“Wherever you are, be all there.”
― Jim Elliot
Last Friday I shared our financial goals. Briefly, we have credit card and car debt in a snowball plan, are using cash only for everyday purchases and are adding a little in savings every pay check. Once we pay those debts off we’ll decide whether to sell our present home and payoff this mortgage or move to downsize the mortgage. That’s it. On a day to day basis, as long as I stick to the cash only plan, there’s not a lot of thought that goes into carrying out these steps. I am impatient though for the end goal. I like a project that takes up more focused energy. This is more like a small lifestyle change. Which is fine and also takes focus but doesn’t take a lot of daily effort.
Another goal is becoming more minimalist. I love to de-clutter and would love to get down to the bare bones of possessions and distractions. There are some aspects of minimalism that won’t work with our family right now but there is still a lot I can do to live with minimal distractions. Again this is a process and will take patience. In the mean time I need to pace myself and not neglect my other responsibilities.
Each of these areas can become a distraction to what is right in front of me. Namely my children and my family. I can spend inordinate amounts of time reading about minimalism and financial peace on the internet, day dream about the next home and become increasingly unproductive in daily life. The preventative is three-fold: patience, presence and a plan.
I need to be patient through the process of achieving these large over-arching goals and I need to practice being present to the moment. This often requires a plan.
Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Without getting angry or upset. Keep calm and carry on. This area requires prayer and deep breathing especially when dealing with people. Patience in waiting for a certain day or goal to be reached requires steady work towards the goal. I struggle with the day to day but hope to be able to look back to see how step by step we’ve reached our goals. Patience indeed is what it will take.
Sometimes being present will require focusing on the next step of each of these goals and that will feel like progress but, I need to set aside dedicated time to that. Being present means I am “all there” when interacting with my husband and “all there” when listening to my children. This means, eye contact, no phone in the hand, and pleasant interaction. Sometimes this will mean putting down what I’m doing to be present to
interruptions the beautiful people in my life.
Jesus was a perfect example of this. While He walked on this earth he was “all there” in every situation. He was completely in the moment interacting with those in front of him. If he needed time alone to pray He went off by himself. His disciples on the other hand tried to shoo the children away and day dreamed and argued about who was greatest. Mary was praised for sitting and learning and being present while Martha was rebuked for her worry. There is a lot we can learn from Jesus’ example.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus exhorted his followers not to worry about tomorrow, but to focus on today, and to trust God for food and clothes and shelter. Our most basic needs provided by a loving God. Being present though takes practice a constant capturing of our thoughts to the moment.
Elisabeth Elliot talked of interruptions as God ordained. In her book Keep a Quiet Heart she states this about interruptions:
I think I find most help in trying to look on all the interruptions and hindrances to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline, trials sent by God to help one against getting selfish over one’s work.Then one can feel that perhaps one’s true work—one’s work for God—consists in doing some trifling haphazard thing that has been thrown into one’s day. It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted to think, it is the most important part of the work of the day—the part one can best offer to God. After such a hindrance, do not rush after the planned work; trust that the time to finish it will be given sometime, and keep a quiet heart about it.
I read this article recently that teaches specifically what can be done when feeling overwhelmed at home or at work and how to bring peace back to your day by becoming present. Please don’t be put off, if you are a Christian, by the eastern religion aspect of this, there are good tips for redirecting our thoughts back to what’s right in front of us.
Being present becomes, then, a way to handle any problem, any distraction, any stressor. It allows everything else to fade away, leaving only you and whatever you’re dealing with right now. -Leo Babauta
Having a plan helps in staying present and gives a sense of productivity. This is another area I am growing in. Each day I like to know what’s ahead of me so I can stay focused on what needs to be done. But, to always hold that loosely so I can deal with interruptions (see above). I’ve tried many ways to plan my days and weeks over the years and have not found one way that consistently works well for me. I’ve always
envied admired people who plan their days and flow from one task to the next in quiet efficiency. Productivity is the outcome, they are able to teach 10 children, write books, finish home projects and keep their house clean with ease. At least they make it look easy. I ebb and flow, I have seasons of productivity but often end up distracted by internet, social media or other things. There are tools I’ve come across recently that help both to stay with a task at hand, not let distractions take over and to have a plan to help minimize distractions.
One is called The Pomodoro Technique. This utilizes a simple timer and breaks the day up into 25 minute segments. The technique, I think, works best for school and office work but, its basic principles work well for homemaking and homeschooling as well. The idea is to have each task broken up into pomodoros and plan your day according to that. After each 25 minute segment you have a five minute break and after 3 pomodoro’s you take a longer 30 minute break to regroup before the next set of pomodoros. I like the idea of using a timer but have not bought into the complete plan of tracking all work done this way.
Another tool I came across recently is from a blog post on Study Hacks by Cal Newport who shows us how to plan our week through a narrative rather than bullet points of daily tasks. Check it out and see if that is something that might work for you.
Next week school starts for my two youngest children. One will be in Middle School and one will be home schooled for fourth grade. I will not have much time for distractions but I hope with these tools I will be able to practice daily and weekly planning and stay present for peace and productivity while being patient for the long term results. I was going to title this: Practicing Patience, Presence and Planning Produces Peace and Productivity but too much alliteration. Let’s just be All There!