Category Archives: goals

words to LIVE by #8

mountains quote[source]

last may, shaun & i traveled to greece for our tenth anniversary, & while we were there, we climbed mount olympus. all 2,913 meters of it. i’ve wanted to see greece since i was a kid, & climbing mount olympus has been on my “bucket list” ever since i’ve known shaun. he lived in greece for a summer in 2001 & climbed it then. we spent two days scaling its heights, & it is without a doubt the hardest thing physically that i’ve ever done except giving birth. granted, i was pregnant at the time [& didn’t know it] which may have affected my breathing capacity! there were so many times i was sure i wouldn’t make it any further. i had a walking stick i picked up at the front end of the climb. it became my bestest friend, & i would not have made it without it. nor would i have made it without shaun’s companionship & encouragement. i kept reciting verses about perseverance to myself, which marginally helped, too. i focused on the end goal — being able to tell the story, making it to the summit & being able to say i did it. when we made it to the refuge on day one after a grueling seven hours, it was the most beautiful sight — the promise of food & REST. i slept 12 hours that night. the second part of the climb is much more rugged & steep than the first half, plus it’s colder & very windy. it’s no hike; it’s a climb. and the term “trail” should be understood as loosely applied here. i was skeptical even getting started on day two, but one step at a time & 3 hours later, we made it to the top.

at the summit of mount olympus

at the summit of mount olympus

there’s more to the story of our adventure than i have time to tell right now, but it was full of jokes [some that weren’t funny at the time!], making friends from faraway places, & seeing amazing sights that are only enjoyed by those who take the climb & make it to the top.

there are lots of proverbial mountains in this life we can climb — the career ladder, various summits seeking happiness or the meaning of life, even many “hills to die on.” so many of life’s experiences can be related to the perseverance needed when mountain climbing & the rewards found at the peak.

but no matter what situation we’re talking about, there are some lessons i learned on mount olympus that i want to share.

1. you’re going to need support. something or someone to lean on. i had my walking stick. i even named it “phil” [derivative from the greek word for friend]. having that “third leg” made all the different in my being able to go as far as we did. i used it like an extension of my body, & several times it kept me from falling. in any mountain climb, we risk falling & failure. this can cause us to give up before we reach our goal. but if we have some support, even if we still fall a few times, we are able to get back up & keep going.

2. you’re going to need encouragement. this can come from the same source as your support, or it might come from something or someone else. regardless, you need to hear “just keep swimming” regularly, no matter how annoying it may get! you need to hear “you can do it” & “you’re doing great.” even if you firmly believe otherwise, encouragement can keep you going despite your inner thoughts. [word of advice: if/when that encourager gets annoying, let them keep saying/doing their thing. you need it whether you want it in the moment or not.]

3. focus on the end goal. when you want to give up in the moment, perseverance is often achieved by remembering why you’re climbing this mountain in the first place. i had wanted to climb mount olympus for over ten years. and greece isn’t just around the corner for me, so this might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me. i may not get another go at it. i wanted to get that picture on the peak, to be able to say i did it, to have a good story, to know the thrill of adventure. sometimes i had to focus on this so intently that i missed the scenery where i was. but i wouldn’t have seen most of it anyway had i given up & turned back.

4. take time to rest. climbing a mountain is not a quick walk in the park. you’re going to need to take breaks along the way. there were times the climb was so arduous, i sat down every five minutes to catch my breath. when we neared the summit, we would pick a point of rocks a couple dozen yards in front of us to reach before our next break. and the most anticipated respite was at the refuge after climbing more than half the height on day one. there are no words for the relief & excitement that flooded my body & soul when we finally glimpsed it. i even gained a small burst of energy as we climbed the steps up to the lodge. at the end of day one, i was sore all over & exhausted. surprisingly, i felt completely revived the next morning, not sore at all! [i cannot say the same after day two. i didn’t walk right for two days after mount olympus! but it was completely worth it.]

