see the possibilities truly believing that opens up in your soul?

You could trust that whatever happened — from that time you ran into a neighbor’s mailbox while dropping off a kid at a friend’s house (oh, wait, that was me!) to that time your boss called you into his office to tell you he just didn’t think you were doing a decent job (also me) — was part of God’s process.

And all that hard change we talked about yesterday: losing loved ones, moving towns, finishing school or watching kids leave the nest, you could trust that God’s hand was right there, you could trust that He could work all of it together for your good.

How much would that change our perspectives on change?

If we truly trusted God with our process, with all the days of our lives, then we might somehow come to a place where we could wholeheartedly say:

“I am ready to accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”*

— Originally said by Mother Teresa, but maybe someday also you and me…

Believing God is there, able to do great things with all the hard, the scary, the change? Could change everything.

The kindergartener made some great progress on that Math Reptile today. Tomorrow, I’ll gently hand it to him again, and if he’s willing to trust me enough to listen and give it his best, I think tomorrow it might be filled out, colored in, and we’ll continue with the process.

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*Mother Teresa, as quoted in Come Be My Light {Read This Book!}

This post, like some posts on my site, contains affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love! And a small disclaimer: we loved Mr. Stink but there’s a little bit of potty talk. Make it a read-aloud and skip that part! (wink)


Before You Put Your Behind in the Year That’s Past

I’ve heard there are just a few things in this world that you can watch and watch and never grow tired of watching: Falling snow, waves at the beach, and babies. Maybe there’s one or two more, but there’s definitely babies.

And I have a 14-month-old one that has taught me a few things, when I’ve given her some focused attention. She has this funny little habit that I don’t remember the others having — silly as it sounds, I’m always surprised when each new kid is unique and different and not a miniature version of the older kid in our crew of the same gender. Anyway, she has this habit of picking things up, observing them ever-so-briefly (guess they aren’t things you can watch forever) and then just chucking them behind her with gusto before moving on.

Get out of my way, Baby Einstein book!

Move off, My Little Pony!

Sayonara, xylophone! 

She once managed to snatch the bib off of her little neck and turf it with such impressive NBA-behind-the-back-pass skill, it landed perfectly in the space between her little high chair booster seat and the chair it is strapped to.

I’m going somewhere with this, so let me just move on and tell you when this little habit of hers is the most amusing. When our beloved little Kittycat is in the bathtub, and loses interest in a toy in the tub, she promptly says Get Behind Me! and gives it her characteristic behind the back toss. But the movement creates a bit of a whirlpool, so give it a few seconds, and the rubber duck she’s chucked behind her back will be back in front of her again.

Which is kind of a lot like life, am I right?

Maybe you’re ready to put the year that’s past behind you. Maybe things didn’t shake out the way you’d hoped. You didn’t achieve the dreams or accomplish the goals. Maybe you lost a relationship or a job or even someone you loved.

I have one Hero of a Hubs who was pretty ready to tell 2016 not to let the back door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha. (Except he’s not southern so it would’ve sounded way more posh.)

But knowing that rubber duck of a year hasn’t disappeared just because I threw it behind my back in the bathtub, I’ve been asking myself questions. Now that I’ve made another trip around the sun, what have I learned? What do I need to do differently if I want different results at the end of this collection of 365 days? And what do I need to have in my soul so that the hard and the hurt don’t come back to haunt me?

Back in December, I had the chance to catch up with an old friend who lives a couple of hours away — one of those friends with whom, although two years have passed since you’ve seen them, you still pick up right where you left off. We got on the subject of processing our childhoods, and she shared that she and her sister had completely different perspectives on their lives growing up, even though they were in the same house with the same parents, and they’re quite close in age.

Their different recollections of experiences prompted her sister to ask once:

“Were you even there?”

And I filed that thought away with a question: what is it that can make two different humans walk through the same experience and take away two completely different things?

Last night I came across these words in this book and wondered if they might be a big part of the answer:

What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.*

What you remember and how you remember it.

What you remember and how you remember it.

Will I simply remember 2016 as the year I didn’t accomplish a lot of the goals I set for myself — or the year I wrote my first book proposal, did some great stuff with my kids, and listened to Jesus trying to help me understand faithfulness?

Will 2016 stick in my head only as the year we said goodbye to my precious, amazing father-in-law, or will I remember it as the year the Lord gave us three more wonderful weeks with him — which in incredibly glorious timing ended just days before he breathed his last breaths?

