A Year in the Book of Romans

A Year in the Book of Romans

I had the opportunity to participate in Bible Study Fellowship this year with about 300 other women in our current community. If you participated in BSF in past years you may be surprised to learn that the rules are loosening. No longer do we always answer every question and we have a lot more time to chat and get to know each other as a group.

I’ve loved my small group and have really enjoyed time with them both during small group and outside of Tuesday mornings. I’m so thankful for the friendships that have formed. I believe that studying Romans together has helped us drop the surface conversations quickly and deep dive into the important things.

It hasn’t been an easy book to study this year, but I can’t argue with the relevancy of the Bible when I read Romans. Paul could have been writing to the United States in 2017-2018, and in some ways, he was. At the same time, I think Romans is a book that many people skim through to avoid the “hard parts” which really aren’t as scary as others may lead you to believe.

Our group leader did an amazing job of encouraging us while also not letting us get away with short answers. She asked insightful questions and she was also willing to learn alongside us.

As I reflect on the key things I’ve taken away from a focused season of studying the Book of Romans I realize the list is shorter than I expected it would be. Paul lays out a clear understanding of the Gospel, and he makes a strong argument for “right living”. And maybe that’s why people have a hard time with Romans. While nuance is present in some sections, many are pretty clear. Do this, not that.

Here are a few examples:

Romans 13:7  Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Romans 13:13 “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.”

Romans 14:3-4The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”

While you may be tempted to say “Everything? that didn’t include foods we have now. If Paul knew about ____ he’d have written that differently.” Um NOPE! “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?”

The Contrast is Clear

Ultimately, this season studying Romans put a giant spotlight on the division that currently dominates many news cycles. The church is deeply fractured and none of the issues we are facing now are new ones.

Through it all, God is still God.

The most important take away for me is that God is so much bigger than we allow him to be, and our calling has more to do with our relationship with God than any other aspect of our lives.

Remote Working Work/Life Balance Strategies

work life balance

One thing I’ve heard from bloggers and podcasters often is that we shouldn’t assume people tell their whole stories on social media especially if they present the illusion that they have their lives completely organized and running smoothly. Jamie Ivey often says when she’s home she is 100% home and when she travels she is 100% focused on work. While that is a great suggestion, when your family, home, and office all overlap 100% of the time it is necessary to develop different work/life balance strategies.

Earlier this month I featured the pros and cons of working remotely. While nine months out of the year my days are divided into sections where my guys are at work and school and when they are home, summer is coming and that means football practices will begin and the kids will not have a regular weekly schedule. While there are times within each month that I find myself working to meet a deadline and ignoring other things that require attention, I have found that with a little preparation and a good amount of discipline work/life balance is achievable most days.

Here are my remote working work/life balance strategies:

Meal Planning and Prep

While summer is easier, most of the year dinner execution falls to me. Even if a meal is completed by someone else I’m still the one to make sure all the ingredients are available. You can read about my meal prep process once a menu is planned here. 

Notice that I have a list of things to keep on hand. With growing boys appetites vary. I build in 1-2 leftover days with each weekly menu, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. It’s easier to have some meals to quickly throw together than to have to run to the grocery store.

Every week I ask if there are meal requests and browse what we have in the house that will work together to create meals. I check the calendars I’ve built in Plan to Eat and compare my plan with previous weeks and then I write out the menu for everyone to see.

Plan to Eat is my go-to recipe database and meal planner. It stores all my recipes, syncs well with Pinterest and allows me to build menus as far out as I choose. There’s also a tab to help figure out what items I need to add to my grocery list. You can use my affiliate link if you are interested in Plan to Eat. Plans start at $4.95 for a month. My favorite part is that Plan to Eat allows you to “always export all of your recipes, even after your subscription has expired.”

My last meal strategy is to include my guys in the planning and cooking of meals. In the summer each guy has a night where they are in charge of the whole meal from planning to prep and clean up. Through the school year, I’ll often have them help me put together a side dish or make pancakes on the weekends.