5. enjoy the top. we reached the top around 10:00 a.m. the second day. we had a flight to athens back in thessaloniki to catch. a two & a half hour drive, plus time to return the rental car & get through security. the climbed down took us five hours. we gulped down our lunch at the refuge halfway. we sped down the curvy roads back to thessaloniki [which caused me to get carsick]. we repacked our suitcases in the parking lot of the airport. we had only time to change t-shirts in the bathrooms to feel semi-human again. but i wouldn’t change any of that because we enjoyed the top. we took our time to feel the wind whipping around us [so strong we didn’t get our good camera out] & to soak up the view, all 360 degrees of it. we relished the triumphant feeling of “making it.” we took pictures. we just sat & were. so take time to enjoy it when you reach your goal, too. relish the achievement, feel the gratitude in your heart, make mental pictures & imprints to carry with your forever.

i say all this as advice for all the mountains in life that we climb. but here’s my parting advice: going back up to the quote up top — choose the mountains you want to climb wisely. make sure you have support & encouragement along the way. make sure rest is available. and make sure the end goal is something really worth it, something you want, something good. there are hills worth “dying on” & there are plenty that are merely mountains-in-the-making molehills. make sure you know the difference. before you start climbing.

going with the flow this year


written january 1, 2014:

i spend a good deal of time every end-of-year planning for the new year ahead. it’s one of my most important practices as a student of Life. i review my goals, accomplished & unfinished. i reread my “top 100” [a list of anything & everything i want to do in my life]. i reflect on my annual theme & what i’ve learned. i create a new set of goals & choose a new focus for the coming year. [read more on the goals of a student of Life here.]

the past eight years, i’ve worked my way through the list in 2 peter 1:3-8 as my annual themes — faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, & love. [i can’t believe it’s been eight years already!] coming to the “end” of the list, i had to decide whether to start over again at faith or move on to something else entirely. peter writes that these eight characteristics are to be added in ever-increasing measure, so it seems only right to make the full circle back to faith.

however, my faith walk, needs, & struggles are very different now from eight years ago. [thank the Lord!] then, i wasn’t sure what authentic faith even looked like. while i’ve come a long way in this journey with Jesus, i still struggle in many areas about what i actually believe & especially when contrasted to how i act on my beliefs. i especially struggle with consistency. discipline & routine are not my fortes.

i decided this year, my focus would again be on faith, but my “one word” for the year, my focus, would be flow. i got the idea from Jesus’ words in john 7:38-39 — “whosoever believes in Me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” by this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.


i want to learn more about God’s Spirit within me & how to yield to Him daily. i want to embrace each day within this new season of motherhood that i’m entering — the day-in & day-out routine, the mundance & miraculous. i want to cultivate eyes to see God working in, around, & through me each day, in all the “small” things. and i want to explore faith from a daily standpoint — learning to experience God, worship, & wonder in the everyday simple moments. i figure with a baby coming, this will be pivotal amidst the diapers, feedings, & messes! i don’t want to miss God & the wonder because of the mess & sleeplessness. i want to take each moment as it comes, embrace it, learn in it, cherish it. i want to go with the flow.

in keeping with this theme, all of my goals & plans for this year are more daily in quality. and i’ve tried to keep my plans simpler, smaller, & more flexible. usually, i make grand plans, overcommitting & stretching myself too thin. this unrealistic tendency means i never accomplish what i set out to do. i want to be more forgiving with myself this year, gentler, giving myself a break. and hopefully, rely more on God & His Spirit in me in the process.

words to LIVE by #7

strive quote


i’m trying to cut myself some slack lately. now that i have a bitty one [roo], my schedule isn’t really my own anymore, & i can’t get as much done in a day as i’m used to [or as i’m used to trying to].

one thing that didn’t get done during my pre-roo nesting is cleaning & organizing our bedroom. i know i’m going to want a bedroom that feels like a refuge from the chaos that is gonna hit our house as she gets older & as other kiddos come along. but i just can’t tackle such a big project now. so i decided a couple weeks ago to set my timer for 15 minutes each day — either during a roo rest or with her hanging out on my bed — & just work on it bit by bit. my room is now clear off all the stuff that had been piled up from when we first moved in & never got around to putting away where it belonged. it feels great! next step is organizing things, like my closet & vanity. but for now, at least my clothes are hanging up & my makeup is all in one place! progress.

