Scheduling My Life in Pencil


During college, throughout graduate school, and now working as a professional librarian, I love using a paper planner to organize my life. (I did use a PDA 10+ years ago, provided by the college where I worked at the time.) A print calendar with hourly listings throughout the days of the week is visually helpful, allowing me to look to see how my day will map out – whether it’s the following week or six months down the road.

I’ve used the August to August planner for years, also tried one from Levenger, and currently have a monstrously heavy one from Erin Condren (it’s super cute, but didn’t realize how large and heavy it would be to lug with me to work five days a week).

In organizing individual events, in years past I’ve used different colored pens to signify different responsibilities: work (black), personal (blue), my husband’s schedule (red), and church music responsibilities (green) – just to name a few – thanks to a pack of multi-colored Bic pens.

But last fall, as I began adding events into my 2016-2017 planner, I was a little hesitant to use the same color-coded process once more, so I decided to use pencil for everything instead, just until I decided what I wanted to do. And seven months later, I’m still writing down every event in pencil.

I’ve found using an eraser is far more practical than having to get out the wite-out pen for the rescheduling of meetings, fluctuating numbers of students attending library research sessions, changes in event locations – you understand.

And while this has been my routine for months and months now, the calendar open before me for hours each day on my desk, and just recently did it occur to me that this practice of writing out my life in pencil has deeper connotations.

How I invest my time speaks to my priorities.

I have no control over the passing of time, so make it count.

Don’t miss your moment.

Looking back to various days, I observe my pencil markings that are indicative of inner dialog like:
Oh, good grief, I didn’t get hardly anything accomplished today.
Well, that was good enough for today. It’ll still be waiting for me tomorrow.
I have enough time to look ahead to next week’s task and be proactive in getting that done.
Wow – that was a really great day where everything came together so well!

And as I glance back through events over the past two months or so, there have been moments I have seen parallels to how time = service or how blank spaces = rest.

~ Spending a Sunday evening at the nursing home to sing quartet music for a friend whose heart is struggling to keep beating.

~ Heading home a bit early to prepare food in hosting a friend for dinner.

~ Taking a few minutes to be intentional and send a quick thinking-of-you text, or a few more minutes to hand write a note of encouragement to a friend.

~ The Optometrist and I having an open evening and saying an easy “yes” when friends invited us over to play cards on a school night.

~ When nothing is planned for the evening, we we can cook dinner together, play music together, or simply “nest” in our bedroom with a good book and knitting (me)/playing a new video game (The Optometrist).

While it’s a continual balancing act, my aim is to continue doing my part to plan and be prepared for what’s to come, serve others and take care of myself, all the while looking to the future with optimism and openness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that you have for me.”
Open My Hands ~ Sara Groves

“I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus, I will hold on to Jesus for life”
Hold on to Jesus ~ Steven Curtis Chapman

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” ~ James 4:14 (NIV)

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” ~ Isaiah 40:8 (NASB)

January Journey

You know, I often think to myself, “Yes! I’ve got it all put together! Watch me go!” and then God gently reminds me, “Wait a minute: you’re not done yet! Remember I’m in control and I want to constantly refine you to make you more like me.”  Oh yeah…

So, January has been quite the month of the Lord refining me, namely working on the way I view myself and the way that I mentally “talk” to myself (come on, we all do it). Having a personality type squarely in the Type A category I am often very task-oriented, detail driven, appreciate competence, and have difficulty giving myself grace when I make a mistake.

As I’m sure I’ve written before, I’m a firm believer that the right book finds you at the right time and right now Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When you You Talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothschild is the book that has found me. Given to me by my Momma for Christmas (yet picked out when we attended one of Jennifer’s Fresh Grounded Faith conferences in the fall), it’s come at a perfect time to help me replace negative self-talk with positive, truthful self-talk.

Jennifer’s analogy is to picture your internal dialog being organized in a personal “thought closet.” Are these words that are taking up residence kind or self deprecating? She also writes that the hateful words we often call ourselves (stupid, dummy, idiot) are words we would never allow someone else to use to describe or to say about us. That hit home, I tell you.

I feel I work very hard on serving others, but I must remember that if I’m not taking good care of myself mentally, this is eventually going to spill over and impact the well-being of my relationships and my marriage, so taking time to be kind to myself is a healthy investment to myself and others.

selftalksoultalk

He’s still working on me
To make me what I ought to be.
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
He’s still working on me.
Joel Hemphill

What is the Lord teaching you this first month of the new year?

What I’ve Learned: Fall 2016

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman & others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout the past few months of fall.

  1. A little light makes a big difference!

    I’m a big fan of cozy lighting and The Optometrist has been asking me for a while if I would like a nice piano lamp. I kept hesitating about buying one, but every time I turned on the living room light, I didn’t enjoy the full brightness that surrounded me.

