4 Ways to Have a More Productive (and Meaningful!) 2017

4 Ways to Have a More Productive2017

At the end of each year, I often make New Year’s resolutions.  As I put up a new calendar on my fridge I make lists of goals and plans. (I love lists!)

But most of the time what happens is that I make a beautiful plan for the new year–and then promptly forget about it.

So this year I am trying something different. To help me actually accomplish my goals (and have a meaningful life–not just a productive one) I’m making these 4 things my 2017 priorities.

A Daily Routine

I learned about daily routines from Crystal Paine. A routine is simply a set of things that you do in the same order every day. Choosing to do what is important or useful and then developing the habit of doing those things every day helps me actually do what I intend. I already had a morning routine that consisted of exercise, breakfast, getting dressed, and a quiet time with God. But Crystal suggests also using afternoon and evening routines.  So now I have developed a routine for the end of my workday. When I am ready to quit for the day, I:

  • save the day’s work
  • do a final check of email
  • check my calendar for upcoming commitments
  • neaten my desk
  • shut down my computer
  • say a prayer of thanks for work accomplished

My evening routine is:

  • clean kitchen counters after dinner
  • have time for reading
  • lay out clothes for next day
  • practice examen before I go to sleep

These simple routines help me end my day peacefully and start the day with a clean slate.

Weekly Review Time

The idea of a weekly review came from leadership expert Michael Hyatt. A weekly review is a specific time slot in your schedule set aside for evaluating the past week and setting up the next. During this time you will review:

  • your goals
  • the calendar for the next week
  • your to-do lists (What did you accomplish? What do you plan to do next week?)

I love the concept of a weekly review. For two years I have tried (unsuccessfully) to incorporate them into my schedule. But this year I am making this a priority because I think it will help me stay focused on my goals. It will help me concentrate on what is important and not just what is urgent.

Monthly Personal Retreat

The daily routines and weekly reviews help me be productive and goal-oriented. But checking things off on a to-do list doesn’t guarantee a meaningful life. Planning and goal-setting don’t get me anywhere but lost and frustrated if I’m not following God’s plan for my life.

I am convinced that I need extended quiet time to connect with God to hear His voice and seek His will for my life. So I try to take one day (or one morning) out of each month for a personal spiritual retreat. But again, I have not been consistent in this practice. So I am determined to make 2017 the year I make time to get away each month to read my Bible, journal my concerns and questions, and wait for God’s answers. You can read more about a personal retreat here. You can also get my Soul Spa Kit with 59 ideas for a personal retreat by entering your name and email address in the upper right-hand corner of this blog.

Live Like I’m Loved

My type-A personality loves goals and plans. but lately, God has been teaching me that these can get in the way of my relationship with Him. I tend to base my self-worth in my accomplishments. When I check off everything on my to-do list, I feel good about myself. When I don’t, I feel like a failure.

But God is teaching me that my self-worth is not based in how many goals I can accomplish. My value comes from being a daughter of the Most High King. I’m finding that a meaningful life does not come from to-do lists, daily routines, weekly reviews, and monthly retreats–but from abiding in Christ’s love.

Jesus said,

As the Father loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:9

Living in Jesus’ love is the best way to have a productive and meaningful 2017.

Next step: Start by posting John 15:9 somewhere you will see it every day to remind yourself to live loved. Then consider if a daily routine, weekly review, or monthly retreat might be useful for you.

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When You’re Floored By Bad News



Christmas is a joyous season, but for some it doesn’t feel that way.

I understand. Some of the most painful events in my life happened in the month of December. The two miscarriages I experienced both happened in that month. My father died on December 7 in 2001. It was Christmas Day when we found out that my husband’s father had passed away.

Sometimes the happiness of the season only amplifies your pain.

Maybe this year you didn’t have a lot of good news. In fact, you had more than your fair share of bad news. Perhaps your job disappeared in the sinking economy. Or your doctor gave a diagnosis without much hope. Or you lost a loved one. You are waiting and hoping for some good news.

I bet the shepherds near Bethlehem on that Christmas night felt much the same way. The whole nation of Israel had been groaning under Roman rule. They were tired of seeing foreign soldiers in the streets. They were tired of obeying a ruler who lived far away. Life seemed like a long string of bad news.

So when the angel announced that he had good news for them, he immediately had the shepherds’ attention:

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

The shepherds didn’t waste any time in going to see what all the good news was about. They raced to Bethlehem to see the baby and immediately told others the good news (Luke 2:17). They praised God for all they had seen and heard (Luke 2:20).

