How I'm doing, and what I need to do
As we move into November, did you remember to "fall back" an hour on your clock? Too bad there aren't more 25 hour days. But as the saying goes, work expands to fill the allotted time. So maybe I'll need to stop hoping and take advantage of what time I do actually have.
It's so (too) easy for me to have a plan for things I want to do during the month that will lead me closer to the mission and vision I believe God has for my family and me, but not take the actions necessary. Or, at times I find myself doing the easier things but postponing the more difficult things just one more day, and then when that day comes just one more day. So by the time I get to the end of the month I have still not gotten to certain things I planned to do in the beginning of that month.
For example, I kept planning to call or e-mail the men in our couples fellowship group, which my wife and I lead. Thankfully I did have a chance to spend some time with them at an outing we went to earlier in the month, and then at our group meeting. But I need to take the steps necessary to further our relationships. I have read books and magazine articles on improving relationships, but I need to take better practical actions. This month I did do well in reaching out to my brother and son to seek time with them.
OK, I'll do a quick rundown by major role of the positives and negatives, and how I can best improve. Please know that I don't want to make this look like I'm works-minded. For me (and I believe this is in line with biblical thinking), it's not about crossing off items on my to-do list, but doing the necessary things, from the heart and in honor of God, that will lead me and my family to the place God would have us be.
Faith: At times God comes across too small to me because I don't spend adequate time in worship to behold Him as He truly is. I don't continually "practice (and enjoy and adore) his presence" like Brother Lawrence might say. And I don't spend enough times of deep prayer, petitioning the Lord for the needs of others, thanking God for all He gives, and confessing and repenting of those sins I have allowed to lead me astray. So my sense of the world becomes distorted in its importance. Zig Ziglar once said that how we start our day will set the tone. If I'm going to start by listening to news on the radio (so much of which is negative), I'll more likely have a negative mindset. I need to focus more on God, so that when I do find out all the bad things in the world for that day, I'll be more ready to see them in proper perspective to God's might and love. On the other side of the coin, I have spent some good time in prayer with my wife, and I have listened to my Bible on tape several days each week. And I think I have gotten better at spending time in the mornings focusing on Him.
Fitness: I've only exercised a couple of times this month (though if you add those times I did some physical work as "exercise," that ups the amount somewhat--does that count? Please?). Again, as noted above, this was one of those things I kept pushing back to endless tomorrows. How guilty I feel whenever my wife talks about her workout! I say how proud of her I am, and am thankful she isn't on my case for my endless "commitment" to get started. Emotionally, I feel a need to write how I'm doing in a journal more regularly. So often I can see in hindsight how my busyness is my unconscious(?) way of avoiding those troubling feelings. I do feel I'm doing better with anger, not allowing my temper to erupt as much, and catching it more quickly when it does. I also feel I'm eating somewhat better. For example, my body reacts quite severely to caffeine. If I go without for even a day, I get headaches and upset stomach. Not that I have a lot of caffeine, but even the little I have is enough to cause me to feel miserable if I go without. So I'm slowly weaning myself from it.
Family: I think I did quite well with this, though there is room for improvement. I feel so much closer to my wife than ever, and I'm slowly but surely growing closer to my stepson. He's so good at bringing me into his conversations; I so often stumble when trying to relate to him. I'm thrilled when I do find a way to spend time with him, and I appreciate so much when he confides in me. I think I do fairly well keeping in touch with my mother and sister, who are out of state, but not so well with my father, who is only about an hour away. As mentioned above, I'm doing OK with my brother. As for the adoption, we made significant progress this week. God willing we'll have the bulk of the paperwork finished by year's end. I also should spend more time reading about China, since that's where she's from.
Friends: As mentioned above, I have had mixed success in reaching out to our fellowship group. Likewise, with some other friends (who I mostly talk with over the phone or by e-mail), I haven't invested as fully in those relationships as I could. Which is to my loss, since these people have been such a blessing to me. I have done some reading on relationships, but need to take steps to truly develop them
Favor (charitable giving and ministry): I think I'm doing pretty well here. I'm involved in a few different ministries, and feel I'm making an impact. My wife is such a wonderful partner in our leadership of the fellowship group. No way I could carry it off without her. I try to come up with a good lesson plan, but she takes ownership of so many other aspects, such as icebreakers, keeping track of who's bringing what food, reminding the members of the next meeting, setting up the dates for the meetings, and coordinating special outings. She also prepares wonderful meals each time we go to the group meetings. If I was unable to attend, I have no doubt the meeting would go quite well. If all that was up to me, chaos would likely ensue! In my lesson preparations for the group, as well as for when I speak to the youth at a detention center I visit, I should spend more time going over my questions and comments (but I don't want to rehearse too much to the point it becomes stilted). And I think I'm doing a tiny bit better operating the camera at church.
Finances: I finally cleaned my car. OK, so it's gotten a bit messy since then, but not too bad. As for organizing some of my personal files, I did make some progress, but that's one area I definitely struggle. I have also gotten a little better grasp of our financial situation. My wife does so well with that, since she doesn't go to the office every day, but I need to at least get a better overview of what's going on. She does keep me informed, but it helps me to see it in front of me.
Firm (career and education): I finally got off my duff and spent some time organizing key points in my resume, which I hadn't done much of in ages. I also did some reading on getting an effective resume together (which I can now see that mine definitely needed some improvement). Since we are planning to move to Texas some time next year once we get our little girl, I feel quite nervous about how to best approach potential employers in our new location, but know that if I just do my best, the Lord will be there to lead us where we need to go.
This month was perhaps the closest I've looked at and evaluated my schedule in a while. Though quite time consuming, it feels good to have a grasp on how I'm really doing. Of course I need God's help to get a truly sound understanding of where I am and what I need to do from here on, and I do seek that. I also have realized that I put too much on my "plate" this month; that's been my pattern, I guess the result of trying to move ahead more quickly than I'm able. I need to face that I am where I am, and trying to do too much will only lead to frustration.
As always, your prayers and encouragement are welcome and needed. And if you are struggling in moving your life forward, please write and I'll gladly pray for and encourage you. Remember, success is not perfection, but progress. It's doing the best we can with what we've got, and when we do fail at times, getting up and learning from our mistakes. May the Lord give us wisdom as we move into November.