For years, every time I went to the dentist, the hygienist would be on my case about not flossing. I honestly don’t understand why I was once a flossing failure, but I do know why I’m now a flossing fanatic. I changed my habits using a simple approach that can work for you, too, whether your new habit is flossing or something even more important.
No Oprah Moments Required
I didn’t have an emotional breakthrough with flossing by recounting a horrible incident in the dental chair when I was a child. I do like talking about the time the dentist hit a nerve while giving me an injection (it was AWFUL!), however talking it out didn’t get me to floss. Oprah is a case study in the lack of relationship between understanding a bad habit and ending it. So are our pets. You can train your dog to stay off the couch without having him recline on one for psychoanalysis, thankfully. You can develop a healthy habit (or change an unhealthy one) without understanding the roots of your behavior.
Quit Looking for Motivation
I didn’t start flossing because my dentist put the fear of gingivitis in me. I do recall being motivated to floss at one time because I hoped for the approval of my hygienist. When she didn’t praise me for my months of flossing and instead criticized my technique, I quit flossing for years. I don’t know why I started again. Maybe I had something stuck in my teeth? The point is, to change many habits, you don’t need a big reason to do so.
Just Do It. A Lot.
For some reason, I flossed several days in a row. Then I thought about not flossing because I didn’t feel like it. Flossing isn’t fun and I do it at the end of a long day when I’m fatigued. But I flossed anyway. I have no idea why. Then I got serious about the potential of not flossing. While I thought about skipping, I would reach for the floss. By the time I had determined I could skip it “just this once,” I was already done. I was on automatic pilot. I’ve been flossing every night for years now and I can’t NOT do it. Reason or no, motivation or no, just do what you know you should do, day after day.
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. Genesis 4:7
Rinse & Repeat.
I’ve used this method to change a number of habits. I lock my car with the remote each time to keep from locking my keys in the car. What was once a regular problem hasn’t happened in many years. I also run my dishwasher each night. I can be dead tired, but like it or not, there I am loading, adding soap, and pushing buttons. I am currently using the same method to develop a regular blogging habit. So far, so good!
What habits have you changed with this method or what habits would you like to try it with?
P.S. Here’s the best habit you can develop with this method.
- ActiveInbox You may recall my love affair with Goodtodo. The Goodtodo website and accompanying iPhone app helped me get to inbox zero and stay there. There was only one thing I didn’t like about it and that is that it isn’t fully integrated with Gmail, my email client of choice. In other words, while I could forward emails into Goodtodo (and that’s the point), I often had to go back into Gmail to access emails with lots of links, as these aren’t clickable in Goodtodo. I had heard of ActiveInbox before, but was put off by the Getting Things Done moniker. I don’t use every aspect of the GTD approach. What I didn’t realize is that ActiveInbox does everything that Goodtodo does and more. While it’s not meant to be your primary task manager, that’s exactly how I’m using it and I love it. I have the paid version and feel it’s worth every penny.
2. Springpad Everyone knows Evernote and lots of people love it. I liked it, too, but had a particular frustration. I didn’t like that I couldn’t make a checklist that I could easily rearrange or easily make a note that was a task to complete. Springpad does that and more. The user interface is much more appealing to me as well.
3. SmartPad Even though I have my tasks neatly organized in ActiveInbox, I have days when I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all in. One app I love to use in that situation is SmartPad. This iPad app tells you how much you can get done given your schedule and time you have to work. If you dawdle, you can watch the tasks you hoped to accomplish fade from possibility. SmartPad will soon integrate with a SmartDay website which will make the app even more user friendly.
4. Final Version – Wunderlist The man pictured above is not an app, but Mark Forster, who comes up with a new productivity approach every few months. As long as you don’t think of the “Final Version” as the be-all-end-all, but rather as a fun way to gamify your task list, you might enjoy it. I like to use it when I am feeling unmotivated and then Wunderlist is the iPhone app I use. As you tap the stars to indicate that this is a task you prefer to do before the last starred task, the items are put in order at the top of the list for you to begin working on.