As I think about the shepherd’s response I am humbled. 

You see, the good news they received did not immediately change their financial situation. Sharing the good news probably gave them their 15 minutes of fame, but it didn’t get them wealth or power.

Still, they realized that this was the best good news and so they told others and praised God.

I, on the other hand, may not always be exuberant about the good news of the Savior. I’m tempted to continue to focus on the bad news: the doctor’s diagnosis or the generally lousy state of the economy. I forget that the good news of Jesus overcomes any of the rotten news of this world. Yes, things might not improve right away, but God promises a happy ending in heaven for those who trust in the Babe of Bethlehem.

So this Christmas I’m praying that I will be more like the shepherds–rejoicing in the best news ever!

The good news of Jesus overcomes any of the lousy news of this world. Click To Tweet

Jesus Christ is born! We are rescued from sin and death! In Christ we have life and peace! We are welcomed into God’s family. 

Next step: Write a prayer thanking God for the best news ever. And if this year is one of those years with more bad news than good, I would be honored to pray for you. Send me an email or share your prayer requests in the comments below.

THE shepherds

How a NOT-To-Do List Can Help You Succeed


Today I’m posting over at my friend Melanie’s site. Read this preview and click to read the rest!

Last year started out with grim news.

My husband was diagnosed with lymphoma.

It was a shock for this guy who never takes a sick day. He never had any symptoms. He didn’t feel ill.

not-to-do-listSoon all of our to-do lists were relegated to the garbage can. Instead of our usual work and social activities, our schedules were crammed with doctor visits, tests, and treatments. Our over-packed lives had to make room for more important things. I personally needed to weed out the frivolous to find time for what was necessary—being available for my husband….

Read more…


Make 2016 the Year You Ditch Distraction!

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2015 was NOT the best year of my life. 

When I rewind 365 days, I see the day my husband heard that the lump on his neck might be lymphoma. I can remember the day he received the conclusive diagnosis. I recall the time spent in doctors’ offices and chemo treatment centers.

It was a hard year.

But God was faithful even in the pain and worry. He was true to His promise:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

God did bring good even out of that year of worry for my husband. 

He taught me how to let go of the trivial and focus on what is truly important.

Make 2016The YearYou DitchIn the years before, I had tried to live with focus, but was failing miserably. I guess it took a life-crisis to make me pay attention to what God was trying to teach me. During 2015 I asked God to show me how to ditch the distractions of this life and focus on what was essential.

Throughout the year I discovered a few habits that helped me maintain that focus. I learned how to focus on God, how to defeat distractions of technology, and how to find rest in the midst of the chaos.

Thankfully my husband is now doing well. The chemotherapy worked and he is in remission. But I still use the important lessons I learned during that hard year. One of the habits I still use helps me to prioritize my day. I find that if I can do that, I am less likely to follow all the rabbit trails of the trivial and to let God guide me to what is truly important.

I would like to share this important Faith-Focus Habit with you, so I wrote a FREE lesson that describes the habit and how to use it in your life. You don’t have experience your own life-crisis to learn it. You can start 2016 living a more focused life.

To get this free lesson, simply click here!

May I pray for you?

Dear Father,

May 2016 be the year we truly learn to set our eyes upon You. Teach us to ignore the trivial. Give us Your perspective so that we see the unseen and eternal and turn away from what is seen and fleeting. Bless the women who read this with a reminder of Your ever-present love and grace.

In Jesus’ name. Amen. 



The One Thing Keeping You From The Life You Want

eyes of love

Once upon a time a rich young ruler comes to Jesus. This man had everything: money, power, youth. Maybe he was even not-too-bad looking.

But even though it seemed like he had everything anyone could want–he knew he was missing something.

He came to Jesus with a burning question

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)

This young man knew that the things he had wouldn’t last forever. He needed eternal life.

Jesus gave the searching man a rather standard answer: Follow the commandments. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Honor your father and mother.

The young man thought: Good. I’ve got this. He told Jesus, “I’ve done all those things since I was a boy.”

But Jesus knew there was one thing that was holding the man back from the life he really wanted. There was one thing that was distracting him from his real life. So Jesus looked at the young man and said:

“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

The rich young ruler went away despondent. Because this was the one thing he could not do.

one thing2I totally get that young man. Not that I’m rich. Or powerful. Even youth has pretty much passed me by. But there have often been things in my life that have distracted me from my real life–the amazing, beautiful life that Jesus wants me to have. Sometimes Jesus has asked me to surrender things I held tightly–in order to wholeheartedly follow Him.