Is anyone expecting to arrive at the end of the year to say, “Wow, that totally went exactly how I planned it?” Because — really? And…is that the life you really want?

In a fallen, broken, heart-breaking world, perhaps the weight on the scale shouldn’t weigh as heavily on your heart as the weight of your mission. What in the world are you here for? Are you welcoming His glorious goodness in? Pouring it out with love?

I just finished this profoundly powerful book, Come Be My Light. It’s filled with the private writings of Mother Teresa — letters she wrote, things she often said, woven together with the story of her calling and her journey toward Jesus. One of her many firm resolutions was:

I am ready to accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a Big Smile.**

Knowing the deep interior trials she journeyed through (I’m sure this will be more fodder for conversation in another post), it is an incredible act of faith for her to say these words.

For now, I just want to challenge you with this thought. Before the year that has passed is long and far behind you, join me, and let’s ask our souls a few questions:

What did I learn in 2016? What can I celebrate and give thanks for?

Where do I feel I missed the boat in 2016? What should I repent for? Are there people I need to ask forgiveness of?

What’s the one thing that strikes me most deeply about 2016, and how can I process it and move forward? Is there a loss I need to give myself permission to grieve? A mistake (or several) I need to forgive myself for? Somewhere I need to work for reconciliation? Does it seem like something was missing last year that I need to start looking for?

It challenged me deeply to consider that it’s not so much what happens as what you remember and how you remember it. I hope you can list out a string of blessings and gifts from the year that passed twice as long as a list of grievances… and guide your one precious heart to move forward well, joyfully, gratefully into the year that is to come.

Soak in these words deeply, friends, and ask Jesus to help you live them…

Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life. {Prov. 4:23, NLT}

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*Gabriel García Márquez, quoted by Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way. (36)

**Mother Teresa in Come Be My Light, (235).

My posts sometimes contain affiliate links. Today I’ve included a few of my most favorite recent reads (some mentioned in this post) which are in a banner below. When you click on those links to make your purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!


One Great Way to Unwrap Presence This Christmas

Each year, with more little eyes and more little ears and more little feet padding their way around our nest, I’ve been hungry to find traditions that would celebrate this most wonderful time of the year with reverence and sincerity. The commercialism seems to get bolder. The advertising seems to get better. And a few weeks ago, my eldest asked if he could start working on his wish list with some help from Amazon. Again.

We do our best to do give our children some {read: not a lot of} meaningful, purposeful gifts this season (I’m planning another post to share some of our favorite useful/educational ideas with you) but what I don’t want Christmas to be all about at the Collie house is presents.

I keep asking this one thing:

How do we glorify the Presence and de-emphasize the presents?

We’ll hang lights and remember the Light coming into our dark world.

An ever-green tree will go up, and we’ll remember the One who died on a tree, and how that tree gives us ever-lasting life.

I’m hungry to communicate the greatness of this incredible Presence — the arrival of the Messiah. This changes everything.  This is why we want to lead lives that honor God. This is why we want to show kindness to the least of these.

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Years ago, I tried creatively placing the little elf around the house. It just wasn’t a good fit. I’ve watched in subsequent years as folks decorated with powdered sugar footprints, came up with creative stunts, and competed to post the best imagery of elf shenanigans on social media. For us, it continued to emphasize the presents. Be good for the presents. The elf is watching. I just couldn’t put so much effort into something that –for me– felt like it was pointing away from the place I was trying to direct these little hearts’ attention.

Could there be a bright alternative?

Could we aim to de-emphasize the stacks of presents? Because this Presence — it’s the greatest present of all time!

Two years ago, in the days leading up to Christmas, we started a new tradition around the Collie house. One that draws a line from the Creation to the Cross, and sheds new light on the meaning of the manger.

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Sometimes right after breakfast, sometimes when we’re back in PJs at the end of the day, we dive into Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp. Starting December 1st, we’re led through a lesson each day, right up to the 25th. As a tangible part of the experience, you’re invited to create your own Jesse Tree — a tree you’ve made, perhaps from branches in your backyard — where you can hang ornaments (more on those in a second) that relate to each of the daily devotions you’ll read as a family. The activities related to each lesson involve things like praying about ways your family can give and serve others over the holidays (and all year long) and making a list of things you’re grateful for.

Exactly as I’d hoped, it created these great opportunities for meaningful connection with our kids at Christmas.

