Priorities

pri·or·i·ty
[prahy-awr-i-tee, -or-]

1. the state or quality of being earlier in time, occurrence, etc.

2. the right to precede others in order, rank, privilege, etc.; precedence.

3. the right to take precedence in obtaining certain supplies, services, facilities, etc., especially during a shortage.

4. something given special attention.

adjective
5. highest or higher in importance, rank, privilege, etc.: a priority task.

Lately, I have been questioning my priorities and what I give my time to. The things we prioritise say a lot about us, don’t they?

Over the last fortnight I have been really challenged by a situation at work. It has been so difficult and actually quite distressing. We have been dealing with foster carers who are prioritising their own wish to go on a holiday over the needs of the little boy they look after – they’ve only had him for a few weeks and want to go off and leave him with other carers when he’s barely settled with them. It has become clear that their priority is not the child they are caring for.

It was so clear to me that this is not ok, but then since being confronted with this whole thing I have thought about my own priorities. My mind has strange connections – I think about one thing, which prompts something else, and then another thing which seems unconnected but actually makes sense in my mind.

(Example: this evening I drove past a town-house that I liked and thought “I’d like to live in a town-house”. Then I wondered, why are they called town-houses. Then I wondered why the New York versions are called “brown-stones”. Then I wondered how much houses cost in Manhattan. And then I had the song “Manhattan” by Ella Fitzgerald in my head!)

But anyway, let’s not get too off track.

Back in June I came close to quitting my gym membership, since I figured that £30 a month is expensive when I only went once or twice a week – and that worked out at around £5 a session which itself seemed like a lot of money. But I like going to the gym and getting fit, and I think it’s healthy for me – so I decided to prioritise going to the gym regularly and actually making the most of my membership – somehow it’s crept up to 5 times a week, but it feels so good to be active. I do classes and I have a weights routine with an instructor and everything.

I also prioritised eating healthier – I have such an addiction to chocolate and sweet things! Give me a pudding over a savoury any day of the week. I challenged myself to not eat biscuits at work for an entire month – and I did it. I felt so much better during my work day; less energy crashes in the middle of the afternoon.

It seems that if I put my mind to something, and make it a priority, it is not that hard. As my first discipler once said: “you make time for what you care about”

So why then, is it so hard for me to prioritise God in my life? I love God and I want my life to honour him and bring him glory, but I forget him SO often.

Yesterday we had a worship evening at Small Group and it was a great, peaceful, praising time.

But in my own life, when it relies on my own motivation, I really struggle to seek God. I am completely involved in my Church, but when I am serving and don’t get to listen to the service, I very rarely listen to the preach online – although I always say I will … but then I can find time to watch Emmerdale or Coronation Street on itvplayer (hey, you already knew I was middle-aged inside)

Yes, I listen to worship music – but only when I’m cooking dinner… Yes, I read my Bible – whilst I’m eating breakfast. Sometimes I pray at times other than when I just want something – but usually in the car when I get sick of what’s playing on the radio.

When did my time with God become something I tried to multi-task?

I have always struggled in prayer, because talking to a Holy, Infinite, Ever-Loving Father is just not a concept I could understand – to trust that what you ask for will be given, and that he is always there. Actually it was a pretty alien concept.

It’s different now, though…I truly know God as my Father…but how come I can’t prioritise Him. I struggle so much.

I know that everyone struggles, really I do – but I forget him so often.

How can I remedy this issue?

I don’t want some “5-steps to a closer relationship with your Saviour” type spiel. I want a deeper, more honest, more reliant relationship with God.

But how?!

At work I split my tasks into groups: 1) URGENT AND IMPORTANT, 2) NOT URGENT BUT IMPORTAND, 3) NOT IMPORTANT OR URGENT. This really helps me figure out what I need to first, and what can wait until later. (Some of my “not important and not urgent” tasks have been sitting in that pile since April though…should fix that)

God should be URGENT AND IMPORTANT, shouldn’t he?

More thoughts to come on this, I’m sure.

-x-

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Welcome, 2013

2013

Here we have it, a brand new year.

