Thursday, January 6, 2011

Goals, Plans and Books for 2011 ~ Bring It On!

Dear friends,

“Trying to write down goals and plans for the year little by little, one area at a time. My life is rather complicated! Self-discipline is the key to much of it.”

That’s what I posted as my Facebook status last night, and my Canadian friend Natalie asked if I cared to elaborate. Yes, I guess I will! I was already plotting a blog post in the back of my head anyway.

I’m not much of one for making New Year’s resolutions of things I will do or else! But January is a fitting time of year for new starts and waxing at least a little bit philosophical about how life is going: where I’ve come from this past year and where I want to go in the next 365 days. Or should I say 359 days since it is already January 6th? Actually, the decisions we make on any day of the year in some way set the trajectory for all the rest of life, eternity included. My, that’s getting a little weighty for me.  This year may be an extra crucial one since I already know it is filled with continued major transitions for my whole family.

With this in mind, several areas of my life (such as it is) need the focus of goals and plans: 

  • Personal: Spiritual ~ Mental ~ Emotional
  • Family: Husband ~ Kids ~ Extended Family
  • Home Schooling
  • Homemaking & Creativity
  • Ministry: Writing ~ Speaking ~ Practical
  • Social
  • Physical: Nutrition ~ Exercise ~ Health & Dental Care
I think that about covers it for me. I can pretty much tuck any smaller concerns within those headings. For each of these areas, I set up a page in my notebook with three sections: 
  • Goals: the end result I want to accomplish
  • Plans: specifically how I am going to get there
  • Books to read: I can’t help it. I’ve got to get the reading in there somewhere, and if it can help me reach my goals, well, more power to me!
I’m not going to share all of my goals with you for two reasons. No, three! First, many of them are private! Second, I haven’t come up with all of them yet. I don’t like to rush the process. Like I said, “Little by little, one area at a time.” Third, you need to work through your own goals, not copy mine. I am me. You are you. Profound, I know. I will share a little bit, along with one of my book lists at the end, and maybe in a later post I’ll write about a few homemaking goals.

I have gone through this Goal & Plan process before, but it’s been years. I should dig through my old ones (I think they were written on yellow paper, and they are somewhere in one of my archive notebooks) and see whether I actually accomplished much of what I dreamed. Yes, I know I did. I mean, I survived all the toddler years of 10 kids, and my teenagers and adult children live pretty productive lives and still like me most of the time. If that isn’t a worthy feat, I don’t know what is!

Speaking of notebooks… Yes, I have a wonderful little iPod touch that helps me turn my life from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) to ADO (Attention Deficit ORDER). When I got this lovely little digital friend, I abandoned my old paper To Do lists in my notebook and transferred them to an electronic app that sorts and prioritizes and beeps at the schedule time and makes it easy to procrastinate (er… readjust the schedule) by tapping the “Put Off Till tomorrow” button. Anyway, back to notebooks. I still love mine and use it as a mega-journal-extra-brain-of-sorts. I stash all sorts of goodies in my notebook, which is a full 3-ring model with a sturdy blue canvas cover. Lots of reflections on life, personal Bible study & sermon notes, letters from loved ones, articles I find intriguing, outlines of projects, rough drafts of poems, and copies of whatever I have written for public consumption. Right now, I have a hefty section set aside for my goals and plans. Later on, I’ll type them in and e-mail them to the iPod for instant handy access. And maybe a few well-timed beeps.  I have other notebooks, too, but I'll save that tale for another day.

Now, since you have read along so patiently, I will share a tiny bit of my spiritual plans (the only ones I've written out so far) as well as my book list for that area. I hope it will be worth your eyeball-to-brain time.

First, I have really been lagging in systematic Bible study, so I want to commit to finishing up my study of the four gospels, in which I am reading similar passages from each on the same day and comparing them. I wrote a list of the next 16 sets of verses, figuring I can complete one of them every 3 days or so. Time to read, time to reflect, time to respond. Maybe I’ll even print out some Read ~ Reflect ~ Respond Scripture note pages for this endeavor. (That brings to mind Dave Abney’s sermon at Lake Baldwin Church on the habit of meditation from last Sunday. “The life that abounds is centered on the story of redemption.” Scripture is a mirror of our souls, a window into God’s heart, a gateway to prayer, a path to obedience.) I also want to take the plunge and memorize Scripture again, since that is such an aid to meditation. (If you can remember it, you can dwell on it even when the page isn’t in front of you. It seeps into you and becomes part of you, shaping who you are and what you do.) Ann Voskamp, one of my favorite bloggers, is recommending the whole book of Colossians as a 2011 goal, and even provides links to a booklet to help us along the way. (See here: Colossians in a Year: 2 Verses a Week.) I’ll bite. I guess that’s one way we actually can borrow someone else’s goal. I memorized it over 2 decades ago and I’m still quite familiar with the general outline, wording and concepts, even though I can’t quote large chunks of it anymore.

“Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:1-2
That much I can type “by heart” since my younger children and I often sing it into our souls, memorization and meditation by melody. Those words themselves capture the spirit of why I want to saturate my mind with Scripture. I just downloaded a free NIV Bible app to my iPod to make it easier to find the verses I am going to memorize. (I already have the ESV on it.)

Oh, the book list! I’m not to going to give you all of it because some of the books I’m thinking of reading I need to investigate a bit more closely before I even mention them in public. But here is enough to keep you busy for a long time, especially if you’re not a fast reader.

When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a DifferenceWhen Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference by Carolyn Custis James ~ a stirring call for Christian women to become able theologians. Along the way, she recounts the life of Mary (sister of Martha and Lazarus), who sat at Rabbi Jesus’ feet to learn even though she was criticized, and later had to put her knowledge to the test and into practice during challenging times. I’m glad I’m reading this book. A friend (I can’t remember who) quoted this book on Facebook and even that little sound bite resonated with me so much that I asked Thad to get it for me for Christmas. He did, and I’m about half way through it.

Know the Truth: A Handbook of Christian BeliefKnow the Truth: A Handbook of Christian Belief  by Bruce Milne ~ a book of systematic theology for normal people like me, and a means to carrying out the above call. We’ve had it for a while, but I need to dust it off, crack the spine, and let the words spill out into me. It’s so easy to make assumptions about theology based on what we hear and feel, but how well are we thinking it through? How Biblical are our beliefs anyway? How skewed have we allowed them to get, even in our churches, not to mention culture at large? Can we “Be Bereans” and search it out with our minds fully engaged? For more theology, I also might dabble in my vintage 1918 copy of A History of the Christian Church by Williston Walker. I have found that if I try to look up some curious sect or belief, I invariably have to keep paging backwards, farther backwards to set the stage on the page. It’s all a thread, often tangled, but somehow still woven into a tapestry we won’t see the beauty or even the sense of until eternity. Nearly a hundred years later, I recognize that my life story is part of it, too. Thus my desire to live well, with worthy goals and plans.) 

Your God Is Too SafeSpiritual Rhythm: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your SoulYour God is Too Safe: Rediscovering the Wonder of a God You Can’t Control and Spiritual Rhythm: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul by Mark Buchanan. I already read his book The Holy Wild nearly three years ago (my review and quotes here: The Holy Wild)  Thad saw Your God is Too Safe at Brightlight, my favorite used bookstore, and snapped it up for me. Yes! I’ll get Spiritual Rhythm at CBD soon.  Ann Voskamp  recommended it in her blog post Weekends Are for Curling Up with Good Books: I confess, many books keep me a dabbler, but Mark Buchanan’s Spiritual Rhythm: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul kept me right to the end, the one book I reached for each evening after the children were tucked in bed. All of his books on my shelves, Buchanan is one of my absolute favorite writers: classic writing by a current contemporary, deep and thoughtful theology, lyrical yet muscular prose that sweeps you away — transforms you."  Based on reading The Holy Wild, I would agree! 

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You AreOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. The print version is not due for release until later this month, but you can already get the Kindle e-book. And yes, this is the third time I have mentioned Ann in this blog post! That’s because I love her writing, which is poetic even when she is attempting prose. Always profound. Always setting my mind on things above, and then putting my hands busy to serve “here below” in light of that. See for yourself:  (Just like me, Ann is also a home school mom of a large family, but quite unlike me she's also a Canadian farm wife.  The farming I shall never emulate.)

Do you catch the recurring theme in these book titles? Living fully in Jesus. Not settling for dry dust or rigid resolutions, but being open to the “impossible” but ultimately wonderful things that God loves to pour out into my life. Bring on my Grand Adventure, 2011!

Joy and peace and LIFE to you this year and always,
Virginia Knowles

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this post, Virginia - you've given me some things to chew on.


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