I’m keeping meals healthy, reasonably priced and simple by:

  • Planning ahead
  • Prepping ahead on the weekend
  • Writing out the menu so everyone knows what to expect
  • Utilizing grocery services to stay on track with my list and budget
  • Including the whole family in the process.

Prioritizing Health

The best way I can keep work/life balance is by prioritizing my health. This includes regular exercise, eating healthy, making sure to limit caffeine and sweets, and incorporating vitamins and essential oils into my daily routine.

My strategy is to put my workout clothes on first thing. Whether that means I’m heading out to workout first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon I wear my workout clothes until I have completed exercise for the day. Sometimes this means I head out for a quick walk followed by some planks as the day gets away from me, but by having my clothes on I’m able to throw on my gym shoes and go whenever the time allows.

Cleaning Through the Week

I take advantage of the fact that I’m home and I take short breaks through the day to keep up on chores. This does make the weekdays a little fuller, but in reality, I’m spending less than 15 minutes most days cleaning while at the same time saving myself a few hours of time on the weekend.

Google Apps

Family Calendar

We have a shared Google Calendar for the family. This includes all activities going on including all practices, special events, doctor appointments and anything else that’s going on. Once a week when the boys bring home their school communications we make sure the calendar is up-to-date.

Google Keep

This app may be my favorite Google app. Shared lists allow for Ordell to add groceries to my running list without having to tell me. When he remembers he needs protein powder and I’m not around he can just add it to the list.

Google Keep allows for several lists to build at the same time and you can add alarm reminders as well. We have lists for library books and movies we want to see, doTerra oils we need to reorder, and tasks that need to be completed such as take the kids for haircuts. This app syncs with Google Drive, so you can access it even when your phone is in the other room.

Google Drive

We’ve finally found the perfect way to make sure all the papers and receipts and documents are not lost and aren’t stored in email boxes. Google Drive has become organized storage for tax documents, emails with information needed in the future, budget tracking, and photos. Using these steps I’ve been able to send emails and documents to Google Drive without having to print and store things. Since the drive folders are shared I also don’t have to remember where everything is!

Digital Intentionality

Laptop

The final work strategy I’ve adopted is the habit of closing my laptop and placing it across the room by a certain time each day. The time of day varies because I don’t work a steady 9-5, but each day once it’s closed I’m done for the day. If I remember there is something I need to do the next day I add it to my Google Keep list and deal with it the next day.

Phone

I’ve also set phone notifications for email and Slack to turn off at a certain point eliminating the temptation to answer the email that comes in late.

I’m a big fan of scheduling texts. When I remember at 6 am that I wanted to try to have lunch with a girlfriend this week I’ll schedule a text to go out later that morning. They will respond when they can, but I don’t need to continue to try to remember to send a text, and I don’t send something at a crazy time of the day.

Voxer is another app that helps me stay connected with both work and life. Sending a quick voice message helps me feel more connected to certain people.

Accountability

This year I’ve utilized Powersheets and it has been a great option to track short and long-term goals. The pages are well structured with check-in points and specific questions to think beyond the surface of life.

I also meet bi-weekly with a partner. We discuss where we are with goals and offer insights and encouragements to each other.

Embracing working from home has included accepting that my days still need to start at between  6-6:30 am through the week to make sure I have time to exercise and spend time with God, but without the strategies I’ve highlighted today I’d be starting at 5 am. I know because I’ve learned the need for strategies the hard way.

Ultimately, we all need to find the things that work for us. I’ve found that my family thrives on structure whether they realize it or not. Additionally, once something is implemented adjusting hasn’t been hard.

The Strength of Spring Flowers

Spring has fought for its place in the season rotation this year, hasn’t it? I woke up the other day to discover the irises that broke through the earth earlier in the week were now surrounded by more than a dusting of snow.

