This is not the life I imagined! While I once dreamed of living with passion and purpose, I now swim in the stagnant pools of mediocrity. I drown in “to-do” lists and meaningless tasks, forgetting to cherish the simple pleasure of taking my girls to the park. In my desperation to survive, I lose the joy and wonder of motherhood. And when I stand in the presence of a truly great woman as she speaks of her children, husband, and home, I smile in reply and hide my heart, pounding with shame and jealousy. In those moments of sober judgment, I am most small. I want to run and play with my children and feel the warmth of the sun on my face, but there is too much to do and I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO IT ALL! Work and budget. Grocery shop, cook, and clean the house. Kill the bug. Fix the toilet. Deal with homework, bath time, and bedtime. Nurture and discipline. Play and protect. Bandage the wounds. Lock the door. Pay the bills. Oh Lord, I can’t even pay my bills. I am overwhelmed and alone. And when I contemplate all I must do, I sit motionless, unable to accomplish even the smallest task. I am tired. Too tired to take my girls to the park. LORD! WHERE ARE YOU IN THIS? Help me to build a life and home for my girls. I can’t do this by myself. Amen.
It appears we are not alone in our quest for balance. Just today, an Internet search for “balance in life” pulled up 368,000,000 results within 0.64 seconds. With millions of fail proof, ten-step plans available, it is a wonder that anyone should struggle. According to the contemporary wisdom of this world, we find balance by determining our priorities, setting goals, and purposefully distributing our time, energy, and resources into the various areas of life. If we employ these habits with consistency, while always remembering to rest, the world promises a life of peace, productivity, stability, and happiness.
Whew. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Now, I believe there is great wisdom found in caring for ourselves and effectively managing our time and resources. Even the smallest improvement can reap lasting rewards. For example, I felt convicted to make significant changes in my life as a single mother after completing a ten-minute exercise found in a self-help book. I simply listed my daily activities and determined if they were in alignment with my priorities and values. I was shocked to see how much time I spent in activities that were not reflective of who I was or who I wanted to become.
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. EPHESIANS 5:15–16
While this knowledge inspired me to take a thoughtful approach to how I spend my time, it did not provide the lasting stability and peace I needed. More often than not, my self-imposed, list-making, goal-setting attempts to find balance led to a predictable cycle of frustration, failure, shame, and isolation. I just couldn’t keep up.
Can you relate, dear single mom? Perhaps your life looks similar to mine—a frantic juggling act of obligations, expectations, and distractions, poorly managed through an endless rotation of sticky notes and to-do lists. You might feel pressure to not only accomplish the tasks of everyday life, but also to provide your children with the same measure of love, attention, time, possessions, and lifestyle as a two-parent home. Or maybe you have grown so weary, you’ve long abandoned the juggling act and only have enough energy to deal with the issues immediately in front of you. And yet, there are even some who have given up completely and deliberately choose to avoid all things pertaining to responsibility. I get it. I’ve experienced each stage at one point or another.
Unlike its worldly counterpart, biblical balance has nothing to do with performance or completed checklists. Biblical balance is the stability found in having our feet and home firmly planted on the rock that is Jesus Christ. At first, I approached this truth with arms crossed, believing it was nothing more than a spiritual pacifier designed to silence the questions of struggling Christians. Because I wanted immediate, tangible, and measurable help, the concept of biblical balance quickly fell into the category of irrelevant Christianese. Nothing more.
But over time, I experienced the radical transformation that occurs when the Word of God embeds itself within the heart. And as I embraced His Word as Truth, I learned three lessons, crucial to rebuilding my single parent home.
- God lifts us and places us on high ground. We are fallible human beings. We stumble and trip. We make unwise choices and easily fall victim to circumstances beyond our control. In my inability to juggle the responsibilities and expectations of life, I cried out to God, “LORD! WHERE ARE YOU IN THIS? Please help me!” I found His answer in His Word.
If I could somehow wind the clock back thirty years or so, self-control is one area where I wish I could have a do-over. There are areas of my character and my walk with God today that would be more fruitful and blessed, battles I might not have to fight so vigorously, if I had been more intentional about developing a sophron (self-controlled) mind as a younger woman. How I would love to be an older woman in your life who helps you make those choices now.
Now, perhaps this self-controlled, sober-minded woman sounds to you like someone who never has any fun. Someone who is boring, rigid, uptight. You’ve probably known some women like that. I’ve been that kind of woman more often than I care to admit.
But the woman with Spirit-produced, grace-enabled self-control is anything but boring. Unlike other women around her, she is not a slave to her passions and impulses. She is free to love and serve God and others, free to enjoy His greatest gifts. Her life is a winsome, compelling reflection of the goodness and loveliness of Christ.