5. Clear This is another iPhone app that works for doing the Final Version or just as a great list app. The beauty of it is its simple, clean interface. To make an item a priority, move it up on the list and it’s in the red zone. To add an item between items, simply spread your fingers apart to make room for the new one. If you just want a simple means of organizing tasks in terms or priority, Clear is a great option.
6. Schedule Planner Pro Research shows that we accomplish more of the tasks we schedule. This iPhone app not only allows you to schedule your tasks, but compare what you actually did with what you planned. It’s not perfect, but I love the concept and will use the app when I am working on schedule discipline.
7. Task Current I think of the Task Current iPhone app as a Fun To Do list that I can use to inspire me or even as a reward for doing less-than-fun to do’s.
8. Fitocracy Fitocracy is a seriously addictive website/iPhone app for people like me who thrive on compliments. This diverse community will make you feel like a million bucks for completing your workout, whether you’re a seasoned exerciser or just getting started. There are groups for Christians, but I’ve found the whole community to be very supportive. I was doing squat thrusts at 11:00 p.m. just to finish a “quest” and earn the approval of my fellow fitocrats. What on earth?
9. Daily Feats In case you were wishing there was a pat-on-the-back app for things like housework and parenting, I have good news. Daily Feats gives you points, social approval, and even tangible rewards for doing tasks related to your goals. While company reps are often giving out what are called “props” and sharing links to their products, I’ve found it to be welcome as the products are appropriate to my goals.
10. 750 words Are you a writer who wishes there was a social gaming app to help you get writing done? There is! Earn points for logging 750 words into this writers’ website and compare yourself to others with writing muscle.
What new apps have you found for getting things done?
If you ever sang traditional Sunday School songs, you know you aren't supposed to hide the light of Christ under a bushel basket. You're supposed to share the Good News with others. But often, when it comes to our talents and gifts, the bushel basket seems like an acceptable option.
I wrote a book in the summer of 2007 and aside from selling it at several speaking engagements, I haven't shared it with many people. The copies aren't under a bushel basket, but rather in a cardboard box under our ping pong table. I decided to take one step to share it and that was putting the link to it on my email signature. A woman I corresponded with saw the link, clicked it, read the sample chapter, ordered the book, read it, and loved it. She has been raving about how it has changed her life ever since.
The point is we all have gifts and talents given to us by God that were meant to be shared–not stored under a bushel basket. Often we get confused and think that we have to be celebrity quality in order to share our gifts. What a shame! I'm no Beth Moore, yet my book has been a blessing to others.
In the interest of sharing my book with even more readers, I am doing an interview with Felice Gerwitz on Monday, April 9th at 11:00a.m. Central time. Hope you can listen in or that you'll share this link and this blog with the people you know who would benefit from it. All the proceeds from my book are donated to charity and missions.
Are you a closet writer, photographer, artist, singer, musician, athlete, speaker, teacher, leader, or money manager? Don't hide it under a bushel. Use it for the glory of God and to benefit those around you!
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b]do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:6-8
How are you going to let your light shine this week?
I thought I was done with my series on contentment that begins here, but the Lord had more to say to me about it.
I just returned from a homeschool speech and debate tournament with my oldest son. How strange it is to watch your child agonize over others' evaluations of him as you once did. I remember the feelings of frustration I had in being praised and criticized for the very same aspect of my speeches. I remember feeling like I wasn't as good as my teammates who had taken home trophies when I did not. I remember feeling so low at times that I considered quitting.
Don't get me wrong. I think speech competition (and even the constructive criticism I received) prepared me for what I do today as a speaker. I was driven to improve and I learned to use discernment about the feedback I received. (Just because a judge says it, doesn't make it so.) But competition can also confuse us; I know it does me.
When I watch my son debate, I just think, "Wow!" I am unable to be objective about how his speaking skills compare to others', because I love him so much. To me, he isn't better, just beloved.
One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. – John 13:23
I have heard a number of teachings on John's reference to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Most of them emphasized that Jesus spent more time with John and as a result, was closer to him. I can't deny that. But I don't think that John was emphasizing that he was better, just beloved. The most amazing thing about Jesus for John was that He loved him.
When I am tempted to be discontented about not being better or my children not comparing to others, I want to remember this: I am the disciple that Jesus loves. When He looks at me, He sees what I see when I look at my son. Wow.
