Rejoice and Remember

Holidays are an occasion to pause, celebrate and be thankful. They may not work out that way any given year, but they are an opportunity for us. In our current American holiday calendar, the indicated reasons for celebration do vary. Labor Day, for instance, has drifted a bit from the initial cause, but we can still be thankful for the blessing of work and employment while many enjoy a break from such.

In my daily reading I noticed that God gave a list of holidays to Israel in Deuteronomy 16. He also clarifies on multiple occasions, including in Deuteronomy 5, the importance of the sabbath. Further, He designated a sabbath year and the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25). It was that important. And in all that, the purpose for each is clearly stated. I noticed two words repeated in the descriptions of these holidays: “rejoice” and “remember”.

Rejoice These are days to enjoy! However you celebrate, whether it be a large family gathering or a quiet day at home, you are free to take pleasure in the day. It is a gift. Unwrap and make the most of it!

Remember Most of us reading this have been given so much. Our countries and the earth itself are the recipients of so many blessings from God on a regular basis. Taking one day to especially remember certain categories (Labor Day — employment; Christmas — Christ’s birth, life and death, our salvation; Easter — the resurrection; Independence Day — our freedoms) and be grateful for what God has appointed is a blessing in itself.

May your Labor Day be joyful and thankful — and every holiday to come!

Meal Timelines

Do you ever get to the end of the afternoon and realize with a shock that dinner will be expected shortly and you have no idea what it will be? Well, it happens to all of us, but if it happens regularly, I’d recommend reading two previous blog posts, Planning Your Day and Meal Planning. This post will build on what we have already started discussing.

Planning ahead involves knowing how your day will go (roughly) and knowing what you plan to make for a meal, but you also need to know how the various steps for your chosen menu will fit into your schedule. When do you need to start preparing? Do you need to figure on 2 hours in the kitchen or 20 minutes?

Many recipes now include prep time and cook time, which is very helpful. But you still need to know what you’ll be doing when.


Note: if you use frozen meat for your meals, remember to add defrosting the meat to your steps or your schedule the day before or early the day of.


As you look at your menu, map out the different steps and when you’ll need to do each of them (i.e., 2 hours ahead, 45 minutes ahead, right before serving, etc.). Some recipes or dishes are simple enough that you only need 5 minutes of prep time 2 hours before dinner. Some have a few more steps. Others are all last minute, just before you eat. Write it down in a timeline, counting backwards from your target mealtime.


Note: if you collect tried-and-true recipes or standard menus for a monthly meal plan, this will be helpful to keep with the recipe. That way you don’t have to think it through each time.


For an example, using the menu outlined in A Simple Meal, you would sketch out a timeline like this:

  • 2 hours prior — prepare meat and put in oven
  • 45 minutes prior — prepare sweet potatoes and put in oven
  • 15 minutes prior — set table and steam vegetables

Now you know that you have less than 30 minutes needed for the meal, but also you don’t need to do anything between the 2 hour mark and the 45 minute mark. You can plan on 75 minutes to devote to other tasks.

Now you also know what you are doing and that your bases are covered. Way to plan!

Calendar Tips

Although a few minutes of mapping out your day will benefit everyone, there is more that can be done. Some are dependent on calendars — paper or electronic — for a daily schedule, and calendars or planners can be a valuable tool in time management. Using your calendar to define your path forward can help you cover all the bases and be proactive with your priorities. Planning ahead pays off.

How does that work?

Well, if you block time on your schedule on a monthly and weekly basis, you are making sure you stumble over what you need to do. Some of us need that extra help! Often distractions consume our days, but if your calendar simply reminds you that you need to spend an hour paying bills today in spite of those distractions, you have a helping hand.

This can work in different ways.

  • For instance, if you have regular tasks that need to be completed, like paying bills or a medical treatment, you can schedule that time out a few days before the deadline each month. Scheduling it a couple of days early gives you margin if a need comes up to push it back a day. No worries; you planned for that possibility. 
  • If you have something on which you want to spend regular time, i.e., walking with a neighbor or meal planning for the week, blocking that time out for the next month will protect that time slot and activity.
  • If you have a larger project or goal, you can break it down into smaller chunks and schedule time to work on it. So if you have a book to be read for a reading group at your local library, and you know 1) the book has 9 chapters and 2) they will take about 30 minutes each to read and 3) you have three weeks until you meet, you put time to read on the calendar 3 times a week. Remember, don’t put the last block of time on the last possible day; give yourself margin to succeed.

Sample Calendar

If you are using a paper planner, you often have space to list your priorities and to-do list on the same page as your calendar. This helps keep these front and center in your mind. It also helps you double-check that the priorities are reflected in your schedule.

Regular reviews are also crucial for calendar management. If you have planned out the next month, you will still need to look at your calendar each week to see what has changed or what may need to be changed to adjust to new requirements. Things come up. Stuff needs to move. The soccer schedule was laid out for the season, but games and practices get rescheduled. This doesn’t change the goal, it just changes the plan to get there. Remember you are in control of your calendar, so take care of conflicts and holes as soon as you can. This keeps your schedule running smoothly even with multiple adjustments.

Even with a weekly review, you will still need to look at your calendar at the beginning of each day to make sure all is still well and that you know what you are doing in the short term.

Color-coding can also be helpful. Visually, your brain will have clues to immediately categorize tasks and appointments. You can choose one color for each specific arena or goal. Paydays could be marked in green and school vacations in red. Each family member could have one color, to keep all the karate and dance lessons easily seen. However, if multiple pens and the effort to switch and maintain the system is too much, don’t let it hold you back from a successful schedule. One pen works well — as does one of whatever writing instrument is handy at the moment! It is better to have it planned than pretty.

Best wishes on your successful calendars! Do you have any other tips that help you? Please comment below for the benefit of us all.

Make Time to Be Holy

Time management and productivity are hot topics, and ones that fascinate me, but we must be careful to look at them in a healthy way. Why do we want more time in a day? What are we looking to produce? Are we plowing through the to-do list because we enjoy the checkmarks (oh, so much!), or because we are making time for priorities?

What is our priority? There are several big picture answers to that, all different expressions of one concept.

One is straight from Jesus – “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt. 22:37-39).

Or a shorter answer is found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism – “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

We know many verses that detail how our love for God should show in our daily obedience, and we will talk about most, if not all, of them during the course of this blog. But we need the great purpose before us in the day-to-day steps as motivation and inspiration. We need to be protected by this love and pursuit of God’s glory to prevent us from straying into self-centeredness and shallow pleasures.

As we discuss time management, organization, homemaking, creating beauty, broadening horizons, and much more, I beg of you to keep the glorious as an umbrella over the good and great. Women, are you seeking to accomplish more in your workday simply as an accomplishment and way for promotion, or to have greater time and ability to be “teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3)? Wives, are you planning out your day just because you love a smooth calendar, or so you can best serve your husband and be free to enjoy family devotions in the evening with a clear mind? Daughters, are you getting faster at completing daily homework so you can spend more time on social media, or so you can cheerfully and easily obey when after-dinner chores are required?

There are so many draws on our time and attention, but one thing is best. Samuel Pearce, in a letter to a church member’s daughter, said it this way, “I hope that my dear Ann, amidst the various pursuits of an ornamental or scientific nature which she may adopt, will not omit that first, that great concern, the dedication of her heart to God.”*

As we look well to the ways of our households, we will examine and practice the good and better – but we will always seek what is best.

 

* A Heart for Missions: Memoir of Samuel Pearce by Andrew Fuller, Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005, page 163.