Some Thoughts on Goal Setting

img_7852“The flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today…”

I first heard about setting goals when I was twenty-something. I loved the idea. I’m a dreamer. For several years I would, excitedly, as the new year dawned, write down all the things I wanted to accomplish and the self improvements I would make. My goals would always include losing weight and eating healthier. I may have stuck to my plan for a short while, but I don’t remember experiencing any lasting changes. What was so exhilarating on January first felt like failure on December thirty-first.

One year an awareness came to me. I realized I’d been randomly making lists without consulting God about what His ideas for me were. I began to pray and fast and ask God what He wanted me to accomplish. This changed everything. I realized His plans were much more manageable and doable. “His yoke is easy and His burden is light”, I thought.

I realized something else about goal setting. My “goals” were just fun ideas: lose weight, eat healthy, read my Bible, etc. There were no steps to reach goals, no completion dates and far too lofty expectations. A goal is the end toward which effort is directed. It’s something you’re trying to achieve. What brings success is a step by step process that results in the specific accomplishment we desire.

A few suggestions:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to bring His purposes to your mind. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10.) It helps me to think in terms of the various roles He has already assigned to me: wife, mom, business owner, mentor; and ask what is next in these areas.
  • Jot down the ideas that come to mind in stream of consciousness style, knowing you can hone in on the main elements later.
  • Try to end up with one or two goals in each area that you’re considering. If you make a long glorious list like I used to make, you’ll be frustrated.
  • Choose reasonable reachable goals. Drinking sixteen ounces of water each day when you usually drink none will be a win! Walking around the block or a set distance four times a week may be more doable than vaguely stating you’ll join a gym and work out six times a week. Joining a gym is great, just don’t set yourself up for failure.
  • Make goals that will challenge you but are attainable.
  • Create specifically written dated goals so you’ll know when they’ve been achieved. Keep track of daily and weekly progress. Set the frequency for your action steps and keep track of your progress.
  • Commit to the process more than the goal. Focus daily on your processes and habits that you’re developing.  Your goal may be obtaining a master’s degree. Track the number of pages you need to read each day or the hours you study in order to cover all material by a certain date. If we focus only on the long-term goal it can seem obscure and impossible. It’s easier to track our daily processes.
  • Post your goals and review your daily plan often. It helps me to write action steps on my calendar.
  • Pause and consider why you’re setting goals. For instance, I’m eating healthy and exercising because I want to enjoy my granddaughter and future grandkids :). I read inspiring and challenging books daily (C. S. Lewis, the Bible, etc. ) because I want to grow in my faith and reflect Christ to those around me. I read books and listen to podcasts about minimalism, organizing and staging so I’ll benefit my clients.

I hope my ideas help! Here’s to a happy and productive 2017!

‘”Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”                                                   The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis

 

How to Have a Grateful Heart

img_5977“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

-Thomas Merton

 

It’s fall ya’ll! Is there a more beautiful season? In the south we’re grateful for the slightest “chill” in the air. We don’t have the array of the mountains’ colors but we get excited about the maples and other hardwood trees that put on a show for us.

What makes November such a special month? Thanksgiving, of course! And my personal favorite, our wedding anniversary. We’ve such happy memories of being married on Thanksgiving weekend thirty-one years ago. Coming together with the extraordinary people in our lives for Friends-giving. That a single mom of two in Mississippi and an unmarried guy in North Carolina could find each other without the internet is something to celebrate. To be more specific, I was a mom of an eight-year-old boy and a five- year-old daughter with autism and severe cognitive delays. I worked two jobs for a time. I would teach pre-school in one town and then drive to a church in another town where I was Director of Daycare and Kindergarten. It was important to have food on the table every day. My life is so much happier now in comparison that I almost forget how difficult that season of life was. The miracle of finding a man who truly loved me and my children was a dream come true.

Through the years we’ve attempted to set apart November in its entirety; to give thanks for our personal blessings as well as for the great country we were born into. When the children were young we’d always read stories and  remember the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621.

So far we’ve img_5577waited until after Thanksgiving to commence the Christmas decorating. It’s becoming more difficult! With all the commercialism around the holidays, it saddens me that the celebration of Thanksgiving has been nearly obliterated. I always think of Thanksgiving as a gift of rest and contemplation before the madness begins.