I celebrated the coming of 2013 with my small group from Church; playing Charades and Bible Challenge, eating lots of lovely nibbles and chatting. There was lots of laughter. We turned on Jools Holland at 11.45 and watched a lot of random celebs counting down, then toasted midnight with champagne and party poppers. Then, on New Years Day (after not enough hours sleep) we met again for a fry-up brunch and a lovely long, muddy & wet country walk. When I say wet – we are talking foot deep puddles and waterlogged fields. Some of the group didn’t have wellies (and mine had a split which I discovered mid-puddle) which resulted in lots of piggy backs. Overall; a fun filled start to 2013.

I’ve never spent New Year with anyone other than family before, and the only time we have ever truly celebrated was the Millennium New Year…when I was 10. That was the year we all had flu but we had booked tickets to my village’s Big New Year Celebration and were just about well enough to go.

New Year with my family is very low-key. We don’t even plan to stay up til midnight. One year when I was 13 or 14, I got so bored that I did all my holiday homework and watched Dumbo. (Ended in my crying at the sad part and having to go to my mum for a cuddle). I think my family’s non-recognition of New Years has led me to feeling like it is a big anti-climax. Which in turn I think makes me feel a little negative about the year that is to come. However, for 2013 I am going to try not to be such a pessimist about life. So I am glad that we celebrated New Year. I feel I’ve hit the ground running.

This time last year I published a whole list of goals. A week later I published an update on my progress. And then…kind of nothing. I kept up my diary every day until April, but then I went on holiday to the US and didn’t take it up again when I got back. Some of the goals I stuck with, but not purposefully. I think I was a bit over-ambitious.

This year, 2013, I am only going to have two real goals.
1) To give thanks and with a grateful heart
2) To be content

I think this will incorporate a lot of things but I don’t want to give myself an unrealistic challenge. On top of which, my goals last year were very much physical goals or goals which were mainly to benefit me. This year’s goals are Goals for my Heart.

I wish you – my readers and followers (I still can’t believe I have either) – all the best for 2013. I hope that you find (or keep) hope, joy and peace in this coming year.

Love, Sarah -x-

It’s summer!

In case you haven’t noticed, the summer is here!

We in Kent have been very fortunate with our weather – the last two weeks have been just glorious sunshine, with only one rainy day. It’s quite hard to fathom that other areas of the country are suffering with downpours and flooding while I’m driving with both windows down and applying suncream while I’m sat at traffic lights!

Anyway, all this lovely weather has got me thinking about my summer plans.

This is the first year of my life (that I can remember) that I’ve not had a proper “summer holiday” – in the way that for the past twenty years I’ve been in school (or University/Impact) and my academic years have ended in July, and not started again until September.

This year, I have officially joined the ranks of the full-time employed, and am faced with the (if I’m honest) slightly miserable concept of working throughout the whole summer and possibly missing the sunshine while it’s here.

Never fear though – because I have decided to make a Summer Bucket List.

My friend Esther visited a little while ago, and we watched this film. (It’s a bit sad, but at times uplifting)

I already have a (sort-of) Life Bucket List, but that’s all really long-term stuff like ‘own my own home’ and ‘travel across America’. I don’t want to feel like summer is passing me by so I have come up with…

So far I have 15 items, which I think are manageable.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • travel to a foreign country
  • eat s’mores
  • stay up late and Skype with my American friends
  • have a belated birthday picnic

I’m open to suggestions for additions to my list, and will publish it on Saturday!  Oh how I love Summer 🙂

-x-

Update – One Month In…

One Month In…how am I doing?!

Spiritual

I’m reading my Bible every day…made it through to Samuel in OT and John in NT. It got a bit rocky around Judges – I just don’t get Samson and Delilah. But a good thing from that is that I was so confused by Samson that I dug around in my Study Bible to figure it out a bit more. Which worked, sort of. I’m enjoying having quiet times each morning, reading my Bible whilst eating breakfast. It feels productive 🙂 This is tying in with the other goals I had, to spend more time with God and focus on Him. I’m still working on that…

Goal 4 was to consider how I serve in church: I’m still doing that. I was asked just recently to join another team at church and it only took a moment’s prayer to know that it wasn’t right for me. I’m still serving in the Creche team and leading another team, but with my work schedule I am currently working every Saturday for the foreseeable, and I’m on call 2 Sundays out of 5  (don’t ask me how it works!!) so I feel I need to protect my Sundays so I can attend a full service.