i also want to get back to writing, & i usually make ridiculous grand plans to blog 5 times a week & write a chapter a day. for now, my one goal is to start each morning by journaling for 3 pages. about anything. i don’t make it every day, but usually i manage at least four times each week. progress.

it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at work, especially after maternity leave & going back only one afternoon a week for however long. my best friend / sister / co-worker, rachel, has this quote [i think she got it from momastery] to “do the next right thing” to help prevent that drowning feeling that makes us all want to give up & hole ourselves away on the couch with a tub of ice cream & netflix on a loop. do the next right thing. progress.

i know from past experiences, when you strive for perfection, you’re more prone to shutting down & getting nothing done. i’d rather get something done than nothing, so i’m striving for simple progress here on out. join me. we’ll take baby steps together. one step at a time, & we can take over the world. or at least the laundry.

words to LIVE by #5

procrastination runs in my family. i think it’s genetic. my sister & i often excuse this poor habit by saying, “we work better under pressure.” maybe. but we would probably work really well using sound time management, too.

i like deadlines, & i function best when there are constant deadlines that keep me working so i don’t procrastinate anything. i used to work at a design studio where we designed & assembled custom wedding invitations. i was the production manager. we worked on a 3-4 week turn-around schedule with occasional rush orders thrown in, so nearly every day there was some order that needed to be shipped & often times more than one order. i loved working in that environment. it suited my personality, both strengths & weaknesses, ideally.

but now, i find myself in a job that requires more proactivity in follow-through, not to mention how many personal goals i have that have no timeline or deadline except my own hopes & dreams. the result — i find myself habitually deferring important but not urgent tasks to attend to “tasks of the moment.” 

that word deferring has become both a favorite & most despised word in my life. i organize my entire life in my smart phone 2do list app, & it has this handy function called “defer” by which i can shuffle my 2do list around as fits my schedule & time constraints [& whims] each day. i love it & use it all the time. unfortunately, i use it all the time.

in his book 7 habits of highly effective people, stephen covey talks about organizing our tasks into four categories or quadrants — 1. important & not urgent [ex: exercising or spending time with family], 2. important & urgent [ex: paying your bills or finishing your newsletter article on time], 3. unimportant & urgent [ex: reading & replying to every single email in your inbox or organizing your filing cabinet right now], & 4. unimportant & not urgent [ex: reading a good book or indulging in your favorite hobby]. this prioritization has been very helpful to me when i’ve applied it. he suggests trying to focus most of your time in the second category of tasks, to not let yourself be easily derailed by category three, & to purposely carve out time for one & four [important goals & fun stuff]. the best application of this method in my life is calling a “quadrant three” task a three. these are those distracting “tasks of the moment” that mask themselves in urgency & emergency but have no real, lasting need or value. in so naming it, i give myself permission to ignore it, avoid it, or to say no.

another book that has given me very helpful & practical tips on prioritizing my 2do list is 18 minutes by peter bregman. here are my favorite take-aways from it:

>> spend 5 minutes first-thing every morning reviewing your 2do list & getting started.

>> set a simple alarm to go off every hour during the work day [8 times] & take one minute to refocus & reevaluate your priorities & productivity. [my 4:00 p.m. alarm chimed as i was typing this!]

>> spend 5 minutes every evening reviewing, scheduling, & culling your 2do list for the next day.

>> schedule your 2do items in your day planner. assign a time slot to each one. [this has been the most incredible thing to my productivity!]

>> if you have a task that you’ve deferred for several times, apply the “three-day rule” — after three days, either do it immediately, schedule it to a specific time in your calendar, delete it, or put it on the “someday list.” [i love, love, love this rule!]

>> have a “to don’t list” — we need to prioritize what is not worth our time. [my list is its own tab in my 2do app & includes answering unknown phone numbers, attending events for strangers, & attending product parties of any kind.]

