Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Necessary Changes for a Better Life

"Great lives are made up of many small disciplines."  Unknown

My family and I have been through many changes over the last six months or so.  The other night, we discussed the need for our lives to be more structured and orderly; saying how much it would help the overall atmosphere in our house, let alone family relationships, attitudes, and our emotional well-being & mental health.

We talked about the need for working on our own particular issues and in turn, how doing so will benefit our future (so as not to bring the same issues with us into each new season of life) and will make us feel at ease because the stumbling blocks or problems will no longer weigh us down.

I wanted to share with readers of my blog an assignment I thought of for my family and one you could very easily apply yourself.  It is a simple yet profound way of getting to the root causes and underlying issues we have been carrying for years and will serve the useful purpose of bringing to light beliefs we may be holding onto (which could very well be inaccurate ideas we have formed through various means) and help us trace back to when such thoughts or behaviors began and how they continued.  It's a list of questions to assist with why bad habits have stayed or why you may have difficulty being responsible.  By the way, I would love to pursue being a counselor in the future and welcome Biblical resources you might have or know about that deal with Psychology or Biblical Counseling (like worksheets or papers addressing anger or other emotions, etc.).  I love reading resources like this and have received them through previous counseling sessions I've been to.  They are very helpful!

Here's the assignment:

What are your daily responsibilities aside from an outside job?  This could include chores at home, tasks like running errands, homework, important phone calls, managing bills or money, taking care of people, exercise, cooking, you name it.

On average, how much time do you estimate each of these will take?

In your opinion, what hinders you from accomplishing the above?  Examples: Laziness, fatigue, procrastination, selfishness, social media, too much entertainment.

What bad habits do you deal with on a regular basis?  What has been most difficult about kicking these habits?  What has gotten in the way?  Examples: Lack of help, not enough time (or so it seems), convenience, no accountability, lack of resources which address the struggle or habit.

What is the earliest memory you have of starting the habit?  What was going on in your life at the time?  Examples: New job or school, moving, lack of money, family troubles, friendships ending, not getting enough sleep, eating poorly, being far behind on schoolwork, abuse, stress, pressures of any sort.

What made you do the habit twice?  What benefit did you derive from it that kept you interested in going back?  Looking back, has the temporary distraction or momentary relief it brought at the beginning been more of a help or hindrance in moving forward with your life and for your overall best interest?

List everything you can think of about your life currently and in the past that has kept the bad habit alive or equipped it to thrive.  What about your daily routine needs to change so the habit is deprived of its ability to remain and grow?

Do you spend your time wisely and seek to make every moment count?  What are current time-wasters in your life that may take away from accomplishing necessities?

Do you daily read the Bible or listen to an Audio Bible?  If not, why?  Do you regularly pray and have a meaningful intimacy with God through daily prayer?  If not, why?  Do you study Christian resources and attend church weekly (or more than once a week)?  What priority does God have in your daily life and choices?

Are the majority of people you spend time with or speak to genuine Christians who are striving to live according to God's word and see their need for continued spiritual growth and transformation OR unbelievers who know little of God and His word - and if you were honest - are actually a bad influence, whose example and way of living & speaking is beginning to (or already has) led you astray from God and a fixed relationship with Him (First Corinthians 15: 33)?

What do you usually think about upon waking up or falling asleep at night?  Are the majority of your thoughts positive and God-honoring (Philippians 4: 8) or do you typically put yourself down, rehearse hurtful words others have said to you, dwell on everything bad that has ever taken place in your life, feed fear by allowing your mind to wander, drift into fantasy, often compare yourself to others, or secretly desire you could live a more "fun" (worldly) life?

What experiences from your past (whether that be sins you've committed, bad choices you've made, or what you have been through) have you been seeking to numb through bad habits?  Is there any resentment, jealousy, lack of forgiveness, bitterness, or anger you are harboring toward others that you are refusing to let go of?  Here's a sermon series which addresses this very issue.

Put into categories the issues you face.  This can include *money, health, **relationships, self esteem, work.  Find Biblical resources that address these topics (I am privileged to know of many, so write to me for suggestions at:  EmmaJoyBlog@gmail.com)

Pursue friendship with older mentors, be open and willing to seek Biblical Counsel on a regular basis, pray for and seek genuine accountability.  Lasting changes will take much effort, prayer, and diligence on your part, but having a strong support system around you in the form of godly friends and trustworthy, mature family members or people is crucial for your pursuit of lasting change.

...Prioritizing your responsibilities will call for many small changes, so be prepared.