Discipleship; I was asked a while ago to consider taking on another “disciplee” but after some consideration I’ve declined – not because I don’t want to, I think the girl is great, but I don’t have the time to devote to her. I’m trying to get monthly dates with each girl so that I can spend quality time with them, working together.

Career

I’m enjoying work at the moment, it was fairly quiet after Christmas but then this past week has just been so busy with all the kids having a lot going on and me needing to deal with it. Craziness. But I’m enjoying it. I’m also doing contact work, which takes up my Saturdays but I can claim this time as additional holiday.

I’m still looking into external training courses I can attend to help with my PDQ. I’ve looked into some certificates with the OU but I think they demand more time than I have available so I’ll keep looking. The Kent Safeguarding Children Board has a good list of training courses but I couldn’t access the real information!

Health

I haven’t done ANY exercise, since Christmas (shocker) and I abandoned the “no chocolate” rule for the month of January as there was too much around. February will be the start of my cutdown on junk/salty/sugary foods. I plan to eat more fruit, nuts and veg to balance this. I’m also comparing gym memberships (really I just want to swim!) but I’m trying to figure out which is the most economical.

One bit of progress is that I’ve been eating lunch every day, and have increased my fruit intake already to boost lunch – so instead of snacking on eating biscuits/chocolates at work I’m having a healthy and more filling option.

Personal

I’m writing every day which I’m finding is really helpful. I have a “page-a-day” diary from work and even just writing one A5 side each evening is great as I can just offload how the day has been, how I’ve felt etc. Getting it out of my mind before I sleep is helping me to sleep better too.

I’m amending my Reading goal – because 1 Christian book for every 2 fiction books is probably very unrealistic. I’m amending it to 1 Christian book per month. I figure this will give me more chance to actually absorb what I’m reading rather than trying to just ‘get through’ one book so I can read another. I read a great book called “When I See Him” in January and I’m going to read “Mere Christianity” throughout February. It’s been on my ‘list’ for about six months!

I’m off Facebook! I haven’t missed it since Rosie changed my password for me…though it’s hard to be out of the loop with events etc, I just need to ensure I keep in touch with people to make sure they tell me in person! Facebook makes it easy for people to be lazy, I think. I’ll probably go back on at some point but I’m not feeling the urge right now. It’s not a necessity, it is a tool for networking and right now I’m managing without  – shock horror!!

I think that’s a pretty thorough update, or at least, thorough enough!

1 week update

6 days into 2012 and I’m feeling quite chipper today. Yesterday I was tired and a little bleugh as I felt quite drained after 2 days of work, but today was a Good Day and I am on top of it 🙂 Yay!

Goal update: haven’t managed to cut out chocolate, as Mum bought me a huge tube of Minstrels for my journey, and then yesterday I really wanted a McFlurry and they only come in chocolate so I just had to have one.

Best thing is, I don’t have to be legalistic about this and I really enjoy that feeling. Goals are goals, it’s not a set rule. One thing I am finding is that I am spurring myself on more. For example, this evening I needed to go to Morrisons to get petrol, as I was on the red light and have work again tomorrow. I felt like I couldn’t be bothered and said to myself that I’d go tomorrow before work.

But where’s the sense in that?! I was already in the car, Morrisons isn’t too much of a detour and going there before work tomorrow means I’d sacrifice some time in the morning – time I could spend with God.

So I went to Morrisons, and tomorrow morning before work I’m going to chill out with my Heavenly Father and listen to some worship music. I don’t need to be in work til 10, so will have plenty of time in the morning as Rosie will have a lie-in.