Giving thanks on a particular day is one thing; being thankful each day of the year is another. Gratitude is an intentional choice for me. I’m a thinker, feeler and analyzer, often spending too much time in my head. For me to actually be grateful it was necessary to establish a habit of writing specific items down. I’d planned to do that for years, and what finally got me on track was the book by Ann Voscamp, “One Thousand Gifts”. I began numbering each line of a  journal my friend Harriet gave me. For instance: 687. My neighbors, 688. Summer storms, 689. A perfect wife for John! 690. Fellowship and supper with girlfriends at Whole Foods, etc.  After a few years of this practice I’m up to nearly 2,000 “gifts”. There are tiny things and huge things. Whatever comes to mind. And, you cannot imagine how inspiring it is to look back and see all the wonderful things that have come about by God’s grace. I didn’t realize that my gratitude journal would become a diary of my life. I’m so glad I did it and I hope I can encourage you to also start making a list!

“You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done. O Lord what great works you do!” Psalm 92: 4-5

 

What if We Could Live Our Lives in Reverse?

“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” 

-David Bowie

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A weird idea came to me while on my morning walk. What if God birthed us into the world, not as infants but as eighty- year olds–intellectually vibrant, but including our assorted sags and wrinkles. What if we could grow into our youth equipped with the knowledge and experiences we gathered through eight decades of living? Would we raise our children and love our neighbors differently?

Perhaps we’d have come to realize that:

  • Relationships are more important than things, always.
  • Reaching out to help is preferable to judging because behind each person’s action there is a reason.
  • We can give hope to those who’ve made bad decisions and point them to healing  in Christ’s Redemption.
  • Having compassion for folks that are physically challenged—putting ourselves in their shoes— is far more desirable than laughing or making fun.
  • We should worry less! We’d have become aware of God’s faithfulness. That He has us in His Hand and although his timing and plan is often not our own, He always comes through.
  • Daily gratitude is important. We’d be thankful for each unique person or thing, even though tinged with earth. Perfection awaits in Heaven.
  • Collecting quite a variety of friends from different backgrounds, races, ages and values broadens our perspective.
  • The depth of love we have for our children and grandchildren is stunning.
  • We could be more in love with our spouse than when we married.
  • We don’t have to do everything. Our gifting and strengths will make a place for us.
  • Our life’s work is valuable because we are serving others and improving their lives.
  • Our work ethic and attitude is more crucial to employers than college degrees.
  • Our insecurities may tell us that we’ll look better when putting others down. We now know that we’re better when we champion one another.
  • Having a vision and making plans is important because time is finite. Making deliberate choices about what to give ourselves and our time to is crucial.
  • Listening is one of the best ways to show love. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19
  • Giving generously when an opportunity is presented is always a good idea. “And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.”  Hebrews 13:16
  • It’s important to eat real food, choose an active lifestyle and eschew fad diets. Steadiness is key to being healthy for the long haul.
  • We should show respect for others by replying to invitations and requests. We’d know how much work is involved in planning an event.
  • We don’t need to wait until our house looks like a magazine spread to have people over.
  • Being outside and enjoying our magnificent world is a gift.
  • You can always fill the holes and paint another color!
  • There is always something to smile about!

I hope my rambling thoughts have stimulated your thinking and maybe even inspired you! What would you add to my list?

 

 

 

 

 

When Home Staging gets Personal

When Home Staging gets Personal

What if you suddenly walked out of your home, never to return? What would your loved ones find? 50312342_l I speak often these days to baby boomer clients about all their stuff, and what in the world to do with it?  We were endowed with rare treasures from our parents and grandparents. Chosen to be  caretakers of priceless antiques. “Keep these pieces in our family,” they said. I’m constantly saying to my clients and to myself,  “Stuff is only (monetarily) worth what someone is willing to pay for it.”

I’m not speaking of the items that have special meaning to us—things we can’t live without. Like my grandmother’s rings. But how much do we have that doesn’t fit that category? We live in a different world from our ancestors. They bought a few good things and kept them forever. The generations coming after us buy lots of bargain stuff and use it up. We boomers are in the middle; having been endowed with all the valuables and having nowhere to relocate them.

This all came back to me again when I was asked to look at a home recently vacated. I stepped inside and took a look around. It seemed as if the homeowner had just left to run an errand. Clean dishes in the dishwasher, cups by the coffee maker ready to fill with a fresh brew. Drawers brimming with silverware for table setting, family photos all around, green plants that needed water, books half read– this place was full of life. A life interrupted. I learned that, sadly, there was a rather sudden diagnosis and an abrupt departure to family in another city.

