girltalk Blog

Jan 14

Sinful Comparison: A Pain in the Neck

2014 at 9:20 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management

It’s January again, and Facebook and Twitter are clogged with New Year wishes and resolutions, reminiscences of the year past and predictions of the year ahead.

But the New Year can come with an unexpected side effect: the crick in our neck that we can get from looking around at everyone else and worrying that maybe they’ve got it better than we do. With every flipagram in our feed, the strain gets worse, the knots tighten.

Maybe 2013 wasn’t such a great year for you. It was full of set backs and frustrations, disappointments and challenges. And yet it seems (if Facebook is to be believed) as if everyone else had an exciting and successful year. Everyone else got married and had babies. Everyone else’s home business took off. They made new friends, had great vacations, and their kids excelled in school. Everyone else lost weight.

They have and we have not. And the more we think about it, the more restless, anxious, and dissatisfied we feel.

In search of a cure, we may pour out our sorrows on social media, and watch the sympathy likes pile up; but somehow they never fill our empty love cup to its tippy top.

Or we protest (too much, methinks) that we don’t care a wit what people think; we’re proud of our messy house and messed up life. We call it “being real.”

We may try to release the tension by taking jabs and digs at others. If we can’t feel better about ourselves, at least we can create some company for our misery.

It’s not that we resolve to bigger complaining and better envy in 2014, but when we start to sinfully compare, we’re well on our way. If we sow seeds of “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” at the start of 2014, they are sure to sprout up as weeds that choke our growth in godliness the whole year through (James 3:14).

Our Savior graciously confronts our sinful comparison in John chapter 21. The scene is following his resurrection. He has just restored his disciple, Peter, and then he gives him the news: you will die a horrible death.

We have a lot of sympathy for Peter, who strains his neck to look around at his buddy John and asks, “What about this man?”

“What is that to you?” Jesus says to Peter. “You follow me.”

Our Savior’s loving rebuke echoes in our ears. He meant for it to.

He meant for his words to protect us from sinful comparison that would distract us from our calling, stifle our growth in godliness, injure our relationships, dishonor his holiness, and make us miserable.

And he invites us, or rather, commands us to “follow me.” We follow him by meditating on his Word instead of longing for what others have, by taking whatever steps of obedience he requires from us today, and by rejoicing with others when they receive blessings from God.

At the beginning of the New Year, let’s receive our Savior’s loving, rebuke and invitation. Yes, everyone else may seem poised to be faster, better, prettier, smarter, and more successful in 2014, but “What is that to you? You follow me.”

{If you find yourself tempted to sinful comparison at the start of the New Year let me encourage you to watch this workshop.}

Jan 13

“The Greed of Doing”

2014 at 8:12 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management

“I have been thinking of something that stifles thanksgiving. It is the spirit of greed—the greed of doing, being, having. When Satan came to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, his bait was intended to inspire the lust to do more than the Father meant for Him to do—to go farther, demonstrate more power, act more dramatically. So the enemy comes to us in these days of frantic doing. We are ceaselessly summoned to activities: social, political, educational, athletic, and yes—spiritual. Our ‘self image’ [deplorable word!] is dependent not on the quiet and hidden ‘Do this for My sake,’ but on the list the world hands us of what is ‘important.’ It is a long list, and it is both foolish and impossible. If we fall for it, we neglect the short list. Only a few things are really important, and for those we have the promise of divine help: sitting in silence with the Master in order to hear His word and obey it in the ordinary line of duty—for example, in being a good husband, wife, mother, son, daughter, or spiritual father or mother to those nearby who need protection and care—humble work which is never on the world’s list because it leads to nothing impressive on one’s resume. As Washington Gladden wrote in 1879, ‘O Master, let me walk with Thee/In lowly paths of service free…’”

~Elisabeth Elliot

Jan 9

Planning: A Mini-Session

2014 at 8:32 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management

After last week’s post on planning, a few of you asked what exactly we do in our Chick-fil-A planning sessions and how we revisit these goals throughout the year.

I’ll give you a brief version here, but you can find a more detailed description of our planning methods, including a biblical foundation for our plans and goals in our book, Shopping for Time.

Look, we’re not time management experts. You won’t find anything new or revolutionary in our methods, but they have worked well for us for a couple of decades now. Mom developed this simple system years ago, and even though we do it in Evernote instead of on a legal pad these days, the process is still pretty much the same.