Or maybe this way of thinking and living sounds exhausting to you—always struggling to rein in your flesh—kind of like playing whack-a-mole at the county fair. No sooner do you strike one “mole” down into its hole than two more pop up.
But thankfully, God hasn’t left us to acquire sophron by sheer willpower and determination. As Paul makes clear in his letter to Titus, this sophron mindset is initiated, produced, and enabled by His Spirit and His grace.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age . . . (Titus 2:11–12)
That said, to be a sophron woman does require effort and vigilance on our part. And we tap into the enabling grace of God as we take advantage of the means He has provided for our transformation and growth.
Consider how you’ve felt at times after you’ve lost control, after your emotions rose up and sloshed over their banks like a river at flood stage. You were desperate to stop, to change, to get yourself back under control. But what you and I are most desperate for in such moments is not just more restraint and self-control, but more of Jesus. More of His Spirit. More of His power to live with a saved and sound mind. Read More→
By Kathy Wilson
Valentine’s Day is a special day in my household, and I try to share the feeling of love and romance with all my family! One of the best ways to do that is to set a holiday table, and spend time enjoying good food and drink with your loved ones. (Include your kids in dinner, and save a special after dinner and dessert for romance!) Here are some great ideas for setting the stage for a romantic dining experience, without breaking your budget.
* Set a background for your Valentine’s Day dinner. Layer your table with fabrics to invoke the sense of a luxurious hotel. Use sheets, quilts, tablecloths and placemats in coordinating colors. Pink, red and white are all indicative of love, but so are deep jewel tones. Look around your linen closet to find what you may already own! Flat sheets can be found at the discount shop for $3!
* Invest in a roll of wire edged ribbon from the discount store. Tie bows around chair backs, glass stems, and silverware bundles for that extra touch.
* Use a paper punch and create confetti to sprinkle over the table. This is a great use for used wrapping paper, greeting cards, or even the funnies! It adds a great festive touch, and you can even put the kids to work on this one!
* Buy a few boxes of Valentine’s message hearts (they are only a $1 for three boxes!) and leave special love messages for each family member on their plate. Or use chocolate bars and cut out the letters to spell their name or initial as a sweet place card.
* Make each family member a “Scroll” of love. Write them a personal note telling them all the wonderful things you love about them, then roll it up like a scroll, and tie with the ribbon. Tie to their chair with the ribbon, or tuck in with their napkin. Make sure their names are marked on each scroll. Read More→
While not quite as big as Facebook, Twitter is still an impressive social media platform with a lot of potential for your business. With over 1.3 billion registered users, and an average of 500 million tweets per day, there’s a lot of activity going on with this platform.
If you’ve tried using Twitter before, you may have noticed how quickly anything you say gets lost in the noise. To help your business stand out and gain followers, today I’m going to show you how and when you should be posting on Twitter.
5 Twitter Tips to Help You Tweet Smarter, Not Harder
The act of posting a tweet is simple, but there are numerous implications. How long should it be? Which hashtags should you use? All of these things, combined with the day and time you post, will affect how many people see and engage with your tweets.
Here are five ways you can start using Twitter smarter and do more with your tweets:
1. Gather Data on When to Tweet
You could always conduct your own studies, but there have been plenty done already on when to tweet, so it’s better to use the information others have already found. For example, Buffer did a study of over 4.8 million tweets to see which times were the best.
Here’s what they found:
- On average, tweets posted during the morning hours have the most clicks.
- Evenings are when tweets receive more favorites and retweets.
- Time zones play a factor, and sometimes the best times to tweet for engagement and clicks are opposite from one another.
- Taking time zones into consideration, the best time to tweet is between noon and 1PM for your local time zone.
- If you have an international audience, it’s best to look at what times they are tweeting in their time zone.
This type of data is great for starting out, but eventually you’ll want to gather your own. Luckily there are tools for that purposes. Tweriod, for example, is an excellent option (also free) that allows you to see when your followers are online and engaging with tweets.
2. Use The Right Hashtags
Hashtags, also known as pound signs (#) are used on Twitter to categorize your tweets. Using them can offer you an excellent way to gather your audience around a single conversation or event. Of course, the only way to be successful with these types of tags, is to know how to best choose them. Read More→
In the same way you learn leadership from leaders, law from lawyers, and art from artists, you learn most about risk-taking from risk-takers. Emerson once wrote, “The great distinction between teachers sacred or literary is that one class speaks from within, or from experience, as parties and possessors of the fact; and the other class, from without, as spectators merely.” We read many stories about real life risk-takers, including those from risk’s outer edges. However, even the extraordinary examples will be put in service to the ordinary risk-taker. Lessons from risk’s extreme edge can be applied well within its inner fold.