You can tell a lot about a person when you’re in their home. This one was full of love. So many treasured antiques. Updated colors and decor here and there. Lots of chairs on the sun porch for lots of people. She had staged her life for living and comfort; not for selling. Did she even know what was happening in her home? I felt like I was invading her privacy; but kept reminding myself that I was there to help.

I’d been asked to come in and identify certain items that could be kept in the house for staging purposes. My single motive was to hasten the sale of her home.

This experience was poignant for me and I knew that it wasn’t just a job. It was another opportunity for me to grow in my understanding of how stuff affects our lives; my clients’ and my own.

Looking ahead to a probable move from my home, I’m challenged to think judiciously about everything. Do I really use it? Need it? Love it?  No more saying, “I might need it some day.” Would I buy the item today? Many times the answer is “No!” But there is that endowment effect. The feeling that the thing is a part of my life and I’m responsible to care for it and see that it has a good home. This process starts the moment we acquire an item. It’s hard to let go after it’s in our possession. Especially for us baby boomers. Funny how our minds work.

Hopefully we’ll all live happily into our nineties! But, life is uncertain. What can you do today, as far as your stuff goes, to prepare for the future? Would your life be lighter and more enjoyable with fewer things weighing you down? Let’s edit out even the good in order to be left with the best. If everything is important nothing is important. Preaching to myself!

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

Hans Hofmann

Band-Aid Bread (Recipe Included)

Band-Aid Bread  (Recipe Included)

fullsizerenderMy friend Renee had experienced weddings of all three daughters. The addition of sons-in-law and lots of grandchildren happened  in what seemed like no time at all. I was newer at all this so I was picking her brain. She called the marriages and new relationships “expansive”. Renee is one of those people that when she speaks you want to scoop up every word. She doesn’t just toss words out like some of us do. Since she didn’t offer an explanation for expansive I knew I’d find out for myself.

We prayed for our kids’ future spouses their entire lives. It seems like such a far off prayer, and then before you know it your son or daughter finds just the right mate. It’s magic. An  incredible answer to our hopes for them. As our family began to expand, I saw in myself an attitude of wanting the new people in the family to like me. I guess I wasn’t completely comfortable with my in-law status—sometimes I felt like I was in middle school with the insecurities.

One way to show love and bring folks together is to feed them. I’ve always believed that sharing a meal around the table is the best way to really know people and bond with them. As soon as you pull up a chair to the table, you’re all on common ground. No one is better than the other one and the table joins you together with an invisible cord that causes everyone to breathe easy and be their authentic selves. At least that’s the way I see it.

It was with these thoughts in mind that I planned our  Sunday lunch. It would be one of the first times our new daughter-in-law Mary would join us after church for lunch. I baked bread. Artisan bread is so easy to make; it just takes a little planning ahead. Homemade bread always seems special and that’s what I wanted this meal to be. The bread stood out so much in the meal that I honestly don’t remember the other items we had! You’ll soon see why.

I took the loaves from the oven as everyone was seated. There’s nothing like that aroma of homemade bread. The butter was on the table, softened for easy spreading. Ahhhhh….. The slicing began and suddenly the chatter became silence. I gazed toward the table from my post at the counter—my eyes connected with a look of shock on Mary’s face. She had just bitten into the bread and was pulling an object from her piece of bread! Time stood still. A band-aid! Oh no! What? How? Words popped out of my mouth with no thought whatsoever. “Mary, welcome to the family. You’ve now passed your initiation to become a real Freshwater!” We all laughed and even proceeded to eat the bread, disposing of the tainted piece. Mary reminded me that I’d told them about cutting my finger while preparing vegetables the day before. I had wondered what happened to that band-aid!

This wasn’t really Mary’s initiation into the family. It was my initiation into being real. Surely nothing could be more embarrassing than what I’d experienced with the bread. I remembered the word expansive from Renee. In families we are blessedly stuck with each other. As we grow we expand in understanding and love as we include more people and their unique attributes from which to learn. We grow as individuals as we tangibly move toward each other. Even after that fateful Sunday lunch, breaking bread around the table is still my favorite!

 

BAND-AID BREAD -my version

2 packs of quick rise yeast
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt; Band-aid, optional
6-1/2 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting dough

Cornmeal

1. In a large plastic resealable container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups very warm (about 100 degrees) water. Using a large spoon, stir in flour, mixing until mixture is uniformly moist with no dry patches. Do not knead. Dough will be wet and loose enough to conform to shape of plastic container. Cover, but not with an airtight lid.

