When Setting Goals Looks Like a Blank Page

This past year I have had a rare opportunity that I almost missed entirely.  About a month after we moved to Nashville I found myself feeling a slight level of discontent.  I was unhappy that I didn’t have more to do.  Unpacking boxes and decorating a house wouldn’t last forever (athough I sure did keep a pretty good pile of unopened boxes in the dining room corner for way too long).  I was finding myself with so much time on my hands and didn’t know what to do.  I was used to life looking like a jillion things on a to-do list and lots of time in my car driving from one event to the next, shuffling kids from place to place, eating drive-thru and getting things done.  My life now looked like writing “brush your teeth” and “put on deodorant” on the to-do list just so I would have something to cross off for the day.  My time, after years of belonging to other people and jobs and things, was now all mine.  So far I had gotten really good at filling these empty days with Netflix and trips to Home Goods and Target.  And while I love a good hunt for housewares, I knew I had to do more with my days.  I could continue wandering aimlessly (both metaphorically and down the aisles at Target), or I could stop and take control of what I wanted my life to look like.  I started to see the emptiness as a real gift, like each day was a blank canvas.  My calendar is now filled with appointments with myself.  I set aside time to do exactly what I want, and what I know I’m called to do.  I block off chunks of my day to write songs, play the piano, study the Bible, things that used to get whatever leftover slivers of time I could find after all of the other “important” stuff got done.  


I realize not everyone has this same luxury.  Your season may look drastically different from mine.  I remember the days of having babies and toddlers at home.  On those days I remember feeling accomplished when I got to take a shower.  I remember feeling overwhelmed by the mounds of laundry and dirty dishes.  I remember feeling so tired all the time.  But there was grace.  I remember the season of working full-time.  Running around like a crazy person dropping kids off at school, racing across town to work for a day full of meetings and projects to manage all the while kicking myself for forgetting to plug the crockpot in that morning and making peace with another drive-thru dinner from Chick-fil-A as we all hustled back across town for church that night.  Looking back on it all, it feels like complete madness.  But there was grace.  And there’s grace for this season.  Grace to keep me focused and on track when I’d rather turn on Netflix or take a long nap at 1:00pm.  


Even if you are in a busy season of life, you still get to choose how you spend your time.  There is grace for you.  The most important thing I can tell you is don’t neglect yourself.  You need time in God’s presence every single day.  It may look like an hour long Bible Study or it may look like praying and listening to worship music as you rock your little one to sleep at naptime.  You need to find time to do the things you love and the things that fill you.  If that’s quality time with friends, then carve it out on the calendar.  You may have to plan it three weeks in advance, but set the date and guard it with your life!  You need time alone with your spouse.  Get a babysitter and go to dinner or just turn off the TV when the kids go to bed and sit on the couch together.  Hold hands and talk about your day.  


What is it that you want to accomplish this year?  If you never set out to conquer something, chances are your circumstances and season of life will steal all of your time and you will be another year older and won’t have reached your goal.  When I first got married 12 years ago, I was a terrible cook.  I mean, really bad.  I wanted to be good at it, but I just wasn’t.  No one really taught me how.  I decided I was going to learn.  I was newly married with a four year old and didn’t have the extra time or money to go to a cooking class so I turned on Food Network.  Rachael Ray taught me how to cook.  I learned to dice onions from Iron Chef.  Paula Deen taught me about flavor (butter) and how to make good hearty food (with butter).  I seriously learned how to cook from watching Food Network.  Then I started applying my new found knowledge.  I picked Rachael Ray’s easiest 30-minute meal and just went for it.  And I did it.  And it tasted good.  So I tried another recipe and another.  I had a goal of being a good cook so I took some action and made it happen.  What is something you want to do this year?  Write it down.  Now write down a few things that will help you on that journey.  Who do you know that can offer some wisdom or insight?  Ask them questions.  Break it down into small, measurable steps and you will amaze yourself.  


Whether you’ve got all in the time in the world, or you are barely hanging on by a thread in the midst of your busyness, I encourage you to dream a little bit.  Do something for you.  You have gifts and talents and a calling.  Don’t let a season of busy bury the thing that’s burning inside of you.  And if you have lots of time like I do, maybe you should offer some of that time to a sister who is chasing kids all over the place and wondering how she’s going to get it all done.  We are all in this together (cue High School Musical song…..).