    One recent evening The Optometrist found an unused desk light, which I’ve had since college. He placed it on top of my piano, and voila, cozy light by which to see piano music in the evening! (I’m loving my simple Christmas decorations: stack of favorite Christmas books, Father Christmas, Believe sign, and selection of Christmas sheet music/books.)


    Yes, there are much fancier, more expensive, LED models out there, which I might want to purchase someday, but with just this little helper I find myself sitting down to play a lot more often, and thus, wanting to keep my skills honed.

  2. Progress takes time.

    This semester my load of teaching library research and other classes is significantly lighter than last fall, but I’ve found myself appointed to two library committees, two University-wide committees, plus two more University-wide subcommittees. Several of the committees have been tasked with making new, sweeping, and impactful choices that will directly shape students’ curriculum choices next academic year. The VP who oversees many of these committees wisely selected the members, impressively so. Yet, even with a team of qualified faculty members, I’ve been reminded that big changes with deadlines still need the appropriate amount of time for the right conversations to take place, history to be evaluated, which then leads to the right decision being made with confidence by those invested and involved.

  3. Up front communication is good for the soul.

    I’m convinced that Satan wants nothing more than to plant seeds of doubt and insecurity in the hearts of believers who encounter perceived slights by other believers in the church.

    One such occurrence came my way this fall and my assumptions flew all around my soul. …Have I done something to upset this person?  …Is this because I’ve not been there every time?  …Does this person think I’m not reliable to step up and lead in the future?

    Realizing that a text or phone call wouldn’t come across appropriately, a face-to-face conversation lasting approximately one minute allowed me to ask, “I was wondering, have I done something wrong? Because last time…” quickly assuaged my doubts, soothed my worries, and set me back in place to keep serving with a cheerful spirit. (Take that, Satan.)

  4. There’s room at the table for everyone.

    From the previous lesson learned, I had to swallow a mouthful of pride and let someone else take a turn in the spotlight.
    compare-sn

  5. Alabaster offering

    Journeying through the New Testament Gospels, I had never realized until recently that Mary, the brother of Lazarus, was the same one who anointed Jesus with alabaster oil, wiping his feet with her hair (John 12).

  6. Gryffindor

    I’ve often wondered in which Harry Potter house I would live, so after three random online quizzes, plus the official one from Pottermore, all said the same thing:
    gryffindor
    Oh to live up to the characteristics of being brave, courageous, chivalrous, daring, and bold!

Just another day…well, yes & no

As an academic librarian I have a 12-month contract, so while today is just another Monday reporting to the university, it’s also the first day of the fall semester.

Thinking back on previous first days of school, I’m reminded that today marks my seventh first day of school working in my current library, and if you count the three years I worked at a community college (pre-grad school), this totals a decade of first days of school working in higher education. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty proud of that!

Last year our Provost shared with the incoming freshmen how, regardless of their chosen major and future career aspirations, they would more than likely be working in a profession that served others. These words of wisdom have stuck with me, helping me realize this broader goal of serving others as an extension of my life-service to Christ is what motivates me to keep-on-keepin’-on. Seven years in, I’m thankful I remain excited to partner with faculty and learn alongside them, plus connect with their students as I teach them effective and transferable research skills. Even though I continue to do the same thing year in and year out, new professional and personal opportunities continually arise and keep me feeling vibrant and fresh.

It’s also good for me to remember today marks a milestone in the lives of many freshmen stepping foot on campus. Their first day of college signifies something more than just “it’s what I do after I graduate from high school,” since many come from very rural areas and are first generation college students. The pursuit of a college degree changes not only their lives, but alters the course of history for those generations to follow. How humbling that I get to play a small role in their academic journey and eventual achievement.

Today also marks the first day of school for our nephew who begins 1st grade! Our favorite little strawberry-blond boy is excited about this new year of school and his new teacher. He enters 1st grade reading like a champ (!!!) and we are all excited for the good things in store for him this year.

So regardless of age, here’s to a renewed commitment of serving, growing, and learning!

 

6 Recent Leadership Lessons

Throughout this calendar year I am serving as the chair of a statewide library organization. I’ve been a part of the group for about 5 years and it’s been a terrific way to meet fellow librarians, plus has served as a fun geography enhancement as I’ve tied together names, faces, and colleges/universities. So, when I volunteered to be the vice chair in 2015, I only thought it would look great on my annual report…but didn’t quite realize, until after the fact, that I had just volunteered myself to be the chair in 2016. So, there you go – lesson learned #1: always know the full scope of what you’re volunteering to do.

Lesson learned #2 – I never realized how much I appreciated communication and transparency until the previous chair stepped down and I assumed my role as chair in January. My predecessor is a great librarian and was a terrific chair woman, but her leadership style was very solitary. Not me! I’ve included my vice chair on so many details in order for her to not be in the dark about things like communicating with the group via the e-mail list serv, maintenance of social media accounts, and many, many details surrounding the annual summer conference.

