One of the conversations that sticks out most to me was with my brother about goals for the new year, several years ago. When talking about things I would like to do in the coming year, my brother asked me, "what does your week look like?" I responded, "I guess I work, I exercise sometimes, I cook, I hang out with friends..." and he said, "Well multiply that by 52 and that will be what you do this year."
That was a shocking reality check! I thought taking it a week at a time was fine, but when I realized that how each week is organized has a larger impact on the entire year, it made me rethink how I prioritize activities each week.
It's important to start in the big picture: What are your long-term goals? In other words:
What are God-given gifts and desires that you want to use for His service over a lifetime?
That could be a 50-year plan, obviously impossible to know what it will look like, but we can figure out what kind of skills need to be polished to work in that direction. I was motivated even more after our retreat this weekend, being encouraged to work fervently, purposefully, and diligently in all things. We can only work hard with a specific goal in mind, so what am I working for?
An ongoing tug on my heart since at least 10 years ago: the population is less than 1% Christian in Japan, so I want to share the joy and hope of knowing God. At the very least, so people will know God's love and can then decide what to do about it. So, considering the family life I was brought up in and the skills I have now, that desire plays out like this long-term:
Paint the history of Christianity in Japan
Teach kids Japanese language and culture
1. Paint the history of Christianity in Japan
What needs to be done?
- Know the history
- Improve painting skills
- Know western art history to reference
For me, this means:
- Study the history (--> I went to grad school)
- Keep painting (--> I'm blogging and painting)
- Know western art history to reference (keep looking at art books and going to museums)
- Keep painting with different media so that I can incorporate western techniques into my Japanese painting... which is where this comes in: working on large oil paintings.
Now, breaking down the second example:
2: Teach kids Japanese language and culture
What needs to be done?
- Practice Japanese conversation so it'll flow better all the time at home
- Read more Japanese to be able to teach
- Keep up with Japanese culture
- Know and practice Japanese customs
For me, this means:
- Keep up relationships with Japanese friends
- Read Japanese books
- Watch Japanese shows, read news, look at magazines/websites
- Celebrate holidays (& cook the holiday food!) and learn the background
- Read the Bible in Japanese
- Continue working as a translator and give it 100% effort
Basically it comes down to: *a notebook is crucial--write it down!*
- Big picture: long-term goal (not just a dream). Something clear based on the skills and desires God has given you.
- Talk it through: Pray first. Then, sharing and getting feedback is critical! People close to you can help identify your gifts and walk the journey with you.
- Break it down: Identify skills/components needed to see #1 (above) become a reality.
- Work on skills: Break down #3 into baby steps.
- Schedule it: Subtract things in your weekly schedule that don't fit with the big picture goal, and add in things necessary to reach that goal.
Consider what is realistic for yourself now, but if the goal really is important then diligently work on at least one component!
Since those paintings are on my mind, I was thrilled to see the color palette I wanted to use on trees in Yosemite this weekend. The pops of bright green moss against the red bark with highlights of light mustard yellow was eye-catching. Bark is not brown! (Yes, I will die on that "nothing is brown" hill.) The outline of my paintings (photos above) will be bright green moss-colored, and the brick includes all these colors in the bark:
It's no surprise that the Creator and Master Painter of the universe would have such a delightful color palette on a tree trunk. "The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Psalm 19:1
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth...
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:1-2, 23-24