First we take time to consider our various roles/priorities, which usually come under these headings:

Grow in Godliness

Love my Family

Serve in the Church

Fellowship with Christians

Evangelize non-Christians

Attend to My Work

Care for My Physical Body

In our book we explain the biblical principles that underlie these priorities, and also how they look different for every woman, depending on her season of life. Because my sisters and I are parenting young kids, we end up spending most of our time on the first two. But for someone who doesn’t have children, you may focus more on other priorities like church and work.

Next, we set goals for each priority. We consider (and discuss—I highly recommend doing this with a friend so you can share ideas and encourage each other) ways we want to grow or improve, and focus on problem areas.Are we getting consistent time with the Lord? What are our biggest concerns for our kids? What ways can we serve in the church this year?

Third, we come up with next steps to make those goals a reality. So I may need to research and decide on a new Bible reading plan, buy a new commentary, or make a list of verses to use in my prayer time. My husband and I always set goals for our kids which require specific actions—often changes to the routine so we can read to them each day, schedule times for Bible study and training, and of course, family fun.

Finally, I put the next steps on my to do list and make the necessary changes to my daily and weekly routine. These are nothing fancy, just lists I keep in Evernote. Each morning I review my list of to dos for the day and each weekend I take a few minutes to plan for the week ahead. Once I’ve translated my goals into next steps and put them on my calendar and to do list, I only need to glance at them from time to time.

By the time we plan again—usually every six months or so—I’m thrilled if I’ve accomplished even half of the goals I set at the beginning of the year. But as my dad likes to remind us, that’s more than if we’d never planned at all.

So that’s the thirty-second version. If it leaves you with more questions than answers, maybe try the book. Shopping for Time may not be the best book on time management you’ll ever read, but at least it is short. Oh, and it pairs well with a Chick-fil-A sandwich and a large sweet tea.

Jan 7

Q&A: “How do you get up early when your kids are up all night?”

2014 at 11:13 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management | Motherhood | Q&A

The girltalk inbox has been a bit crowded these days with e-mails from exhausted moms asking how it is possible to rise early and get time with the Lord when they are up half the night with small children. It always encourages me to hear from you! I just finished a long stretch with Summer (11 months) and Hudson (3 years) waking up multiple times a night. Mike and I would laugh (more like a half-hearted chuckle from me) that they seemed to coordinate with one another, working in shifts to make sure that I got as little sleep as possible.

So how do I wake up early when my kids want to party all night? I don’t. I can’t.

A couple months ago, I sat across from Mom, Nicole and Kristin exhausted and crying (not for the first time in the last eight years) over my lack of sleep and inability to get up early. I missed my early morning times with the Lord, and my days felt more disorganized and hectic because I wasn’t able to get up before my children. They sympathized and encouraged me to remember that this was a season—yes, a long and tiring season, but not one that would last forever.

In the meantime, I needed to get creative and develop an alternative plan. If waking up early before my kids wasn’t possible right now, then how else could I feed my soul throughout the day? I downloaded the ESV Bible app, which has an audio feature. (FYI: Over at christianaudio.com, you can get the ESV audio for FREE during the month of January!) I loaded my phone with sermons, which I could listen to a few minutes at a time. I took time to pray while I was in the shower or emptying the dishwasher.

I also sought to be intentional about my children’s schedule. I trained Hudson to have “room time” (an hour alone in his room with a few toys) at the same time that Summer took her morning nap. This guaranteed (and I use that word loosely) me a slot of time where I could read my Bible or finish a project.

These ideas may not work for you, but the point is to get creative. What are small ways you can seek the Lord throughout your day? How can you free up twenty minutes in your daily schedule to sit and read your Bible and pray?

And take heart. You are not alone. And this season won’t last forever…right???

Jan 6

A Little Goes a Long Way

2014 at 8:05 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management

“The way to do a great deal is to keep on doing a little. The way to do nothing at all, is to be continually resolving that you will do everything.”

~Charles Spurgeon

“Bring one bit of the Bible into one bit of life…You can’t deal with it all at once. Scripture never doesBut a timely text brings truth down to a consumable size…change walks out in the details…This is how God made it to be. This is how He works.”