Did we check every item off the list, accomplish every activity and turn it into a this.must.happen thing to add stress to the holidays?

Nope.

But when we took the time to sit down together, to be still and to think and to talk, it did facilitate meaningful conversations, and provide this illustration that I believe will be re-introduced to our kids each year, so that it will be ingrained in their hearts permanently, as the true reason for the season.

In the sitting still and reflecting I just felt like… this is what I want to do most in this season.

I want to point to the one thing I want my children to know in this season: Jesus is the Greatest Gift.

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Last year I hot-glued some felt to some cardboard to create the most awesomely rough-looking Jesse Tree you’ve ever seen… but my children love it.

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I’m very excited to do this together again, as a family, this holiday season. Last year the kids loved the beautifully illustrated book, loved the thoughts to discuss and family activities, and loved coloring the paper ornaments (available for you to print for free from aholyexperience.com). I loved that it was all written to point to the significance of the coming of the Messiah, a constant encouragement to anticipate and celebrate the arrival of Christ.

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So friends, if you’re hoping to introduce some new traditions into your Advent Season, or if you’ve been on the fence pondering this book for a while, please consider this my whole-hearted recommendation. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift has been a gift to our family, and I’m excited to have found something to help our family truly celebrate the Savior this season. I’m genuinely excited to share it with you!

And? I’d love to hear from you! Have any questions for me? Are you hungry to put more meaning into your celebrations this season? What is your family doing to point to the Christ in Christmas?

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P.S. In addition to Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, Voskamp’s book, The Greatest Gift, was released two years ago. This devotional is about “Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas” and was written with adults in mind. It was named the Christian Retailer’s Devotional of the Year for 2014 and is absolutely worth considering in addition to the family celebration, or on its own. (They do cover the same themes and correlate to one another, but they are definitely not the same book.) The devotion draws you in to deeply considering the meaning of the lineage of Christ, and the love story of His coming. If you’re looking for something special for yourself in this season, perhaps for that early morning cup of coffee on the couch moment, I highly recommend this!


 

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What to Do When Dreams Look Like Hard Work

I stared across the table at her for just a moment or two this morning. She scarcely has more hair today than she did a year ago when she was born. She’s one year old and I’m thinking about where it all began, and how it all began on the outside.

A little smirk crosses my face as I think of a comparison between giving birth and the experience of being in war. There’s blood and momentary confusion and yelling (that would be me) and you know that all of life is not contained in this moment — you just have to get through this moment to get to the good on the other side. I ponder all that, and that word — labor — and how it’s the same word we use for work.

Hard labor.

Manual labor.

Six days shall ye labor… and rest on the seventh.

She smiles and bounces the feet that dangle underneath the tray of her high chair. And an old thought strikes me in a new way:

It seems like the hardest things in life sometimes are also the best things.

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Whether it’s the numerous challenges of pregnancy and labor (or the challenges of the parenting years that follow), whether it’s the challenge of pursuing that PhD or writing that book or building something amazing, composing something amazing, there’s labor, and it is a part of the story that good things come from.

The labor of sowing the seeds and watering and weeding and waiting, and finally, reaping what you’ve sown.

The labor of teaching small and precious ones day in and day out, sowing those seeds and trusting the world will reap them years from now.

In a great conversation about these thoughts today a friend of mine put it succinctly: Just about everything in life requires hard work except watching TV.

Barring those moments of laying on the couch and being entertained by a screen in the room or a phone at your nose, life does require work. And the things that are really worth it? They usually require the most.

I’m making fresh commitments to myself about working hard right now.

About resting well and appropriately, yes, but also about knowing my own frame and, based on that, committing to work hard to achieve personal goals.

It convicted me deeply when I read these words recently in Tim Tebow’s new book:

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

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The Bible puts it this way:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. {Gal. 6:7}

Pray about everything. Seek wisdom. But know that in addition to that praying and that seeking, you will also have to do your part. You will have to put in the time at the gym. You will have to put the seeds in the ground. You will have to dust off that resume and start putting it in front of new sets of eyes. You might have to stop spending when you should be saving.

The hardest part might just be stepping out of the boat — doing something that doesn’t look like the “normal” everybody else has going on. Putting in extra efforts at the end of that 9 to 5 instead of putting your nose to a screen.

Jesus lived a life like nobody else because He was a Man like nobody else. In our own small ways, perhaps we are called to go and do likewise.

I write these words to myself — pondering the things that might perhaps have been birthed with the time I spent on the couch instead.

