This blog…it has been around for a while, but it is neglected as of late. As a matter of fact it has been 6 months since I have even looked at it. Forgive me. I would like to think that it will change for good this time and maybe it will, but I make no promises.
Last year this time I was embarking on a new chapter in my life and I was swimming in some pretty tough stuff. My entire life was turned upside down. I was entering a season of all three of my kids being in school all day. A year prior to that I was homeschooling my oldest and had my youngest home aside from preschool. Then we transitioned the older back to public school in January of 2017 and the youngest graduated from preschool that May, which led to everyone being poised to embark on elementary school in full force come August of 2017.
I give all of that backstory to say that the 2017-2018 school year taught me a lot about myself. I had time autonomy for the first time in a decade and really for the first time in my adult life. I ran into it thinking it was going to be an awakening of sorts, and it was, but not in the way I thought a year ago. Have you ever had decision paralysis? When you have so many options that you simply can’t choose and move forward? That was me. Too many hours in a day. Now before I unpack this, for those of you still living your moments of freedom between the hours of 9:15am and 1pm 2-3 days a week, hear me out. It will not always be like it is right now, and I would give you a slick party line about enjoying it while it lasts, but truth be told, you will and you won’t. Be kind to yourself for where you are. Enjoy the moments when you can, and hide in the pantry with a pint of Halo Top when you can’t. Grace upon grace.
So, I had too many hours. I was so overwhelmed with the windfall of hours I was give FIVE DAYS IN A ROW, EVERY WEEK (save those few tiny breaks between August and May) that I just didn’t know how to spend them. I then wrestled with how best to spend them and began frittering them away on little things that probably didn’t amount to anything. I did this so much that when added together, those hours could have produced the next great American novel (or at least the page number equivalent). I let mom guilt, unreal expectations, and lies that “I am not worth the time it takes to pursue a personal dream” steal so. many. hours.
Again, if you are reading this, it is not a call to feel guilty about what you have or have not accomplished. This goes much deeper than that. It is about leaning in and asking God what I am supposed to be doing and actually doing it. I sent a lot of time examining myself and my habits over the last 12 months and I used this first year of freedom to do some personal maintenance. Let me share a few of the things I did/learned in the last year.
1. I am worth it.
I learned that I have put myself on the back burner a lot while raising these kids. Some would call this a badge of honor as we mothers selflessly put our families above our own ambitions. On one hand I wholeheartedly agree. On the other I shake my head no. I am all for sacrifices for the family unit and going “all in” in some capacity while your kids are little, but how often do we put ourselves down while putting ourselves last? I started to gain weight over the last 3 years and I also quit writing regularly. If someone would have asked me why I would have hidden behind the family unit excuse. But the reality was I didn’t value myself enough to address these issues. Something I learned over the last year is that no one is going to want my dreams more than me. So I have to believe in them and go after them for me, and not wait for even my husband to validate them. Once God gives the thumbs up, I need to run like my hair is on fire. I need to value myself enough to put my feet in the direction of my dreams. No one else is going to give me the “golden permission” I have been waiting for. Make it work, figure it out. You are worth the effort it will take to achieve the thing that makes you come alive.
2. Time needs to be managed like money.
I will be the first to admit that I am terrible at budgeting. I HATE being a money micromanager. I cannot tell you how we have made it this far in life in the financial place we are in except that we are generous in the Kingdom and God has taken care of my stupid self. I am a deal hound and not prone to big purchases, but if it weren’t for my saver husband, we would probably be in trouble simply because I am so nonchalant with day to day spending. With that said, I see that God is showing me the value of managing this are better. Much like I let hours slip through my fingers by unmanaged minutes, I let dollars slip through in unmanaged cents. This is a piece of my personality I am still trying to understand and work with God to be renewed in. I wish I had more answers at this time, but acknowledging the problem is a step in the right direction. For now, the idea is that if I plan ahead how I will spend my time I can get more done and enjoy my relaxation time more. Right now this looks like spending some time each Sunday looking at the week ahead to understand which days will be busier than others. Then I also make a list of things to get done tomorrow. Each night I make a quick list of things I need to get done in my free time. (I believe once I get this down a little better, I can apply it to my budget and see a clearer picture of our finances from month to month…we shall see).
3. Little goals are the key to big goals.
In addition to these big take aways of 2017-2018, I am seeing something new emerge for me. I often set BIG goals and get super overwhelmed with how to make July 26, 2018 Ashley do the things that January 17, 2019 needs to accomplish. I begin to crumble shortly after setting the goal and end up imploding and only bringing a portion of myself to the main event. Then I use my family or some other lame excuse as my reason for not accomplishing the goal. Not anymore. I am committed to the second step of making a big goal for myself: creating checkpoints and smaller goals. This is what has been missing in my life and what has kept me from writing that book, losing that weight, and putting myself out there in ministry. I think of the verse in Zechariah 4:10 that says:
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.
Small beginnings are something I undervalue when my eyes are on the big prize and I am salivating at the idea of what it will feel like to accomplish it. However, I lose that lovin’ feelin’ in the mundane of the journey to get there. God has been pulling me back and making me aware of the beauty found in the journey. Make big goals, but consider them incomplete if you don’t also have a list of small goals that will contribute to the achievement. But don’t stop there, share them with someone who will cheer you on and hold you accountable. This is what makes it the most real.
Whew! You made it! And more surprisingly so did I. This post contains just a few of the lessons that God is teaching me. What is He teaching you? I’d love to know. If you think it’s nothing, than you just aren’t hearing Him. He is always teaching us something. Good Daddy’s keep the lessons coming to all who are eager to learn.