~David Powlison

Jan 2

Change is in the Oatmeal

2014 at 10:02 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management

Last week, the girltalkers met at Janelle’s house. We brought Chick-fil-a, sent the kids to play with Christmas toys, and set our laptops, notepads, and colored pens on the kitchen table. It was time to plan.

Mom started planning with us when we were teenagers. Twice a year she would help us evaluate our life and priorities and consider ways we could grow. After we got married, we asked her to come back and help us, and so the tradition has continued to this day.

I got to thinking about what I find most helpful about Mom’s approach to planning for the New Year and here are my top three. Even though you can’t join us for Chick-fil-a, I hope these ideas inspire your planning, too.

1. Principle leads to practice.

In a recent sermon (which you really should listen to, by the way), my Dad shared a line from JI Packer about the Puritans:

Their knowledge was no mere theoretical orthodoxy. They sought to ‘reduce to practice’ (their own phrase) all that God had taught them.”

When we plan, Mom helps us to “reduce to practice” all that God has taught us. Here is where our theology gets worked out in methodology. It is where our goals for godliness get translated into detailed steps. Here is where we come up with specific, concrete, plans for living out biblical truth in every day life.

For this reason our relationship with God is always the first thing we talk about. Then we consider how we can be better wives and mothers. We discuss ways we can be more skilled homemakers. We ask: How are we to be serving in our local church? Who has God called us to share the gospel with?

What an awesome privilege we as Christians have, to be taught by God. By his grace, we must seek to put into practice all we have learned from his Holy Word.

2. Change is in the really small details.

What really keeps me coming back to these planning times is the immediate and dramatic difference they make in my life. Mom helps us make our big picture goals a reality by targeting small areas for change.

This year, it came down to a new oatmeal recipe.

Lately my mornings have been very hectic, cutting short my writing time. Breakfast was the culprit. It was a big production with four kinds of toast and five versions of cereal or oatmeal (with lots of toppings). Mom googled “slow cooker oatmeal recipes” and suggested I prepare the toppings ahead of time. These small changes have transformed my morning routine. I am not running around my small kitchen like a crazy woman, and I’m able to finish writing before the kids need my full attention.

A new oatmeal recipe might not seem like a big New Year’s plan, but it is the little things that make the big goals possible.

3. Planning helps me focus.

Janelle has been wanting to learn to crochet for a while now. It’s a good skill to have, and she has good reasons for wanting to learn. But as we talked through her priorities, starting with the most important, she realized that she doesn’t have time to take a crocheting class right now. It would mean giving up other, more important goals.

In an age of unlimited opportunities and countless distractions, planning helps me to focus. Otherwise I would run here and there doing a lot of good things but neglecting the best things. Realistically, we can only give ourselves to a few things this year. Let’s make sure those few things are the most important ones.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” ~Ephesians 5:15-16

Dec 30

“Blessed Pilot of My Future”

2013 at 8:13 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management

“O Love Beyond Compare,

Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,

and in love didst redeem my soul;

Thou dost love me still,

in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.

Thy goodness has been with me during another year,

leading me through a twisting wilderness,

in retreat helping me to advance,

when beaten back making sure headway.

Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;

I hoist sail and draw up anchor,

With thee as the blessed Pilot of my future

as of my past.”

~Valley of Vision

Sep 16

Simply Does It

2013 at 1:00 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management | Motherhood

As I talked to other moms this week, at church or my sons’ baseball practices, we were all feeling a little tired and overwhelmed by the busyness of another school year. For me, when things get busy, I always return to my mom’s advice (hopefully sooner rather than later for the sake of my family!): Seek God and keep it simple. A few years ago Kristin described how this counsel carried her through an exhausting time with three small boys. ~Nicole

———

I’m tired and I need more rest. But when? How? These were my questions as family and friends recently sought to counsel me through this exhausting season with three energetic boys.

A typical day begins early and goes non-stop until nap time. My kid’s nap time, that is. While my little ones are resting and recharging their batteries, I am usually trying to bring order back to the house, do laundry—you know, start something and finish it without interruption. Then it’s a whirlwind of dinner prep, dishes cleanup, and jammies on. Usually there’s a meeting, or home projects to tackle, and before you know it, it’s time to do the same thing all over again. Except, I still haven’t recovered from the day before.