But I write to you, too, knowing there is probably more inside of you. A dream. A hope. An idea of some kind that could scratch an itch you feel in your soul and feed a need in the world around you.

If I dream of seeing my name on the front cover of a bestseller, I’m going to have to put in the hard work to make that happen.

If we dream of having world-changing kids, we’re going to have to put in the hard work to raise them to change the world.

If you dream of making ______________ happen… what are the practical steps you need to take to do something about it?

Looking across the table at this baby who’s just one, I come to rejoice in the fact that in different ways, and in His good timing, God is faithful to our labor. Fruit doesn’t always come the way we want, as fast as we want, as much as we want. But we will not reap what we have not sown.

Lean hard on the Holy Spirit to direct your efforts, to prune you and give you wisdom, that you might bear much fruit.

And don’t be afraid if the path you see ahead of you looks like nobody else’s. It’s not supposed to.

xCC

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make your purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

 


What We Can All Learn From the Rio Olympians: the Danger of Trying to Do It All

Have you been staying up way too late following the Rio 2016 Olympics? I’ve mentioned before — the Hero Hubs was a competitive swimmer for many years so you can probably guess which sport is on lots lots at our house this week! Whether you’re a fan of the swimming (which can teach you a lot about learning to Swim Your Own Race!) or watching gymnastics, dressage, fencing or track and field, there is one stand-out lesson I’m confident any Olympian could teach all of us.

swimming

Now in case you’re not familiar with my little family, let me give you a quick backstory to make sure this post all makes sense. We are a human party of six — two adults and four kids, and I think we’re going to stop here since that’s all the hands covered. My husband is a professional photographer, and I assist him at weddings, bridal portraits and engagement sessions, but he handles family sessions and commercial work solo.

While photography currently pays our bills (and I dream about the day writing will, too) it is also something we both really enjoy, especially because of those four aforementioned humans we are blessed to have in our care. They really do grow and change and learn something every day, and we really love capturing the journey.

The one challenge with being a pair of photographers is discovering that one of us is always not in the picture, because, you know, that one is behind the camera. We can occasionally try to set something up to get everyone in, but you try convincing a seven year old, a five year old, a three year old and a nine month old to all simultaneously look in the same direction, at a camera with nobody behind it AND smile. Then let me know how that works out for you.

So, we do occasionally employ the services of another photographer, so that, ya know, we can have a picture of all of us that we didn’t take with an iPhone we propped up against a rock somewhere.

And let me just mention one more time, I really love photos, and have been dreaming about having one really great family photo, now that we think all the humans are here, to hang in our home.

And this is where the story begins.

The Story About How I Try To Do Too Much

We made an appointment with a very talented photographer for a photo session for our family. It’s not unusual for me to give advice to other couples or families planning for a photo session, so I took some of my own advice and started thinking through how I wanted everyone dressed. And then a happy thought bubble emerged, and I asked the hubs if maybe I could pretty please get my makeup done for the session.

And I pondered clothes and stressed clothes and everything that seemed to match among the children somebody had already drizzled olive oil on or something.

So I managed to scoot away with the baby and the oldest along to help for a wee shopping trip for the first time in maybe … two years or so… and I found some options for the session and it went way more smoothly than I expected and I was so thankful I was in tears on the way home. But I basically had something for me to wear at that point. And the hubs was covered. Thanks, Amazon.

The day of the session was postponed thanks to weather, and in the meantime I asked the hubs at some point when I didn’t think he was paying attention and would say yes if maybe I could also just get the girls at the salon to quickly dress my hair up after makeup.

The new session day arrived and I couldn’t find clothes that really matched nicely so I asked my Mom for help and ran out to shop again and found a dress for the Belle which meant this shirt would look best for this boy and that shirt for that boy, but by now I’d bought a lot of stuff, but everyone was going to match and maybe that was okay because I just about never buy clothes for my kids because my Mom always does, and we are blessed with lots of handmedowns.

I scurried home with the treasure and took off again not long after for hair and makeup which took longer than expected — how I didn’t expect that when I’m a wedding photographer and hair and makeup often take a good wee while, I don’t know — and there wasn’t time for me to fetch pizza I was supposed to grab on the way home, so a frozen one came out quickly instead and we rushed and shoved pizza into small faces and wiped those faces and shoved them into the clothes and I fed the baby and scurried her into her outfit and everybody was rushrushrushed and when we finally got into the car just about on time, I was like… holy cow that was nuts.