2. Let dough rise at room temperature, until dough begins to flatten on top or collapse, at least 2 hours and up to 5 hours. (At this point, dough can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks; refrigerated dough is easier to work with than room-temperature dough. It’s best that first-time bakers refrigerate dough overnight or at least 3 hours.

3. When ready to bake, sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel. I use parchment paper on a round stone with cornmeal sprinkled on it. Place a broiler pan on bottom rack of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees, preheating baking stone for at least 20 minutes.

4. Sprinkle a little flour on dough and on your hands. Pull dough up and, using a serrated knife, cut off a grapefruit-size piece (about 1 pound). Working for 30 to 60 seconds (and adding flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking to hands; most dusting flour will fall off, it’s not intended to be incorporated into dough), turn dough in hands, gently stretching surface of dough, rotating ball a quarter-turn as you go, creating a rounded top and a bunched bottom.

5. Place shaped dough on prepared pizza peel and let rest, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it in lidded container. (Even one day’s storage improves flavor and texture of bread. Dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in airtight containers and defrosted overnight in refrigerator prior to baking day.) Dust dough with flour.

6. Using a serrated knife, slash top of dough in three parallel, 1/4-inch deep cuts (or in a tic-tac-toe pattern). Place dough onto preheated baking stone. Pour 1 cup or more hot tap water into broiler pan and quickly close oven door to trap steam. Bake until crust is well-browned and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack and cool completely.

There are many Artisan Bread recipes online. I just thought it would be fun to include my version here. Enjoy!

 

The priceless value of Home

The priceless value of Home

5621046815_cdec2d46cf_mMy morning walk took me past former homes of  close friends. I was feeling lots of emotions as I passed those houses. I pondered, as I walked, why I was feeling so sentimental. Relationships, that was the answer. In those homes I established deep friendships with people. Now, to be honest, I know many people who have lived in this community- it’s one of my favorite areas. But those feelings didn’t register inside as I passed the other houses. I’d been in some of them at various times, but there were no memories of growing friendships, of talking and laughing, even growing together.

Walking past Harriet’s, I recall the warmth and how welcomed I felt. I remember her first color scheme. It was beautiful, we all thought at the time. Then the time came for the red and yellow to be replaced with softer, more neutral tones. I remember where all the decorative pieces were placed and how she had such a knack for decorating simply and beautifully. I remember the laughter, the Monk watching and so much more. It was always a treat to be there.

Next door were the Kelly’s. They were always hospitable and welcomed our small group with open arms. I was always amazed how Barbara found time to prepare multiple dishes of food for all of us. Also, all the right beverage choices. She made me want to improve my hosting game. We laughed, prayed and shared together in that home. Always listening for their golden retriever and hoping he wouldn’t bust out of his secure place and bust up our gathering. I also remember their antique table with a marble top just like one that we have.

Emily’s was the fun house. Mostly because Emily lived there. Of course, Dave’s giant wooden play set in the backyard was not to be missed. It was an engineering marvel. And a child’s delight. What a joyful family, and their joy spilled over into their happy decorating schemes. I loved being there with them. I always lingered longer than intended because Emily and I could never stop talking.

The priceless value of home! That’s why I launched Tranquiliving in 2003. I’m passionate about helping people optimize their homes. Not to make them perfect—not to prepare for a photo shoot. We are building a happy healthy foundation on which life grows! It’s where life happens and relationships thrive.

What does home mean to you? Do you enjoy having friends over? Or is it difficult to let people in? If you typically meet in restaurants or coffee shops, why not make your home the place for your next get-together with a friend? It doesn’t have to be perfect! People just want to be with you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why even get organized?

Why even get organized?

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I help people become less cluttered and more organized. I do this not just for the sake of “being organized” but so they can live their lives more fully and meaningfully. Being “organized” isn’t an end in itself. It’s a foundation to the life we want to live in our homes and lives.

I recently found myself again, in a familiar setting. I was privileged to be invited into someone’s personal home spaces. This is the where I come alive. I love encouraging, cheering and inspiring them to make a change for good. It’s my job and my mission.

There were piles. Magazines, unopened mail, boxes labeled and sealed. There were beautiful antiques. Too many pieces of furniture. It wasn’t chaos; it was arranged in a somewhat organized fashion. It was clean enough. No offensive odors. For that I was thankful. There were stacks of clothing and linens. It was a little hard to move around. Before my client had time to offer explanations, I had evaluated the situation and quickly found empathy for her. I asked what she envisioned for her home. “What is your dream?” “If you could snap your fingers and instantly alter your situation, what would it look like?” “We’d be able to have friends over for dinner.”  That was the uppermost desire in her mind; in her heart.