For me and every other exhausted mom, we must find our rest and our strength in Christ. One of our pastors wives, Nancy Loftness, reminded me of 1 Peter 4:11, “Whoever serves, [should do so] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” I MUST consistently seek God for joy and stamina to serve my family another day. There is no other way to bring glory to God as a mother.

However, my mom, sisters, and faithful friends have also been helping me take practical steps to alleviate my tremendous tiredness. In a word, simplify. Get strategic and get creative about eliminating needless work. Make rest a priority so I’m better able to serve my husband and my little men.

Over lunch the other day, Mom, Nicole, Janelle and I brainstormed about my daily schedule. We talked through the trouble points and they threw out all kinds of ideas such as buying prepackaged food for my boy’s lunches, getting help with babysitting, and developing a plan for staying on top of laundry.

This brainstorming session has made a significant difference in my life of late, and I want to encourage other moms to try it as well. Gather a couple of friends and fellow-moms together for a strategy session (make it a fun night out!), or ask several “older” women for ideas. Examine every aspect of your day and figure out how you can simplify your life and schedule. The practical changes that serve you best will probably be different than for me. However, by minimizing your workload where possible, you’ll find reserves of strength to serve your family, and more peace along the way.

Simplifying my life has provided me with much-needed rest. It has also required a healthy dose of humility, an honest admission that I’m not “Super Mom.” I’m just an ordinary woman seeking to serve with the strength that God provides—in whatever way it comes. May God be glorified!

Sep 11

When Your Day Doesn’t Go As Planned

2013 at 12:10 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management

In case some of you need this reminder as much as I do today, here’s one of Mom’s very first posts on our blog. ~Nicole

I wanted to get up early, but C.J. encouraged me to stay in bed a little longer. I had been up quite late the night before. He thought I needed a little more sleep.

By the time I arose, the demands of the day came rushing at me in rapid succession. There was breakfast to fix. Conversations to have. The unexpected phone call. Family members to shuttle from point A to point B. One interruption after another.

It was 10:00 a.m. and I still hadn’t taken a shower, much less made progress on my to-do list. I was struggling. This wasn’t the way my morning was supposed to go. I wasn’t completing the tasks I thought were most important. Peace and joy had vanished.

Then I recalled this perspective-altering thought from C.S. Lewis:

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it’s hard to remember it all the time.”

It is hard to remember. But what a difference it made when I called to mind this biblical truth.All these interruptions—they weren’t interruptions after all. They were “sovereign deliveries.” These “unpleasant things” were God’s perfect plan for my day.

Contemplating this bit of wisdom brought a smile to my face. And from that moment on, I met each subsequent “interruption” with joy. The shower could wait.

My prayer is that, next time, God will help me to remember this truth. Because Mr. Lewis was right. It’s easy to forget.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Sep 2

How to Rest on Labor Day

2013 at 3:11 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Time Management | Spiritual Growth

Labor Day is for many, a day to rest from work. But how do we find rest for our restless souls? Scripture, which is always saying things we don’t expect, tells us to find rest by walking.

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jer. 6:16, emphasis mine)

Rest for our souls is found when we search out and walk in the ancient paths, on God’s Good Highway. How do we do this? Through repentance and obedience to God’s Word. Our souls find rest when, by the power only available through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we obey.

This isn’t always the answer we want to hear. Like the original recipients of God’s message through the prophet, we often cross our arms and stand still. We want to find rest some other way than God’s way. Derek Kidner comments:

As for the compassionate offer of rest for your souls, it is brushed aside—for as sinners we do not take kindly either to God’s diagnosis of our restless state or to his remedy for it. That remedy…both here and in our Lord’s quotation of the last line (Mt. 11:29), is no rest-cure but a redirection: the blessed relief of stepping out along the right way. Jesus interprets this in personal terms of walking with him as his working partners (‘my yoke upon you’) and his pupils (‘learn from me’). ~The Message of Jeremiah, p. 46, emphasis mine

We find relief from the weariness of sin when we walk with God as his servants and his students. We find rest for our souls when we take a step of repentance for our laziness or anger, our anxiety or our judging and trust in the forgiveness that comes only through the atoning death of Jesus Christ.

So what good and ancient road of obedience do we need to take a step down today?

Let’s walk to get some rest.