Spring Flowers

The bright green leaves and stems stood out in contrast to the fresh snow in a way that was both beautiful and out of place. My emotions quickly went from surprise to frustration to concern. I thought the blooming of the irises had indicated winter was behind us for the season. The reminder winter still had enough momentum to reveal its self, was jarring.

“Spring flowers come along and cheer us up at a time when we most need it, after we have somehow survived another long winter. It would not be going too far to say that they help you convalesce as you recuperate from Old Man Winter’s months-long blustery barrage.” (The Spruce)

Spring Flowers

  • Spring flowers are distinct.
  • They have thick leaves and stems.
  • Their colors are bright and various.
  • Spring flowers bear the character traits of fighters.

“Plants blossom at different times because (of) several factors, including the weather, temperature and the amount of sunlight the plant receives, all of which influence its reproductive development. Information about these conditions is relayed to Apetala1, which activates when it senses that the timing is right to commence flowering. …Apetala1 regulates and communicates with the other ‘growing’ genes.” (Source)

The Apetala1 activates each flower to bloom when it senses the timing is right.

Did you know that when you become a Christian you too have a communicator that tells you when the time is right to grow? Jesus told the disciples that when he was no longer on earth they would still have a guide. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26

Just before Jesus ascended to heaven after the resurrection he once again reminded all who were gathered that they would have a guide on earth “He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” Acts 1:7-9

Responding to Your Guide

The Irises responded as they were created to do. When the Apetala1 indicated it was time to grow there was no discussion as to whether the snow was really gone. God created the Apetala1 to complete a specific job and the flowers are designed to respond to the timing of that gene.

How different would life be if we positioned ourselves like spring flowers? What would happen if we embraced every season without rushing to the next?

God Created Us to Experience Each Season:

  • Winter: Rest, Stillness, Preparation, Expectant yet patient waiting
  • Spring: Regrowth, Obedience, Blooming
  • Summer: Flourishing
  • Fall: Transition and winding down in preparation for rest

Flowers do not abide by a calendar or what those around them are doing. They bloom and grow when the gene inside them determines it is their individual time to do so. And here is the beautiful part. We too have an activator inside us. A guide who is more intuned with God than we will ever be here on earth.

Holy Spirit is our gift and our teacher. How will we best know when to move forward? God inside us will stir us forward when it is our time and all we have to do is take the next step. We do not need to worry about the snow around us, because Holy Spirit in us knows that we will be strong enough to endure. We only need to obey.

Jesus uses the example of how flowers grow as a reason not to worry. Both Matthew and Luke recount the teaching. Here is a section: Luke 12:25-28 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? ‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!'”

It’s Not Always Easy

The hardest part about faith for me is trusting when the big picture is fuzzy. When things are hard my instinct is to question whether I’ve taken the right actions. Faith includes resisting the impulse to run in a different direction and instead trust my guide has directed me correctly.

I’ve learned through repeated experiences that the best way to know my eyes and ears have discerned God and Holy Spirit correctly is the be in the word. When I am focused on God first it is easier to clearly identify his character. Further, I always have the Bible to resource. If I have an idea matches Scripture it’s worth pursuing because God knows my heart’s desire to obey.

Romans 5:1-5 says “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Paul wasn’t talking about a flower here, he was reminding us all that God knows the big picture even when we don’t understand. We don’t need to worry, just as a flower follows a guide, we can too.

First Quarter in Review

one word 2018 ready

Last week I completed the quarterly review of the Powersheets binder for the first quarter and I was pleased to see that while I haven’t been feeling “on track” with daily tasks, the big picture has begun to come together. When my #oneword2018 solidified as “Ready” I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but I knew that there were several things that were in process.

Career:

A December promotion has created an interesting Q1 for me. I’ve spent weeks working at a “catch up” pace more than an “on target” pace. As March wrapped up an evaluation of tasks and hours confirmed I’m on target with my projects.