Lesson learned #3 – surround yourself with good, hard working, responsible people. The success of last Friday’s annual conference was enhanced by the fact that I could ask individuals on the board to do something, and they did. While I stewed about a lot of little details, I knew I was taking care of my tasks, and they were taking care of theirs.

Lesson learned #4 – I don’t know how I could have planned a statewide conference without e-mail. How did people plan any kind of conference before the invention of e-mail? Seriously?! In addition to e-mail, the voice/video conferencing product Zoom was helpful in chatting with presenters beforehand to “meet” each other online before the actual face-to-face conference.

Lesson learned #5 – Google Drive is a gift that makes my life easier. Whether sharing documents and registration lists, or keeping track of call for proposals and registration forms with others, the Google cloud unifies the ability to easily access important information at work and home.

Lastly, lesson learned #6 – “Saying no isn’t an unnecessary rejection. It’s actually a necessary protection of our Best Yes answers.” ~ Lysa Terkeurst The Best Yes (p. 171) For my transportation to the conference (2 1/2 hours away), I was thankful to drive a university fleet vehicle. Originally I thought I would leave by 5:30 a.m. and invite local colleagues to ride with me so they wouldn’t have to spend their own gas money getting to and from the conference. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized if I drove by myself to the conference site the night before it began, I would arrive in enough time to help the local librarians prepare for the next morning, and get more/better sleep since I only had a 5 minute commute to our host campus. Saying “no” to helping 3 others allowed me to say “yes” to helping present my best self to all 47 attendees.

And who knows what other leadership opportunities God has in store in the months and years to come! For now, I’m thankful for His provision and the strength He gives me to serve Him while serving others.

What I’ve Learned: May 2016

These are the four things I learned, or was reminded of, in May:

  1. God’s Word is living & active.
    As I journey through the Old Testament, I’ve become aware that passages in 2 Samuel correspond to similar accounts found in 1 Chronicles. Similar to the Gospels in the New Testament, details might be slightly different, but the stories of King David are reinforced through the inspired writing of God’s Holy Word.
  2. It is good to celebrate others.
    The end of the semester included a campus-wide employee recognition, and although I was not the recipient of a nominated award, it was a wonderful feeling to genuinely be happy for those who were selected and celebrate their well-earned achievements.
  3. It is good to celebrate with others.
    A birthday (divisible by five) seemed like a good excuse to invite a group of our people over for cupcakes (sugar free!) and ice cream. Having lived in our pretty little town for six years now, it was nice to gather some of my favorite individuals from work, knitting, and church under one roof to fellowship with one another. I’ve been reading Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist, which inspired me to pursue gathering friends for an opportunity to celebrate. It just so happened my birthday was the catalyst, but the truth is that we all need times to simply celebrate life and God’s goodness.
  4. As I do every year near my birthday, it’s always good to take time and smell the roses.
    2016birthdayroses

 

What I’ve Learned: April 2016

For me, “learning” is a dual combination of experiencing something  new (or seeing something old in a fresh, new way) and then taking time to be still, reflect, and internalize these moments or lessons I’ve encountered for my personal growth.

Inspired by Emily P. Freeman, here’s what I’ve learned in April.

  1. I can make time for the things that are important, even if I am “busy.”
    This word shouldn’t be my default response when someone asks, “So, how are you?” Janssen, from the blog Everyday Reading, recently wrote a post entitled Rejecting Busy.“When someone asks how I’m doing, I purposefully always choose something other than, “Oh, I’m so busy!” or “Things are pretty busy!” I don’t want to present myself as someone who is really busy and I don’t want to see myself as someone who is defined mainly by being busy.” 
  2. I’m capable of being brave and relying on Jesus to watch over me.
    Recently, The Optometrist had to be out of town overnight for work, which was the first time I had stayed by myself over night in our house. I’ve traveled and spent the night without him several times: youth choir trips, ladies conferences, and with my parents, but this was my first night all alone (well, with Sylvester, too). I didn’t sleep as well as I do when he’s home, but also didn’t give in to fear and spiral down the rabbit hole of playing the “what if something bad happens while he’s away” game. This quote was shared with me earlier that same evening by my dear friend Lauren and became my watchword.
    stonewall-jackson-quotes-11874
  3. Oklahoma really is the prettiest in the spring.
    See more photos via my recent blog post.
    img_1498
  4. Life is better when I exercise routinely.
    This month I’ve been successful in either going to yoga once a week, exercising at the gym, and/or taking walks around the block 2-3 days a week, which has been to my mental, physical, and thus spiritual health.
  5. Mindfulness.
    This month I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, which broadly reminded me of the benefit of being mindful in many of life’s circumstances.
  6. God speaking to me through his Word always gives me a fresh perspective on life.
    As I journey through reading the Old Testament, these are some verses that have been a beacon to my soul:
    Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times! ~ Psalm 106:3 (ESV)
    For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. ~ Psalm 107:9 (ESV)