Once again I thought of the legend about Michelangelo. When asked how he created the beautiful sculpture of David, Michelangelo replied that he just carved away from the stone everything that wasn’t David. Such an incredible truth that we can apply to our homes and lives. My client and I reflected on this principle. Each time we picked up a piece of paper that was saved for a sentimental reason or for just in case, I would ask her a question. “If you have to choose between saving this, and hosting friends in your dining room, which do you choose?” “Toss it!”, she’d say every time.

For an entire home, a room, a shelf, or a closet, first cast a vision for the space. Ideally, empty the area completely. Then place in the space the essentials; things you need and love; whittling away at everything else. This is where I think the glitch comes for most people: how to cull the excess that doesn’t fit into the vision. (Even when we are willing to let go, it’s important that we have good options for off-loading items. I give my clients numerous ideas for their stuff.)

First of all, we must keep the vision at the forefront of our minds; our imaginations. If “hosting friends” is the vision, go ahead and create your “dream come true” on paper as well as in your mind. Measure and figure and plan for the day when the room is absent of the nonessentials and there is space for the necessary items. Imagine the table settings, and using the lovely antique table that’s been languishing and gathering dust. Imagine your grandmother’s china that has been stored away. Imagine the friends around the table, the laughter, the delicious meal that you’ve wanted to try but haven’t had the space to do it.

Without actually knowing what we want the end result to look like, we lack the courage and fortitude to let go of things that have been so much a part of our lives. Letting go is so hard but it will open up a world of possibilities,  joy and purpose that we can’t even imagine!

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

― William Morris

Computers make me cry

Computers make me cry

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Change and growth are painful at times, but they are imperative. What hard things are you facing that make you want to give up?  What God-given Purpose looms for you? What ideas and dreams permeate your thinking and your life?

I’m pondering these very questions and determined to face and overcome my own hurdles!

A few months ago, I made some new friends. They were all younger than me and they had matching shirts. The first night hanging out went well. A nice, patient young man helped me make some big decisions.

These people are really smart and I realized there was a lot for me to learn; and they all seemed to be bilingual. I first noticed this when a tall, nice looking guy spoke to me across a counter.  Our eyes seemed to lock, or maybe it was just that my eyes became completely glazed. Anyway, he said something that sounded like, “Your ‘smpt’… blah blah blah…and your incoming mail… blah blah blah… and your outgoing server… blah blah blah is not compatible and will not interface with the new system…blah blah blah…and basically you made a big mistake creating files for your inbox…blah blah blah…”

I calmly (like a zombie) said to him, “I’m sorry;  I don’t speak that language; I’ve been trying to learn it for years, but I’m still having trouble understanding and I have no idea what you just said.”

I spent over a week with my new “friends”, visiting them every evening and regularly speaking to Jamie, James, Daniel and the whole gang on the phone every day.  I imagined that we would be celebrating Thanksgiving together at my house in a few weeks.  We were all getting so familiar with each other. It was not the way I like to make new friends. It was way too forced and stressful. My situation was unique and more difficult than most. I think they were trying to tell me that I was special.  I even told one of them- I think it was Daniel, that having me there would prove to be a very good training for them. “It’s good for you to spend time with me because there are a lot of others out there like me. “I know they were glad for my encouragement.

I came close to giving up; I almost resigned myself to writing on a yellow ledger pad and talking on the phone instead of emailing. Could I survive without a computer? I was seriously pondering this question. My parents, years earlier, had eschewed computer technology, which I didn’t get at the time. Somehow they survived. Now I was beginning to understand why. It is too hard, it’s not intuitive, and I felt like screaming.

But, instead, I started to cry because that was quieter and less disruptive to all the friends. I got away before the tears were very obvious. I made a decision. I will go forward and get whatever help I need to learn the new things and the hard things and not find myself lost and behind. It’s the way our whole world communicates, for Pete’s sake. And here I sit writing this post on my fancy new laptop. There is a ton on it that I still don’t understand or have set up properly, but there are helpers out there! I learned that from the friends in matching shirts.

Now, the geek squad and computer technology may not be your Achilles’ heel. But we all face hurdles as we move ahead in life. What steps are needed today to bring you closer to your goals and purpose? Today take one small step in the right direction. Baby steps. No one else can play your part.

“She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.”

Beau Taplin  Unstoppable