Common truths are often most magnified through uncommon feats. Just as courage, composure, and commitment are required of a fighter pilot, so too are they required of the young entrepreneur opening a business, the professor breaking free from the confining prejudices of an academic discipline, and the soldier defying an unjust or immoral order. Courage, composure, and commitment are equally required of the local politician taking a stand on an unpopular issue, the addict reaching out for help (and the jaded cynic reaching back), the young mother leaving the deadly comfort of an abusive relationship, and the volunteer firefighter running into a burning house.
Right Risk happens every day, everywhere. The promise woven into all Right Risks is our own relevancy. Each of us wants to feel that we have lived a life that matters. We want to make a difference for ourselves, for our families, for our communities, and for our world. When the choices we make, and the actions we take, are reflections of our higher self, we are ennobled with the knowledge that our life has been worthwhile, at least to ourselves. In the end, the only person we will spend our entire life with is ourselves. We are a lot easier to live with when we are proud of who we are. And we are most proud of ourselves when we take Right Risks.
Consider the following questions:
* In what areas of your life do you tend to take more risks (i.e., physical, intellectual, interpersonal, or emotional)? How might you be able to “borrow” from this area in order to take more risks in the areas of your life where you tend to avoid risk? Read More→
Owning your own business is stressful. Moving is stressful. Doing both at the same time can feel like you are setting yourself up for disaster — especially if your business is run out of your home. By taking a few precautionary actions, you can make moving a breeze and not experience a single hiccup in the process. Here are a few tips to make relocating your home office less stressful.
Protect Your Assets
To protect your assets you will want to secure your home office in the moving process. If you have the original packaging that your equipment arrived in, utilize it to transfer everything from your current home to your new one. If the original packaging is unavailable, thickly pad your equipment with bubble wrap to prevent any cracks, dents, scratches or any other potential harm. Tape any cords to the outside of the packaging or wrap them within to make sure they do not get misplaced in all the moving hustle and bustle. It is also wise to backup any of your computer’s important information onto a cloud-based software or site before moving your computer, as sometimes unplugging and jostling your computer can create data loss. If you already use an automatic backup software, make sure it runs a backup the morning of your move.
Move With a Plan
As your own boss and working from home, you need to create a work space that is conducive to productivity. Before you move, it’s important to have an idea of how you want your home office set up so you don’t waste time and energy on it when you arrive. If you’re moving to a city with small apartments, like NYC, having a plan for your home office will be even more important. When searching for a new apartment online, use a site that offers full floor plan views of your potential new home. That way you can plan and organize your home in a matter of minutes instead of attempting to do it amidst stacks of boxes. Planning how to get the most out of your space will make moving a breeze. It will also be helpful if you are using a moving company to help transport your stuff. It takes the guess work out of it for them and you when you are able to hand them a map of where everything will be placed. Read More→
Being productive is important because you cannot support yourself unless you are willing to work for your salary. Even self-employed business people have to work hard. Fortunately, working from home is now possible in certain professions. Freelance writers, data entry experts, artists, and bloggers are good examples of people who can work from home. Doing so has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, people who work at home are more likely to procrastinate than those who work in the office. This kind of behavior can limit their productivity severely. Here are the top five productivity tips for working at home.
- Plan Your Schedule Carefully
A schedule is important because it keeps you focused on the task. You will not stray into something else when your schedule indicates what you should be doing. Make sure that it is realistic because you will not adhere to it if it is not. For example, it should take into account break times including breaks for lunch, supper, or breakfast. It should also make sure that you have enough time for rest. Do not overwork yourself.
- Be Strict With Your Family and Friends
Your home is a place where you would welcome visitors, make them tea, and then have a conversation with them for hours. An office is a place where visitors are the exception and not the rule. Your friends should understand that if you work from home, then your house is both a home and an office. That means visitors should only come on specific days and at specific times. Your family members should also give you the space you need to work because if you do not work then the overall household income reduces.
- Prepare Your Work-space
You may be working from an office desk at home. You may also be working at the kitchen table or on the couch. Just remember that your work-space is wherever you work. It should be clean, tidy, and free of distractions. For example, you should not have game consoles lying near you when you work. You should also keep you phone away from you so that you do not focus on chatting with your friends. You should also make sure that your work-space looks inviting so that it would be nice working from there. This kind of serene setting encourages you to sit down and work. Read More→
Everyone dreams of being able to create their own schedule, to work from home and to make family time more of a priority than chasing a paycheck, but how do you make this happen? There are plenty of opportunities available to those seeking to pursue their passions and leave behind the 40-hour work week in a stuffy office. Deciding what route you want to take may be the hardest part of beginning your new career from home. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Focus on Your Skills
First, take a look at what your skill set is. Are you a great sales person? Perhaps you have always had a knack for writing. Are you a type-A personality who is highly organized and has strong management skills? This will enable you to begin to evaluate what jobs fit your personality. Working with assets that you already possess — rather than learning new skills to take on your new career — will allow you to launch for a stronger foundation. Working from home can be stressful at times when not surrounded by a team of co-workers to ask questions of or look to for support. Using your strong suits to find a job that will come to you effortlessly and without a strong learning curve will set you up for success from the get-go. Read More→
According to a report by outsourcing advisory firm the Everest Group, business administration outsourcing (BAO) is a more than $6.1 billion industry poised for rapid growth. Outsourcing has become a mainstream practice to help reduce costs, free up time and work more efficiently. But outsourcing isn’t just for big businesses and corporations looking for help overseas.