>> have a “someday list” — someday is NOT a day of the week. but there may be things we want to do that can’t be done immediately, can’t be scheduled anytime in the near future, & we aren’t willing to delete. i have a “maybe” list with its own tab in my 2do app, too. overly-deferred tasks go here, usually to die! i review it every month & reapply the three-day rule. it is such a relief to not have tasks like these  hanging over my head in my daily 2do list.

one last idea: set goals for yourself. [i wrote more about my version of doing this here.] and read those goals every morning! spend time reviewing them & planning how to execute them in various steps each week! keep in front of you constantly what is most important. 

these concepts & practices have helped me use the seven days each week with more purpose & intentionality, the goals of a student of life. God has a plan for each of us, & i don’t want to miss out on any of it, especially not because i procrastinated or squandered away my time.

what do you do to prioritize & use your time wisely?

[a different calendar] CANDLEMAS

i had hoped to write this post before february 2nd so those who might be interested in observing candlemas, too, would have some information & motivation. however, i found this particular holy day to baffle me a bit as to how i should experience it. and so it wasn’t until after the fact that i had anything potentially meaningful to share.

as i understand candlemas — also referred to as the presentation of Jesus at the temple, the feast of the purification of the virgin, & the meeting of the Lord — it is a major feast day, especially in the roman catholic tradition. the event remembered is told in luke 2:22-40, telling not only of the necessary sacrifice given on behalf of the newly born son, but of the prophetic interactions with simeon & anna.

there are many traditions tied to candlemas, especially several that have been phased out over time. it derives its name from the practice of the priests blessing the beeswax candles that are to be used throughout the year. however, many of the associated cultural rituals seem very superstitious to me, & while i love ritual & tradition, i am not superstitious in the least.

i’ve shared my various reasons for observing religious calendar, & so as i learned about candlemas, i wasn’t sure how to bring it into my life. blessing candles did not seem to be a necessary or appropriate or in any way enriching practice for me to do. reading the story is fine & always beneficial, but i desired something more to mark the season. for some sects of christianity, it marks the end of the epiphany season [more can be read about my experience of epiphany here]. and it is shortly followed by the lenten season. [this year, ash wednesday is february 13th — next week!]

as i read on, i stumbled upon one small fact that piqued my interest & heart more than all the others. apparently, pope john paul II connected the feast day with the renewal of religious vows. and in the presence of the Messiah, we would surely do so!

i’ve had many lively conversations about whether christians do or do not, should or should not make vows. it’s a subject i enjoy discussing! i personally believe that accepting Christ as Savior & committing to live under His Lordship is itself a vow. therefore, every believer has taken a religious vow. i’m also a fan of short-term vows & renewing one’s commitment to the Lord.

i have often shared with others that i accepted Christ as my Savior & was baptized at age 12. and while i spent most of my years after that trying to “live right” [minus a couple rebellious teenage years], i did not truly understand the “Lord” part of the relationship or how it was a relationship at all! i’d heard it taught, so there is no fault in my parents or bible teachers, but i didn’t really understand what it meant to live for Him rather than to try to live right. i was very pharisaic. until a breaking point when i was 25. [it is so sad to me that it took so long!] i experienced a crisis of faith & had to make a choice. a new choice. a new vow. and so i vowed to seek & serve Him rather than to seek my own righteousness & rightness. i put it into writing, sealed it, & dated it. i’ve kept that written covenant ever since. of course, i’ve failed in keeping up my end of the bargain. more than once. but each time i fail, He does not fail me! He woos me back to repentance, healing, & wholeness in Him. and each time, i break the seal on my written vow, reread it, recommit myself to Him in prayer, reseal it, & add the new date.

so with that background on my self-imposed rituals in my relationship with God, you might imagine that the idea of renewing one’s religious vows would indeed pique my interest & heart! and i thought perhaps it would be just as healthy & helpful to reread my vow to God every year, even if i haven’t failed miserably in it. so for me, candlemas is an opportunity to do just that. and it was immensely rewarding! we actually do this renewing of commitment every week when we corporately partake in the Lord’s supper together. why not also do it with longer time for deeper reflection once a year?

well, take it as you like. i have certainly been enriched by the experience & feel a refreshment in my relationship with God! [i guess it must feel something like renewing one’s marriage vows or going on a second honeymoon with your spouse.] may we all find intentional ways of being & staying committed to the Living God, our Redeemer & Friend.