What do you think? Does Jesus spend time considering which of us is better?
I know a little something about writing. Even though I’ve been blogging on and off for a long time, I don’t know how to write a great blog. Or even a better blog. What I do know from experience is how to write a bad one. Here are 31 ways to be sure and write a blog that stops traffic.
- Write long posts. Writers making the transition from print to blog make this mistake often. Unless it’s very compelling content, readers quickly scroll and click on after about 500 words. This post is going to be a bad one. I promise.
- Write daily. The blogging experts love to point out that the most popular blogs are updated at least daily. I think that’s confusing correlation with causation. Before you’re really popular, daily updates can overwhelm readers.
- Write your diary. Many blogs read like a bad journal entry. “Today I went to the gym, did some laundry, and watched TV.” Even on Facebook, that’s not good reading.
- Write old news. Readers want what’s fresh, even if that’s a fresh take on an old issue.
- Write too personally. Reality TV has made it acceptable to bare it all, but there are still plenty of us cringing.
- Write without spell check. If you can’t spell and you post your errors, your readers who can spell are going to focus on them and nothing else.
- Write without regard to grammar. While composing your post in a word processor, pay attention to the error indicators. Here’s a great free online grammar course to get you up to speed.
- Write to get your own needs met. These kinds of blogs come across like needy phone friends who never take a breath.
- Write to invoke guilt. Asking why no one is reading or commenting on your blog is like having BO.
- Write with unnecessary cursing. Even if you are comfortable with cursing, constant repetition of the same words is just bad writing, not to mention bad form when so many are offended by it.
- Write without regard for others’ feelings. Criticizing individuals and bashing entire classes of people may generate traffic, but won’t generate any good will.
- Write what’s controversial just to build your blog. Readers who appreciate honest, thoughtful debate will eventually see through you and move on.
- Write without reading others’ blogs. Just as writers in other genres hone their craft by reading the best writers, so bloggers benefit from reading good blogs.
- Write without building relationships. While traditional writers rarely engaged in relationship building, failing to make connections with readers puts your blog at risk. Responding to comments makes your readers feel appreciated.
- Write without giving credit. If you steal others’ work, you will eventually be called out for it.
- Write without linking to others’ blogs. Bloggers appreciate the links and so do readers who are looking for good content. Here is a great post on this topic. (I need to take this blogger’s advice.)
- Write without providing resources. Giving your perspective on a subject is a great start, but readers want to know where to go for more information. I think 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is a great resource.
- Write without humor. Even blogs on depression can be funny.
- Write about how you spend all your time blogging. Many of your readers are bloggers who will be put off by your obsession, although many will stick around to see the train wreck.
- Write amidst a busy, blinking background. Your readers with ADHD won’t be able to focus on your words and may need an extra dose of medication.
- Write infrequently. If you don’t update your blog, your readers won’t care because you don’t.
- Write like you’re perfect. Readers don’t like to feel like losers. Share your perfect photos of perfect people and places and your blog will be perfectly alone.
- Write like you know it all. This is a shift from traditional writing, too, where experts were supposed to give comprehensive information. Readers like to share, too.
- Write what you want to write about. Freelancers know they can’t sell pieces that readers don’t want. Blogs have to be about the topics your readers are interested in.
- Write without paragraphs. This is equivalent to blending a main dish, sides, and a dessert and serving it up in a bowl. Mmm.
- Write without subheadings or photos. Subheadings and photos are like keeping your foods from touching each other and some of us like that. I was going to add more photos to this post, but it messed up my numbering, so I will leave it as is in the interest of not appearing perfect.
- Write to constantly pitch your products. Blog posts that start off talking about how they’re giving me something “FREE to add value” tell me that the sales pitch is coming soon and it’s a turn off.
- Write sparsely to make room for long audio and video. Many readers (like me!) learn best by reading and don’t want to spend 15 minutes watching something they could learn by reading in five. I always appreciate the content in writing, too.
- Write with links to inappropriate content. Like it or not, readers trust that you are not going to send them to offensive or spammy links. Don’t violate that trust.
