In 1988 our church hosted Anne Ortlund who spoke to the women of the church. Little did I know how very much her book, Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman would influence my life. Do you make resolutions? Set goals every year for yourself, your family, your career? This book is timeless and if you struggle with deciding what is most important to spend time on, I strongly recommend reading it.
Anne Ortlund, a Beautiful Woman
That Saturday afternoon I took notes of what she shared and was immediately persuaded to try things her way. She spoke about 12 disciplines that she suggested all link to 3 priorities of our everyday life. Many nights, up until that point, I would fall into bed feeling like my accomplishments for the day were mundane at best and useless at worst.
I wanted to raise my children, see their first steps, hear their first words, kiss all the boo-boos. But, that was not a glamorous “career” in that day. Well into the 80’s and 90’s, women who stayed home were old-fashioned, practically medieval. Women with careers were accomplished, adding value to society and increasing the family bank account. While it may not have been said out loud, the narrative of the day was that stay-at-home moms added none of this value to the day. They even had to come up with a polite way to ask what you did in conversation.
“Do you work outside the home?”
While raising my children gave me great joy and I would not change it if I could, this stigmatism stuck to me like dust in a crevice. Every time that question was asked to me or any woman in my presence, I immediately wanted to defend women who chose to stay home.
The disciplines of Anne Ortlund not only helped me focus on the important things, but also gave me security in the choice I’d made. The 3 priorities put my own life in perspective and I came to believe that I was also adding value to society by investing in the future of my children. Not to say that those who work do not do this. I just chose to look at my own “work” differently.
Anne discusses 12 disciplines for women in particular that are all grounded in three priorities.
The First Priority
God. Yes, having a relationship with God was priority one. Developing a quiet time, recording or journaling what we talked about, what I learned and what others were learning as well, grounded everything. I began saving sermons, reading books by other Christian authors and journaling my prayers.
It was absolutely true that my sense of accomplishment at the end of a day that started in fellowship with my Lord, ended on a much calmer note than those without. My faith in God began to grow, as did my faith in who He had created me to be. I too, could be a beautiful woman. Not in the worldly sense, but something much more valuable. Not that I’m there yet!!! The work will always be in progress, until I see Him.
The Second Priority
Use our gifts and talents to nourish the body of Christ and draw our own nourishment from them as well.
Of course, this is a universal priority of most time management or organization authors. It began with Jesus and His teaching to love others as we love ourselves. Stephen Covey, Rita Emmett, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, even Benjamin Franklin, all wrote about the importance of caring for our fellow man.
Stephen Covey revealed the 7 habits and part of that is naming all of your roles. Mother, daughter, sister, etc. Put first things first, seek first to understand – then to be understood are two of these important habits.
Rita Emmett, Manage Your Time to Reduce Your Stress, quotes Albert Schweitzer as saying, “The only ones among us who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gifts from the Sea encourages women to use solitude to rejuvenate in order to nourish those around us.
And the great Benjamin Franklin said, “When I am employed in serving others, I do not look upon myself as conferring favours, but as paying debts.” What a noble thought! As I serve simple dinners to my family, I am paying debts – some I might not even be aware I owe yet.
The Third Priority
As we make lists each day of things we want to accomplish, Anne encourages us to take a good look at that list. At the top of that list is God, second is our loved ones and fellow man, and third is our work. She ends the chapter on our “Attitude Toward Work”, with these words,
“Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Col. 1:10
I look over the three priorities. God is really first, second and third. As I sit here at the age of 60, I admit that I’ve asked Him what is left for me in this life? But then I thumb through Anne’s book again and the page falls open to her quote of the ninety-second Psalm.
They will yield fruit in old age. They shall be full of sap and very green. To declare that the Lord is upright.
Anne’s Disciplines Include Setting Life Goals
Anne Ortlund helped me see in her chapter “Your Goals” that our individual goals reveal our identity. To have vague dreams without purpose, will only end our life on earth with immeasurable, hazy days of lists and checkmarks. I want more than that. My own goals became similar to hers way back then.
1. To know God deeply so that I bring glory to Him in specific ways.
2. To be the kind of wife that makes my husband happy and makes him proud of me.
3. To love and nurture my children so that Christ is the center of their lives. And to become a student, willing to learn from them as well as teach them.
4. To write something purposeful.
5. Be the kind of friend, sister, daughter, mom, daughter-in-law that I would want them to be to me.
6. Travel to exotic places in order to see and appreciate God’s creation. To see His handy work all over the globe.
What are your goals for next year? Do you have a list of life goals? As I look over my goals from way back in 1988, I’d say I’m still working to make these priorities strong in my life. The one goal that is blaring at me now is #4.
I love writing. I love decorating, It’s important to me that my home reflects Christ, family, friendships and is a place that is comfortable to all who visit. That’s why I’m in this business. Hoping that my writing, furniture updates, decor and accessorizing will help someone to love their own home a little bit more and praying Christ is at its’ center.
Happy New Year and I pray all of our priorities and disciplines give us purpose and satisfaction in 2024.