Work from home professionals can jump on the trend to help streamline their business for success. You can maintain a core staff small or keep working as a solopreneur with the help of an outsourced team. Here are five tasks you can start outsourcing today.
Reclaim valuable hours from your work week wasted on research and data entry. A reputable company like Fancy Hands can help connect you with virtual helpers at a monthly packaged price. Choose the monthly hours you want, and submit the tasks you need help with. Fancy Hands assistants work on travel itineraries, data entry, research tools you need for your business and just about anything else you can think of. They can even sit and wait on the phone with your cable company to discuss an issue and patch you through when you need to give your information or approval.
According to TransUnion, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America and the number of identity theft incidents has reached over 9.9 million a year. Broken down, that number accounts to 19 people falling victim to identity theft every minute of every day.
Leave online security and identity theft protection to the experts. Laying low and hoping you won’t fall victim to the latest malware attack is a disaster waiting to happen. There are businesses that can help monitor your identity, alert you when new lines of credit are taken out or any other suspicious activity. The company can also help stop identity theft before the fall-out spirals out of control and restore your credit. Read More→
When you’re running a business from home, every little bit you save helps. The average business costs about $30,000 to start up, the Kauffmann Foundation reports. If you work from home, you may be able to trim this down to under $3,000, the Small Business Association says. When you add on operating expenses, you may be looking at another $250 a month, equivalent to another $3,000 a year, entrepreneur Purna Duggirala estimates. Fortunately, you can cut your expenses by strategically employing today’s business technology. Here are five technological tools you can use to lower your business expenses.
Virtual Office Services
In 2015, the average annual cost of renting office space for a single employee ranged from $4,194 in Atlanta to $14,800 in New York City, according to The Square Foot. To trim office rental expenses, one cost-efficient alternative is using virtual office services. A virtual office provides you with a business mailing address where you can receive mail and have it forwarded to you without having to rent actual office space. Some virtual office packages include professional phone answering services, voicemail, virtual assistant services and even meeting space you can pay to use on a per-meeting basis. Today’s top virtual office providers charge around $100 per month for a mailing address and $220 per month for both a mailing address and answering service.
Office Communication Tools
Even if you rent an answering service, you will probably want to have your own business line for outgoing calls, and you will definitely need a business email. A New York City business using five phone lines a month from a traditional provider can expect to pay a $385 setup fee plus another $467.20 a month in taxes and fees, estimates Fit Small Business. This can be cut to $232.92 a month by using a phone service based on Voice over IP (VoIP) technology. If you only need one line, you can get a VoIP line for as little as $30 to $60 a month, including free long distance and advanced phone management features.
For enterprise-quality email services, Rackspace estimates that the average cost of a traditional on-premises Microsoft Exchange email deployment runs around $585 per year per user. By going with a hosted email service that provides an email address with a domain customized for your business, you can cut this down to as little as $2.00 to $12.95 per user per month, Comentum estimates.
Office Productivity Tools
Every small business needs an office productivity suite. Microsoft Office has long been the most popular small business solution in this area. The home edition of Microsoft Office 365 currently costs $9.99 a month or $99 per year. A number of freeware alternatives to Microsoft Office are available, such as Apache OpenOffice and Google Docs. If you want the business edition of Google Docs, prices currently run at $5 per month per user, including features such as email branded with your domain name and online storage space.
Backup Storage Tools
Data, such as your financial records and customer mailing list, is vital to your business, making reliable backup essential. Backing up enterprise data using traditional on-premises equipment can run as high as $60,000 for 4 TB of storage, estimates tom’s IT Pro. If you use a cloud-based data service such as Mozy, you can start with 10 GB for as little as $109.89 a year or $9.99 a month.
Web Design Tools
Today’s small business needs a website. Traditionally, many web designers have used Adobe Dreamweaver, which currently costs $19.99 a month if you use it as an individual app or $49.99 a month if you use it with Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Plus you’ll need to have web design skills, unless you plan to hire a designer, which is considerably more expensive. More recent online web design tools geared toward non-designers have cut design software fees down, while also making it easy for anyone to build a website, even if they don’t know web design.