Celebrating Milestones

Funnily enough, I am writing this while a birthday cake is in the oven! It is a week early, because of the work travel schedule, but we are going to celebrate regardless.

Why?

One reason is simply because it’s an opportunity to show love. Birthdays, holidays, graduations, and more, are a special reason to show special favor to those who are important to you. A generous spirit doesn’t need a reason to give, but it will also make the most of the opportunities that are there! For example, the first day of each season can be a time to stop and enjoy the things special to it. First snow may be a snow fort afternoon for the whole family followed by steaming hot cocoa. First day of spring could have you making bouquets to cheer up the neighbors.

Another reason would be to reflect priorities. A day set apart to honor our mothers and fathers is a time to show them how much we love and appreciate them. A wedding anniversary can do the same thing, reminding us to say again how much we cherish our spouses. Setting aside normal routine to celebrate shows that special value.

Sometimes we just like the opportunity to remember what God has done. My husband and I enjoy repeating our first four dates on the anniversaries. It doesn’t always work in the schedule, but when it does, we have a special time of memories from those first weeks together. Celebrating a conversion anniversary would also be a reminder of God’s work. He does so much, it won’t take long to find an opportunity for this one either!

Celebrations can be encouragement as well. A special dinner or activity when your child gets their first “real” job shows how valuable hard work and responsibility is. Graduation from high school can be a celebration that still looks forward to the next stage. You made it through these years, and now you can tackle those.

This applies to small milestones also. A first book read alone could lead to a trip to the bookstore. The first meal planned, cooked, and served might be followed by a vase of flowers.

Knowing that a celebration will likely be coming can help your family push through the struggle, because you’re pulling for them and love sharing the joy when it is done. A cheerleader is a precious support.

So what do you have to celebrate today?

What To Do When

Prepare your work outside;
get everything ready for yourself in the field,
and after that build your house. Proverbs 24:27

Why on earth would you work outside before building yourself a house?

Well, you can live in a tent while you till and plant, and then you have a home-building project to keep you busy while you wait for the crop to ripen. Now you have a house and a harvest. The other way around leaves you hungry in a cozy home.

The order you work on projects, or tasks, or toward goals, matters most of the time.

Stagger your progress. If I know I have to make brownies and take a shower before heading to a party, wouldn’t it make sense to mix up the brownies first? Then I can get ready while the brownies bake.

If you have multiple steps for a project and you know you will have to wait on others along the way, plan out when you will do each one and where you will have to wait. Get the ball rolling, and then you can turn your attention to other priorities while you wait for a response. After you get what you need in response, move to the next step until you have to wait again. You will be able to keep moving along your timeline and tend to other tasks at the same time.

For another simple example, we can get a lot done in between running loads of laundry, but we do have to put a load in the washing machine to start. But if we wait until it has to be done to put it in, we’re looking at a frustrating wait.

Taking a minute or two to think through the overall plan will pay off for you. Stepping back to look at the big picture will help you cut out the unpleasant surprises and unexpected delays that will prevent you from accomplishing your goal on time. Making a plan and walking through steps in the best order will pay off for you.

Share the Joy

Remember when we talked about pruning your to-do list? Well, there is another way to keep your task load in good shape.

Keep in mind that responsibility doesn’t always mean doing it with your own hands.

  • If your time can be better spent elsewhere and your budget allows, use a grocery pick service or even delivery service.
  • You may like how your dishwasher loading system works, but would your call to love your children include training them in that particular chore and responsibility?

An excellent help in looking for delegation opportunities can be found in your husband and/or your boss. Taking a step back and getting a wider view can make a big change in your perspective. They see what you can’t, right in the middle of each day.

  • If your husband values your time more than a cooked-from-scratch meal (and, again, your budget allows), perhaps sandwiches or (relatively) healthy takeout should be in the weekly meal plan more often. A walk together before dinner might be a better use of your time.
  • Are you spending a large percentage of your day doing something that is really someone else’s responsibility or could be easily transferred? Check. Your boss may rather you do what only you can do. You may add more value and more excellent work by eliminating that task from your list.

Delegation can be good, not an automatic failure. Yes, this can take an investment in money or training, but the goal would be one less task for your every day and time freed up for what is most valuable and can serve God best with your time.

Cut It Loose

A to-do list can be a great tool. But like every great tool, it’s not magic. It does take skill to use and maintain excellent tools. How can we hone our skill set with this tool?

One way is pruning. When you look at your to-do list, if it doesn’t fit with your priorities, both daily and ultimate, and is not reasonable for the day or current situation, cut it loose. Chop it off. Let it go.

This will help keep you on point, staying on the path to which you have been called. Paying attention to your priorities in the little, daily tasks will help you as you make the best use of your time each day. There are many good things, but you cannot do EVERY good thing. Examine your list and make sure you are doing what is best.

If you have 12 things on your list, review them to see if some really don’t reflect love for God or for your neighbor or help you do either of those things.

  • Did you write it down initially because it sounded cool, but now you’re really not sure why it would be good to do? Cross it off and move on.
  • Are you adding items to make you feel productive or important? “Look how long my list is. I’m irreplaceable.” Let’s go back to your identity as a child of God only by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-10). Test your list in light of that truth.
  • Does your day look like everyone else’s because you feel you need to go with the flow? Just because a friend or even a reality TV star arranges fresh flowers for her home everyday, doesn’t mean that you must. (Your allergy-prone friend might even thank you for not!) Just because your neighbor does it, doesn’t mean you have to. You answer to God for your time and she for hers, and you can both hear “Well done” with task lists that don’t match. If there is no value other than peer pressure, get rid of it.

Pruning will also help you stop sabotaging yourself. Often we hang on to things that we will never actually do (and shouldn’t necessarily do) and repeat the failure loop. Set yourself up for success, true success. Bring glory to God in all that you do.

 

Keepin’ It Happy

We talk often about loving God and loving our neighbor. Today let’s talk about a specific neighbor — your husband. If you have one, loving him is a priority given to you. If you do not have one, you love your neighbors by encouraging those who are married to love their husbands well.

This love is shown in so many ways, every day, but today I’ll address one aspect only: love him by expressing how special he is to you.

Make a special time together. Remember how exciting it was to go on a date back when your lives weren’t completely entwined? You can’t go back, but you can still keep the spirit of that excitement alive in other ways. Even if family schedules are busy, you can make time for a shared interest weekly or monthly, or you can take 5-10 minutes to share undivided attention each day. Maybe a date night is part of your routine. Don’t let those just become a frantic trips to Sam’s Club with drive-thru on the way home. A little bit of lipstick and clean clothes goes a long way. Showing by your demeanor that the time is special, dedicated to your marriage, is important. We often need the concrete signals for both ourselves and the ones we are honoring.

Play with each other. In a good marriage, there’s no one else in the world with whom you can be quite as relaxed. Keep that fresh. Some times that may take effort, but it will be worth it. Take a deep breath, shake off the tension of the day, smile and then laugh! Laughter is good medicine, for your heart and your marriage. When the giggling and goofing off comes easily, treasure it.

I’ll admit, I was surprised at the bond that was created after our wedding by the times of joking or laughing with my husband. It is a benefit that can easily fall to the wayside in times of stress or too much routine, but don’t let it get left behind. The strength of your bond will help you through hard times, but it needs refreshing as you go.