Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Creative Counterpart - Chapter 4, The Priority Planner

In this week's look at Linda Dillow's book, Creative Counterpart, we take a look at our priorities. I think that this is an area where all women struggle. There are so many needs pressing in on us - the boss at work, the friend who needs a listening ear, the husband who wants to spend time with us, a home that needs cleaning, children who need tended too.

And, oh yeah, God.

It can be overwhelming, right? Where do we start? What gets our attention first?

Determining the answer to those questions in advance can make the difference between spending your life running around putting out fires and making an impact on the world around you.

Mrs. Dillow suggests that a Christian woman's priorities should fall in this order:

1) God - When our relationship with God is first and foremost in our lives, everything else will fall into place. We will have His perspective on our lives. Jesus tells us to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you as well." When we make our goal God and His glory, He will help us to accomplish all we need in other areas.

One thing we are cautioned against is mistaking "activity" for God for a "relationship" with God. We so often DO so much, but fail to spend time getting to know God better. Make sure that you aren't just running around keeping busy and letting that mask the fact that your relationship with God is stagnant. Keep close to Him through prayer, reading the Word, quiet time, and fellowship with others.

2) Husband - A very wise friend once told me that she was intent on making her marriage a priority over her children because eventually the children would grow up and make live of their own and she and her husband would still (hopefully!) have many years left together by themselves. So often we see a woman throw herself into raising her children at the expense of her relationship with her husband. Once they've grown and left the home, there isn't much of a marriage left.

But how do we show our husbands that they are our priority? After all, he's a grown man and my kids need me! Yes, sometimes it's hard work. We can be exhausted after caring for the kids all day, but our husbands still need to know that they are important to us. How do we do that?

a) By accepting him as he is - Don't try to change him. Love him unconditionally.

b) By spending time with him - Date your husband. If finances are an issue, either put the kids to be early and snuggle up on the couch to watch a movie or see if you can swap babysitting with a friend to manage some time alone. Do the things he likes to do, not just what you want to do. Go for a ride to Home Depot. It doesn't have to be all hearts and flowers, ladies. An even more special thing would be to try to do weekend getaways every so often.

c) Small gestures - Send a note in his lunchbag. Write on his bathroom mirror in lipstick. Rub his back. And be sure to be thankful for every thing he does as well. Be creative in thinking of ways to bless your husband. It doesn't have to be anything expensive or fancy - it just has to be an expression of your love. And please, please, don't wait for him to make the first move. Countless marriages have been ruined because both partners waited for the other one to show love first. That's nothing but pride, girls.

3) Children - Now, I know that we are all busy - running kids around from lesson to lesson, trying to help with homework, making dinner to feed said children. Just a short reminder to actually spend quality time with your children. Make sure to find out what's going on in their lives, pray with them, pray for them, and remember that it is our job to disciple our children. We are the ones that God has charged with their spiritual growth - not the pastor, or the Sunday school teacher, or youth worker. They all have their parts, but the main responsibility is on us. Love your kids enough to teach them about Jesus.

4) Home - Like it or not, women set the tone of the home. If we are grouchy, others around us will follow suit. If we are kind and loving, our attitude will spread. If we determine to set an atmosphere of calm and peace in our home, we will benefit from it greatly. But how can we make our homes calm and peaceful, you ask? By being prepared.

Take time to plan out your week. Sit down and think about your commitments. Plan what you will have for dinner each night so you aren't thinking about it at 5 pm that day. Decide in advance what chores need to be done and when. And a great tip from Mrs. Dillow is to plan one thing each week to show your care for all your priorities - something that will bless your relationship with God (read some new devotional book?), something special you can do for your husband (plan a date maybe?), something for each child (spend time baking cookies with Suzie, etc.), a project you can work on to beautify your home (paint the kitchen?), etc. Then take that planning time and put it all together. Plan out when you can do all of this.

Then (drumroll please!), DO IT.

Make your plans, then do the next thing on your list. Proceed to the next thing. Proceed to the next thing. What doesn't get done one day, move to the next day's list, but keep it first in priority. Stay focused on your goal of bringing peace and order to your home. Don't be overwhelmed - remember, all you have to do right now is the next thing on your list. That's not too tough, is it?

5) Yourself - Plan into your schedule time for yourself. This is a must for me. I get a little bug-eyed if I don't have some time alone. If it's hard for you because you have little ones or juggle both work or home, you have to be creative. If you work, you have a lunch hour. I used to just go sit in my car sometimes during lunch and just read or pray or listen to music. If you have little ones, develop a schedule where they all either sleep or have quiet time in their rooms at the same time. This can save your sanity.

No one likes a cranky woman and making time for yourself to dream, rest, pray, learn - it's what keeps us sane.

6) Outside the Home - Here is where we often mess up. Things outside our home often take up more of our time than they should. Friends, social gatherings, teaching Bible study (gasp!), jobs - all good and necessary things. But they must be kept in their place. Remember that our first priority is the family which God has blessed us with. No one else can care for them like we can.

I'm not saying not to get involved in any of these wonderful things. But what I am saying is to keep your perspective clear and to make sure that they higher priorities are taken care of.

One night, after a women's meeting at church I came home to an irate husband. The children were small, maybe 3 and 1, and I had left without feeding them, without doing the dishes (so there were no clean sippy cups!) and left the house a mess. My husband was rightfully upset. Don't let our social obligations take precedence over our families.

* * * *

Since I first did this study 7 years ago, these are the priorities I have tried to live my life by and I can tell you that it works. When we learn to have the balance that living our lives according to the priorities that we set in advance, it's easier to know when to say yes and when to say no.

If you start now to plan your life and really follow that plan, I can promise that you will see an improvement in your quality of life. God will bless your efforts, even if it doesn't all go perfectly at first.

Karen has some great thoughts on this chapter as well. Be sure to visit her to get her take on all of this.


Cindy said...

Such great wisdom ~ but so hard to manage on a daily basis.
I have been working on this for the past 1 1/2 years. It is a tough one for me.


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