- Write without purpose. We have to know why we are blogging and even why we are writing a particular post, or we’re sure to go off the rails.
- What should this one be?
What other mistakes have you seen bloggers make or have you made yourself?
Are you GOOD ENOUGH?
If we're honest, most of us will say no. We'll admit to wishing:
- We looked younger (after our teens anyway)
- We were thinner or fitter
- We were more organized and productive
- We had a better rating or record in our sport or activity of choice
- We could do what we do like someone else does it
- We had more fans or just more respect
- We made more money
I could go on, but you probably found yourself there somewhere, unless you have the gift of contentment where success is concerned. Even if you're mostly content, you probably have your moments. I do.
No matter what I'm discontent with, the root cause is the saME. Did you catch that? Whenever it's about ME, I'm not content.
When I was a kid, the song, "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" was popular. One promise God never made was to give me glory. The promise He made was to use my life for His. Remembering that helps me return to contentment sooner.
The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Isaiah 60:19
When I'm not happy with the success I'm having in a particular area of my life, I often reflect on great men and women who died without ever knowing how famous they would become. This Scripture reminds me that if they're with our Lord, and know about their fame on earth, they don't care. God is their glory now. We don't have to wait until we're in heaven for God to be our glory. We can be content knowing that God is always successful, even when we don't seem to be.
How has God helped you be content with the success you have or don't have?
Sometimes when people hear that I homeschool six kids, write, and speak, they tell me I'm a Wonder Woman. I'm not going to disagree, but they don't know the whole story.
In honor of the St. Louis Homeschool Expo where I'll be presenting, I've made the real story behind this Wonder Woman FREE! On March 23rd & 24th, click on the book below and you'll be able to read So You're Not Wonder Woman for free on your Kindle, any Kindle app, or your computer (get free app here) regardless of whether you have Amazon Prime.
I hope you are blessed by the book! If you are, I hope you will bless me in return by leaving a review for the book. I can get my book into the hands of more Wonder Woman wannabes if they read a number of positive reviews.
Our relationships, like money and time, are gifts from the Lord. I've never tried to dye the clothing I've been given as gifts. I've never tried to reconstruct a present of jewelry. I've never edited a gifted book. But I've tried to change the people God has given to me as gifts many, many times.
I could blame it on my profession, I suppose. But more likely my desire to change people has to do with my pride (my way is better) and lack of understanding (he is purposely trying to make me miserable!). Only recently did it occur to me that all of our upsets with spouses, kids, friends, neighbors, bosses and more are symptoms of our discontent.
The Apostle Paul was someone who dealt with a lot of difficult people. Acts 16 details Paul's encounter with a demon-possessed girl who annoys him. He drove the demon out of her, but was then beaten and thrown in jail –into stocks, no less! Yet what does he do? Praises the Lord in song.
If I were Paul, I would have:
- complained about the demon-possessed girl and demanded that God get her to stop annoying me so I could get on with life. When we are discontent with our relationships, we want the person who's annoying us to chage.
- begged God to save me from beatings and incarceration. When we are discontent with our relationships, we don't want people to change us.
- had the world's biggest pity party in jail. When we are discontent with our relationships, we don't want to serve the Lord.
I'm so glad that Paul had contentment with his relationships. As a result, a young girl was delivered of a demon and a jailer's family was saved.
Who's annoying you lately? Let's practice the contentment of Paul and:
- pray in the name of Jesus Christ for our annoying person. Let's be more concerned with them than we are with ourselves.
- understand that God is using the difficult person for our good. Although painful, the changes challenging people can make in us are more valuable than gold.
- give God thanks for how He will use a tough relationship for His glory. When Paul was annoyed with the slave girl, He had no idea that God was setting in motion a sequence of events that would have glorious consequences. I believe the Lord is still working in our relationships this way.
Has the Lord ever used a difficult relationship in your life for your good and His glory?
I don't know how my little guy, who was worried there would be no more places for him to explore when he grew up, is now ready for some real exploring. But he is!
We've long dreamt of the day that one of our kids could accompany their missionary Aunt Nancy, on a mission trip. This June, the dream is becoming a reality. Caleb will be going to Kenya and Tanzania for a month with other high school students through Student Venture.