And often I have been exactly like that man that met Jesus. I have said no. I’ve hung onto whatever I thought it was I couldn’t live without. Music career. Pursuit of dream house. Wanting family close.

But when I’ve hung onto those dreams, those desires–I discovered that didn’t actually make me happier. They only pulled me away from Christ. I couldn’t follow Jesus closely because I was dragging around the weight of my own will, my own expectations.

Usually I come to my senses and realize that a life of following Jesus is better than any other path. I eventually release that one thing that is holding me back from the life I really want–the life God has planned for me.

What are holding onto? If Jesus spoke to you and said, “You lack one thing. Go and surrender _________” What would that one thing be?

If Jesus spoke to you and said, 'You lack one thing. Go and surrender __________' What would that one thing be? Click To Tweet

It’s always difficult to surrender things we hold dear. But there is one phrase in Mark’s account of the rich young ruler that makes it a bit easier.

Mark wrote “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (Mark 10:21).

When I struggle to surrender whatever God is asking me to let go, I remember Jesus’ love. I picture Him–looking at me with eyes of love–holding out His hands to take whatever burdens He has asked me to relinquish.

Jesus doesn’t ask me to release my desires or my possessions because He wants to make me miserable. He asks me to release them because, in His love, He knows the one thing that is keeping me from the life I really want.

Next step: If Jesus spoke to you and said, “You lack one thing. Go and surrender _________” What would that one thing be? Spend a few minutes basking in Jesus’ love for you. Then write a prayer surrendering that one thing–the one thing that is keeping you from the life you really want.

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If you would like to learn more about avoiding distractions and living a focused life, check out a FREE lesson that shares the one habit that changed my life more than any other. 

This five-page lesson will help you:

  • Discover the one Faith-Focus Habit that can immediately make a difference in your daily peace and clarity.


  • Take the first step toward living out God’s plan for your life and ignoring all the trivial paths that side-track you from your true purpose.

Click on the button below to get this FREE lesson:

download your free lesson!






12 Faith-Focus Habits for a Frenzied World

distracted blog header

In this modern world, it’s easy to live distracted. In fact, it’s difficult not to be sidetracked by the myriad of things clamoring for our attention. We feel pressured to have more, do more, and be more. And yet with all this doing and having, we still feel unfulfilled. In the quest to have it all, we wonder if we have missed something important. We sense that we have been spending too much time and effort on the trivial and not enough on what really matters.

I struggled with distraction for years. Then a life crisis hit–my husband was diagnosed with lymphoma. During this difficult season God taught me some important lessons. Through a series of small changes I learned to live a less frenzied life and a more focused life.

You don’t have to wait for an emergency to learn how to defeat distraction. My Distracted eCourse teaches 12 Faith-Focus Habits I learned during our crisis.  In this course you will learn both the spiritual habits and practical tactics I used for finding focus. You don’t have to continue living a side-tracked life.

distracted 10Distracted will teach you how to:

  • find focus by connecting to God
  • truly pay attention to what is essential
  • prioritize your day
  • find focus in your work
  • make important choices
  • defeat the distractions of technology
  • find rest in our hectic world

Note: this is NOT a course on how to get more organized. It is more like a course to help you finally do what God is calling you to do rather than what the world is screaming you should do. It’s developing habits that help you hear God’s voice and direction. Habits that help you eliminate the trivial and concentrate on the important.

When you sign up for this course you will receive a series of email lessons in your inbox. First an introductory message will arrive. Then once a week for the next 12 weeks you will receive a message about finding focus. The message will contain a short lesson and an assignment. Each lesson will take about 15-30 minutes. The rest of the week you will put the new habit into practice.

Sign up now and you will also receive a bonus lesson that will help you continue to ditch distraction even after the course is finished.

Click here for more information and to buy the course.

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And if you would like to sample this course, check out the FREE lesson that shares the one habit that changed my life more than any other. 

This five-page lesson will help you:

  • Discover the one Faith-Focus Habit that can immediately make a difference in your daily peace and clarity.


  • Take the first step toward living out God’s plan for your life and ignoring all the trivial paths that side-track you from your true purpose.

Click on the button below to get this FREE lesson:

download your free lesson!