During Operation Awesome Photo Session, I wasn’t the nicest Mommy, nor was I the most helpful wife. We didn’t have a major fiasco and I’m sure the photos will be great because our friend Dana catches lightning in a jar on a regular basis. But, I kind of got absorbed in OAPS at the expense of — well — the people who were going to be in the pictures, who are, ironically, the reason the pictures matter. It’s really the people.

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The Trouble With Doing Too Much

The thing about doing too much is, yes, maybe you can get it all done — but will it get done well? I’m grateful to say most of our days are not like that day, where the pace was too quick and the hurry started to hurt.

There are hundreds of thousands of options for our every day lives — so many things we can do — but if you try to do the metaphorical hair and the makeup and the clothes and and and (give some thought to what those might symbolize for you), you might not do anything really well.

Jane Austen describes her lovable and fallible character, Emma, like this:

She had always wanted to do every thing, and had made more progress both in drawing and music than many might have done with so little labour as she would ever submit to. She played and sang;—and drew in almost every style; but steadiness had always been wanting; and in nothing had she approached the degree of excellence which she would have been glad to command, and ought not to have failed of. {Emma, Jane Austen}

Austen highlights the fact that Emma had the talent, ability and resources to be excellent in many things, but she didn’t approach excellence in any thing because she wouldn’t faithfully submit to persevering in one thing — she lacked perseverance, and chose rather to do a little of everything instead.

Unfortunately, we often drag our children (and/or ourselves) into trying this sport and that sport and this instrument and that club and this activity. Our calendars fill, and we might feel like we’re doing well to give our lives so many options and entertainments and interests. But we have to keep the balance in check. Here’s the thing.

Any of the Olympians you might be watching in Rio right now will tell you — they didn’t get there by doing everything. In the history of the Olympics, no one has ever medaled in everything. I did a little research and couldn’t find athletes who ever medaled in three sports or more. There are some who’ve medaled in two sports, but the sports are usually complementary — like swimming and water polo, or Nordic Combined and Cross Country Skiing — or they take place in different seasons — one is a Summer Olympics sport, the other, winter.

Most often, an athlete at the Olympics got there by doing one thing, and working at doing that one thing continuously, faithfully, with perseverance and grit.

I will not excel at every thing. My kids will not excel at every thing, but they could be great at some thing if I could help them learn the discipline of perseverance (which I’m most certainly still learning myself!)

And I have a deep desire to parent my children well and a lot of the most important moments we’ve ever had — the most meaningful conversations and memories have happened in the margins. Those passing moments when a thought pops into their heads and they ask a great question. Or the moments when we have time to open the Children’s Bible as the last kid is finishing their dinner, because we’re not rushing off to something else.

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How Not to Do It All

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

If you’re not sure what those main things are in your life that need to be the non-negotiable parts that take center stage, I have two simple encouragements for you.

First, press into Jesus. Choose to let the God of the universe direct the course of your life. His plans for it are good! Read His Word and think about how it applies to your life.

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Second, pray lots and often. Don’t beat yourself if this doesn’t look how you want — this might not be the season for an hour in the garden before sunrise. Pray when you can — in the car, in between this and that — just let the conversation keep going.

Ask for help to discern which things are the things you ought to commit yourself and/or your children to, and which things are just fluff on the calendar that is going to make life really hard for you. Maybe your kids will be a little bit disappointed that they can’t do all the things they want to do — but remember, number those days — and you’ll know that you only have so many before those precious people are out the door and on their way.

Teachers, instructors, and sports coaches can be amazingly wonderful influences on our kids, but they are no substitute for us spending quality one-on-one time loving each child and training him or her up in the way they should go.

Third, get practical. Start writing down which things are the main things, the non-negotiables, for you and your kids. Train your calendar to submit to the goals that you have for your kids and yourself.

I’m confident you care more about the character and integrity of your soul, and about the character and integrity your kids will have when they leave your home, than you care about a corner kick or mastery of the scales. Your will have to work to make your calendar submit to your primary goals. No can be hard, but sometimes yes ends up being much harder.

If you need it, These Two Resources might help you figure out what your primary goals are. But the surest way not to reach your goals is not to set them.

Slow down and enjoy life today friends. Love the people that matter most to you, and remember that every yes is also a no. And every no is also a yes.

What do you want most to say yes to? I’d love for you to share goals, or resources that have helped you figure them out, in the comments!

xCC