Do the next thing.

Elisabeth Elliot introduced me to this phrase that continues to give me direction in chaos and confusion. I don’t need to formulate a complete plan. I just need to do the next thing. One thing. And then, do the next thing.

This is not an easy concept for a slightly OCD person like myself who really wants to start EVERYTHING new in January. The idea of starting a new habit or routine in April just seems wrong to me. But I have found that I can only change so many things at the same time and maintain those changes over time. For me, small changes over time produce big results in the future. After all, raising children isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. 

You need a bite-sized plan for a God-sized goal. 

As Harold and I were setting goals for our young children many years ago, I ran across I Thessalonians 5:23-24: “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. the One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” This one verse helped us to categorize the goals we set for our daughters’ lives: Spirit—how they related to God, Soul—how they related to others, and Body—how they guarded themselves. My husband and I talked about the behaviors and heart attitudes that we believed were critical in the godly character formation of the girls and then created a list of goals for each category. 

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. ~Tony Robbins 

Achieving a goal begins with putting it in writing and breaking it down into smaller action steps. THE PLAN outlines the character trait goals that we chose for our family. I wish I could say that the girls mastered every one in the span of a year. The truth is that we’re all still a work in progress, but we look more like Jesus that we did when we began this journey. 

There is more than one way to raise a godly child.

There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all solution to raising children who love and honor God. THE PLAN is only one tool in the sea of many options that helps parents to be intentional about raising godly children. (Click here for a printable copy.) It is a simple chart that suggests one or two character traits to focus on throughout the month. I’ll be posting scriptures, activities and ideas from our family that focus on that particular trait. You may choose to focus on one or both of the traits for the month, or you may focus on one trait for several months. You’re the parent and God will give you wisdom about what is best for your family. The goal is not a number completed; the goal is a changed heart. 

The first change starts tomorrow—PERSPECTIVE.

Remember and Reflect: Celebrating a New Year

The beginning of a new year is a great time for new beginnings: new eating habits, new exercise programs, new personal goals, and new projects.  For my friend Karen it means a new Bible, since she buys a new one each year so that old markings don’t distract her and she can receive fresh revelation.  For the past 25 years, I’ve celebrated the new year by making resolutions. Last year, I began a new tradition.  One of our pastors introduced our family to Remembrances and Revelations, a discussion guide worksheet to help us reflect on the past and intentionally plan for the year ahead.  Some questions are directed to the family, such as “What great works of God have we experienced this year?”,  “What has God taught us this year?”,  “What scriptures have we memorized?”, and “What mission is God calling us to in the coming year?”  Some questions should be completed with each child individually, such as “What was the greatest disappointment of the year and why?”, “What do you wish was different in our family?”, and “What was the most special event of the year and why?”  As your child answers these questions, it will give you a window into their heart and soul.  The thought-provoking questions helped us to reflect on the past and to prioritize and be more intentional about our goals for the coming year.

Remember that this guide is only a tool, not a biblical mandate!  You can use some of it, part of it, or none of it.  Ask God to give you a plan for your family.  Since our family will be traveling on New Year’s Eve day, I plan to bring the Remembrance and Revelation guide so we can discuss the family questions together.  In January, I hope to carve out some one-on-one time with each child so we can complete the individual portions together.  No matter how you use this tool, I hope it will be a blessing and help bring your family closer together as you begin 2011.

Happy New Year!

I was born to celebrate—birthdays, holidays, and major or minor accomplishments.  I celebrate New Year’s Day like many other Americans and make a list of Yew Year’s resolutions, but in my heart I’ve always felt a sense of new beginnings in September.  So many things in my life have transitioned or begun in the month of September.  Several years back I contemplated why I value September as a season of new beginnings.  I concluded that it was owing to the school schedule that I’d followed for so many years, first as student, then as public school teacher, and more recently as homeschooling mom. This year our family was privileged to join a local celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish New Year, known in the Bible as the Feast of Trumpets.  I was riveted as I heard about the celebration of the birthday of the world, as Jewish tradition calls it.  Though we had studied Jewish feasts a few years back, it was as if I had never heard the traditions and meanings connected with the Old Testament celebration.

I was especially drawn to the tradition of “casting off the sins of the previous year.”  I love the idea of a time of cleansing and starting anew.  It was an epiphany moment for me.  God had planned this season to celebrate new beginnings, which confirmed what my heart has felt for years.

I appreciate my heritage as one “grafted in”, but I also recognize that we are no longer under the law.    When Jesus came to this earth in the form of a man, everything changed.  Through His blood we can “cast off our sins” any day of the year. Praise God we don’t have to wait a whole year to be forgiven!

May this fall be a time of new beginnings for your family—a time to renew your passion for your Father, the Lord and Savior who has bought you with His blood.  And, as the Hebrew greeting says, “May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life for a good new year.”