Another example is last night when I really “couldn’t be bothered” to make my lunch for today. I knew I needed to do it, because I wouldn’t have time in the morning (which is always the case, and in the past is the reason why I have skipped lunch) – but “not being bothered” is just not a good enough reason. So I did it, and I had lunch for today and then didn’t snack on rubbish and generally have a good feeling at the moment.

I am liking 2012 so far

-x-

Goals for 2012

As it’s the first day of a brand new year, I feel provoked to consider what God has in store for me in 2012, and the things that I hope to do for His glory…

Spiritual

1) Finish reading The Bible – I’m four months into the Bible In A Year, and hope to continue with this, finishing in September

2) Seek God daily – I want to set time aside to pray to my Father and listen to His voice

3) Focus on my Father – rather than getting sidetracked by what others have and are doing, I hope to set my mind on things above and trust God’s plan for me

4) Consider my serving roles – I want to specifically consider how I serve my church and whether what I do is glorifying to God. I think this is something that everyone should do with some kind of regularity, as it is easy to get stuck into a “rut” of doing things just because you always have, rather than because that is the thing God wants for you. I want to devote some real time to pursuing God in this and may need to make some changes in how I serve, in line with what God instructs

5) Be a devoted Discipler – I have the privilege of being discipler to three amazing young women of God and I want to honour them with my time, words and love over the next year.

Career

1) Honour my employer – I am blessed to have a secure job in a fraught work environment, I want to honour my employer and be the best employee that I can be

2) Train and improve my skills – I want to seek training opportunities and make the most of them!

3) Study more – I intend to keep more up-to-date with social work research and articles and pay more attention to what the Government is doing

Health

In 2011 I faced lots of health challenges which I didn’t really deal with in a Godly way; I plan to change that! I am still facing these challenges but rather than bury my head in the sand I will first trust God and so allow Him to lead me through these experiences. I believe that health is something that encompasses your body, your mind and your Spirit – I hope to maintain a balance of these three and truly take care of myself, staying right with God and honouring the gift of life that He has given me. My health goals are:

1) Exercise regularly – I want to get back into a routine of good exercise. I’m using a workout designed by http://www.swimplan.com which structures your swim to allow you to see your improvement

2) Eat well – no more skipping meals, or managing on biscuits for lunch whilst I am at work. I plan to eat three meals a day, with planned snacks. I also want to cut down on the “junky” food and try to prepare more meals from “scratch”

3) No more weigh-ins. Without going into detail, this is a particularly big deal for me. I’m not going to trash my scales completely, but I am going to remove them from my bathroom and store them elsewhere so that I’m not tempted daily.

4) No more chocolate – I really like chocolate but I have noticed that I can get headaches after eating it – this is because there is a significant level of caffeine in most types chocolate. I can’t handle caffeine, so have been a decaf only girl for over 2 years, but this year I’ll take it a step further and reduce my chocolate intake completely.

Personal

1) Journal regularly  – at least once a week I hope to record events, hopes, prayers, dreams so that I can look back on these and see God at work

2) Read more Christian books – I have a bookshelf full of recommended reading which is sadly neglected, so I aim to read one Christian book for every two non-Christian books.

3) Read 50 books – I am keeping up with this goal on goodreads.com

4) Invest in relationships – Many of my close friends live away from me, I want to ensure that I continue to invest in these relationships, by visiting, writing letters and calling on the phone

5) Facebook fast – beginning on 2nd January I will be changing my Facebook password and spending a month away from “the social network”, instead focussing on real-time relationships

6) Organise my spending, and save – this is pretty simple, I aim to save more than I spend and pay off debts as soon as possible.

And so those are my goals for 2012 – I’ll be writing them in my journal and considering my progress regularly. I’ll also be asking friends to help keep me accountable to these goals, and hope to post regularly about my progress, challenges and thoughts over the next year.

-x-

…every woman…

”Every woman, whether rich or poor, married or single, has a circle of influence within which, according to her character, she is exerting a certain amount of power for good or harm. Every woman by her virtue or her vice, by her wisdom or her folly, by her dignity or her levity is adding something to our national elevation or degradation.” —John Angell James