When Your Goals Become A Distraction


You’ve probably heard the quote,

If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.

I’m a big believer in goals. In targeting a few life objectives. In formulating plans.

Because, without aiming at a target, it’s easy to wander through life drifting through the gift of time God has given without making a difference in the world.

distractedbygoalsBut lately I’ve seen that my goals may also hold me back.

Not because they are too big.

Because they are too small.

A list of my goals for the next few weeks might look something like this:

  • Clean and organize bedroom closet
  • Write two new blog posts
  • Organize digital photos
  • Finish new book proposal

Some of those are huge goals. Anyone who knows my clothes-buying habit knows my closet is overflowing. The book proposal is an exciting new venture that might lead to something big. Organizing our photos is an enormous job because my husband takes thousands of digital photos.

But even so, my plans are puny compared to God’s plans for me. One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 3:20:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.

God’s plans are much grander than any I could come up with myself. My goals often have to do with the stuff of this world: possessions, work, success. But God’s vision for my life is all about my character, my soul, my eternal worth.

It’s a little like I’m walking with Jesus on life’s path. He’s pointing out all the beautiful mountains and waterfalls and rainbows. But I’m too busy looking down on the ground looking for pebbles.

I’m distracted from the beauty that is my life by being too preoccupied with tiny ambitions.

Life with Jesus means trusting His plan for me. It means holding His hand and letting Him guide. Click To Tweet

Life with Jesus means trusting His plan for me. It means holding His hand and letting Him guide. It means appreciating the beauty He has already placed in my life.

Sometimes it also means letting go of my own goals so that I can follow God’s.

If I aim at nothing (but my own goals), I may hit it every time (but miss God's big plan). Click To Tweet

If I aim at nothing (but my own goals), I may hit it every time (but miss God’s big plan).


Next step: Write down three goals you have for your life. Spend five minutes praying, asking God to show you if these goals are the goal He has for your life. Ask Him to show you His goals for your life. 


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If you would like to learn more about avoiding distractions and living a focused life, check out a FREE lesson that shares the one habit that changed my life more than any other. 

This five-page lesson will help you:

  • Discover the one Faith-Focus Habit that can immediately make a difference in your daily peace and clarity.


  • Take the first step toward living out God’s plan for your life and ignoring all the trivial paths that side-track you from your true purpose.

Click on the button below to get this FREE lesson:

download your free lesson!

The Antidote for a Distracted Heart


My heart has been distracted this past week.

I have three–no, four–no, five major projects I am working on. Planning meetings and emails with colleagues have crowded my day. My own seemingly endless to-do list threatens to choke out any sanity I have left.

And because of these distractions, my heart experienced symptoms of anxiety: the fever of too much to do and the cold sweat of not being able to get everything done. 

You have probably felt symptoms like these. Has the strain of endless work at home or the stress of the workplace have left your heart shaky and weak?

What is the antidote for a distracted heart? Simply to bring it to Jesus. 

Francis de Sales, a priest in Switzerland in the 1500’s, wrote:

If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.

Jesus promised His disciples–and us–“I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  But in the rush of all my life crises, I tend to forget–He’s here. In the preoccupation of my jumbled mind, I grasp at the tangled cords of my thoughts and let go of the Savior’s hands. In fixing my eyes on the problems, the hassles, the deadlines, I take my gaze off the Lord’s hands–the hands that continually beckon me to come.

distractedheartpinThis week I still have a hundred things to complete. But the most important thing on my task list is to continually bring my heart back to Christ and His peace. Whenever my heart has wandered away from God’s tranquil presence, I will gently bring it back to His loving hands.

That is the antidote to a distracted soul.

So whenever you notice the symptoms of anxiety and stress, recognize your distracted heart. Bring it back to Jesus.


Next step: This week notice the symptoms of a distracted heart: anxiety and stress. Whenever you experience these symptoms, stop for a moment. Whisper the Savior’s name. Sing a song of praise in your heart. Remind yourself with Jesus’ own words, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Bring your distracted heart back to the presence of God.

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If you would like to learn more about avoiding distractions and living a focused life, check out a FREE lesson that shares the one habit that changed my life more than any other. 

This five-page lesson will help you:

  • Discover the one Faith-Focus Habit that can immediately make a difference in your daily peace and clarity.


  • Take the first step toward living out God’s plan for your life and ignoring all the trivial paths that side-track you from your true purpose.

Click on the button below to get this FREE lesson:

download your free lesson!