Where “ready has come in” is the addition of two more clients and an hours increase putting me at 40 work hours a week for the first time since 2005. I’m so thankful to have had to opportunity to ease into full-time work at a comfortable pace. I’m looking forward to new roles and responsibilities as well as continuing to work on the projects I love.

Health:

After 13 months my thyroid is back in range and I’m feeling great for the first time in months. While avoiding gluten, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise is important, I continue to work on daily pace.

Pacing myself is the key to several things. An even pace ensures I have room in my calendar to complete needs and wants for the day. It also increases the chances that I will keep my stress levels lower. Balanced stress means even emotions and less of a sense of urgency attached to tasks that aren’t urgent.

All of the links between stress and hypothyroidism are yet to be fully defined but much of thyroid disease comes down to how you feel in addition to what blood work reveals. This Healthline article points out an important aspect of keeping stress at bay.   “The impact of stress on the thyroid occurs by slowing your body’s metabolism. This is another way that stress and weight gain are linked.”

Extra Curriculars:

While I’ve been focusing on adjusting our days to my increased work hours a lot of other things have slid to the side where they now wait in the shadows. It’s hard to know when I’ll pick up the knitting loom or a book in Q2, but I haven’t removed them from my Powersheets list just yet.

Looking to the Future:

It’s hard to think too far ahead these days, especially since winter wants to hang on. But regardless of what the weather does the calendar will not stop moving. Through everything, I’m actively working to have space so I can say yes to a nudge from God and respond in a “ready position”.

April, May, and June Will Bring:

  • The end of elementary school for Levi
  • The beginning of football practice for Ordell
  • Our 17th wedding anniversary
  • Elijah turning 13
  • Visits from Family

With a few Powersheets goals met, and another restructured Q2 is shaping up to be a great one.

On Turning 40

I’ve never understood the “over the hill” sentiment behind turning 40. I suppose marking 40 as the halfway point in life is accurate, but to me, in many ways, it seems like the party is just getting started. I know it’s common to hear things like age is just a number, but in my case it’s true. Last year I wrote a post about turning 38 only to have my mom tell me I was actually turning 39. 

I think it’s easy to forget the increasing age gap between yourself and college or high school students when you spend a majority of your extra time hanging out with them. That is until they reference something as being old (like the TV show Friends). More than that, I find that the days are rushing by quickly and I don’t have time to focus on more than just today. That has pros and cons for sure, but I find that since I’m not focusing on age, I rarely remember where I’m at on the timeline.

As I reflect on the last decade, I can’t believe how much has happened. At the same time, I can’t picture a different path.

In my 30’s I’ve Experienced:

  • Two major moves
  • Raising babies who are now almost teenagers and almost both taller than me!
  • Selling our first home
  • Losing a lot of weight
  • I started 3 new completely different career paths (one of which seems to have stuck)

When I think of all that has happened, the most important thing about my 30’s is all the ways my faith in God and personal relationship with him has deepened. It’s hard to quantify my growth in my faith, but one aspect I look at is that I am no longer seeking definitive explanations to why thing happen the way they do. Instead, I’m content to let God be God. Additionally, I find myself constantly reflecting on whether my assumptions limit God’s power, movement or character. When one or more of these limitations are present, I no longer try to fit God around a boundary. Instead, I work to tear the boundary down with the intention of growing God’s presence and reducing mine.

As I turn 40, I’m expectant. I’m excited to see all God has for my family and for me in this new decade, but more than that, I’m ready for more ways to reflect my Savior and more ways to be about the work of my Father.

Entering my 40’s:

  • I’m embracing my career and celebrating a recent promotion.
  • I’m working on streamlining life to create space for opportunities to say yes where God directs.
  • I’m focusing on relationships and making sure those around me understand how much I value our connections.
  • I’m slowing down and embracing the introverted side of myself.

So here’s to turning 40. May the odds be ever in my favor. 😉