What He'll Be Doing
Caleb will have an exciting opportunity to use his gift of speaking to share with students how to achieve academic excellence, rewarding relationships, and how to know Jesus personally. While we hope that Caleb will be able to benefit the students of Africa, we believe that God will also use this trip to change our son. We pray that he will understand how incredibly blessed he is, that he will learn to love and respect people of other cultures, and that he will grow in his faith as he spends time with other committed Christians.
Because Caleb will be serving as a missionary, he must raise supporters who will pray for him and will provide for him financially. The blessing his supporters will receive in return is to hear all about what the Lord is doing in Africa and in him. I will have him share a blog post with all of you!
If you feel led by the Lord to support Caleb's mission financially, I have added a Donate button to the right sidebar. Some generous ladies have helped him earn five beautiful sets of Premiere jewelry. For every $10 donated, your name will be added to a drawing to win them. I will be drawing for them when his trip is funded or he is heading out–whichever comes first!
Whether you feel called to donate or not, please know that we are so grateful for your prayers on his behalf and on behalf of the people that Caleb's team will be ministering to in Kenya and Tanzania.
Have your children ever gone on an international mission trip or have you? Any advice for me or Caleb?
We know we have the same 24 hours that everyone else does, but many of us aren't content with our time. I know, because of the innumerable books, articles, and tools sold on the basis that they can give us more time.
Our discontent with time is obvious when:
- We procrastinate. We wish we had more time to do the things we enjoy, rather than those we don't.
- We complain about how busy we are.
- We are annoyed by people who slow us down.
- We arrive late. We wanted more time to do something else.
- We cut our sleep time short. We wish we had more active hours each day.
- We multi-task, giving nothing our full attention.
- We live in fear of not getting everything done.
- We spend our time looking for ways to save time.
Discontentment with time has become socially acceptable, even among Christians. While there is wisdom in some time management and productivity teaching, we can use the information to feed our discontentment and find ourselves in a vicious cycle. The following parable came to me as I sought the Lord's wisdom for my discontentment with time:
There was once a very competent woman who was hired by a brilliant man in a company that was destined for success. He took his time interviewing her so he could put her in a position that would make the best use of her abilities, but would also enable her to grow. He gave her a simple job description and invited her to come to him each morning to ask what he would like her to do. He also made it clear that he might call upon her unexpectedly as well, but that he would be sure to provide her with everything she needed to do a good job for him.
At first the woman was delighted with her boss. He was the nicest boss she could imagine having. He gave her meaningful work that made the days fly by and she felt great! But after she grew accustomed to the job, she figured it really wasn't necessary to meet with him each morning. She pretty much knew what needed doing. In fact, she even recognized some things that needed doing that her boss hadn't mentioned. She was quite excited about her new projects, but also surprised and even a little irritated when her boss interrupted them to give her work she wasn't expecting.
At about the same time, she noticed that some of her co-workers could really use some training. They weren't doing their jobs well at all. She meant to just train them, but before she knew it, she was doing some of her co-workers' tasks, too. As a result, she had to keep longer hours. She stayed later and came in earlier. She even had to take work home! She lost sleep as she worried about how she would get it all done. Finally, she was so stressed that she decided to talk to her boss about the impossible workload he'd given her. Things were so bad and he hadn't done anything to help her. Didn't he care about her at all?
Our Awesome Boss
What's missing from the analogy is that God isn't just a boss, but the one who created us to do good works (see Ephesians 2:10). We don't really know our loving God if we think He would give us more tasks than time to do them in. I feel so terrible for being the woman in the parable.
While I believe we are to be content with the time the Lord has given us, I also believe that God can supernaturally expand our time when necessary to do His work. I have had times when I was overbooked and stressed, but I met with my Boss and asked for help. Commitments I had suddenly disappeared or I felt like Wonder Woman doing things in hyper speed.
When we are discontent with our time, let's meet every morning with our awesome Boss. Let's ask Him what He would like us to do, what He would like us to let go of, and for the grace to accept the time we have as more than enough.
Have you ever been the woman in the parable? Has God ever supernaturally expanded your time, so you could finish the work He gave you?