Helpful suggestions on bringing order and a sense of control to life:

To bring more order to your room, begin setting your alarm clock for three to seven minutes earlier every day so you have the time upon waking to make your bed.  Always put away or hang clothes up as soon as they are out of the dryer.  Buy a jewelry box for all jewelry.  Have a piggy bank you can keep hidden in a drawer or in your closet for all loose change.  Purchase book shelves you can keep in the closet or display nicely in your room for books, DVDs, etc.  There are even coffee tables or trunks that slide open to enable the hiding of DVDs and CD's so they aren't left out in the open.

As soon as you get the mail every day at home, throw away all spam mail, offers or sales papers you know you won't use (they will just end up in a junk drawer and bring more clutter to your house, so why not dispose of them right away?)

Invest in buying a shredder.  It will be so helpful in getting rid of unwanted papers you currently have or ones you will get in the future (including credit card offers).

Start homework, projects and reports the day they are assigned and work on them every day until they are due.  Need to finish a book for school or Book Club?  Read two chapters a day until the end in replacement of watching a few shows on TV (which you could always catch up on later if interested).

Have meals, snacks, or dessert prepared in advance for when you get hungry.

Go for a walk every day.  Buy a treadmill, weights, or other workout equipment that you have the room for and make use of it at least every other day.  Remember, if you have time for hours of TV, YouTube, and social media each day, you can certainly use some of that time on exercise (and cooking & cleaning).

Buy a small filing cabinet or manila folders and colored labels to mark Bills, Doctor, Dentist, Emergencies, Personal Info (social security cards and other important info so you'll have it all in one place instead of panicking to find it in the future with almost no luck).

Keep all school textbooks and backpacks in appropriate rooms where you (if attending college) or your kids/youth can quickly find them.  Making a set place to always return these items to their normal spot will prevent frustration and arguments in the future when someone is running late and can't find their stuff for school.  I recommend getting manila folders with labels to keep all important papers you get throughout the year.

Keep extra computer paper, notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, and extra school supplies organized nicely in appropriate bags/containers in a hall closet.

Before going to sleep at night, make sure all dishes are cleaned and put away.  Empty trash cans daily.  Clean mirrors every other day.  Dust and vacuum home twice a week.  Clean stove shortly after cooking.  Check expiration dates on spices, flour, pasta, soup, and other foods stored in pantry then dispose of as necessary.

Rule of thumb pertaining to clothing, shoes, or household items (this includes what you have in your garage, closet, or storage):  If you haven't used or thought about it in half a year, donate or sell it.

Make a grocery list before going shopping (this applies to household items or toiletries as well) so you don't end up purchasing perceived needs that you could actually live without or delay in buying.

Think of a weekly meal plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (this could apply to kids lunches and snacks too).

Make homemade meals and dessert (including tea or coffee) instead of wasting money through daily or weekly purchases from outside the home.  This will save a ton of money each year!

Be sure to always have necessary cleaning items, toiletries, and water.

Keep realistic to-do lists, have a general yet specific plan for each day, devote the necessary amount of time to chores, and set mini-goals for each week.  Instead of rewarding yourself with food or the purchase of new clothes or shoes, put a good percentage of the money you would have spent into savings.

*Start an emergency fund that consistently contains three to six months of expenses.

Don't spend money you do not have.  Avoid credit cards completely or 100% pay them off then cancel them.  It will enable you to avoid incurring debt in the future.  Always pay tithe and put money in savings from every source of income you receive (including birthday and Christmas money), no matter how insignificant the amount may seem.  Even change adds up!  Use coupons as you are able to and put the money you saved on the item (again, no matter how insignificant) into your savings account.  If it goes into your checking account, it will somehow disappear.  Pray that God would give you a thankful and content heart that is filled with gratitude for having your needs met.  Our wants may take a long time to fulfill, yet learning contentment no matter our financial situation will prove to be life-changing (Philippians 4: 11-13).

For helpful resources on budgeting, saving, and spending money wisely, as well as getting out of debt, check out The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness and the new free budgeting web site by the author, *Dave Ramsey: Every Dollar.  His web site offers a plethora of resources to help you get back on track with money.  For further financial wisdom and making a plan with money, both men and women should read The Financially Confident Woman by Mary Hunt.  For tips on starting your own business and working from home, read Making Money from Home: How to Run a Successful Home-Based Business by Donna Partow.

For resources on **living out your God-given roles and responsibilities well, check out books by Elizabeth and Jim George.

To purchase good quality vitamins at a discounted price, order from Vitacost.

For delicious healthy recipes, check out Whole Foods Market and search for vegan, raw, or vegetarian recipes on Pinterest.

I am always interested in learning suggestions others have on how to better structure the many aspects of life, so please be sure to share your words of wisdom with me.  You may write at:  EmmaJoyBlog@gmail.com

You will never regret time well-spent.  An orderly life brings peace.


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