The Trouble With Living For Applause


living for applause

I recently finished a slow tour through the book of Mark. I read and reflected, slowly contemplating God’s message to me in these words.

I noticed an amazing truth in the stories of the week leading up to Jesus’ death.

We cannot live for applause.

I came to this conclusion because of the 180-turn the crowds made that week.

On Palm Sunday, the crowd gathered around Jesus, laying their garments at His feet, and shouting praises:

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)

But just six short days later, the crowds changed their tune. Now they were shouting,

“Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13)

Astounding. How could the people change their minds, their words, their opinion of Jesus so dramatically? How could they want Him to be their king at the beginning of the week and want Him dead by the end?

Of course, all of this had to happen for Christ to fulfill His mission to rescue us. But it also shows the fickleness of people.

One day you are invited to all the popular parties, the next you are excluded. One week the boss likes everything you do and the next someone else in the office is her favorite. One year you have great success, the next you are scrounging for business.

So if we are only living for the approval of people, we are in big trouble. People’s opinions change daily. What they like and don’t like is influenced by the media, the latest styles, and even by how much sleep they got the night before.

Jesus knew this so He wasn’t rocked by the applause OR the condemnations of the people. He simply focused on living to please His Father. He told His disciples,

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:35)

and even said,

“I do not accept praise from men.” (John 5:41)

The trouble with living for applause of people is people are fickle. Their opinions are often inconsistent. If we keep living to please other humans we will find ourselves with a million different game plans. We will bounce from one goal to another because the world keeps changing. People’s opinions constantly fluctuate.

Instead we need to live to please the One who never changes. Our focus will be clearer if we let praise from men roll off our backs. Our lives will be richer and less chaotic if we live to do the will of the Father who loves us no matter what.

Next Step: Look at your schedule or to-do list for tomorrow. Choose one item and ask yourself: Am I doing this to please other people? What difference would it make if I worked at this task simply to please my Savior?


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When You Feel Like You’re Straining Against the Wind


Life often feels like one big struggle against the wind. What we can learn from Jesus' disciples in Mark 6.

“He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.” Mark 6:48

Do you ever feel like you’re straining against the wind?

This month, I’m reading through the Gospel of Mark and when I got to chapter six, I immediately identified with the disciples in the boat. Gale force winds of cancer have blown into our lives with my husband’s lymphoma diagnosis. In my professional life, I sometimes feel like I’m frantically rowing, but not getting anywhere. Winds of loneliness and despair occasionally blow my way.

Perhaps you feel the same way. Financial tornadoes may be blowing into your life. You are constantly straining against chronic health problems. Relationship difficulties threaten to blow you down again and again.

Thankfully, Jesus didn’t leave the disciples straining at the oars on their own. He came to them miraculously walking on the water. He came to them comforting them with the words, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Mark 6:50). Jesus speaks to our fears, our worries, our lack of courage with assurance He is with us. He is able to overcome the worst.

What can we learn from the disciples’ experience?

We may experience a time of waiting. Although Jesus saw the disciples straining at the oars in the evening He waited until 3:00 in the morning to come to them. We don’t know why Jesus waited to help the disciples. And we don’t know why we sometimes experience long waiting times for healing, for help, for hope. But we can take comfort in realizing Jesus sees us straining at the oars. He knows firsthand the struggle against this world.

We sometimes don’t recognize Jesus in the struggle. When the disciples first saw a figure walking toward them on the water, they didn’t recognize it was Jesus. Mark’s account tells us that even after witnessing Jesus feeding a crowd of 5000+ with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread, their hearts were hardened. They didn’t recognize Jesus on the water, because they didn’t recognize Him as God. We too may be so focused on the winds, on our struggle, on our own efforts, that we don’t recognize Jesus in the storm. Jesus promised us that He would never leave us. Ask Him to give you eyes to recognize Him. To believe that He is able to help. To recognize His aid may come in a totally unexpected way.

We can find comfort in Jesus’ words, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” The disciples had to wait for Jesus physical presence. But now He is always with us. He promises to be there with us in the struggle. The wind of trouble may not die down immediately like it did for the disciples, but we know Jesus will be there in the boat with us. When the waves appear to swamp our boat, we know that Christ is still in control.  

When you feel like you’re straining against the wind, wait for the answer. Recognize it may come in an unexpected way. Remember Jesus is in the boat with you.

Where to look when you feel like you're straining against the oars.


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